SSD/Valley Park Monthly Dispatch

January 2022

Staff Spotlight

We will continue to celebrate some of our amazing team members each month! I have asked them to share some of their professional and personal highlights. Please check out 2 of our staff below: Ms. Bonastia and Ms. Werner!!! Both work at VP Elementary and have some amazing things to share ~ We are so fortunate to have them both working with some of our youngest learners.

Kerry Bonastia:

I have a bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Missouri Baptist University and a Master’s in Curriculum Design from Southwest Baptist. I also have a degree in Interior Design, which I worked in straight out of college.


This is my 10th year teaching. I have been at Valley Park for 20 years. I was a parent volunteer and was asked if I would be interested in being a TA for the district. After working as a TA, I decided to go back to school and get my certification in elementary education.


My husband Bob and I have been married 27 year and have 2 sons. Nicholas is 26 years old and is in his second year of law school at the University of Illinois. Shane is 24 years old, he lives in Cincinnati, OH and works at Fifth Third Bank. We have a 14-year-old dog named Cooper, who is everyone's favorite in the family.


My favorite part of being an SSD team member in Valley Park is the sense of community. Both the SSD staff and Valley Park staff work as a team for all students.

Christian Werner

I’m certified to teach Special Education PreK-12+. I earned my Bachelor’s Master’s in Special Education. I am one class shy of an Educational Specialist degree but not sure if I ever want to be an administrator ~ LOL


I have been working in Special Education for about 15 years:

-Kirkwood K-5

-Neuwoehner HS 9-12+

-Planning and Development (Behavior/Instructional Support Facilitator and Autism Effective Practice Specialist)

-Now VP!


I live in the Webster Groves area with my husband and our 2 children, Risa, 17 and Emmett, 3.


My favorite thing about being an SSD staff member at Valley Park is the size! Working in a small district allows for such an amazing community feel. I love how closely I can work with both the Pre-K AND Middle School teachers so that our students have smooth transitions. Not many districts have that unique opportunity. Not to mention getting to know students before they come my way or getting to see former students in their new classrooms or in the halls is so wonderful!

SSD Staff Awards

Applications for awards which honor the contributions of SSD staff and community members are awaiting nominations, due Feb. 7, 2022. Please encourage your staff, students, school parents and community partners to submit nominations to ensure they are recognized for their meaningful work in SSD.


For more information, please contact Deana Parsons, internal communications coordinator, at dmparsons@ssdmo.org or 314.989.8102.
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Special School District Student Scholarships

Many opportunities for scholarships and awards are now open for SSD students!


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 dmparsons@ssdmo.org or 314.989.8102.

Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP)

Through the program, students hold a summer job in their community and receive job-coaching support. They are paid an hourly wage for their work. SWEP is funded by the Productive Living Board of St. Louis County and is open to county residents with a qualifying disability. It is conducted through a collaboration of six area agencies - MERS/Goodwill is the Lead Agency.


A few important things to remember about eligibility for the SWEP program:


  • You must be a resident of St. Louis County.
  • You must be between 16 and 20 years of age and planning to return to a school program in the Fall of 2022.
  • You cannot participate in SWEP while participating in the Extended School Year Program.
  • Your teacher needs to submit a Teacher Input form before the program begins.
  • You must be available for the entire 8 weeks of the program.
  • You must have your own transportation to participate in the program.
  • Not everyone who applies to the SWEP program will be able to participate this summer.



If your student is interested, please reach out to their case manager for the application OR download the application that is attached below ~

Message to Families - from Valley Park

One Community. One Campus. Limitless Learning.


The Valley Park School District is dedicated to providing a safe and supportive environment of belonging where personalized learning experiences prepare our students holistically for limitless opportunities, empowering them to make the world a better place.


Please keep up to date with Dr. Dilg's communications in regards to our Return to Learn Plan:

https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/domain/358

VP: To access key school information, please go to the following sites:

Valley Park Elementary School: https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/Domain/8


Valley Park Middle School: https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/Domain/9


Valley Park High School: https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/Domain/10


Valley Park Early Childhood Center: https://www.vp.k12.mo.us/domain/364

Health and Wellness

January is Mental Wellness Month

The SSD/Valley Park team would like to remind you that January is Mental Wellness Month! Focusing a few minutes every day on enhancing mental wellness can increase resilience, help manage stress, and build on an overall sense of well-being. Mental Wellness also helps combat symptoms of serious mental illness. If the concept of mental wellness is new to you, consider the following steps that can easily be added to your routine:


Develop an attitude of gratitude: Focusing on the people and things we are thankful for can help build a positive sense of self. It is often said that while every day may not be good, there is something good in every day. Take a moment or two to focus on the good things and draw your attention away from what might be dragging you down. Some people find it helpful to keep a list of what they are grateful for, others find it helpful to express appreciation through prayer, conversation, or writing a note.


