Retired special ed activist continues to champion public education
Kevin Muszynski knows the ins and outs of education in Philadelphia. As an education activist, a longtime special education advocate, and a parent of two children – one of whom attended District schools – he has seen what the District has to offer, both the good and the bad.
Using the Notebook, Muszynski said, he has been able to stay up to date on all aspects of local education news.
Muszynski has been a big supporter of the Notebook since it was founded in 1994. In its early years, he was heavily involved with the organization. He first heard about the nonprofit newspaper when he was asked by co-founder Paul Socolar to serve on its board. A contributor since 1996, Muszynski served on the board for several years and has been a donor for the last 20 years. He says the paper plays an important role in local education coverage.
“Paul Socolar produced information and a great service which the local news media totally ignored,” he said.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Muszynski attended Central High School and studied anthropology at Temple University in the 1970s. He worked for the Social Security Administration for 40 years while residing in Manayunk and has recently retired.
He said the Notebook has kept him informed through various stages of his career by reporting on important topics and relevant issues. Muszynski has seen local education from many points of view by serving with a number of organizations, working mostly with special education and county-based social services. He chaired the Right to Education Local Task Force, served as the president of the Greater Philadelphia Autism Society, and participated in advocacy training at the Institute for Disabilities at Temple University.
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He and his wife, Marianne Fulton, sent their eldest son, Brendan, to District schools. He graduated from Temple and now teaches English in Korea. But they chose to enroll their younger son, Andrew, who was born with severe autism, in a private school that targets severely disabled students.
“The District was completely unprepared for someone with his condition,” Muszynski said. “Every person with autism has different challenges and needs, which makes special education very difficult.”
When choosing where to send their children, Muszynski said, the Notebook helped him stay in touch with happenings in the District.
“It was useful for being an informed parent and was valuable while my older son entered and attended high school,” he said.
Muszynski cited the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center as two sources of much useful information in the Notebook. “Other valuable perspectives were provided by parents and teachers, as well as the School District.”
Even in retirement, Muszynski is still active in his advocacy for special education. His personal experience with his son’s autism gives him a unique perspective and an understanding of the problems facing autistic students during and after school.
“In recent years I worked with another parent group called Autism Living and Working,” he said. “This has a special emphasis on adult issues, life after the education system and housing.”
He emphasized the important role that special education plays once a student has graduated and moved on to adult life. He cited continued growth and brain development as critical components of continued education.
“Education continues to be important to adults with disabilities,” he said. “Unfortunately the support systems that exist fail to understand and integrate education with daily activities, therapies, and behavior plans.”
Muszynski said for many news organizations, reporting on special education issues can be challenging. He said that while “special ed is a whole unique situation that is not readily able to be covered in the existing format of the Notebook,” the paper’s special ed coverage does provide some valuable information and perspectives he has not been able to find elsewhere.
“The Notebook provided information that was not being reported in the news media or made available by the School District,” he said.
“It provides a vital service.”
Andreas Dienner is an intern at the Notebook.