The Status of Special Education in the Westfield School District
The Westfield Special Education Committee discussed changes in the district over the summer and what to look forward to in the future.
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, the members of Westfield’s Special Education Committee met for the first time this year at Edison Intermediate School. The meeting’s purpose was to highlight the accomplishments and goals of special education programs within the district.
To begin, committee representatives highlighted the changes within Westfield public schools. The year’s budget focused on advancing technology. Now, wireless internet has been added to all the buildings, along with updated computers and refurbished tech rooms. In addition, lockers were added to many of the schools and parking lots were expanded.
Next came the guest speakers: Dr. Michael Weissman—assistant superintendent of pupil personnel services—and Andrea Lo—supervisor of special education. Both were called to explain to the committee many of the already established programs at schools along with answering questions.
“We are here today to bridge the gap between education and special education,” Weissman said of the event.
The duo commenced their speech by highlighting the added faculty members in the district. This includes a full-time school psychologist at Westfield High, two full-time behaviorists trained in behavior modifications, three full-time occupational therapists, and a new guidance counselor was hired to lower the case loads of the other counselors.
Weissman and Lo also discussed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and how there will be a possible 10% decrease in funding.
“We encourage everyone to contact local representatives,” Lo said.
The funds go towards special education needs such as books and supplies, staff members, outside consultants—psychologist, social workers—equipment for therapy and assorted gadgets and materials.
To conclude the meeting, several parents did raise questions about the newly-inducted Inclusion Support Group—an in-class special education program allowing children with special needs to take classes, such as Spanish, with all students. Since the program is new, some students fall into an unfortunate transition period.
“My student is in fifth grade,” one parent said. “It will be his first year taking Spanish, and he’s already behind other students in the class by a few years.”
Weissman and Lo responded to the issue by stating in-class special education teachers are on-site to help students with any issues they have. If the work is ever overwhelming, the students are able to get help from trained faculty members.
The next meeting will take place Oct. 24 at Edison Intermediate School with guest speaker Dr. Elyse O’Desky. She will be lecturing on how to tell if a child has a learning disorder.
For more information, please visit the committee’s website at http://www.westfieldnjk12.org/education/dept/dept.php?sectiondetailid=16615&