BY BARRY WARNER
The Jesse J. Kaplan School in West Nyack offers a stimulating environment for students ages 5-21 with autism, cognitive disabilities, medical fragility and/or multiple disabilities. Students reach their potential in a school that blends high educational standards, nursing services and therapies.
Principal Gianluca Di Muccio stated, “Our Rockland BOCES Jesse J. Kaplan School PTA volunteers are a true asset to our students and staff. Led by Christina Honan and Denise Green, the PTA helps to fund, promote and host informative programs, many of which fall outside our normal operating budget. The PTA has partnered with several teachers to create a school store that provides our students with vocational training. PTA members also recently volunteered to charter Kaplan’s first Boy Scout troop. Ms. Honan and Ms. Green add value to our academic programs and serve as a wonderful resource for other Kaplan parents. The benefits of family-school-community partnerships are many: higher teacher morale, more parent involvement and greater student success are only a few. Our Kaplan PTA seeks to make every child’s potential a reality!”
Parents Christina Honan and Denise Green issued a mutual statement to the The Rockland County Times: “The BOCES Jesse Kaplan School is an exceptional place for our children. For many years now, the Special Education PTA (SEPTA) has worked with the administration and staff to create opportunities for the students to experience things here in the building that may be too challenging in typical settings. We volunteer to be a part of the executive committee of the PTA because these students mean the world to us. Each of us has a child that attends this school. The smiles on those beautiful faces, when they are enjoying an event makes every moment you spend planning worthwhile.”
One such activity is the Fall Festival which was held last October. “This was a wonderful event,” Honan said. “The PTA provided each class with a large pumpkin and each class had the opportunity to create something spectacular.”
The PTA also provided prizes to a few classes for these pumpkins, as well as some creative desserts. The Special Events Committee put together the activities for the students with an aim toward giving them an opportunity to utilize newly learned skills in speech, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
“The Special Events Committee is comprised of staff members who are committed to presenting fun activities for the students,” Green said. “The PTA provides much of the funding needed for the following events: The Fall Festival, Fun House, Halloween, Movie Day, School Photo Day, Ice Cream Social, Prom and Field Day. Last year the PTA was able to supply the necessary funding for the Kaplan Career Development Center’s Vocational Program to purchase a Heat Press machine which the students will be using to make t-shirts with logos.”
The PTA also has helped the staff start a school store, Green said, which gives some of our students an opportunity to work on vocational skills that are part of an older student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). The store is open to all staff and students.
Another function the PTA assists with is graduation. These events, along with all that is done by the Special Event Committee are funded by the PTA through membership, fundraisers and donations. This year the PTA anticipates chartering a Boy Scout troop, a visit by a well-known children’s author and a local business owner who will be presenting amazing animals to our students and staff.
According to the website www.northcolonie.org, the mission of the Special Education PTA (SEPTA) is to create a network of parents, educators and administrators who work cooperatively and constructively to meet the needs of all students who receive special education services. The SEPTA strives :
. To ensure that the students learn in an appropriately integrated environment with the proper supports in place and are valued members of the school community.
. To ensure that all children receive an education that allows them to reach their full potential.
. To bring together parents, families and teachers of children with special needs in order to share their experiences.
. To educate parents about special education including the identification and placement procedures for children with special needs.
. To inform legislators, school boards and the community about the importance of special education programs.
. To improve the lives of children by providing cultural, social and physical enrichment.
. To advocate for children with special needs and their right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.