The Rockwood Reader

November 2021 | Issue 11

Current Events

SSD Student Scholarship Deadline Approaching

Many opportunities for scholarships and awards are now open for SSD students! SSD scholarship applications for graduating high school seniors are active and due Dec. 17, 2021. Students applying for The James E. Westbury/SSD Board of Education Scholarship, The Allison M. Haake Memorial Scholarship, or The Bonhomme Lions Club Scholarship must receive at least one service from SSD and plan to go to a college, university, or postsecondary program. All scholarships require a letter of recommendation. Visit for more information.

The Special Education Foundation (SEF) sponsors the John Cary Scholarships for high school seniors, as well. Applications are due Jan. 24, 2022.

For more information, please contact Deana Parsons, SSD internal communications coordinator, at or 314.989.8102.

Family Engagement Month

During the month of November, SSD will be celebrating Family Engagement Month, a time to recognize and celebrate our SSD families. SSD recognizes the vital role that school and families play throughout their child’s educational journey as their child’s first educator. This month of celebration is meant to celebrate the contributions of families and encourage increased participation within the school.

Throughout the month, a variety of activities, resources, and activities will be shared with families. Make sure to watch SSD’s Facebook page for details. A Family Engagement Month calendar has been created for each of SSD’s schools and can be found on their school’s Peachjar.

All SSD families can participate in Family Engagement Month, by securing a digital version or printing off a copy of the Family Engagement Bingo board and filing it out throughout the month. Please feel free to take photos of your family while completing the activities and share them with us using #SSDFamilyEngagement.

SSD Paraprofessional Appreciation

Congratulations Ellyn Farkas! Ellyn was recognized by her peers for her amazing work as a paraprofessional at Kellison Elementary. Ellyn has been a paraprofessional with Special School District since 2015. She has been working in our autism classroom at Kellison Elementary since 2018. Ellyn has been assisting the same student since Kindergarten; she has been following him throughout his schooling career.

Ellyn has a passion for helping students find their voices. She has a degree in Communication Disorders and is an expert on Talkers and other assistive communication technologies. She empowers her students by ensuring they have the tools and skills necessary to communicate with others. "It is their voice," Ellyn said of the Talkers. "They want to communicate and make friends and I love teaching them how to do that. It's fun."

Ellyn loves her job as a paraprofessional. "I get to put all of my focus on the kids. I get to help them at recess, in the halls, and in the classroom." Her team in Rockwood helps to encourage the best in each other. "Our SSD staff is encouraging. We always have each other's backs and are always here to help each other."

When Ellyn isn't at work, she is busy planning her upcoming wedding and getting ready for autumn. "My family knows how rewarding this job is for me and they are very supportive."

What's Happening in Rockwood?

UPDATE November 3, 2021

Interim Superintendent Dr. Tim Ricker met this week with the EdPlus workgroup, other area superintendents and Rockwood leaders to review and discuss data related to COVID-19 in our community and in our buildings.

From Oct. 18 through Oct. 31, Rockwood had 40 student positives and 152 student quarantines across the district. An additional 416 students were determined to be close contacts during that time, but because both the positive individual and the student were masked and/or vaccinated, those students have been able to remain in school. This represents a decrease in positive student cases and an increase in student quarantines when compared to the previous two-week period (72 student positives and 133 student quarantines).

Additional data reviewed by Dr. Ricker and his team included Community Health Indicators (regional transmission rates, positive test rates, seven-day average of new daily case rates, 14-day comparison of change in new cases, as well as rate of cases by age group) and vaccination rates by age.

Rockwood’s top priority is to keep as many students and staff members safe, healthy and learning in an in-school environment as possible. To that end, we are continuing the Rockwood Safe Together mitigation strategies that have served us well, including indoor masking; practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene; maintaining strict cleaning regimens for our facilities; encouraging students and staff members to stay home when they’re not feeling well; and encouraging staff and eligible students to get vaccinated if they haven’t already done so. This week, federal health officials have given final approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5-11 years old. The district has a vaccination clinic set up for students in that age group on Nov. 13, with a follow-up clinic on Dec. 4. Information on how to register for those clinics will be sent to parents of elementary students in the coming days.

