Boldly Reimagining Special Education

Special Education Advisory Council

On December 1st, Chancellor Banks announced plans to form a Special Education Advisory Council to help reimagine special education in NYC. NYC Public Schools convened a diverse group of stakeholders to launch the council on February 27, 2023. Composed of mostly external stakeholders, including local community members, public school staff, students, parents, and NYC Public Schools field personnel, the council serves in an advisory capacity and voices concerns on important issues in special education.

Goals of the Special education Advisory Council:

  • Support the design of a long-term vision for Special Education in New York City
  • Collect information on student and family experiences to inform planning
  • Generate recommendations for improving special education
  • Build awareness of special education programs and services


The council met bimonthly in 2023 and sub-councils met monthly to develop recommendations to improve special education. The council provided actionable feedback on the proposals their respective internal working groups made with cabinet’s approval.

New York City Public Schools partnered with the Center for Public Research and Leadership (CPRL) at Columbia University to co-facilitate the Special Education Advisory Council and develop a report of outcomes.

The full report was released at a press conference on January 31, 2024.

The 5 key findings form the report are:

NYC Public Schools must: 

  1. Be intentionally designed to be fully inclusive and interdependent
  2. Take steps to reimagine general education
  3. Strengthen trust between schools and families
  4. Prioritize investments in public school programs, close to students’ homes, that promote inclusion and result in strong student outcomes
  5. Shift mindsets, foster organization-wide, anti-ableist culture, and incorporate the perspectives of those with lived experience

    Boldly Reimagining Special Education Report

    Full length report can be found on the links below. More translations coming soon!

    2023 Special Education Advisory Council Members

    • Melinda Andra - Education Law Task Force Representative
    • Lucy Antoine - Parent
    • Shirley Aubin - Parent Leader for FLHS, QHSPC, CPAC & L4L, BPTC Assistant Youth Coordinator
    • Dr. Sanayi Beckles-Canton - Co-President of the Citywide Council on Special Education
    • Dina Benanti - Committee on Special Education 7 (D20 & D21), Chairperson
    • Joann Cummings - District 29Q President of the President Council and CEC 29 IEP Parent Member
    • Commissioner Christina Curry - Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities
    • Marjorie Dienstag - Panel for Educational Policy; Parent
    • Beth Eisgrau-Heller - Parent and 853 Advocate
    • Lorraine Emerson - Parent
    • Laura Espinoza - Parent
    • Stacey Gauthier - Executive Director and Principal, Renaissance Charter School; Executive Director, The Renaissance Charter School 2
    • Georgia Giannikouris Brandeis - Assistant Principal, Townsend Harris High School (currently Strategic Advisor to the Chief of Special Education)
    • MaryJo Ginese - United Federation of Teachers: Vice President for Special Education
    • Celia Green - Citywide Council for District 75 Co-President; former Chancellor’s Parents Advisory Council Representative; Parent
    • Paullette Healy - Co-President of the Citywide Council on Special Education
    • Kyeatta Hendricks - Special Education Teacher K-12 NYC Public Schools
    • Lupe Hernandez - Office of Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams
    • Rima Izquierdo - Parent Leader District 75, District 8, District 11; Bronx High School Presidents Council President; Bronx Developmental Disabilities Council Executive Board Parent Member
    • City Council Education Committee Chair Rita Joseph
    • Melissa Katz - NYC Charter School Center Representative
    • Lauren Kish - Principal PS 42
    • Nelson Mar - Attorney at Legal Services NYC
    • Kin Mark, M.S., P.D. - Citywide Council on High Schools / Vice-President and Brooklyn Representative
    • Ellen Mc Hugh - Public Advocate Appointee to Citywide Council on Special Education
    • Maggie Moroff - Senior Special Education Policy Coordinator at Advocates for Children of New York (AFC)
    • Erika Newsome - Special Education Parent Advocate
    • Kristie Patten - Vice Dean at NYU; ASD Nest Partner
    • Lori Podvesker - INCLUDEnyc
    • Smita Prakash - Occupational Therapist at NYC Public Schools
    • Glenys Rivera - DC-37 local 372 2nd Vice President
    • Desines Rodriguez - Community Education Council 32 President
    • Marisela Sánchez - District 75 Teacher
    • Superintendent. Harry Sherman - Superintendent District 9
    • Rosemarie Sinclair - Executive Vice President for Council for School Supervisors and Administrators
    • Assistant Commissioner Christopher Suriano - New York State Education Department: Assistant Commissioner for Special Education
    • Amy Tsai - Co-President of Citywide Council for D75; Parent
    • Whitney Toussaint - Community Education Council 30 Representative
    • Chris Treiber - Associate Executive Director of Children’s Services, InterAgency of Developmental Disabilities Agencies, Inc.
    • Barbara Tremblay - Principal P721K
    • Dr. Hoa Tu - Superintendent of Queens North High Schools
    • Claudine Cyrius Saint Victor - Parent
    • Dr. Marion Wilson - Superintendent District 31
    • Effi Zakry - Panel for Educational Policy; Parent; Former VP of Citywide Council on High Schools
    • NYC Public Schools students and alumni

    Inclusive and Interdependent Language Initiative

    The words we use are critical: how we refer to people is how we think about them. Language and how we talk about people creates our social frameworks and tells us how to treat others around us.

    The Inclusive and Interdependent Language Glossary

    • By creating a glossary of inclusive terminology that matches student preference and best practice, and implementing these language changes both internally at NYC Public Schools and externally with the families and students that we serve, we can help create an environment that is truly inclusive and interdependent at its core.

    The glossary:

    • is a tangible way to begin to create systemic change so that everyone feels valued and referred to in a way that respects their identity
    • pushes us to ALL (within & outside of the NYC Public School System) own the way we think and speak about all people.
    • is a living document that will be updated regularly in response to stakeholder feedback, especially student feedback, via an accompanying rolling online survey: IILI Glossary Survey
      • If you identify as a student with a disability and you would like to contribute to our language initiative to reimagine the language we use to describe students with disabilities and special education, please submit to the survey.

    Ways to support:

    • Share the glossary and related materials with your students, staff, and community.
    • Discuss the terms of the glossary, and possible changes and additions with your students*. The glossary is a living document that will be updated regularly in response to stakeholder feedback, especially student feedback, via an accompanying rolling online survey.
    • Incorporate the terms from the glossary into curriculum and professional practices. Official documents are required to use the language in the latest published version of the glossary. *we are especially interested in feedback from students with disabilities