Local News

Fayetteville mom turned principal fights for students with special needs

Posted August 25

— Amy Sparks lost her son with autism six years ago. She spent his life fighting for his rights to a decent education in the public school system.

Sparks, who is now the principal of the new School of Hope, won a federal court battle 10 years ago to ensure all North Carolina children with special needs get the educational services to which they are entitled.

"It's not about proving some school system right or wrong," said Sparks. "It's about being a voice for children because, a lot of times, parents, they want to help their children, but they don't know how."

She is now taking the battle into her new school.

Jullian Brown, 12, is one of eight students who will start classes on Monday.

"I like to do good in school," Jullian said.

Communication and social skills will be just as important as reading and writing.

"Jullian didn't start speaking until he was 5 years old," said his mother, Marion Brown. "Before 5, he used sign language, and he had a series of classical grunts and groans I kind of picked up on and when what they meant."

The parents of the children at the school say they are not expecting miracles.

"Really, it's just about hope for him," said Keri Godwin, who has a child at the school. "A lot of individual instruction and one-on-one."

Sparks has hopes, too, that the school's curriculum for students with special needs catches fire.

"My dream is that people will move to North Carolina, Fayetteville, North Carolina, because of the School of Hope," Sparks said.

Parents and students got to see the school on Friday and meet their teachers. The school is holding an open house on Saturday for the public from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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