Together We Can

January 10, 2022

Big picture

Happy New Year! It is great to be back and to start off fresh in 2022. I hope that everyone had a wonderful Holiday Recess.

January is a busy month. There is a SEAC meeting on Tuesday, January 11; professional development for all staff on Friday January 14; no school on Monday January 17 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and January 31 starts the annual transition symposium. If you have not yet completed the Parent Workshop Interest Questionnaire, please complete the survey so that you can share your input as we plan additional parent trainings.


Stacey Heiligenthaler, Ph.D.

Interim Chief Officer of Special Education and Student Supports

Meet Our Evaluation Team

Big picture

Danielle Commisso, M.S., CCC-SLP, (right) is a Speech-Language Pathologist licensed in Connecticut and New York. She joined the GPS evaluation team in January 2018. Prior to her role in Greenwich, Danielle worked as a school-based SLP in New York City and Westchester County. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University in Maryland, and a Master of Science from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is nationally certified by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA).

Danielle is an active participant on the multidisciplinary evaluation team, and takes pride in her work to comprehensively evaluate students and make appropriate recommendations to support their growth. She is committed to collaborating with students, families, and other professionals to foster success both in and outside of the classroom.

Kristi Castellon, M.A., CAS (left) is a School Psychologist who holds Connecticut certification. Kristi received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Quinnipiac University and a Master of Arts and Sixth Year degree in School Psychology from Fairfield University. Kristi is currently enrolled in a doctoral program in School Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

This is Kristi’s 17th school year as a school psychologist, and prior to coming to Greenwich in 2017, she was employed at Stamford Public Schools. Kristi has worked as a school psychologist across grade levels from preschool through an 18-21 transition program, and she spent a number of years as the school psychologist for the Autism Spectrum Disorder program at Stamford Public Schools. Kristi enjoys assessment and working collaboratively with school teams to utilize assessment results to support the educational needs of students.

What We Are Seeing 👀 Around the Schools

North Mianus School

Special Education teacher Ms. LoConte is working with a small group using a multi sensory approach to help her students access the Big Ideas curriculum, as well as work on IEP goals and objectives. Big Ideas is the GPS math curriculum.

Reading by the Yule Log

Dr. Heiligenthaler is reading Olive the Other Reindeer at Old Greenwich School's annual tradition of "Reading by the Yule Log." She also read Meet the Latkes and The Great Santa Clause Stakeout.

Happy Holiday's from PreK

Workshops and Resources

Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) Meeting on January 11

Please join us at the next SEAC meeting on Tuesday, January 11 at 6:30 PM. The meeting will be held virtually; please see the attached link

The purpose of the Greenwich Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) is to build full, equal and equitable partnerships between families, GPS and community partners, on a council that gives advisory opinions to the Board of Education on matters pertaining to the education and safety of students with disabilities.

General membership is open to any interested GPS parent or guardian of a child with a disability, previously known to have a disability, or suspected of having a disability, under the IDEA or Section 504, or who is currently eligible to receive Special Education or 504 accommodations and services, from ages 3-22, and who are both residents of the Town of Greenwich.

If you would like to be part of the Greenwich SEAC's general membership, please complete this short form to add your email to the distribution list

Parent Workshop Interest Questionnaire

As the Office of Special Education and Student Supports plan for additional parent workshops, please complete the Parent Workshop Interest Questionnaire to share your input on what types of workshops you would like offered. Thank you in advance!

Fifth-Sixth Transition Presentation Links

The January 3 Fifth-Sixth Transition Meeting slides and recordings have been posted to the District website. Middle school counselors, coordinators, and principals spoke about what goes on in the spring and summer to help prepare students for the next school level.

Here are the direct YouTube links

Big picture
Big picture

DDS Draft Five-Year Plan. Hearings Scheduled Jan. 12 and 13

This week, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) under the leadership of Commissioner Jordan Scheff, released the agency’s draft five-year plan. The plan, which can be found online, encompasses the department’s goals for the next five years and charts a course for continued progress within the department.

The goals outlined in the plan, were influenced and shaped by many stakeholders, and most recently, through the feedback gathered during the Commissioner Scheff’s “Seeds of Change” tour during mid-2021. This stakeholder engagement offered important insight from individuals, families, advocates, providers, staff, and others and helped the department to clearly identify challenges, gaps, and necessary improvements. This new five-year plan puts focuses on the Charting the LifeCourse (CtLC) framework.

The plan is the beginning of a living document that will shift and grow over the next five years. The key areas of focus outlined in the plan, include:

  • Daily Life & Employment-DDS will Continue to work toward integrated day/employment opportunities; enhance with assistive technology; promote flexibility; educate community.
  • Community Living- Ensure correct level of care; promote most effective and least restrictive; support innovative solutions for independence, including use of assistive technology; encourage flexibility.
  • Healthy Living- CT tends to score high on general measures of physical health – focus on supporting access to mental/behavioral health services and specialty areas (e.g. diabetes).
  • Safety and Security- Focus service development on filling gaps in specialty areas; integrate a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to correct systems inequities.
  • Social and Spirituality- Develop capacity to facilitate networking for various affinity groups; improve communications with all stakeholders.
  • Advocacy and Engagement- Support work of self-advocates in creating community, peer supports; develop more consistent opportunities to collect feedback from stakeholders.

While the Arc Connecticut is pleased to have been a stakeholder in this process, we would like to see very real and specific changes in the plan in order to achieve the goals we believe are necessary to better the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our specific requests are included in our attached testimony, but center on:

  • More specific goals and objectives
  • Defined metrics to gauge progress on many levels
  • More defined use of American Rescue Act Funds will be applied
  • Operationalization of expanded supported living opportunities within the community
  • Initiatives to address the broadened spectrum of need in the community
  • Alleviation of roadblocks to independent living
  • Enhanced family resources
  • Improved employment opportunities
  • Formal collaboration with the community across key agencies

We urge members of the intellectually and developmentally disabled community to submit comments highlighting some of these concerns at either of the hearings that have been scheduled.

The dates and times are Wednesday, January 12 at 12:00 PM and Thursday, January 13 at 5:30 PM. You can sign-up to testify at one of the virtual hearings by following this link or you may also submit written testimony to:

Big picture

Kids Are Talking Internet Show

Join CPAC and the Youth Advisory Board on the Kids Are Talking Internet Show, designed for children ages 14 - 26.


All About ADHD - Thursday, January 13 - 6:45 to 8:15 PM

Living with Disability - Thursday, February 3 - 6:45 to 8:15 PM

The Office of Special Education and Student Supports

Please share our newsletter with your friends and families. Anyone can easily subscribe by opening the newsletter through its link and hitting the "Follow" on the right.