At the recent national CASE Conference in Reno, we had the chance to sit down and chat with the great Special Education Leader Jerry Hime. He is the Executive Director of the California Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE). Additionally, he is the Children’s Action Network (CAN) coordinator of the California Council for Exceptional Children. He is a past president of international CEC, California CEC, and CEC Chapter 188, Orange County.
Mr. Hime is an Educational Consultant in private practice. He currently consults with school districts and parents on issues related to special education, pupil services, and child welfare and attendance. He also serves as a hearing officer for disputes related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. At the time of his retirement he was the Consultant-in-Charge with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, with the Attendance and Administrative Unit of the Division of Student Support Services.
So Jerry, tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Jerry Hime. I live in Huntington Beach California which is near Los Angeles. I’ve been retired from education 14 years now. I was in education for 38 years. I started as a Special Education teacher. I’ve taught at different levels to students with different disabilities. Later, I went into administration as Administrator of Schools with the Los Angeles County Office of Education. I later switched from Special Education to Student Services, but continued working with, and on behalf of students with disabilities, and in some respects with adults too.
After I retired, I have continued doing some consulting work and I also have become a Section 504 Hearing Officer, and I do that to serve districts as well. I continue to be interested in education and students, and all matters of education.
So what is it that drives your passion for Special Education? You’re obviously retired, but you’re still going full time and then some. What’s driving that?
I think basically ensuring that the rights of individuals with disabilities, regardless of age and disability, that they are being served properly, that they’re being integrated into our society, into their community and work environment, that their rights are protected and they’re not being discriminated against, and that they have the same rights as everybody else. Maybe there’s a different approach with different accommodation, but that’s the important thing for me and my family as well.
We see you at a lot of these national and state events, and it’s very obvious that you’re still a mover & a shaker in this community. What are some of the things that Special Education is doing right?
I think the whole inclusion movement is great. When I first started teaching, I taught at a special center where the students were isolated, they were not integrated into the school and activities, they were not integrated into the community, and they rode a separate bus. Nowadays all of our students from preschool on up, are integrated with their peers, regardless of their disabilities. So I think that’s the major change in Special Education: the movement towards inclusion, the rights, and that our students are individual people need to be respected.
What are the biggest challenges you see?
Well if you were to ask an educator, part of it is paperwork. Because whenever you have new legislation, there’s added paperwork. With our students, they all have individual plans (IEPs), which also requires a lot of paperwork. Finances are always an issue too. When the Rehabilitation Act was passed back in 1973, the federal government guaranteed that it would cover 40% of the cost. But fifty-some years later, they still haven’t gotten to that level. So school districts sometimes have to struggle to support their Special Education programs because there isn’t enough money.
Some students require a great deal of services that they can be very expensive, so the schools have to juggle their funds around to make sure these students are being served. And then there are other students who have disabilities, who are not in Special Education, but they have needs to be served too, and they have to be served out of the general fund. So it’s always a fight for the dollars, and I have on occasion, met with legislators back in Washington DC and when we talk about money they always ask, “where is it going to come from? where do you want us to get the money?” I just generally tell them, “that’s your job, you’re the legislators, go figure it out.”
What are some of the things that you are seeing that give you hope for the future Special Education?
I think that one the most important things for a students is as they get older, a transition plan be developed for them. It is required by law that they have a transition plan. It helps them get integrated, helps their families, helps them get connected with other services that will enable them to be part of their community and helps and in terms of employment.
We see many of our students who are employed today that twenty years ago would haven been sitting in a sheltered workshop. These individuals are now adults and they’re working and bringing home a paycheck. It may not be a large paycheck, but it makes them feel self-sufficient and gives them independence that they’ve never had before. And I think that’s one of the important things for the parents to see — that as their children become adults, they have the right to be independent and are being successful at it.
What is something that you would like to see that’s not currently happening?
Well there is so much good going on, I can’t really think of anything other than funding issues. If anything we need more adequate funding.
Let’s talk a little bit about what you were doing nowadays?
Most of my efforts now are directed towards what we call 504. It’s a law that covers anybody with a disability. Whereas the Special Education law only covers children through their schooling. With Section 504, I serve as a hearing officer in disputes that arise between school districts and parents. But these rights continue to be available to adults as well — including you and I. Most of my efforts nowadays are more directed toward seeing that individuals with disabilities rights are protected — the same as their peers. I think that’s been a major improvement we’ve made over the years and that’s my major emphasis now.
Are you doing any consulting work? If people wanted to contact you how would they do that?
Probably the best way to contact me would be through the California Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE). I currently serve as the Executive Director.
Do you have any plug that you want to make for CASE California?
Well I would like to see more of our administrators involved. I would also like to see non-Special Education involved so they would know more about the needs, and what is required, and the services that are necessary.
Will you be participating in any upcoming Special Education events?
Actually, I’m just starting to slow down. In the last couple of months, I put on a leadership workshop for CEC, I did a training for administrators and leaders on Section 504, I was involved with the California State CEC Conference two weeks ago in San Diego, and this conference (National CASE) here to Reno, and next week I’ll be back in Washington DC with the CEC meeting for past presidents. After that, I’m done for the rest of the year. After the first of the year I might get involved involved again.
Are you planning on going to ACSA or National CEC?
I will definitely be at the CEC Conference in Tampa, and more than likely, I will be at ACSA Conference because it’s in Southern California — I was on that committee for many years. These conferences provide a real network too. And I think CASE has done it here. It provides a network for administrators. Whether they are from New York or California or Texas, it gives them an opportunity to share information and find out what other people are doing — right or wrong.
One last and final question. What are your thoughts on teletherapy, where it is, and what you think it holds for the future?
My thinking on it has changed. When it first started I thought this was kind of hokey, but I see that it’s serving a need, particularly in areas where there are shortages of service providers. I see in rural areas, teletherapy can be very important and can provide for the needs that are not being met. I think that’s the most important thing: through technology you’re able to reach out and serve people that were not being served before.
Jerry thank you very much we really appreciate you taking the time.
The video version of this interview can be seen here in its entirety.