New private school would serve students with dyslexia
by Lindsay Field
January 30, 2012 12:45 AM | 19498 views | 12 12 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jud Thompson welcomes approximately 50 parents and teachers to an informative meeting for Gracepoint School that was presented at StoneBridge Church in Marietta. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Jud Thompson welcomes approximately 50 parents and teachers to an informative meeting for Gracepoint School that was presented at StoneBridge Church in Marietta.
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
MARIETTA — A group of parents and educators from Cobb County are planning to open a school this fall that would serve elementary and middle school-aged children who have dyslexia.

Gracepoint School board member Angie Strack told a crowd of about 50 parents and teachers about what the school will offer when it opens this fall at a meeting Thursday night at StoneBridge Church on the Marietta Square. Fellow board members Carrie and Jud Thompson, Brian Strack, Molly and Trey Holm, and Brenda Fitzgerald also attended the meeting.

Fitzgerald, who serves as the executive director of the Georgia Educational Training Agency and is a board member on the Georgia International Dyslexic Association, will help train teachers in The Complete Reading Series and oversee the curriculum and instruction at Gracepoint for the first couple of years.

Fitzgerald said the school would be a private, nonprofit organization that will serve Cobb elementary and middle school students with dyslexia. After graduating from Gracepoint, the students would then transition back into their original school systems better prepared to meet the rigorous demands of high school.

“It was exciting to see parents interacting with (Fitzgerald) since she is so knowledgeable about dyslexia,” said Angie Strack about the meeting. “She described the mission of the school and explained what we had to offer their children.”

Fitzgerald works closely with children who have dyslexia and teaches “Understanding Dyslexia” classes in Cobb and surrounding counties to parents like Angie Strack whose children have been diagnosed with the learning disability but are unsure what it is.

“I didn’t even understand what it was, so it was pretty crazy,” Angie Strack said. “I immediately tried getting our child into a few schools in the Atlanta area, while at the same time I was taking classes (under Fitzgerald). Unfortunately, with the schools, you can’t always get into them and there aren’t that many options.”

Angie Strack said she decided to open a specialty school when she found how few there were in Cobb.

The school has not been staffed, and the number of teachers will be determined by how many students apply, Fitzgerald said. However, they have started accepting resumes and conducting interviews for teachers or administrators.

It is unclear how many students in Cobb have dyslexia.

The location of the school has not been determined, but Fitzgerald said they are looking at two possible places in Marietta. Until they find a permanent home, they plan to conduct school at StoneBridge Church. The school will not be affiliated with the church.

Tentatively, the board has discussed an annual tuition of $18,500, which Strack said was about $6,000 less than similar schools.

Strack said one of the school’s goals would be to raise money for privileged families who can’t afford to send their child to a specialized school like Gracepoint.

“There are so many kids who don’t have access to any help, and that’s the sad part,” she said. “You have these extremely bright children, but they need to channel their creativity.”

Strack said the school would also try to raise money to help families pay to test their children. A dyslexia test can cost around $2,000, she added.

Board member Carrie Thompson said she decided to join in the effort to open to the school because she is trained to work with children who have learning disabilities.

“My husband (Jud Thompson) is dyslexic, so we assumed that out of the five kids that we have, we could probably have that issue, so I got certified in it,” she said. “I have a heart for it and it just kind of fits.”

Thompson will help with admissions and curriculum.

