Our son Brendan received a degree this past December from the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism. He worked diligently throughout his undergraduate career, writing for two local papers in Columbia, the Chicago Cubs, and even Wednesday Journal. He is presently employed as an editor at ESPN.com in Bristol, Conn. We are, of course, extremely proud of him.

We know there are a lot of highly accomplished kids who come out of our communities, but Brendan faced challenges most kids don’t. You see, Brendan was born with a sensory integration disorder. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that it affected every aspect of his life. He received occupational therapy services, reading enrichment, and LD resource throughout his time at District 97.

When the time came for him to transition to the high school, we were, of course, concerned–but then we met current Special Education Director Linda Cada, who was Brendan’s case manager and his guardian angel at the high school. Had it not been for the guidance, support and advocacy Ms. Cada provided, Brendan would not be where he is today. The communication between our household and her office was constant throughout his high school career.

When our son Sean started to experience difficulty in his sophomore year, the Special Education Department responded immediately and again was an invaluable resource for us. We discovered that he, too, had a learning disability but his problems were more nuanced than his brother’s. It was a suggestion from a special ed staff member that sent us to an endocrinologist, who, thankfully, diagnosed him correctly and sent him on his way to health and well being. During that difficult time for our family, the special ed staff and, in particular, Linda Cada, provided us with unending support.

Two years ago, we completed a staffing for our daughter Kara, who is a junior. We had to petition for this staffing several times and went to great expense to have her independently tested before the special ed department would agree to screen her. As it turns out, she was denied services. The staff was very thorough in their explanation to us as to why she didn’t qualify and, while we were disappointed with their decision, we had too much respect for them to question their judgment. They did, however, suggest other services that were available to her that have provided her with additional support.

Over the past several months, we have been amazed at the accusations leveled against the Special Education Division by a few obviously disgruntled families. We cannot speak to their individual experiences, but we can speak to ours–to the quality of the staff, to their compassion and caring and knowledge. We can tell you that we have never felt that we were left out of the loop and that there wasn’t somebody at the high school looking out for our children.

We applaud Dr Bridge’s stalwart defense of the special ed department. In our minds, it is truly one of the gems of OPRF. We unequivocally support a contract renewal for Ms. Cada. We are confident that we are not the only family who feels this way.

Ron Murphy and Patty Reilly-Murphy

Join the discussion on social media!