Set aside time to do the things you enjoy: Often, we can become overwhelmed by the things we feel we “have” to do and lose sight of those things that give our lives joy and meaning. Set aside time each day to engage in something pleasant and meaningful to you; take a walk, hot bath, or engage in a hobby. Your pleasant event does not have to take a lot of time out of your day to add a feeling of well-being to your day.


Take a break from stress: Try eliminating or reducing those things that are not healthy or helpful to you. Take a break from watching the news or unfollow negative people on social media. Set appropriate boundaries in your life and learn to say no sometimes.

Slow down: Notice with intention the things you are doing. Drawing your awareness to the moment, especially those moments that are pleasant, enhances our ability to be mindful, and connected with ourselves and others.


Take care of yourself: Enhancing our physical wellness also improves mental wellness. Exercising, eating well, and treating physical illness are all important steps to take to help build an overall sense of wellbeing.


Ask for help when you need it: Seek support and talk to people who care about you. If you are feeling overwhelmed, Hope Haven can help! Our licensed mental health counselors are trained to work with people who are struggling with everyday stressors, as well as working with people who may have serious mental illness.


St. Louis has a wealth of resources to guide and support us during challenging times. Below are a couple of links that will take you to a number of resources available in our area that will either support our needs or lead us to the agency that can provide the mental health resources needed.

National Alliance on Mental Health St. Louis

Start Here STL

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Virtual Lunch & Learn series for SSD families and stakeholders

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:

SSD Parent Education (PEDA)

What To Do This Summer?

Join us Tuesday, January 18th at 6:00 PM to learn about summer recreation programs available to school-age children with developmental disabilities and funding options to assist in paying for those programs.


The workshop, hosted in collaboration with the Recreation Council of Great St. Louis, will be on zoom.


Presenter: Susan Fleming, Executive Director of the Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis. The Recreation Council of Greater St. Louis is a not-for-profit organization which serves as a "clearinghouse" for information on leisure, recreation, and socialization opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities who reside in the Greater St. Louis Area. The Council works to ensure that individuals with disabilities are aware of and have access to activities and programs of their "choice."


To register or request the more information about summer programs please contact, the SSD Parent Education and Diversity Awareness program at 314.989.8460 or email ssdpeda@ssdmo.org.


Parent Leadership Institute:

If you are a parent or family member who makes the educational decisions for a child with a disability, investing the time to attend these four Wednesday evening sessions will provide:

Vision for the future of your child.

Knowledge to help you to effectively participate in your child’s education.

Leadership skills to improve the educational climate for all children.

Access to new resources, friends and experts to help you on your journey.


The Institute will be held on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on February16, March 2, 9, and 16, at the SSD Central Office, 12110 Clayton Road, 63131. The institute is offered at no cost and dinner is provided.


Learn more about this opportunity or download the application at: Parent Leadership Institute

PEDA would love your feedback!

Please complete are PEDA Communications survey here: PEDA Survey

Family and Community Engagement Information:

Mental Health First Aid Training for SSD Families:

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, and others to help adolescents experiencing mental health and/or addictions challenge or crisis. It is designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations.


Nationally this course is valued at $170; due to a grant from Missouri's Department of Mental Health and a collaboration with the Ferguson Community Center, you have the opportunity to attend at no cost.


Saturday, March 19th from 9 – 1:30 PM at Ferguson Community Center. 1050 Smith Ave, Ferguson, MO 63135


Space is limited. To register click here. Registration will close on Monday, March 7th or when all seats are filled.


The Family Resource Hub located at North Tech High School is a space dedicated to families and our community stakeholders. The resource hub offers families computer and internet access, a satellite food pantry, and support navigating community resources. The space is also dedicated to supporting families by hosting learning labs, community events, and a safe and supportive environment to learn with and from one another.


OPEN HOUSE January 18- January 21, 2022 from 9 – 4 PM


You’re welcome to visit during these times or to set an appointment to meet us there.

Please call 314-989-8311 or email FamilyEngagement@ssdmo.org

VP Upcoming Events

Valley Park Families! As you plan for this school year - here is the calendar. Click in to www.vp.k12.mo.us/calendar to see all the important dates for your hawk! As always, dates are subject to change. #VPPride

Contact Us

Special School District of St. Louis County

12110 Clayton Road

Town & Country, MO 63131

Phone: 314‐989‐8100


Julie Schroeder


Dana Evans


Christy Mirth

SSD Valley Park Feedback

Families - we want to hear from you! If you have a celebration, concern, or idea for our SSD team - please add it to this survey. I will do my best to consider all feedback ~


https://forms.gle/LnxHaVYucv2zCxnRA

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