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Our Next Step? A Hiatus

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  • DLewis0991@aol.com
    http://p078.ezboard.com/fourchildrenleftbehindfrm17.showMessage?topicID=394.to pic OUR CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND ** WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW ** NOVEMBER 30, 2004
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2004


      NOVEMBER 30, 2004


      Our Children Left Behind [OCLB] came to life on May 19, 2003, to give voice to the anger we parents felt over the introduction and passage of H.R.1350 by the United States House of Representatives. We feared that America’s civil rights education law for 6.5 million children, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act [IDEA], was going to be gutted. We resolved to use our OCLB Web site to do all we could to save IDEA for our children. To do this we promised ourselves, our children, and our visitors that we would:

      • Provide updated IDEA reauthorization information
      • Interact with our Web site visitors through Email and other mechanisms
      • Inform the public
      • Inform the press
      • Inform legislators
      • Help parents learn how to become and remain involved
      We intended that OCLB would remain a force in the IDEA Reauthorization fight until the issue was resolved. The scuttlebutt on the street back in May, 2003, was that Congress would have IDEA as we knew it and the educational futures of those 6.5 million kids grilled by 2003’s Independence Day. We believed that we four moms and a dad [Tricia and Calvin Luker, Shari Krishnan, Sandy Strassman Alperstein, and Debi Lewis] could meet our primary objectives at least until that Fourth of July, and possibly a little longer if needed.

      Well, the story is out. This latest battle to save IDEA officially lasted 21 months and OCLB was in the middle for 19 of those months. The fight isn’t over. The changes approved by the Conference Committee and by Congress still must go through the rulemaking process and all 50 states – and all of their local school districts – need to implement the changes. There are many places and ways we parents and advocates can make a difference in how the “new” law actually gets put into place in local schools. OCLB is learning about rulemaking plans and ways to influence the process. You can be sure we will remain involved.

      But frankly, we OCLB members need a break; not a break from everything, but just a break from the task of producing multiple Home pages each week. Our OCLB team has worked thousands of hours in the past 19 months to inform, inspire, infuse, and at times inflame parents and families to action. We’ve kept our commitment to our visitors and to ourselves to keep OCLB fresh, current, alive, and inspiring. Congress has gone home for a rest. Families are getting ready for the holidays. We need to do the same.

      But we also need to do some thinking and talking among ourselves about what comes next for OCLB. We have become convinced that the fight over preserving all of our children’s civil rights, including the right to education, will never end. Even still, this latest IDEA reauthorization battle is now over. The bill is done and passed. We believe OCLB influenced the outcome. We performed a public service for children that far exceeded our initial purpose. We’ve shared our ideas and commitment as parents with hundreds of thousands of visitors to the OCLB Web site and with hundreds of thousands of others who have received OCLB listserv communications or have visited other sites reposting OCLB material.

      So OCLB is going to take a break until about February 1st. We are not closing down the whole shop. We’re just taking a hiatus from the Home pages and commentaries. We will keep the rest of the site up to snuff. Breaking News, Press Info, The Grapevine and Resources all will be updated regularly to reflect current activity and interest. We also will update the “What YOU Can Do Right NOW” section to direct visitors to the latest strategies and focus in the rulemaking arena. You’ll still get all the news without the commentary. Tell yourself it’s like watching the game with the sound off. If something big breaks, don’t worry; we’ll come out of hibernation to help.

      When we come back in February we hope to be rested [“yeah, right,”] and ready for whatever comes next. We truthfully do not know what that will be. We think things are going to get harder for families who have parents, siblings, or children with special needs. The IDEA Reauthorization has taught us that we families need not only get ready, we need to stay ready. Frankly, we do not yet know what that looks like, or what, if any, role OCLB should take. So we need to think, talk, and rest.

