A McDuffie County educator has been invited to attend the spring session of the Oxford Round Table at Harris Manchester College in the University of Oxford, England. Janis Hammar, special education director of the McDuffie County School District, recently received the invitation by mail.
Attendance to the Round Table Sessions is by invitation only, and is limited to 35 persons world-wide. According to the Oxford website, past membership has included ministers of education, state governors of the United States, members of Parliament, executive officers of international corporations, educational administrators, attorneys, and academicians from major universities.
"I believe Janis Hammar is highly qualified to be one of the persons selected to represent the United States. I believe her expertise in areas of special education make her a representative who is worthy of all the information she would receive and would present there. She would be a great person to interact and present information to assist those at the Round Table in doing what is best for children," said Dr. Margie Waters, assistant superintendent for human resources for McDuffie County Schools.
The Oxford Round Table is not a conference, but a unique forum in which participants discuss issues and concerns. The results of deliberations are published and distributed to individuals, governments and academic institutions around the world.
The spring session will be concerned with the physical, mental and social conditions that require special consideration in order to assure desirable educational outcomes for children with disabilities. Dr. Waters said the "knowledge Mrs. Hammar would receive from the session would help benefit the children in our county school system."
Mrs. Hammar said she is honored to receive the invitation, but is not able to attend due to the expenses involved. Cost of participation in the Round Table is approximately $3000, excluding airfare and transportation.
"I would love to go one day, and hopefully I can. But it's just not possible for me to personally pay for it right at this time, and it's definitely more than the taxpayers should pay," Mrs. Hammar said.
Mrs. Hammar has been involved in special education since 1981. She said she has always wanted to "help people who have problems learning," because she grew up with a sister who had a reading disability, and she saw how her parents struggled to get her sister through school.
Mrs. Hammar describes special education students as children who "learn differently" because of mild to severe learning disabilities or visual or auditory impairment. She believes the greatest progress in special education came when the United States passed public law 94-142, enabling students to be included in general education classes. After the United States passed the law, Mrs. Hammar said other countries have followed suit.
"Inclusive classes meet the needs of all the children in the classroom, whether they are diagnosed as special ed, or not," Mrs. Hammar said. "Improved test scores prove this. Some of our students' scores improved as much as 28 points."