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June 12, 2019 - 6:25pm
posted by Lauren Leone in Le Roy, news, notify, education, special education.

When Le Roy Board of Education members were warned that special education students were not making adequate progress, Denise Duthe asked, “When you look at where we are putting our money and where we are focusing our time, what are we doing? What do we need to do?”

Consultant Bonnie Whitney, Ph.D., responded, “Before you start more programs, I think we need teachers to be able to teach kids to think … There needs to be more intervention with just helping the students understand themselves.”

The special education program consultant update was a main focus at the Tuesday board meeting.

Whitney said that she and Le Roy special education faculty members have developed learning models for teachers of underperforming students with special needs.

“One of the observations that was very clear is our students were being helped to complete tasks. That’s not learning,” she said. “If the students cannot walk away and say, ‘I know how I did this,’ they haven’t learned.”

In addition to concerns about the lack of student progress in special education classrooms, Whitney spoke about compliance issues with New York State Department of Education requirements.

Due to poor data maintenance in past years, the district was only able to recover full state funding for special education programs from 2016 to 2019. Whitney said that Chelsea Eaton, the new director of special education and student services, will ensure future data collection is done correctly.

Whitney said, “It’s a mistake that we couldn’t recover completely, but we can move forward. Those are not easy processes to do.”

Whitney recommended new lesson plan templates for special education teachers to remedy student performance issues. The templates explain how instructors can better understand developmental disabilities, identify factors that disrupt learning, and set goals for students with special needs.

Whitney said special education teachers have been very responsive to improvements in compliance and program effectiveness.

“We really looked at whether the teachers are instructing the students to gain information to help them either cope with their disability, overcome their disability, but certainly not succumb to their disability,” Whitney said.

In other action, the Board:

— Recognized the varsity baseball and track and field teams for their athletic and sportsmanship achievements during the spring sports season.

— Discussed the breakfast and snack packages that will be provided for elementary Summer Academy students. A new feature of this summer learning program is that students are allowed more flexibility in attendance as they participate in the academy.

— Developed a new District-wide School Safety Plan, which is open for public comment until June 23.

June 8, 2019 - 3:29pm

Above, production still from "Paranormal High." Photo by Sandy Auer.

Press release and submitted photos.

BERGEN -- On Friday, June 7, the Byron-Bergen Adapted Arts class premiered their original movie, "Paranormal High." Taught by Jr./Sr. High Art teacher Sandy Auer, the class incorporates visual and performing arts for Special Education students.

“This class traditionally puts on a play, but some of the students were nervous about performing before a live audience,” Auer said. “The project evolved into a movie. Everyone had a really fun time and we had 100-percent participation.”

The students developed the movie concept and wrote the script in which a specter is accidently released into the Jr./Sr. High School as a result of the ongoing construction projects. The students worked on the props and costumes and acted the major roles.

They were joined in front of the camera by other Byron-Bergen students and staff including a cameo by Byron-Bergen Jr./Sr. High School Principal Pat McGee.

The Adapted Arts class hosted Byron-Bergen students and faculty in the Jr./Sr. High School Auditorium for the premiere. After an introduction from Auer, the 12-minute film screened to tumultuous applause. A reception followed with refreshments and the opportunity to congratulate the cast members.

“Watching the movie was fun and it was great to see smiling faces in the audience,” said senior Adapted Arts student Kae Yun.

Below, production still from "Paranormal High." Photo by Sandy Auer.

Below, the cast of "Paranormal High." Photo by Gretchen Spittler.

April 29, 2010 - 5:21pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, events, Parents, northgate, special education.
Event Date and Time: 
May 7, 2010 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm

EaGeR is a support group for the families of special needs children. Its monthly meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 7 at the Northgate Free Methodist Church's North Campus, 8160 Bank Street Road. The topic of this session will be CSE (Committee on Special Education) meetings.

All parents and families of special needs children of all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend.

For more details, contact:

Melody McMaster -- 343-4707, or e-mail <[email protected]>

April 10, 2010 - 1:54pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Parents, northgate, special education.

Here are some questions for parents of children with special needs: How often do you feel alone or overwhelmed? Do you ever wish you could connect with other parents and find the resources you need to give your kids what they need?

Firsthand experience and awareness of these anxieties are what motivate Lyndy Branton and Melody McMaster in heading up EaGeR -- "Extra Grace Required" -- a parent support group at the North Campus of Batavia's Northgate Free Methodist Church, 8160 Bank Street Road.

Both are mothers of children on the autism spectrum and each week they -- along with McMaster's husband, Sean -- share their experiences and invite other parents to do likewise.

The last meeting was Friday evening in Room A-3 of the Adult Wing. It was an open discussion involving parents whose experiences ranged from that of the mother of a 2-year-old whose diagnosis is still in the works to that of the mother of an autistic teen getting ready for college.

