In her new role as parent mentor in the Solon City School District, which she begins Aug. 1, city resident Joanna Innes said she hopes to act as a “bridge” for families of students with disabilities.
She also wants to provide the same guidance she received for her son from her predecessor, Annie Dellamorte, who is leaving the district due to a relocation for her husband’s job.
“As a mom of a child with a disability, there were times during the journey where I second guessed my ability to be a good advocate for him,” Ms. Innes, a Solon resident and mother of three, explained. “I felt the need to have an additional set of eyes look over paperwork.
“I was grateful the district had a parent mentor, and Annie held my hand and helped me prepare for a meeting,” she sad. “It became a very pivotal turning point for our child.
“I want to be that person for someone else.”
Ms. Innes will be a parent mentor for kindergarten through 12th grade in her new part-time role. She has worked as an elementary school teacher for five years and is active in the community.
“I’m extremely excited to be able to be a bridge to the families and to help them better understand the school’s perspective, if necessary,” she added. “I think it will be incredibly helpful all around to make everything better for the student.”
The parent mentor role at Solon is a “key piece” of the overall team that is working to ensure the district is meeting the needs of students with disabilities and their families,” School Communication Director Tamara Strom said.
The mentor is available to families if they desire, “but we as a district have always valued this role,” Ms. Strom added.
The position is funded through a grant from the Ohio Department of Education. Solon is one of the first school districts in the area to have had this type of program that has been in place for more than 30 years.
“We believe that more members of a team at the table helping gives us the best results for families and the best solutions,” Ms. Strom said.
Ms. Innes said that often families of students with a disability need assistance looking at the results of a test as well as understanding what those results mean.
“Sometimes it’s not understanding the perspective of the school team,” she said. “I’m excited to be that reassurance for someone else, that it is going to be OK. Annie [Dellamorte] was that for me.”
Ms. Dellamorte really “elevated the position,” Ms. Innes said, giving the parent mentor visibility in the district. She hosted quarterly meetings for parents where conversation and support was garnered.
Ms. Dellamorte, who served as parent mentor for four years, had a “tremendous heart,” Ms. Strom added.
In addition to supporting families in understanding the special educator process, the parent mentor acts as a liaison between the parents and the school as well as provides confidential support for parental concerns and questions, among other roles.
“In the end, our goal is to make it the best experience for students,” Ms. Innes said.