Together We Can

May 8, 2023

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May is here! The warm sunny weather is a welcome change. There is so much going on at our schools. Students have started their spring performances to culminate lots of practice in the areas of music and theatre. Our students are so talented!

Next week, GPS will launch our end-of-the year surveys to families and students. The surveys provide valuable information for GPS about school culture, climate, and safety-related issues. If you DO NOT wish your children to participate in the Student Surveys, please complete the opt out online form no later than Friday, May 12.


Stacey Heiligenthaler, Ph.D.

Chief Officer of Special Education and Student Supports

What We Are Seeing đź‘€ Around the Schools

Spring Has Sprung at JC!

Mr. Redmond's preschool class at Julian Curtiss School is learning about planting seeds. They cannot wait to get outside and start gardening!

Reading Instruction at Parkway

Mr. Catalono's kindergarten class at Parkway School is engaged in a Fundations lesson. Students tapped out sounds and read words containing both long and short vowel sounds.

Northeast Woodland Native Americans at North Street

North Street School third graders experienced and celebrated the culture of the Northeast Woodland Native Americans, which are native to Connecticut and New York. Within this experience, the students familiarized themselves with many artifacts related to Native American clothing (moccasins), instruments (a horn rattle), and items for preparing food, such as a corn pounder, which pounds corn into flour. Students also used the artifact of a Talking Stick to support the interactions taken within experiences of conflict resolution and engaged in traditional dances, games, and stories. The conceptual ideas of being kind, humble, peaceful, and demonstrating respect were integrated throughout the entire experience.

Identifying and Understanding Feelings at Old Greenwich

Ms. Hickey, school psychologist from Old Greenwich School, is working on supporting a student with identifying and understanding the characteristics of different feelings.

Writing at Julian Curtiss

In Ms. Tartaglia’s room at Julian Curtiss, students are practicing formatting and organizing their writing.

Autism Awareness Day at Parkway

On April 28, students at Parkway School celebrated Autism Awareness Day with read alouds, videos, communication boards, T-shirts, and an ice cream treat!

Academic Lab at GHS

Students in Ms. Jagel’s class work hard during Academic Lab at Greenwich High School. They are making sure that everything is done as the semester starts to wind down!

Community Connections

Students at Community Connections are getting ready for Mother's Day. They are making hand made crafts, but shhh, it is a surprise for Mom!

Greenwich Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) Spring Enrichment

Dr. Jenna Rufo did a virtual presentation to help parents understand how to partner in the IEP process, particularly as it pertains to inclusion and belonging, and securing the least restrictive environment. She introduced the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and how they can support students in the classroom.

Workshops and Resources

Inclusion Corner with Rachel Rubin

In this week’s Inclusion Corner, I am going to share some information and resources on a topic that impacts us all: Executive Functioning (EF). According to our partners at PINE, Executive Functioning is “a set of cognitive skills that act together to help you achieve a goal.” We use EF to meet deadlines at work, to plan and pack for a vacation, we even use them at our weekly trips to the grocery store. When there is a “breakdown” or someone struggles with EF, it may impact their ability to complete certain tasks or accomplish certain goals.

Did you know there are actually five parts of executive functioning? (See PINE’s EF arrow below). They are:

  1. Planning

  2. Starting

  3. Sustaining

  4. Coping

  5. Monitoring

If there is a breakdown in one of those parts, it may impede one’s ability to complete a task or stay organized. Factors like working memory, having ADHD, or even getting bored or stressed can create a breakdown in one of these parts of executive functioning. So, people who may be categorized as impulsive, unorganized, or unmotivated might actually be struggling with their executive functioning skills or perhaps their brain has not yet developed those particular EF skills yet. Check out this video to learn more about executive functioning and the brain.

The good news is EF skills can be taught and practiced and therefore improved! Our friends at PINE offer six supports to help those that struggle with EF:

  1. Prime: prepare for potential challenges

  2. Time: make time visible

  3. Lists: break down complex tasks into steps

  4. Scales: devise concrete levels for vague concepts

  5. Tidy-up: create systems for thoughts and things

  6. Check-in: think back to plan ahead

Here are some great resources to learn more about strategies to build EF:

Judy Willis’ “Three Brain-Based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function in Students”

Edutopia’s article “Bolstering Executive Function in Middle and High School Students,” which focuses on metacognition

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“Spellers” Screening Event - May 18

Our friends at the Flower Petals Adaptive Dance Company are hosting a screening of a new documentary, "Spellers," on Thursday, May 18 at 7:00 PM at the Greenwich Arts Council as a fundraiser for its dance school. They tell us that the money raised goes towards studio costs such as rent, costumes, and professional staff. Inspired by the book, "Underestimated," the new full-length documentary, "Spellers," challenges conventional wisdom regarding a group relegated to society’s margins: nonspeakers with autism, who most “experts” believe are cognitively disabled. Each Sunday, the Dance Company welcomes about 20 GHS students through its doors who volunteer to teach kids with special needs to dance.

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The Office of Special Education and Student Supports

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