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Speech pathologist, special education programming added to WACS pre-school curriculum

December 21, 2016
Westfield Republican

By David Prenatt

editorial@westfieldrepublican.com

By hiring another speech pathologist and embedding a special education program into the pre-school curriculum, Westfield Academy and Central School District can actually save money and provide better services, board of education members learned at their regular meeting Dec. 12.

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
WACS social worker DeAnn Shelters and CPSE/CSE chair Amy Webb speak to the board of education about Shelters’ work in the district.

WACS elementary principal Dr. Mary Rockey, along with CPSE/CSE Chairperson Amy Webb and school social worker DeAnn Shelters, presented a petition to the board to include special education as part of the pre-school program.

Rockey told board members that, over the last five years, the district has had an average of 17-18 students in its pre-school program who have required special education. Currently, these needs are taken care of by outside providers, she said. By taking care of these needs in-house, the district would receive the financial assistance that currently goes to those providers, she said.

Furthermore, she said, the district is responsible for the Individualized Education Plans for these students, but "we're not doing the evaluations." If we brought this in-house and did the evaluations, we would receive the funding and the information would not be coming from different sources, she said. "Since we're not doing the evaluations, the information is scattered," Shelters added

"If we brought that in-house, there would be no extra charge," Rockey said. "We have the people who can do this for 17 or 18 students with a little extra work.We will be much more solid if we do it in-house."

Speech difficulties are a huge problem with pre-school age children, as well as occupational therapy issues, such as posture, Rockey said. The district would need to hire another certified speech pathologist, but again this cost would be offset by the money the district would receive from the state for this service, she said.

Webb also told board members that many children in pre-school have difficulty with articulation. Also, ELA skills can be fostered in children at a very early age, she said. "Pre-school is a great place to foster that development," she said.

During the public commentary phase of the meeting, WACS first-grade teacher Tina Fermier applauded the proposal. "I'm very excited about the project. We all know that early intervention is the key," she said. "My hope is that if we can address these needs early on, the student may not always need special education."

In a related presentation, Webb and Shelters spoke about the work of the special education department. Shelters was recently upgraded from a part-time position to that of full-time social worker for the district.

Webb noted that one of Shelters' primary tasks is to provide mental health therapy. The need for this is great, she said. "There is a very high mental health need in our area. Our needs are great and our resources are minimal," she said. "Any time we have a student in crisis, she (Shelters) gets called."

Shelters said she also offers a skill streaming program. She explained that skill streaming employs a four-part training approach, which includes modeling, role-playing, performance feedback, and generalization to teach basic social skills. "We focus on one to two skills per session, like listening skills," she said. Shelters said she has a K-1 group, a grade 2 and 3 group and a grade 4 and 5 group.

In another presentation, WACS teachers Greg Birner and Amanda Reese petitioned board members to support the creation of a volleyball team. Birner said the sport would be organized as a club team associated with the district, but that there would be no cost to the district. "It would be strictly between the players, the parents and the coaches," he said. "I believe we can put Westfield back on the map as far as volleyball goes."

Reese said many girls have indicated interest in volleyball, but that they want to play for Westfield, not another district. "We have a good core of eighth graders," she said. "We need to identify the girls who have not been playing volleyball because it's not Westfield volleyball."

In other business, the board accepted a letter of resignation from business manager Anthony Montero. WACS superintendent David Davison said the district has received five letters of interest for the position. Three of the letters are from civil service candidates, he said. The deadline (December 22) is approaching for submitting an application for the position, he added.

Davison also reported that the capital project work is proceeding. Workers are installing cove molding in several of the rooms during school breaks. The general contractor has also agreed to pay for a clogged drain in an upstairs bathroom, he said. Davison added that the district still has not received all lead testing results.

 
 
 

 

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