Letter from CEO Byrd-Bennett to Parents of Students with Special Needs 



March 19, 2013


Dear Parents and Guardians,


As Chief Executive Officer of every public school in this city, I am firmly committed to ensuring that every child in every neighborhood in Chicago gets the high quality education that will prepare them to succeed in life.  Right now, that is not happening.  For too long, too many children have not had access to the supports they need to excel in the classroom because they are studying in underutilized, under-resourced schools.


As a life-long educator, former teacher and principal, I know that consolidating underutilized schools will allow us to focus our resources so that every child can be in a safe, better performing school close to their home. Each of these “welcoming schools” will have the resources and amenities that many parents like you, as well as teachers, have been demanding, such as libraries, air conditioning, computer and science labs and social workers. These are the kinds of schools Chicago’s children need and deserve.


And as a mother and a grandmother, I know that many of you are anxious to learn more about the level of supports your child will receive should their school need to be consolidated as part of our efforts to give every student access to a quality education. I also know that transitioning to a new school may be challenging for some students, especially for those with disabilities.


I want to assure you that my team and I have developed a specialized plan for transitioning students with disabilities who may be impacted in the event that their school may be closed.  This plan considers what transitioning students with disabilities will need, including ensuring that:


  • Students are assigned to a welcoming school that can implement his/her IEP;
  • Student-based and classroom equipment and supplies are transitioned and ready for use on the first day of school;
  • Transition supports for students, such as social stories and “meet and greets” with special education teachers and parents to review IEPs, are in place;
  • All accessibility issues are addressed by the start of the school year, and
  • Welcoming schools receive training to address the unique needs of all incoming students.


Additionally, we are taking into account all of the feedback we’ve received from more than 20,000 parents, school staff, students and others at recent CPS community meetings around our work to address the utilization crisis facing the District. The Office of Special Education and Supports had representation at every community meeting to capture feedback around special education issues to ensure we consider them as part of our planning.  We are also launching a special education sub-committee to advise us around the recommendations I will make to the Chicago Board of Education. This sub-committee includes advocates, parents, and other key stakeholders. They will meet regularly and provide guidance around any concerns that arise.  These meetings are launching this week.


We are committed to ensuring that students with disabilities are supported through any transitions that arise as part of this work, and welcome any feedback you may have.  We know that each student has different needs, and we will take every step necessary to address these for each individual student.


Thank you for your patience and understanding.





Barbara Byrd-Bennett
CEO, Chicago Public Schools