In today’s update from the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, Public Information Officer Sara Dayley states, “After an initial spike during the first month of the school year, COVID-19 cases among students in school have steadily declined and are now at their lowest since the school year began. This is due to the tireless efforts of the leaders and staff of the schools in Saint Louis County to implement COVID-19 prevention protocols. DPH is grateful for all that they are doing to keep kids in school safely.”

“Thank you to everyone who has cooperated and supported mitigation efforts in our schools. We should all feel good about how these efforts have successfully kept our numbers relatively low and manageable.” said Dr. Ricker. “Having said that, we understand and appreciate that we are all anxious to return to more familiar routines and settings. The approval of the pediatric dose of the vaccine is great news for Rockwood, and we encourage all parents to work with their health care professionals to determine if the vaccine is right for their children. If you choose to have your child vaccinated, please let us know. When we can demonstrate that the majority of our staff and students are vaccinated and our numbers remain low, we will be in a place where we can consider safely changing our mitigation measures, including our current mask requirement.”

Information and Resources

Special School District’s Family and Community Outreach, Social Work, Parent Education and Diversity Awareness (PEDA) and Communications departments have teamed up to offer a virtual Lunch & Learn series for SSD families and stakeholders. The series, which will involve community organizations sharing information about their work, will take place on the first Wednesday of each month during the 2021-22 school year, from 11:30 AM - Noon.

Representatives from nine community organizations will participate in order to increase awareness about their agency and make connections with those in our SSD community who may benefit from their programs and services.

Organizations represented in the Lunch & Learn series include:

We hope both staff and families are able to join these events!

Special School District Parent Advisory Council

The mission of the Special School District (SSD) Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is to effectively collaborate with and advise its stakeholders (including parents/guardians, the SSD Board of Education, Governing Council, SSD administration and staff, and partnering school district administrators and staff) in order to improve the educational, self-efficacy, and social outcomes of each student served by SSD.

Please click here to access the PAC website which contains specific information about meetings, agendas & minutes, as well as parent resources.

Parent Education and Diversity Awareness (PEDA)

Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders Two-Part Series

Session 2 | November 15, 6:30 PM

Identify and understand the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders and learn effective and practical strategies that will support your child’s success at home and school. The second session will focus on strategies. Both sessions will have time for discussion and questions.

Presenter: John Bruno, Ph.D., SSD Autism Effective Practice Specialist

Zoom Meeting Information

Meeting ID: 982 8634 6135

Passcode: 103277

Introduction to Charting the LifeCourse (in Collaboration with St. Louis ARC)

November 18, 2021, 6:30 PM

Charting the LifeCourse (CtLC) is a set of eight principles developed to support people with IDD and their families so they can have their best lives. In this workshop, we will learn about the CtLC principles and work together to create planning and problem-solving tools. Participants will also receive updates about LifeCourse Connect Missouri, which is a new online platform that can be used by individuals and family members to access tools. This workshop is for everyone but especially self-advocates, families, and support staff.

Presenters: Sharon Spurlock, Director of Family Support, St. Louis Arc and Debra Fiasco, Administrator, Parent Education and Diversity Awareness, Special School District

Zoom Webinar Registration:

PEDA is happy to announce that we are taking applications for our Spring Parent Leadership Institute (PLI). PLI will occur over 4 evenings in February and March. You can learn more and download the application here: Parent Leadership Institute

Finally, PEDA would love your feedback! Please complete are PEDA Communications survey here: PEDA Survey

Important Dates

No School | Conference Compensation Day

Monday, November 1st

No School | Professional Development Day

Tuesday, November 2nd

No School | Thanksgiving Holidays

Wednesday, November 24th through Friday, November 26th

Upcoming Board of Education Meetings

Special School District

November 9th @ 5:45 PM

December 14th @ 5:45 PM

More info here

Rockwood School District

November 18th @ 7:00 PM

December 2nd @ 7:00 PM - Awards Night

More info here

Let's Talk!

Let’s Talk is an open invitation from Special School District (SSD) to tell us what’s on your mind.​Let’s Talk is an easy way to submit feedback at your convenience directly to the SSD staff member who can help.

Special School District of St. Louis County

Dr. Carmen Harris, Director of Special Education


Mandy Lloyd, Administrative Assistant