This page provides thoughts and commentary from the Special Education Director, Susan Murray, in the West Genesee Central School District. (To subscribe to this link as a RSS feed, please click on the link "Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)" located at the bottom of the postings.)
I can't believe that it is time for the holidays- the year is flying by! I am looking forward to the time with my family; my children will be home from college on Friday. I am eager to have them home, our quiet house will be busy again and I can not wait.This is also a time of year when we reconnect and celebrate with family, friends and other special people in our lives. I want to share with you a little about one of those people who is special to us in our office.
As many of you know, Sylvia McCarthy has been one of our Special Education Department secretaries for 17 years. She will be retiring over the holiday break. Sylvia has been so much more than just "the voice on the phone" for us. She has helped more than one parent, teacher, and administrator work their way through the world of special education. Sylvia has a wonderful sense of humor, offers help no matter what the needs may be, and is a calm, reassuring support to all of us. I have had the privilege of working with Sylvia for my entire administrative career and she has become a dear friend. If you call the office in the next couple of weeks, please feel free to wish her well. Our new secretary, Patty Lewis, will start with us over the break.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.
Well, fall is definitely here. The leaves are mostly gone and the temperatures are certainly cooler. While it seems that all that's on tv and the news now are political ads and stories, I recently heard an inspiring story I wanted to share as well as an opportunity for students and an exciting new study for diagnosing Autism. Nike Signs It's First Professional Athlete with a Disability As I watched the news recently there was a story about a young man who recently became a pro athlete and signed a contract with Nike. What makes this young man, Justin Gallegos unique in that despite having Cerebral Palsy, he has become a professional runner. He is has struggled with walking, using a walker throughout his childhood and dreamed of being a professional runner. Nike recently surprised the college junior with a 3-year contract. They have also developed a running shoe for people with disabilities with a zippered heel. For Justin's story, click here. Other Information to Share Mrs. Bush, our librarian at CMS, recently shared some information with me about a local theater group that supports people with disabilities who love to perform. Front Row Players is a nonprofit group that was organized to teach dramatic performance to people of all abilities. Quite a few years ago when I was a middle school special education teacher, I had a student who participated in a similar group. I remember attending the performance of A Midsummer's Night's Dream and the thrill of seeing her perform with a group of people so passionate about their performance. I would encourage anyone who has a child who loves to perform to check out their upcoming performance in December to see what it's all about. They will be doing another play in the spring with auditions happening in January. You find their website here at Front Row Players. Autism Study I attended the WG SEPTSA meeting last week. The group had some great ideas for activities and speakers for the near future. One member, Olivia Colabufo, also shared that she and her son have recently participated in saliva test at Upstate to help diagnose Autism. Watch the video with information on the Clarifi Autism Saliva Test for children.
The calendar says its fall and the weather is certainly starting to feel like it. We've gotten off to a good start this year. It's been great to see the students back and to hear about the wonderful things they are doing. We have students participating in fall sports and going on field trips already and are looking ahead to more this year.
Upcoming Events SUPAC Series
SUPAC has a variety of trainings that will be taking place throughout the area this year. For information on trainings and other events they hold, visit http://supac.org/.
SUPAC is offering a four part series called "Family Connections: Meaningful Engagement in the Special Education Process" which will be held in the Baldwinsville School District. The topics will include:
The Special Education Process- October 3
How to Involve and Encourage Student Participation in the IEP Process - November 14
Getting Organized: Preparing for Your CSE Meetings- January 6
Understanding the IEP- March 27
For more information and to register for these and other sessions click here.
I want to share the link to the WGSEPTSA for anyone who is interested. This group strives to support families of students with disabilities and provide information as well as fun events for students and their families throughout the year. Look here for details on their meeting dates, times and locations.
I hope everyone enjoyed the summer; it's certainly has been a warm one! With school starting back up this week I wanted to say welcome back; we've had a busy but great summer in the Special Education Department. We've worked on quite a few things, have hired new staff who we are excited to work with and took time to relax and vacation. On a personal note, my husband and I have sent our twins off for their sophomore year of college; they left excited to get back to their friends and on with their studies. No empty nest for us though, we've had my parents move in with us due to some medical issues they have been dealing with. We consider ourselves lucky to be able to spend the time with them. Plus I get the added pleasure of having breakfast with my dad every morning; something I've grown to look forward to as I start each day! It may not have been what we planned to be doing at this point in our lives, but we wouldn't change it for anything. Summer Work We've sure been busy this summer. Darlene and I have met with Rob Leo, Coordinator of Instructional Technology, to help learn how to make some of our technology more accessible to our students. We plan to have Rob do some training with our Special Education Teachers and Teaching Assistants on how to use more of the features built into Google Chrome to allow them to assist our students better on the chromebooks. We have hired a number of new folks in our Special Education department this year. We are excited to welcome five new teachers, twelve new teaching assistants, two new occupational therapists and one new physical therapist. We are looking forward to working with them all. While we had fun working with technology and meeting new staff, we also had to do things that needed to be done. We've updated forms and reviewed our processes and procedures to be sure we are following the NYS Part 200 Regulations. Not as exciting but necessary.
