Special Education Department Annual Newsletter Fall 2019
A Letter from the Director of Special Education, Susan Toth
After nearly 27 years of teaching, I am still humbled and awed when parents hand their children over to our teachers on the first day of school. It is an act of profound trust that inspires me, as an administrator, to constantly advocate for the most exceptional learning experience possible for our children. To live into this value it is essential that there is an intentional plan that identifies our own professional learning. The next few paragraphs will outline how the South Lyon Community Schools Special Education Department is intentionally planning the learning of our community to live into the goal of providing the most exceptional learning for our children.
Let’s start at the beginning. In our district we start by selecting only the most highly qualified staff members who have not only learned the academia standards, but this must be coupled with the internal core value of doing what is right for children. Our interview teams have spent many hours interviewing candidates for the positions available. It is a rigorous process, however the children that our candidates will serve deserve nothing but the best.
Once our new staff are hired, the work continues. Training is required in every position and most of my summer work is dedicated to preparing training sessions for our new and existing employees. In the month of August, training will occur for our bus drivers, para educators, office staff, teachers and administrators. The message that our teaching conveys is that when we as professionals learn we can then support the belief that our children will surpass our expectations, so raise that bar high. We do this through the support of each other knowing that we can’t do the work alone.
Throughout the school year, the professional training continues. We have utilized Oakland Schools for more than 690 hours of professional development during the 2018-2019 school year and several hours of in-house training provided by our own experts. As a side note, many of our staff attend summer or week-end courses which clearly demonstrates the dedication that they have in continually improving as a professional.
Other learning that takes place in our district is through professional learning communities. This type of learning occurs through meetings with others within our district on specific topics. One such example is how our school psychologists are leading our learning on specific learning disabilities. Another example is the work that our program teachers are leading to expand inclusionary opportunities. The members of these professional communities are leading the learning of their colleagues and making transformational changes for the outcomes of our students.
Learning which occurs within our daily experiences is often powerful too. We embrace a growth mindset knowing that we can continually improve and we do this through feedback. Feedback comes from the experiences and input we receive from our community members. Students for example give us immediate feedback as we are teaching. We check for understanding and adjust our practices to meet the needs of our learners. Parents also provide feedback. Parents speak with me individually about what they need and we often adjust in response knowing that our students benefit from positive home and school relationships.
Active and continual learning is occurring in our district. It is an expectation that we hold of all who serve our students. We know that in order for each individual to receive the most exceptional learning experience possible, we must be on the cutting edge of effective educational practices. So, on the first days of school you might wait for the bus with your child or maybe you will walk them to their classroom door, or perhaps you will wave to your student as they drive to the high school for the first time alone. Whichever may be the case, you need to know that your child’s special education team and the other members of our schools are ready, excited and dedicated to serve your child. You have placed your trust in us and you can expect that we will deliver.
Article: Why do you come to school?
Teaching is tough, so why do you stick with it and give it all you’ve got? This is the question that was asked of our special education staff. Take a look at their responses:
I love that every day is different.
I love the people that I work with.
I am challenged daily.
I love seeing my students grow.
I love not knowing what to expect.
Teaching is in my DNA - I was born to do this.
I come to school because my students need me.
I love my coworkers, students - they make me feel alive.
I can’t imagine going to work on snowy days, icy days...or even extremely cold days.
Communication Survey Summary: Spring 2019
The Special Education Department sent a survey, via Skylert, to all families of students with IEPs. The survey consisted of nine questions during the dates of April 8 - May 16, 2019. A total of 180 responses were collected and below is a summary of the data collected:
Who were the respondents:
84% parents, not employees.
7% parents, and employee
7% taxpayer, no students in the district
5% teacher/educators in the district
Respondents receive most of their information about the SLCS Special Education Department through:
55% their child’s teacher
22% district website
17% from a district employee
15% from “other”
Respondents prefer to receive information about the SLCS Special Education Department through:
Their child’s teacher (65%)
District newsletter or publication (35%)
Of the 180 respondents, 73% never visit the SLCS Special Education Department website while 25% visit the website once a month.
To encourage more visits to the SLCS Special Education Department website, respondents suggested:
Providing more information about topics related to special education and students with disabilities (69 respondents).
Providing more information on specific special education eligibilities (61 respondents)
Providing a way to contact staff for information (58 respondents)
Updating the information more often (58 respondents)
Each year the SLCS Special Education Department hosts 3 parent informational meetings. Of our 180 respondents:
41% never attended a meeting
35% attended only when the topic was relevant to them
13% attended one time per year
Parents prefer that the SLCS Special Education Department communicate special education information by:
Inviting them to a meeting (21%)
3 methods: Inviting, email, US mail (21%)
Suggestions that the SLCS Special Education Department could improve communications:
18 persons had no suggestions
5 provided negative feedback
6 suggested multiple methods of communication
4 suggested increased frequency of communication
Further explanation revealed information about the district website:
Many respondents didn’t realize that there is a SLCS Special Education Department website
Website does not fit their needs
Website was geared to meet the needs of families inexperienced in special education
Further explanation revealed information about email correspondence:
Many respondents use email to communicate
Many prefer email
Further ideas suggest that the SLCS Special Education Department could improve communications by:
Sending an email when content changes on the website
Using an app to communicate minutes of parent meetings
Offer other ways for parents to communicate “blue jeans app” (network)
Communicate about specific topics: high functioning Autism, outside organizations, education on services, hiring and training staff, ways to create communication pathways between parents and students
Secondary Summer Experience 2019
Bird houses, aprons, picture masterpiece and a luau are just a few things that kept our secondary and adult transition students busy this summer. We had 18 secondary students attending the three week summer experience at South Lyon High School this year. The students cooked every morning and had a different special activity throughout the week. They went on a Community Based Learning walking trip to Tropical Smoothie where they had to order and pay for their own smoothie. They made aprons from scratch by picking out the material, tracing a pattern, cutting out the pattern and sewing the material. The students were incredibly proud of their finished project and it was great to see them engaged in the apron project. Ron Weber and Amber Wright joined us again this year for different activities such as making bird houses and painting masterpiece. The teachers, paraeducators and other staff members did such a great job keeping the students active and engaged this year that summer experience was over pretty quick! Thank you to everyone who helped make the 2019 Secondary Summer Experience a blast! I look forward to the 2020 secondary summer experience.
Elementary/Middle School Summer Experience 2019
Summertime brings hot weather, longer days and summer camp activities. This year roughly 50 elementary and middle school aged students joined us for a ‘Under the Sea’ Summer Experience at Hardy Elementary. Students participated in activities around the theme ‘Under the Sea’! Mrs. Wright, the Art teacher from Hardy Elementary, joined us for a second year with a special art class. The students had the opportunity to paint an ‘Under the Sea’ masterpiece. The students really enjoyed Mrs. Wright making a special appearance to the Summer Experience. Thank you to our teachers, paraeducators, ancillary staff, volunteers and students for making our ‘Under the Sea’ Summer Experience a huge success! We are looking forward to the 2020 Summer Experience. Thank you again for a great Summer Experience.
Thank You Knights of Columbus!
Community Shout Out
A part of the Adult Transition Program is to provide work based learning opportunities to our young adults (18-26 year olds). The adult transition teachers have worked hard to build relationships with businesses within the South Lyon Community. The special education department would like to take a moment and thank the following business for providing work opportunities to our adult learners:
George’s Senate Coney Island
South Lyon Hotel
Thank you for your support to the South Lyon Community Schools Adult Transition Program.