Together We Can
January 22, 2024
Many of you have reached out regarding the PreK ratio. I wanted to share with you a note from Dr. Jones that was sent out Friday evening. Hopefully, it will answer some of your questions.
While I have recently heard from so many families regarding PreK classroom ratios, I hope that some of the confusion was alleviated last night when I addressed this issue during my Superintendent’s Report at the BOE Business Meeting.
The BOE voted to allow the administration to have flexibility within our set guidelines of nine peers/six students with special needs. This is not a change from our current practice, as guidelines are just that, guidelines. Many may have seen the chart which compared our program to other Fairfield County districts with a 50/50 ratio. Most have more students, and all of the surrounding programs have fewer staff, but this is not our goal. We value our program and will navigate this in the best way possible.
Next year, given the unknown factors within the legislated age range, it may be more challenging. GPS administration had built in an additional section “just in case,” but removed it. We still have the mid-year section planned in the 2024-2025 BOE budget, which is how we have managed the past two years to keep ratios lower. In fact, there is a new section being processed right now to be posted for adding a new classroom in late February/early March. Please keep in mind that very few classrooms start the year full, as children move up to kindergarten opening slots, and our three-year-olds who qualify, do not start until they actually have their third birthday. We have a fabulous PreK program and we are grateful for our wonderful staff.
Stacey Heiligenthaler, Ph.D.
Chief Officer of Special Education and Student Supports
What We Are Seeing 👀 Around the Schools
Reading at Julian Curtiss
Students at Julian Curtiss School are working with Read Specialist Ms. Iannazzo on spelling the “oi” and “oy” sounds. They also discuss if their are multiple meanings of each word they spell. After spelling each word, students get to roll the dice and advance on a game board.
Welcome Parent Coffee at Eastern MS
Eastern Middle School hosted a coffee session to welcome incoming 2024-25 sixth grade parents to share the special education program at EMS. Staff shared information about classes and services provided to help students transition successfully from fifth to sixth grade.
Workshops and Resources
Special Education Bridging Information Sessions
If your child is transitioning or "bridging" from PreK to kindergarten, elementary to middle schools, or middle to high school and has a 504 or IEP, please join the SESS department's virtual information session to learn more about the bridging process.
Tuesday February 27 at 6:00 PM
Elementary to Middle School
Monday March 4 at 6:30 PM
Middle to High School
Wednesday March 6 at 6:30 PM
Importance of Parents/Guardians Participation at 504 Meetings
By Michele Iannello
It is essential to gather parents' perspectives during the Section 504 process, whether it has been part of their child's yearly process or is new to them. Although parents are not listed as mandatory team members, school teams highly value their participation and contribution in developing a plan already in place or determining eligibility for a new plan.
Parents have valuable insights into their child's behavior and abilities and might find writing down their observations helpful before the meeting. Here are some examples of what to consider:
What are your child's strengths?
What does your child do when not in school?
How does your child do their homework at night?
Are the accommodations in the 504 plan appropriate? Should they be further discussed?
Describe your child's behavior at home.
Have any family members had learning difficulties?
Have you noticed your child struggling academically?
Has your child mentioned that they are struggling academically? If so, how?
What do you think could be the problem?
At the start of the meeting, parents will be asked if they have received a copy of the 504 Procedural Safeguards. If not, a copy will be provided, and any questions will be answered. Parents should also expect to know who to contact with any questions about their child's 504 Plan and when they can expect to receive the final version.
In Greenwich Public Schools, parent participation and input are highly valued during 504 meetings. Parents' involvement is crucial in developing the best plan for every child. If you have any questions about Section 504, don't hesitate to contact your child's assistant principal, counselor, or myself. We are always happy to help!
by MaryPat Caldwell
Happy New Year!
I hope you all enjoyed your vacation and were able to find some quiet time to read. In addition to enjoying some quick, easy fiction reads, I was finally able to start a book that had been on my reading bucket list for a while, "Overcoming Dyslexia" by Sally and Jonathan Shaywitz, M.D.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about dyslexia and feel hopeful about the diagnosis. For the next several months, I would like to dig in and focus on this very important topic, using this book as a reference. As I read the book, so much of it resonated with me.
In her book, Dr. Sally Shaywitz states, “Research over the last several decades has produced unparalleled results, particularly for our understanding of reading and dyslexia.“
I began working with students with dyslexia back in the mid 1990’s and have seen the evolution of the science of reading first hand. Dr. Shaywitz further explains that advances in neuroscience allow us to image the brain as an individual reads, and to see differences between a typical brain and a dyslexic brain. We now have the knowledge to understand and remediate reading challenges.
Dr. Shaywitz also speaks about the paradox of dyslexia. She refers to dyslexics as “slow readers and fast thinkers”. She says, “You may be dyslexic if you...read slowly and with much effort. Are often the one to solve the problem. Can’t spell; have messy handwriting. Show terrific imagination in your writing. Have trouble remembering dates and names. Think out of the box; grasp the big picture. Have difficulty retrieving and pronouncing spoken words Have excellent vocabulary and ideas.”
A diagnosis of dyslexia comes with many strengths! Throughout my 30 year career in special education, I have known this to be true. I have had the amazing opportunity to work with some of the most intelligent, creative, inquisitive, hardworking, resilient and empathetic children. If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia, they are in a club with some of the most inventive and creative minds in history including Albert Einstein, Pablo PIcasso, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Steven Speilberg, to name a few.
When I began teaching special education, I quickly discovered that the dyslexic mind was extraordinary. Now more and more is being written about it. In fact, LinkedIn has added “dyslexic thinking” as a skill that is sought after by many companies. I am thrilled to see this idea taking hold in social media.
There is a great video about how this dyslexic thinking campaign is changing the way the world views dyslexia. We are in a new time! I look forward to exploring this topic in more detail next month.
The Office of Special Education and Student Supports
Location: 290 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, CT
Phone: (203) 625-7493