Dance Class for Students with Disabilities This summer I heard about an opportunity for students with disabilities who would like to take dance classes. These Adaptive Dance Classes will be offered by Rae’s Institute of Dance and Movement in Brewerton. These classes will provide students the opportunity to learn and explore different styles of dance and movement. The focuses for the classes include: enhancing student’s confidence, team work, and listening/memory skills; all while building dance knowledge, rhythm, and stretching skills. However, our main goal is to have fun! They welcome students of all levels/experience.
The class is taught by Speech-Language Pathologist and Dance Instructor, Lauren Calcagnino. Additional teachers and volunteers will be there to assist students when necessary and provide encouragement along the way. Twice a year there will be a performance where students can show off their routines and new skills they have learned in class. Class size will be limited to allow for optimal success and necessary supervision. Classes are on Saturdays starting September 22. There are two levels available: Level A for 5-12 year olds (10:30-11:15) and Level B: 13-18 year olds (11:30-12:15). Families must register by phone or in person. The telephone number is 315-458-1973. Rae’s Institute of Dance and Movement is located at 8860 Brewerton Road, Brewerton, NY. We look forward to seeing all our students in the next few days as we start this year. We are always available if anyone needs to contact us with questions or concerns. Here's to a great school year for all! See you soon ~ Sue
State Education Survey on Learning Disabilities The New York State Education Department is requesting feedback from school staff and families regarding meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities. Please take a few minutes to complete this by clicking the link below and share your thoughts. Thanks! Happy summer! Sue
Survey on Meeting the Needs of Students with Learning Disabilities
The Office of Special Education has developed surveys for administrators, educators/service providers, and families on meeting the needs of students with learning disabilities, including students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, in New York State. Broad dissemination of the surveys is encouraged. Participation is voluntary and anonymous. Results of the surveys will be used to inform guidance development related to students with specific learning disabilities and other NYSED initiatives including the State Systemic Improvement Plan. The surveys may be accessed at: http://www.mievaluation.com/SLD-Surveys.html. Questions about the purpose and/or content of the surveys may be directed to Kelly Onorato at email@example.com.
Darlene and I decided to wrap up our school year with a department meeting that included all of our special education staff. We rarely have an opportunity to get everyone together and wanted the staff to have a chance to celebrate all that they helped our students accomplish this year. There were so many of us we needed to meet in one of the high school cafeterias in order to fit everyone! I wanted to share with you some of the information I shared with the staff; it was eye opening to all of us.
Special Education at West Genesee by the Numbers for 2017-2018
We total 170 staff members in our department! School Psychologists: 10 Related Service Providers: 21 Special Education Teachers: 53 Special Education Teaching Assistants: 86 Across all buildings we held 800 CSE meetings this year. Throughout this school year, our staff touched the lives of 850 students who had some type of special education service or support. Our Class of 2018 We had a total of 42 students who completed high school this year! We are so proud of each and every one of them.
We have 34 students who are going to college next year. We wish all our graduates the best as they move on! We also celebrated the many success of our students this year- there were so many that teachers shared. Some were academic, some were social and some were seeing students grow and mature into the wonderful young adults we see now! It was truly a wonderful way to end our year. You can view the slideshow of success they shared here. Darlene and I want to once again thank our special education staff for all they do for our students. They are the reason our students are so successful. They care for them, nurture them, support them and help them be as successful as they can. We are truly lucky to have such wonderful staff to work with. I hope everyone has a wonderful, relaxing summer. See you in September! ~Sue
Spring is Here and We're Wrapping Up the Year:
I cannot believe we are half-way through May- this year has certainly flown by! Looking back, I realize that I have not done a blog in over a month and so much has been going on. Our Unified Sports Bowling team finished up their season and Basketball began and will be finishing up soon.There have been many Positivity Project assemblies, concerts, art shows, the Jr Prom and the Sr Ball- all of which we have had students participate in. In the next month we will have so many other events going on across the District: Special Olympics, field days, moving-up ceremonies, and of course graduation. I will continue to try to keep you posted on things going on in District and around our community.
The Year End Picnic will be coming up on June 30, 2018 at Shove Park from 1:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Please stay tuned for more information. The group is starting to plan for next year and would like to expand the support they provide families. They are looking for new members to join and be part of their organization. Please see their link on the Special Education quick link on the West Genesee webpage or click here.
The Exceptional Family Resources Manual has many supports, services, and activities for students and families. There is information about behavioral supports, counseling, Medicaid Coordination, and trainings as well as recreation and leisure activities. Some of the activities include Abilities Fitness, Arise at the Farm and a variety of sports opportunities. You can find the resource manual here.
I love to share information that parents pass on to me so if you have any information that you think others could benefit from, please forward it to me.
I hope you can get outside and enjoy the warmer weather that is finally here!