Mr. Connolly Has ALS Screens on Capitol Hill
On Monday, July 17, 2017, Dan Habib traveled to Washington, DC to screen his film Mr. Connolly Has ALS at an event hosted by New Hampshire Congresswoman Annie Kuster along with New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan and Washington Senator Patty Murray (not in attendance). The event also included a panel discussion of the role of Medicaid funding to support inclusive K-12 education for students with disabilities. Last year, New Hampshire schools received $29 million in Medicaid funding.
“The film captures Concord (NH) High School principal Gene Connolly’s commitment to inclusive education,” filmmaker Dan Habib said. “And the Concord district has made it clear that Medicaid-to-schools funding is key to providing the type of supports — like occupational, physical, and speech therapy — that help make inclusive education successful in schools in NH and across the country.”
Senator Maggie Hassan began the event with special remarks, saying, “In a democracy, every single person counts, and every single person needs to be able to get healthcare. Every family is one doctor’s visit away from a diagnosis that could change the rest of their life.”
Following the screening, a panel discussion on the impact of Medicaid in schools took place. The panelists were:
- Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02)
- Ally Connolly Davis, Elementary School teacher, and daughter of Gene Connolly
- Sue Swenson, President, Inclusive International; Former Acting Assistant Secretary, US Department of Education OSERS
- Dan Habib, University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability (UCED)
- Sasha Pudelski, Assistant Director of Policy & Advocacy, The School Superintendents Association
Ally Connolly Davis discussed her father's commitment to inclusion for all students - and how she is working to carry on his vision in her own teaching. "I've seen the benefits of inclusion and positive impact on all of my students,” she said. Sue Swenson shared insightful and powerful perspectives about the importance of inclusive education as both a parent and Former Acting Assistant Secretary, US Department of Education OSERS. And Sasha Pudelski of the School Superintendents Association noted that two-thirds of school districts use Medicaid to pay salaries of key personnel available to all students.
Concord (NH) High School Principal Gene Connolly — a champion for inclusive education — was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2014. Documentary filmmaker Dan Habib watched his son Samuel have a conversation with Connolly. But neither spoke. Samuel and Connolly used hand gestures and communication devices— Samuel because of his cerebral palsy, and Connolly because ALS had taken away his ability to speak. Mr. Connolly Has ALS chronicles Connolly’s final year as principal of the school and features CHS students – including Habib's son Samuel – asking Connolly about the most profound and personal aspects relating to his life with the disease, his views on inclusive education, and what it feels like to become disabled. Watch the trailer >
At the event, Ally Connolly Davis read a statement from her Gene Connolly. He said, “I truly believe that our public schools are the space where we have to be pushing for inclusion. That by pushing for inclusion in this space it ripples out into our communities and into our world.”
“We cannot go back to the days where we marginalized or don’t assist some of our most vulnerable students,” Hassan said, “and I will continue fighting against these senseless cuts to ensure that every student – regardless of their personal circumstances – has the support they need.”