      The OCLB experience has been significant to us as individuals. Debi Lewis talked about OCLB’s team synergy. “From the onset, I knew we had a magical mix,” said Lewis. “We have passion. We have expertise across the education spectrum. We complement one another's strengths and support one another's weaknesses. We have been, in a nutshell, what we expect IEP teams to be.” Lewis has attended many IEP Team meetings for and with her son, Tucker, who is becoming quite the artist and has become an educator to the educators he encounters at school.

      Sandy Strassman Alperstein, OCLB’s westernmost member, being in Chicago, has learned about the power of teamwork. “Being a part of the OCLB team has been an amazing experience. It's taught me about teamwork and friendship. It's given me a level of confidence in myself that I never thought possible. It's shown me what a group of dedicated parents can do if they try. We have made a difference, and together we'll continue to do so. I'm proud and honored to have been a part of this team!” Strassman Alperstein’s son, Benji, has helped keep her eyes focused on how IDEA plays in their local schools, and has been one of her biggest fans.

      Shari Krishnan, OCLB’s designated optimist, welcomes the break, but will miss the ongoing interaction with our readers. “It will be fun to have the time and space to figure out ‘what next’ for OCLB. It feels right that we are stopping for a bit so that we can actually have time to reflect and think about what we have learned from this experience. Additionally, we have had little time to celebrate how far we have come as a team. We need to do that. It will just be hard not interacting with our visitors as much during this stretch. After all, parents and advocates have been at this together for almost two years now. The experience has been amazing.” Among the victories Krishnan plans to celebrate are those that her son, Nicholas, has scored in his first year attending middle school and in music.

      We (Tricia and Calvin) remain amazed at the level of passion the OCLB team has been able to generate within the team and within the parent/advocacy community. “Parents always will be thirsty for any information they can find that will help them help their children,” said Tricia. “It’s what parents do. We all want to be great parents. But it is our children who make heroes of us. They drive us to BE great parents.” Her daughter, Jessica Baccus, made heroes of Tricia and Calvin a hundred times over because Jessica knew no limit to her abilities and refused to allow the rest of us to define her by her disabilities.

      “I have learned that if we try nothing we do nothing,” said Calvin. “OCLB developed its own heartbeat and its own rhythm by daring to pump the first beat. Parents caught the beat and made a difference for millions of children. That’s awesome to me.”

      Finally, as Senator Kennedy summed it up: “I thank the many people who brought us successfully to this day. First and foremost, I commend the thousands of parents who made their views known in shaping this legislation. They have been citizen leaders at their very best.” (Congressional Record – Senate, November 19, 2004).

      The OCLB team is equally grateful to the other inspirations in their lives over these past 19 months. These people of inspiration include Jason, Duncan and Macey Lewis; Kevin, Daniel and Hannah Alperstein; Rajan Krishnan; and Larissa Baccus and Will Luker. These core members of the OCLB family have made the biggest – and most silent -- sacrifices to help OCLB succeed. They are the ones who waited patiently while OCLB work was being done. They are the ones who most deserve and need this hiatus. We are most grateful to give it to them and to us.

      We’ll see you in February. In the meantime, keep visiting the OCLB Web site and feel free to share our archived work with all who might be interested. We thought, too, that you might enjoy our “Anniversary Home page,” [
      p078.ezboard.com/fourchildrenleftbehindfrm17.showMessage?topicID=304.topic] posted on May 19, 2004. We think it captures the spirit of OCLB and the unique team four moms and a dad have become.

      We wish you all a happy holiday season and a new year filled with success beyond your wildest dreams.

      Tricia and Calvin Luker
      Shari Krishnan
      Sandy Strassman Alperstein
      Debi Lewis

      ©2004 Our Children Left Behind.

      Our Children Left Behind [OCLB] was created and is owned/operated by parent volunteers (Shari Krishnan, Tricia & Calvin Luker, Sandy Strassman Alperstein, and Debi Lewis). Permission to forward, copy, and/or post this article is granted provided that it is unedited and attributed to the author(s) and www.ourchildrenleftbehind.com. For more about OCLB or to share information, please contact parentvolunteer@....

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