Friday, October 14, 2016

Survey Response: Janet A Cannon Candidate Utah State Board of Education District #8

Survey Response:  Janet A Cannon Candidate  Utah State Board of Education District #8

Candidates for the November 2016 elections were given the opportunity to answer a few questions relating to autism.  The following are Janet A Cannon's responses

What's working?  Special needs are treated in a variety of ways across Utah's school districts.  Can you tell us about a program, practice, or policy that you've seen be effective and would like to see become more widespread?

Janet A Cannon:  What works for special needs students often is the same thing that works for other students; they benefit from small class sizes, well trained teachers with plenty of experience, and paraprofessionals in the classroom to help personalize instruction to their needs.  All of these items cost money.  Utah has the most poorly funded classrooms in the nation and I believe that impacts our students with special needs severely.  Utah used to be among the top ten states in making an effort to fund public education.  In recent years we have dropped to 31st.  Now our schools are poorly funded because we choose to give other items in the state budget a higher priority than our children.  I believe this needs to change.   Instead of merely giving lip service to the idea that our children are our most precious resource; we should back that idea up with dollars for their education.  Specialized schools like the Carmen Pingree School and the two campuses of Spectrum Academy are providing great service for autistic kids. 

What's not?  If there's something in particular you think we should be rid of, tell us!  

Janet A Cannon:  I think we should be rid of the largest class sizes in the nation, the most poorly funded classrooms in the nation and teachers who rank 49th in pay.  None of these work for the benefit of our children.

Funding:  Considering the limited funds currently available, even when additional Federal funding is included for special needs students (source), how would you help address the concerns and growing population of autistic children within the state?

Janet A Cannon:   There are at least 11,000 autistic students in Utah’s school system; a significant number.  As I have indicated previously, I believe it is vital for all students that the state of Utah once again become one of the top ten states in making an effort to fund education.  

Teacher Shortage:  The recent teacher shortage has sparked many innovative ideas. One is the new track to teaching policy that “allows schools to hire individuals without teaching licenses or experience” (SL Tribune, June 14).  Utah’s universities require classes specific to special education for those obtaining education degrees.  Educators without an education degree will be missing some training that is particularly important for our community. How would you address that?

Janet A Cannon:  I think the recently passed Alternative Pathway to Teaching should be repealed.  It is disrespectful to Utah teachers who have paid the price in time and tuition to become fully licensed. They should not be expected to mentor for free those with only a subject matter degree.   Your point here, that teaching pedagogy involves learning how to serve mainstreamed special education students is critical for autistic  students.  APT seems like a bandaid approach to the teacher shortage.  The teacher shortage will end when we pay teachers a living wage and honor them with the respect they deserve.

Safety:  Safety, both for our children and for those in charge of educating them, is always an important issue. For example, wandering is an issue for autistic children. What are your suggestions for better ensuring safety for our particular population within the school environs?

Janet A Cannon:  I am a friend of John & Carmen Pingree, who founded the Pingree school for children with Austism.  I well remember John telling about a terrifying experience when their autistic son, Brian, wandered off.  The burden of assuring an individual child’s safety at school in terms of wandering should be addressed in that child’s IEP.  Make sure that a document is in place requiring the school to notify parents of any wandering incident and document any incidents that may occur.  Make sure that things that may trigger wandering, like water in lakes, pools, etc. are blocked off so children don’t have access to them.  Security staff at the school should be made aware of a child who might wander off and know how best to handle that particular child should any incident occur.  If possible, have therapists address wandering in their sessions.

Personal experience:  The autism rate in Utah is 1 in 54.  Your family and social circle doesn’t have to be very large before it includes someone with autism.  If you want to share any personal or professional experience with autism, please do so.  

Janet A Cannon:   My academic background is speech/language pathology.  I have a Masters Degree and a national Certificate of Clinical Competency.  I worked several years in Davis School District.  I have worked with autistic children as a speech pathologist.  My choice of a major was impacted by the fact that I have a brother who is mentally handicapped. Almost two years ago, my own little granddaughter was born with Down’s Syndrome.  Many children have special needs.  I am very concerned that the rate of autistic children seems to be increasing at a dramatic rate, especially in Utah.  Among that number is my best friend’s little granddaughter just diagnosed at age 4.  Each of these is a special, unique individual who are there to bless our lives and they are counting on us to do the very best we possibly can to make their lives happy and meaningful.