The West Hempstead School District’s Pupil Personnel Services department has worked over the past two years to provide special education students with services. PPS directors shared the district’s progress at the Jan. 21 Board of Education meeting.
District officials said they are proud that the district now has a consultant teacher, a research room and integrated co-teaching at all five schools. “Our continuum of services has allowed the district to provide students the opportunity to learn in their home building in a setting that is appropriate for their individual learning,” said PPS Director Bridget Karis.
High school improvements
PPS added a four- to six-year program to the high school during the 2018-19 school year, in which students can take Regents courses while also preparing for a Career Development and Occupational Studies credential. The PPS staff has also worked with classroom teachers to provide learning opportunities on topics such as decision-making, compassion and self-advocacy.
High school students in Sheila Dempsey’s class have taken part in activities such as making holiday greeting cards and competing in a door-decorating contest. For Valentine’s Day, students will make and sell dog biscuits to raise money for the local animal shelter.
“Understanding the world outside of the school is a key component of a comprehensive education,” Karis said. “These opportunities provide students with skill development in the areas of work, communication, money and community awareness.”
In the 2020-21 school year, PPS will add career exploration to the high school program. Both Karis and Gina Callesano, PPS’s assistant director, said they hoped the program would provide students with the opportunity to build their employability profile, explore potential careers and gain experience by working at jobs in the building.
“These opportunities foster an understanding of differences and how to be a positive member of the community,” Callesano said. “Building a community where everyone feels valued and respected is our primary goal.”
Middle school improvements
This year, the district added a class of eight special education students to the middle school, in which students learned about functional academics and life skills. On Jan. 21, the school held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Practical Assessment Exploration System Lab, which is a simulated work environment that provides training in basic career life skills.
Students are evaluated in areas such as the amount of time it takes to complete a task, the quality of their work and overall behavior within the lab. Assessments are used to gauge areas in which the students are most successful. The studies are also used to help students determine what industries and jobs they might be interested in pursuing after graduation.
“Students who participate in PAES may exit high school on a different pathway; therefore they use the lab for job training,” said Dempsey, who is a supervisor in the lab. “They take ownership of their tasks and really enjoy their time in the lab.”
Elementary school improvements
During the 2018-19 school year, Cornwell Avenue Elementary School added a class of eight students with learning disabilities. The addition allowed the district to serve students with learning disabilities, ages 5 to 12, in which they introduced programs and events such as Too Good for Drugs, Red Ribbon Week and Social Explorers. All of the programs, the PPS directors explained, were created to support students, helping them make friends and promoting positive self-images.
“We have been taking great steps to ensure that all the students get what they need to be successful,” board President Karen Brohm said, “and I can’t wait to see it in action.”
By the 2022-23 school year, the district expects to have classes of eight in all five buildings, serving students with severe disabilities from ages 5 to 21.