Dedication to education: Shoreline women resolve problems between families and K-12 public schools in state

Monday, November 21, 2011

By Emily Esposito

Adie Simmons and Cathy Liu Scott have lived in Shoreline for a combined 45 years, building a loyal dedication to public education along the way. Their children attended Shoreline Public Schools; they were PTA leaders; they worked for the school district.

Now their experience has taken them on a path of working with families and schools around the state at The Office of the Education Ombudsman (OEO), the first government agency in the nation focusing on resolving disputes, complaints and problems affecting K-12 student learning in public schools.

Adie Simmons and Cathy Liu Scott in their office at Northgate
Photo by Steven H. Robinson

Many in Shoreline remember Simmons from her years working with the “Readiness to Learn” program in schools. In 2006 the Washington State legislature passed a law creating OEO as part of the Governor’s Office. Simmons, who was working for Seattle Public Schools at the time, made the move to work at the state level in education and was hired as OEO’s first director developing a new agency from the ground up.

As Director, Simmons ensures that public school students receive a quality education and are well supported by a school-family partnership.

“My goal has always been to help educators and families better understand each other and work collaboratively for the common goal of student achievement,” says Simmons. “OEO is a safe, confidential place where families and educators can come together to resolve issues and focus on what is best for students.”

Scott has been Volunteer Coordinator for the Shoreline/Lake Forest Park “Power of One” program and for Shoreline Public Schools where she succeeded getting senior citizens, parents, students, and other community members to volunteer in schools and directly benefit student learning. In her present job as OEO’s Community Relations Manager, she ensures that families and schools across the state know about OEO and use its free services. Her work involves outreach to refuge and immigrant families and other groups who may not know where to turn when experiencing problems with the child’s education, like military families and incarcerated parents.

“I’ve seen families frantically worried about their children because they are not attending school or they are being bullied or their IEP is not effective. After working with an Ombudsman, the family feels better, they feel like their student is safe and getting the education they need,” said Scott. “It’s such hopeful, fulfilling work to be assisting both families and schools.”

Simmons adds,
 “It has been exciting to create something that has never existed before. I have used the experience I gained in Shoreline Public Schools and applied it to this job in so many ways.”

OEO has a team of Education Ombudsmen who are trained in mediation, conflict resolution and facilitation with many years of experience in public education. Their focus is resolving complaints and disputes in a range of issues including Special Education, suspensions, expulsions, bullying, truancy, enrollment, lack of academic progress, and more. They work intensively and compassionately with the family and the school to reach a solution to the problem.

Besides preventing students from dropping out from school, OEO’s services prevent lawsuits and are a substantial alternative option to costly legal fees for families and educators. The work of OEO is being developed as a national model.

OEO is easy and convenient to connect with for help. Clients talk through problems with an ombudsman via a toll-free telephone number. To set up an appointment with an ombudsman call 1-866-297-2597. Visit their website to learn about OEO’s free resources for families and schools. Office hours are Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.


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