Innovations in special education


The Glen Cove City School District is making strides to benefit its special-education students. At the June 5 Board of Education meeting, Jamie Alonso, the district’s assistant director of special Education, and Courtney Farrell, the assistant director of secondary education, detailed new initiatives and future plans that showcase the district’s progress in special education.
One of the highlights was the introduction of a mindfulness room at Finley Middle School. The innovative space is equipped with calming cards, beanbag chairs, a noise machine, adjustable lights, and coloring materials. The room provides students with a serene environment where they can manage stress, practice mindfulness, and just take a break.
“Students are free to enter and engage in a mindful moment to reduce anxiety and seek support,” Alonso said. “Students are using this time during their lunch periods for counseling sessions or even as needed before an exam or after having a rough start to their day.”
Similarly, Gribbin School established a quiet and calm space called the Calm Cove, designed to offer students a place to relax, practice coping strategies they’ve learned, and have a quiet moment. Alonso noted that there are plans to enhance the Calm Cove with a sensory wall, adding another dimension to this supportive environment.
Connolly School has introduced the Inclusive Eats program, which offers special-education students life skills-based education by getting them involved in running a snack cart. Students taking part in the program learn interpersonal skills, problemsolving and behavior management, as well as how to handle money. Farrell highlighted the positive impact the program has had, enhancing students’ sense of belonging and practical skills.

At Finley Middle School, the Beautiful Me program aims to empower girls in grades six through eight. The initiative, part of the Self-Esteem Rising curriculum, focuses on unifying students, improving their self-esteem, and promoting mental health. It fosters a supportive community for young girls, Farrell said, and helps them develop a positive self-image.
The district also hosted a New Teacher Academy, which stressed planning and preparation as well as developing effective behavioral cues. It offered examples of disruptive behaviors, and responses to them.
“The focus of this New Teacher Academy was classroom management through a special-education lens,” Alonso explained. “We really focused on challenging behaviors, and what they may look like in different settings throughout the district. We had wonderful conversations with teachers sharing their strategies, and we all discussed possible responses to a variety of behaviors within the classroom.”
The Special Education Parent University has been another successful initiative, offering workshops on a variety of topics. This year’s sessions were Special Education Programs and Services in October, a Parent’s Guide to Enhancing Study Skills and Identifying Executive Functioning in November, and Post-Secondary Transition and Support for Students with Disabilities in April. Alonso emphasized the importance of the workshops in educating and supporting parents, and helping them navigate the complexities of special education.
Looking ahead, the district announced the introduction of an extended school year program for eligible special ed students — either a full-day program, for five hours a day, or a half-day program, for two and a half hours a day.
“The focus of the program will be to maintain skills and prevent regression,” Alonso said. “Related services such as speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy will also be provided for those that qualify.”
Finley Middle School is reintroducing a program that integrates life skills with core content areas such as English, math, social studies, science and reading.
Special-education students at Glen Cove High School have been actively advocating for themselves during their Individualized Education Program meetings.
“Our primary objective is to continue fostering the integration of our special-education students with their general-education peers,” Farrell said. “This will foster an inclusive and collaborative environment for all.”