Cordova & Associates, PC
1065 Long Beach Rd.
It’s no secret that being a lawyer is a popular choice of profession on Long Island. It seems like every shopping center and strip mall has some sort of law firm or multi-name practice. But if someone asked you what the most common type of law practiced on LI is, what would you say? Divorce? Matrimonial? Criminal? They’re everywhere.
But hiding on Long Beach Road in South Hempstead is a woman practicing a different kind of law—special education law. Doreen Cordova, of Cordova & Associates, P.C., is fighting battle after battle to help special needs kids.
“Special education people are everywhere. We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist,” Cordova says. “I wanted to help and I wanted to make a difference. I want to make sure that everybody is fully represented.”
Cordova says that fighting for children with special learning needs has always been a goal of hers. She graduated from Empire State College with degrees in business management and economics. In her spare time, she would work in family courts, even sacrificing vacations to pursue her dream.
Eventually, Cordova realized that the best way to help the special needs students was by attack the crux of the problem, which she says is that they are not getting educated and have a learning disability that isn’t being addressed in the classroom.
“New York City has a 52 percent graduation rate, and most of the kids that don’t have special education needs that fall by the wayside,” says Cordova. Their parents aren’t knowledgeable, and the teachers don’t care, so kids become juvenile delinquents.”
To help these kids, Cordova returned to college as an adult, taking classes at Touro College and later graduated with a law degree. She took the bar exam and, 18 months ago, opened Cordova & Associates, P.C.
Cordova confesses that the problem is a multi-faceted one, and that the lack of progress has been disheartening. But she can easily point out some areas, like funding and the way schools handle special needs students, where she wants to spur change.
“I don’t think schools are doing everything they could be doing,” she says. “They say they are, but there’s so much bureaucracy. And there’s no money—Albany is cutting money left and right. We’ve got to come up with a different way of doing business.”
One solution Cordova wants to see pushed on LI is the creation of charter schools—schools that get public funding but are exempt from typical public school guidelines and, in exchange, are expected to produce results to warrant the funding. Cordova says that Islanders are afraid to experiment with a new schooling system, but the benefits would outweigh any aversion.
“If we start to get some charter schools on LI, it would shake people up. That’s what they need to do.”
Typical education programs at schools are designed in generalities, and will more or less work for most kids. But children with special learning needs could get forced into a regiment that doesn’t gel with their abilities. Doreen Cordova wants to make schools more open to making adaptable programs, so children aren’t left at a disadvantage.
“Schools; they want to put a square peg in a round hole—they want to take your kid and fit them into the program they already have. That’s what I make them do—I make them invent a program.”