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Improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities was the common goal of the 200-plus teachers and administrators gathered at LACOE on March 9.

It was the first-ever countywide special education symposium, drawing representatives from 35 districts as well as charter schools and other groups.

"Special educators often feel isolated in their schools. We thought they would benefit from the chance to collaborate across districts," said event organizer James McKenna of LACOE Curriculum and Instructional Services. "The response was enthusiastic and the evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive."

Taking the theme "Harnessing the Power of We," the event at the LACOE Conference Center in Downey featured 15 breakout sessions on best practices and current issues and a vendor exhibit.

Keynoter Spencer West inspired participants with his life story of learning to navigate the world after losing his legs at the age of five. West has sought to redefine what is possible. In 2012, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on his hands and wheelchair.

Presenters included representatives from seven districts (Antelope Valley, El Monte City, El Rancho, La Cañada, Hacienda La Puente, LAUSD and Pomona), LACOE Head Start and the California Charter Schools Association.

Special thanks to the event's major sponsors: Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo; California Credit Union; Edgenuity; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Kidlink Treatment; LACOE Special Education Division; Lozano Smith; Project Discovery; S.T.A.R. Academy, and Siras Systems, Inc.

McKenna said plans are already underway for the 2018 symposium, with a larger venue being explored to accommodate more participants.

He curates a LiveBinder of special education resources that now includes presentations from the March 9 symposium. View the resources here.

Learn more about the Special Education unit in LACOE Curriculum and Instructional Services here.

Photos: LACOE's first-ever special education symposium drew 200-plus participants from 35 districts for a day of breakout sessions and collaboration to improve educational outcomes for students of all abilities.

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