Mother fighting to keep autistic son in Scottsdale school

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Stacy Strombeck-Goodrich has made bumper stickers that read, "Keep our kids at Pueblo, find us on Facebook."
Her son is thriving at Pueblo Elementary School in Scottsdale.
Luke, 7, is autistic and making friends can be challenging.
"He's invited to birthday parties now," Strombeck-Goodrich said. "That doesn't sound like a big deal, but for a child that no one liked it's a huge deal. He has kids that call them their friend."
However, Luke could have to start over at Kiva Elementary School next year. The Scottsdale Unified School District is considering moving him and his classmates in the self-contained learning programs.
"This feels like our kids are disposable and they’re not disposable," said Strombeck-Goodrich. "They’re as valuable as their classmates and we just want them to have the same opportunities."
Associate Superintendent Dr. Jeff Thomas was too busy for an on-camera interview. Instead, 3TV was sent a statement via email. Part of it reads:
"… We believe a move of the programs to Kiva will benefit the students by increasing the opportunities for inclusion in general education classrooms. For the past several years with the growth of the Foreign Language Immersion program at Pueblo the opportunities have decreased due to the limited (one per grade level) numbers of conventional strand classrooms," Thomas said.
The school’s popular Spanish program is attracting so many students.
Another parent, Theresa Bennett, said Luke's presence is just as valuable to her son's education as his foreign language classes.
"It's a way of teaching him compassion, understanding, patience. There's so many things that he can learn from a child that's not exactly the same," Bennett said.
Thomas also said in his email, "…We appreciate the passion that our parents have regarding the education of their children. We are very fortunate in Scottsdale to have this level of engagement. In the end, we are responsible for providing the best educational opportunity for all of our students. The recommendation to move some of the self-contained programs is based on looking at what is in the best interest of the education of all students."
Strombeck-Goodrich isn't going to back down and told 3TV, "If he just had to leave and I didn't say anything I wouldn't be doing my job as a parent for him. I need to speak for him."
The board could make a decision at their meeting on Tuesday. The decision could also be delayed or modified. If passed, the students would need to move by the next school year, which begins in August.