• September 5, 2023

    Dear Newton Families and Community Members,

    Welcome to the new school year! I am thrilled to begin my second year with Newton Public Schools as Assistant Superintendent for Student Services.  This summer, I took time off here and there to enjoy the weather as much as possible. The slower pace at work also gave me more time with my daughters, Ella (15) and Lucia (11) and pups, Milo (3 years) and Cooper Kupp (5 months). 

    I spent much of my first year learning about the district, staff, and families. Last June, I presented findings from my yearlong entry planning process. It was such a privilege to be welcomed into your spaces and conversations throughout the year; I learned just how committed this community is to a meaningful educational experience for all students.  Additionally, I learned just how fortunate we are to have such skilled and experienced staff. They are all so dedicated to their craft and committed to honing their skills. It left me inspired and wondering a few things as I look towards this school year. 

    I spent the summer thinking about what meaningful access for students with disabilities means and what it looks like in our district. I have been thinking a lot about what systems and practices are necessary to create the conditions for students with disabilities to feel seen, to belong, and to thrive. In order to create these conditions, we need to identify where ableism exists and commit to dismantling the systems that support it. Ableism is a form of discrimination wherein typical abilities are viewed as superior and the assumption is those with different abilities need fixing. Our district already has a strong foundation for including students with disabilities. Our longstanding inclusive practices and programs are testament to our commitment to this work. The work is not done however and there is more to do if we are truly committed to becoming an anti-ableist school district.

    The time is now for us as a district to drill into what it means to be an anti-ableist school district. Let’s build upon our beliefs in inclusive education by actively dismantling systems rooted in ableism. Let’s continue to add to the anti-bias work in NPS by creating the conditions for our children that both acknowledge and celebrate neurodiversity.

    Through different forums, we will begin to explore what it means to see our work through an anti-ableist lens and reframe disability as an identity. I plan to promote discussion within our district about ways disability shapes our students’ experiences in school and beyond. I welcome you to join me in these discussions and share your experiences and wishes for your children.

    When all parts of our students’ identities are recognized and embraced in the classroom, their sense of belonging is cemented and they are invested. Our strength lies in our diversity, and by working together, we can create a learning environment that affirms each student’s unique identity so we meet the needs of every student.

    I want to emphasize the importance of your caregiver role in our school communities. Both families and staff play a pivotal role in setting the tone for anti-ableism, designing meaningful access to all parts of the school community, and affirming all parts of every student’s identity.  We have the foundation already to create the conditions for this work. My entry plan findings confirm this.

    Expect more communication from me and opportunities to connect this year. I want to continue to meet more of you and learn more from you, your craft, and your approach to the work.

    In the meantime, a great way to become involved in your student’s education is to join the Newton Special Education parent Advisory Council (SEPAC). SEPAC is made up of caregivers of students in special education who work together to share information and resources, work collaboratively and directly with district leadership, and advise decision-makers on policy and practice for our students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 plans. 

    Join the Newton Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) listserv. And all are welcome to join monthly Open Board Meetings.

    I wish you all a wonderful school year.

    With gratitude,

    Casey Ngo-Miller

     

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