At the outset, I'd like to thank Ms. Linda Reid, (PEOC) for inviting me to join her and other advocates in our nations capital on last week. It was an experience that made me realize how far behind we are in terms of receiving all that is due for our children to be properly prepared to face an ever demanding world. While traveling on the train, I was able to gather my thoughts together. As such, the bulk of this letter was written.
I'm not ashamed to say that I have two special needs children. In fact, I am grateful that they are receiving the types of services they need to assist them while in school. That didn't come easy. I had to bombarded Trenton with letters and at one point, filed a complaint with the NJ Supreme Court to see the services restored to them and many others as well. I was part of a small group of parents who had reached a point where denial was no longer an acceptable answer.
It's not easy to advocate. I need to make that plain. You'll abruptly be taken out those comfort zones we all are so very used to. With the sacrifice, headaches and sometimes stress that goes along with it, also comes satisfaction in knowing that your children are being properly protected by their strongest voice... You, the parent. Being an advocate often requires standing alone frequently. Addressing unpopular issues and asking those extremely tough questions.
Friends are not the reward of being an advocate. It is common to be ridiculed by those around you. Often, you'll be told that your voice is insignificant at best and that your overall fight is insubstantial. Plainly put, they'll say your swinging in the dark or that your fighting a losing battle. All of those statements are misguided to say the least. Remember, YOU AS A PARENT HAVE POWER! And no one can take that away from you if you advocate for your children.
And now, I shall endeavor to discuss the experience I had while in Washington, DC. I think I owe it to you, my people, to keep you abreast as to all I am doing to represent you on the Board of Education. Please keep in mind that I am only one person. Nevertheless, I will strive to keep all of you informed as to what's taking place educationally in Paterson as well as at the state and federal levels as well. What I can't do as a board member, I can do as an active parent.
It was 2 o'clock on a cold afternoon on January 29th. I stood in front of the United States Department of Education awaiting the rally to begin. It is a wonderful day. Perfect for marching and demanding educational justice. Education advocates from cities and states across the nation gathered in solidarity. Witnessing so many parents, community activists, clergy and elected officials coming together, uniting for one goal was encouraging to me.
It proved that their remained a remnant of people who were determined to continue the fight for educational freedom in America. If more people would learn from the example of the folks who assembled in Washington that day, I believe we will see, or at least begin to see a positive change in the overall quality of education. Complaining in and of itself is not enough to exact the kinds of changes we want to see take place. Action is the only solution and action will take us where we want to be. Power to the parents!
All the best,
Corey L. Teague