My husband and are writing on behalf of Pasco County Agents for Change in support of their efforts focused on fostering diversity and inclusion in Pasco County schools and the community as a whole. We support the mission of this cause as we truly believe in a fair and equal educational experience for all students in all grade levels in Pasco County.
Our son, River, is almost six years old, and he attends Odessa Elementary School in the ESE Program. His is severely autistic and is non-verbal.
Our purpose for writing this letter is to express our gratitude for the exceptional experience we’ve had in our last three years at ODES. We believe their ESE program should be the standard that other schools should live up to.
Not only do they create inclusive experiences for the students through school events like the Boosterthon and Halloween parade, but they also have an incredible buddy program where neurotypical fourth graders spend time in the ESE Pod working one-on-one with the special needs students. This buddy program has helped our son tremendously from a social perspective.
The teachers at ODES, especially Kala Hamilton, have shown a level of dedication I didn’t know was possible in a school setting. Her commitment to our son and his classmates makes it easy to drop our son off at school every day. We know he is in the best environment for his needs.
The teachers at ODES also show a high level of communication so we always know how our son’s day went, and if there are things we need to work on / reinforce at home. Parent educational nights are another great way that we’ve been able to learn from these amazing educators.
Our son is happy and feels safe at ODES, and I believe all children with disabilities in Pasco County should be afforded an equally positive experience. We think educational sessions for neurotypical students would only add to this positive experience, as autism rates continue to soar and more and more children are entering the ESE program in Pasco County.
Additional funding for needed therapy equipment and services would also help to advance the potential and success of these incredible children, and would be greatly appreciated by the parents and teachers of those children as well.
Adam & Christie Santucci