Topics of discussion included:

• Different approaches to telling kids about their own disabilities

• The frustrations and fears of raising autistic children

• Attention to what sorts of things set their children off and what to watch out for

• Prevalent misunderstandings about autism

• Limitations encountered in getting their children the assistance they need

• The experience of dealing with teachers, relatives and even strangers who make them second guess themselves, thinking that they know the children's needs better than the parents do

• When and how to use discipline

• How to encourage kids to use positive ways of getting attention -- by focusing on their talents, etc. -- instead of socially inappropriate behavior

Many EaGeR attendees are the parents of autistic children -- and their children range widely across the autism spectrum -- but the group welcomes and addresses topics that are important to the families of all special-needs children. Many of their meetings are devoted to specific topics, such as IEP (Individualized Education Program) plans, CSE (Committee on Special Education) meetings, family, behavior modification, social skills, diet and treatment.

"It seems like we get a different group every time," McMaster said, "but it always seems to hit the spot. To connect with someone in the same boat and to know you're not alone...that in itself means a lot."

"These meetings seem to have been especially helpful for families who are noticing things in their young children and are trying to get them diagnosed," Sean commented. "It's very helpful to speak with people who have been through the experience and had to overcome a lot of the same obstacles, and just to know that help is available."

Because EaGeR is sponsored by the church, faith is an integral part of its meetings and mission. McMaster, who leads the group in prayer at the end of every meeting, stated that "our Christian faith has had a positive impact on our journey...

"One of our goals is to help prepare the church to work with special-needs kids, who need Jesus Christ as much as anyone else. As Christians, we always have to be ready to deal with them in a merciful way. If they experience rejection at a young age in church, that could make or break their faith."

At the same time, EaGeR is not limited to Christians. All families who struggle with raising special-needs children are invited to attend and to take advantage of the encouragement and support offered by other parents going through similar experiences. McMaster and Branton hold a Christmas party every December as well as a picnic for families in June in order to make people feel comfortable "regardless of where they are in their faith journey" (McMaster's words).

EaGeR meetings take place on the first Friday of every month from 7 until 9 p.m., unless otherwise noted.

For more information, please contact:

Melody McMaster -- 343-4707, or e-mail <[email protected]>

Lyndy Branton -- 409-8079, or e-mail <[email protected]>

February 25, 2009 - 11:57am
posted by Tasia Boland in batavia, schools, special education.

BATAVIA, N.Y. — Six years of instructing, formulating, collaborating, and educating has given hope and success to one family in Batavia, who thought it could never be possible.

Trisha Finnegan, Director of Special Education and Alternative Education for Batavia City School District, strives to accomplish the department’s goal of providing all children with the necessary support and assistance to be successful learners.

“Compassion creates compassion,” said David Hamblin, of Batavia, “My son is finally building positive self-esteem, and it is our team at Batavia school district, along with the educators at BOCES, making this huge positive difference in my family's life.”

Hamblin, a single-parent, moved to the area about a year ago with his adopted son Matthew, 15, after much disappointment with school districts in New Mexico, Indiana, and Brighton.

“I was so frustrated by our former school districts that I pulled my son out of school and home-schooled him,” said Hamblin. Matthew has been diagnosed with basal ganglia syndrome, a learning disorder that is often characterized by behavioral problems and attention difficulties.

Before a student is diagnosed with a disability, teachers will discuss the student's behavior and try to accommodate the child in other ways. For example, if a child fidgets all day in their chair, the instructor might set a cushion on the seat. If that doesn't work, they will try something else. Finnegan said they have to exhaust all options first.

“You can have ten kids who have a learning disability, but not everything is going to work the same for each one,” said Finnegan. “We have to work hard to find the accommodations and everyone has to work together as a team.”

Hamblin had a few conversations with School Board President Patrick Burke and decided to re-enter Matthew into a public school. Finnegan said it is their number one goal to keep the students involved in general education classes.

“We really want to make sure we level the playing field,” said Finnegan. It's important, she said, to make a face-to-face connection because it can build the next 12 years of an education.

“Trisha gave me the hope I needed at a very crucial time,” said Hamblin, “I can’t say enough about her and our team of educators here in Batavia. Gratitude flows from this family.”

Finnegan has been the director for six years and said her motivation to work with children came from her parents.

"My parents were foster parents,” said Finnegan,  “I grew up with a lot of kids and a piece of me wanted to work with kids.”

Finnegan thought she was destined for a legal career, and after receiving her Bachelor's in Law at Union College, she decided to attend Buffalo State, where she received a Bachelors of Science and pursued her Masters in Education.

She is so excited to watch her students graduate and go on to be successful.

“I am at a point now where I really have gotten to know my kids, and I think, in the future, I will be able to see a lot more of my students graduating,” said Finnegan, who hopes also to keep in contact with the students and their families.

“Parents can participate in their child’s programming, visit their student, chat with teachers,” said Finnegan, “It is really important to be open and willing because it is a key part of planning.”

Advice for parents: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask lots and lots of questions.” she said. “It will be very beneficial for the student.” There are no dumb questions, she said.

Finnegan said the most important characteristic is to be collaborative. The program is not like it used to be where a teacher would pull a student out and work with them one of one.

“Now we must work as a team,” she said.

Hamblin can’t thank Finnegan and her team enough for the time and patience they spent with his son.

“They took the time to get to know my son and see what he was capable of achieving,” said Hamblin.

“When you see the look in (the parents') eyes that says: 'My child got here because of what you did,' those are the little moments,” said Finnegan. ”When parents just want to thank you, that is special.”

“She is a hero in my book,” said Hamblin, “I am now able to breathe a sigh of relief.”

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