Last month, administrators from Roscoe and Livingston Manor central schools visited Cazenovia Central School District to learn more about a special education inclusive program that has shown positive results for all students involved.
Roscoe and Livingston Manor Superintendent John Evans, along with RCS Assistant Principal Robin Francisco and LM Director of Special Services Lauren Marrero, observed classrooms at Burton Street Elementary School where students in kindergarten through fourth grade are co-taught by a general education teacher and a special education teacher at the elementary level, as well as classrooms in the middle and high schools.
The trip was made on the recommendation of Evans, whose nephew is part of the program and has seen tremendous growth, Evans said.
The elementary school featured motor labs, regularly scheduled classes for students to help with fine and gross motor skills, as well as executive functioning skills. A video showing a sample of the type of activities can be seen here. Students move from station to station, where they participate in a mix of fine and gross motor skills activities such as hopping in place, bouncing balls and working on specific tasks to improve their skills, using approaches from Ready Bodies Learning Minds.
There are also spaces in each school where students, if they feel overwhelmed or need a break, can take one. In these rooms there is special lighting, bean bag chairs, arts and crafts, soothing sound machines and other tools aimed at allowing all students to calm themselves.
Another concept introduced during the visit was the idea of “Teaching Assistants on Skates” advocated by Dr. George Theoharris, a professor in educational leadership and inclusive education at Syracuse University. The concept allows support staff flexibility to move where they are needed based on student needs at the particular moment.
Besides speaking to Cazenovia administrators and staff, the local administrators also spoke with service providers, such as the school psychologist, as well as occupation, physical and speech therapists about strategies they use to promote student progress and success in an inclusive classroom.
“Every administrator and faculty member that we spoke to was positive. They were also honest and insightful,” Francisco said. “As well as sharing successes, they shared challenges and ways they worked to overcome those challenges.”
It was a very worthwhile trip, administrators said.
“There is such value in seeing firsthand the strategies and ideas in action in an actual public school setting versus just reading or hearing about it,” Francisco said. “As an administrator, I now have goals to promote professional development in areas of executive functioning skills and differentiated instruction, and create spaces in our building to support student regulation through appropriate vestibular and proprioceptive input.”
“Our schools are always looking to improve our methods to make the learning environment successful for all,” Evans said. “School visits, such as the one to Cazenovia, give us an opportunity to see firsthand these methods and learn new approaches.”