The school will host a second informative meeting 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at StoneBridge. For more information or to enroll your child, contact Strack at (678) 472-2023.
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Dr. Jane Barclay
January 31, 2012
It is true that students with dyslexia are often placed in special education but without the alternative teaching methodolgy presented to them that would enable them to exhibit their intelligence. Having worked with students diagnosed as having dyslexia for over 12 years, I can say that many of the brightest kids in the classroom had dyslexia but unless the teacher knew how to draw out their abilitities, they were made to look absolutely stupid. These parents should get an advocate or attorney and force the school system to provide what is the legal right of that student, a Free and Appropriate Public Education.
October 18, 2012
How do I go about locating an advocate? I am unable to find any help and the child is my niece. My hands are tied as far as the school system. For some reason my sister is unconcerned and will not let me be my niece's advocate. What can I do? I feel a child should not be punished for their parents poor choices, but how do I help?
J Psychologist
January 31, 2012
Since Public Law 94-142 was passed in 1974 students with disabilities who require special education to meet their needs are ENTITLED to a free, appropriate public education. Renewals of this law over the decades, as well as case law over the years, have served to clarify and specify this entitlement. Private schools have a place and purpose in the continuum of necessary services, but most students certainly can have their needs met in the public schools. Before paying $18,000 or $25,000 or more per year out-of-pocket, parents should use the procedural safeguards currently in place to ensure their children receive a free appropriate education funded by the public schools- usually in the public schools, and occasionally in more specialized private schools. I urge parents to pursue this route, unless they have decided the private option is better and they have the financial means to provide it. A good website for parents is Wrightslaw. Go there before funding a private special education program.
Bobby Thanepohn
January 31, 2012
"It is a great asset when your child has learning disabilities and can't get the education through the Cobb County School System."

We parents of children with IEPs already had legal recourse if local systems were not meeting the needs of the child or providing the necessary services. We also could get a full ride at a private school if that is the well as transportation, etc.

Another poster stated that "the school needs to meet certain criteria". Yes, the schools do. The only requirement necessary to accept special needs scholarship students is to be financially stable. Nothing more.

No requirements to employ special needs certified teachers, no approved curriculum, and no progress checks to see if the child's needs increase and require more services or are are improving and require less, etc., etc..

Remember, when you as a parent accept a GA special needs "scholarship" you sign away your child's rights for any relief under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. You lose: transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education, and includes speech-language pathology and audiology services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, music therapy, recreation, including therapeutic recreation, early identification and assessment of disabilities in children, counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling, orientation and *mobility services, and medical services for diagnostic or evaluation purposes. You also lose associated school health services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.

I wrote an op-ed for the MDJ a few years ago on this subject.

BTW the scholarship only equals the costs associated with the services covered under a student's IEP. Dyslexia will not net a 13k scholarship.
Tina Pierson
February 10, 2012
All schools who accept the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship must be accredited or in the process of being accredited. Being an accredited school is not easy because you have to follow the strict guidelines set by the accrediting agency. This relieves the Department of Education from having to take the time to evaluate the participating schools each year. Beyond being accredited, we have to test twice per year and show student results to the Department of Education.

I am the Director of Pathways Academy School for Dyslexia, in Marietta, and I would like to respond to the comment "signing away your child's rights" under IDEA. Parents come to our school because they find, even with an IEP, their child does not receive the appropriate services at their public school. Unfortunately, many students with dyslexia receive no support at all because the child's scores aren't low enough. Private schools for students with special needs are needed. I know this is true because I have many parents who call me years after their child has left Pathways to thank me for changing their child's life. We aren't bound by red tape as are the public schools, instead, we teach how the student learns.

January 31, 2012
there is no dog
January 31, 2012
What is your definition of dyslexia?
January 30, 2012
"Strack said one of the school’s goals would be to raise money for privileged families who can’t afford to send their child to a specialized school like Gracepoint."

That's a mistake, right?????

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - New private school would serve students with dyslexia

January 30, 2012
The Special needs fund has helped me get my son through high school at Center Academy in Smyrna. It is a great asset when your child has learning disabilities and can't get the education through the Cobb County School System. Great success on the new school. Children are our future.
January 30, 2012
Georgia has a Special Needs Fund that gives families up to $13,500 to pay for private schools for kids with an IEP. The kids have to be enrolled for a full academic year at a public school in order to be eligible for this funding, and the school needs to meet certain criteria, but the process is easy, and the deadline for next fall is June 29. Here is more info, including contact info:
Jolie K
January 30, 2012
I don't believe that amount of "up to 13K" is correct. And the average amount a family gets is $2K. A drop in the bucket and it is not an easy process. Have you gone through the process of getting an IEP? People hire attorneys and advocates just to get through them!

If parents get a diagnosis before their child is old enough to attend public school they would still have to send their child to that school for a year. In most cases, "wasting" a year and giving their child a frustrating first school experience. Basically, an inane requirement in essence punishing those who are on the ball and have their child tested early.

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