Staten Island panel notes gains in special education

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Staten Island panel notes gains in special education

  By Kiawana Rich/Staten Island Advance
on May 03, 2013 at 7:24 AM, updated May 03, 2013 at 7:43 AM

P1 Petridesgrad.jpg

Joanne Buckheit, principal of the Michael J. Petrides School, spoke at a forum hosted by the Education Committee of the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council.Staten Island Advance/Anthony DePrimo

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Reform of special education in city schools is beginning to bear fruit despite some kinks that need working out.

That was the determination made at Thursday evening’s forum staged by the Education Committee of the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Council at the Institute for Basic Research in Willowbrook.

The forum, which featured a nine-member panel, was titled “Conversations Regarding New York City’s Special Education Initiative: A Shared Path to Success — Where Are We Now?”

The focus was on Department of Education initiatives designed to support special-needs students in pursuit of their high school diplomas, higher education and fulfilling careers.

Panelists noted that teachers are benefiting by expanded opportunities for professional development.

But Christopher Treiber, associate executive director for the Children’s Services Inter-Agency Council, suggested that identification of students with autism spectrum disorders is still a work in progress, one vital to the task of getting those children the best services.

Maria J. Simpson, assistant principal of special education and ELL services for PS 22 in Graniteville, said her school began working with teachers last year to prepare them for the reforms. The effect was to reduce teacher anxiety, she said, and “now they are embracing [the reforms].”

Petrides Principal Joanne Buckheit talked about having a “difficult conversation” with student Dulce Romero when she was a junior. In order to get a diploma, Ms. Romero needed to pass four more Regents exams than the one she had passed. Efforts by a caring faculty and hard work on the student’s part allowed her to pass all the exams by senior year; now 18, she looks forward to graduation and college.

A teary-eyed Ms. Romero earned a standing ovation as she thanked her teachers. “Never give up and go for what you want and you will achieve it,” she said.

Andrea Lella, CEO and director of Families Helping Families, which advocates for special-needs families, told the panel that the department is doing a “good and grand thing,” but committees providing parents’ and advocates’ perspectives are needed. This way, “you can better support your wonderful vision and your hard work,” she said.


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