Special education advisory panel gears up for another academic year

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The Cranston Special Education Advisory Committee is a state mandated extension of the School Committee that educates and informs parents about special education issues in the district.

Besides parents, the committee is made up of representatives from central administration, principals, teachers and special education instructors.

According to Michele Simpson, executive director for pupil personnel services, as of September 13, “Cranston has 1,573 students in the district with IEP’s this includes students that are privately placed and services only.

There are 10,271 students in district buildings, and out of district special education placements, the special education breakdown of those students is 14.4 percent.

There are 584 students in the elementary schools, 341 at the middle schools and 399 students at the high schools receiving special education services. Of those students, 97 of them are seniors.

Of the kindergarten students, 82 of the members of the Class of 2030 have IEP’s, and 133 students with IEPs are currently placed out of district,” she said.

Dannelle Littleton, a parent of a Cranston East student, is the current chairperson of SEAC, serving in her second term.

“We advise the district on any unmet needs of students with disabilities, comment on improvement plans and school support plans, and serve as advocates along with parents for students with disabilities,” she said.

At the first meeting of the school year, SEAC had a special presentation from the Project SEARCH program.

According to their website, Project Search “The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business led, one-year school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations.”

Cranston Public Schools has been a partner with the program for several years along with Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Office of rehabilitation services, Perspectives and Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

After the one-year the students are expected by the national office to be competitively employed.

The students who participate in the program are trained from day one to learn how to take public transportation, and several other “soft skills instructions, such as how to use a revolving door, elevators, even their ID badges.

Working at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield building in Downtown Providence, students would follow a rotation plan spending time in each of the following areas; mailroom, data entry, janitorial maintenance, paper work, security and the highly favored food services.

After each rotation cycle, the students provide reflections on each area.

Some of the skills they gain include communication, using phone systems and taking messages.

Cranston resident, Chris Zimmerly, who graduated from Bishop Hendricken was present to read a statement about his personal experience with Project Search.

“I worked in the kitchens, I made cookies and sandwiches, I learned how to use the cash register and I helped with catering. I want to get a job in the restaurant business,” he said.

Chris’ mom, Roberta was effusive in her review of the program.

“This was a fantastic place for Chris to be launched from. It was truly his utopia. They were so supportive from day one. The model is set up so that parents are kept out of it, while they take the students to shop for work clothes, learn about busses and everything else,” she said.

Chris’s résumé “kicks butt,” as Roberta said. He is already serve safe certified, and ready to work.

This current year six students graduated from the program, and they are hoping for 10 students next

Following the presentation, Littleton held a brief SEAC meeting.

Items discussed included future meetings and holding works shops focused on bullying, what is SPED, what is SPED diversity, and other topics.

A discussion of the donorchoose.org web site and the possible violation of FERPA rites for students were raised. There were pictures of classrooms with requests for supplies and materials that were specific for special education students, and the pictures attached identified the students as such.

According to David Aulenbach, Cranston East Assistant Principal for Special Education, this is a disheartening matter.

“To be portrayed that we are not providing for our students is not accurate. When there are donations made for the students, there is a process to be followed. They go through the business office, they are tagged as property of CPS, etc. There needs to be something in place to make sure this policy is being followed,” he said.

“Right now if a teacher is fully funded through this website whether it is computers, supplies, etc. they belong to the teacher. They take them with them when they leave the district. We take all of this very seriously,” he said.

To learn more about Project Search, visit their web site projectsearch.us

To learn more about SEAC go to www.cpsed.net/index.php/parent-and-community-resouces/seac.

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