Creek HiLife

CCISD teaches job skills through H.E.A.R.T.S

Maddie Moore, Around Creek Editor

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Photos of Wildcat Wakeup on a normal day

Photos by Kadyn Chatman and story by Maddie Moore

 

Recently parents have been expressing their concerns about Clear Creek Independent School District and their special education programs. On May 7, The Galveston Daily News released an article in their paper regarding a parent group known as Parents for Special Education Reform in CCISD “accusing officials of covering up abuse and misdeeds in its special education programs”. The group, led by Marta Brain, has since put up several billboards along I-45 and FM 518 accusing CCISD of mistreatment of its children in the special education program, and plan on protesting at the upcoming school board meeting on May 21. The billboard depicts a child whose mouth is covered by a set of hands and reads “Stand up for Clear Creek ISD Special Needs Children,” followed by the location and date of the upcoming board meeting.

In response to these parent’s accusations, Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith sent out a memo to all CCISD staff members.

“The District’s special department from the paraprofessionals and teachers in the classroom to the diagnosticians and special education administrators take great care of students. They work tirelessly and many times, in very difficult situations involving children with extreme behavior to its core mission questioned so publicly [by the] Parents for Special Education Reform in CCISD,” Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith, in response to the Parents for Special Education Reform in CCISD, said.

Despite the negative publicity, Ms. Evelyn Quoyeser and Ms. Zeynep Koseoglu, team leaders of the special education department at Clear Creek High School, continue to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. They care for the individual students every single day.

“We aren’t in it for the pay. We continue to do what we know is best for the kids.” Ms. Kogeoglu said.

CCISD high schools offer several different programs for students with special needs in order to prepare them for the future. Options for students are plentiful.

The Helping Each Adult Reach Transition Services, or HEARTS program, is a state-recognized program that is offered to high school graduates with special needs from ages 18 to 22. At Clear Creek High School, students involved in the HEARTS program run a food stand called Wildcat Wakeup, where they sell coffee, breakfast food and snacks up until fourth period which ends at 11:08.

Run by Ms. Wafa Loft, Wildcat Wakeup is a vocational class that benefits students by teaching them job skills and giving them a chance to interact with other students. The money the HEARTS program earns is used to further improve their program and the school as a whole. Last year a share of the funds Wildcat Wakeup earned was used to purchase the wood needed to build the benches in Creek’s courtyard and to pay for SAT tests for Creek students who could not afford it.

“The parents of the students [who have participated in Wildcat Wakeup and are currently participating] in Wildcat Wakeup are thrilled to have their kids go through the program. Even after the students age out of the program their parents still want them to continue volunteering for us,” Ms. Kogeoglu said. The HEARTS program also runs a garden in the courtyard where the students grow various fruits and vegetables and learn about different sciences. The garden was featured by KTRK, Channel 13 in 2013. Deborah Wrigley, KTRK reporter, had much to say in her on air story. “All special needs students at Clear Creek High School are flourishing in this outdoor environment…Fruits of the students’ labor are preserves from the garden, natural soaps, even loofahs, which come from squash. Profits are plowed back into the program. The grand prize is what’s given the students who tend it-a sense of purpose.” The complete video can be found on the League City Garden Club website.

When asked about the 8.5 percent “cap” the Texas Education Agency had instituted, Ms. Quoyeser responded by saying they dislike going off of the TEA’s statistics. “We don’t go off of statistics; we go off of our student’s needs. We always put our students first,” Ms. Quoyeser said.

For the past five school years, CCISD has almost consistently served one percent above the TEA’s 8.5 percent state average. During the 2016-17 school year, 9.6 percent of CCISD’s population received special education services.

Ms. Quoyeser and Ms. Kogeoglu strongly disagree with the opinions the Parents for Special Education Reform in CCISD voiced in Galveston Daily News articles “Parent group forms over CCISD special ed concerns,” and “Amid accusations, CCISD launches special ed plan,” both written by reporter Matt Degrood.

“I don’t think the voices in this group speak for the majority parents whose children receive special education services. We have yearly meetings where we give an optional survey to parents to voice their opinions and experiences. A majority of the surveys parents have filled out are extremely positive, and reflect satisfaction,” Ms. Quoyeser, in response to the recent negativity, said.

All concerns regarding recent controversy and Clear Creek’s Special Education program can be directed toward the campus’ team leaders, Ms. Quoyeser and Ms. Kogeoglu, who encourage parents to communicate with them.

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CCISD teaches job skills through H.E.A.R.T.S