North Penn Special EDition
Volume 3 Issue #2                                                                                 April 2017

Director's Corner:
The Power of A Single Word

"Words can inspire.  And words can destroy.  Choose yours well." - Robin Sharma

North Penn High School senior, Greg Gilrain, knows the power of this statement all too well.  Greg, who has a brother with a disability, was disturbed by the casual use of the "r" word among his peers and was inspired to do something about it.  Last year, Greg brought the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign to North Penn.  A national movement, Spread the Word to End the Word participants pledged to stop using the "r" word as a step to create more accepting and inclusive communities for all.  This March, Greg's campaign at North Penn grew, with nearly 1,000 students and staff pledging respect, and gaining attention in the local news.  Greg's activism spoke to me personally because, like Greg, I too have a sibling with a disability who has motivated me to advocacy.  

This issue of the Special EDition shares perspectives of North Penn staff who are family members of people with disabilities.  I encourage you to read about the power of a single word, and the power of a single person, on the lives of your colleagues.


Jenna Mancini Rufo, Ed.D.
Director of Special Education and Student Services

Perseverance.
Bruce Leibowitz, North Penn High School

The word that comes to mind when I think about our son Spencer is perseverance.  When Spencer was born in February 2001, two prouder parents you could not find.  Although he was born about 5-6 weeks early, we were ecstatic.  But then our extreme joy went to life-threatening worry.   Perseverance. (continued)
Nina.
Jenna Mancini Rufo, Educational Services Center

The word that evokes the greatest emotion in me is a name.  Nina. Nina is my sister, my love, my strength, my Achilles heel, my purpose.  My identity is so intertwined with Nina that it's impossible to imagine who I might be without her.  Nina's story is also my story.   Nina. (continued)
Optimism.
Mary Riesberg, North Penn High School

The one word that best describes our son Jake's developmental journey is "optimism".   Jake is almost 21 years old now, but has lived with a Mild to Moderate Autism diagnosis since age three.  Since that time, we regularly identified his strengths, weaknesses, challenges and needs; always determined for him to achieve despite his disability.  Lucky for us and his IEP team, Jake's positive attitude helped fuel our combined efforts.  This optimism served Jake well. 
Capable.
Molly McDougall, Oak Park

When I think about my brother, Michael, a never ending stream of words race through my mind, each word carrying a memory, feeling, or deeper meaning. Michael is my brother, my buddy, a junk food fanatic, a wiz at public transportation, and a cheesesteak connoisseur. He is the mayor of the neighborhood-- always with the juiciest gossip and the latest updates. Michael also has a disability. Most importantly: Michael is capable of success.

Autism.
Tiffany D'Amore, Educational Services Center

I can vividly remember the day that Tyler was born.  My first baby, the oldest of what would turn out to be seven children.  I read What to Expect When You're Expecting.  Funny how you can know everything about the things that really mean nothing at all.  Sleep schedules, how often you should breastfeed, what different cries mean.  In retrospect, that was the easy stuff.  When the doctor handed him to me, I smelled his sweet baby smell and nuzzled him close to my body. It was nothing less than amazing.  He had ten fingers and toes, and looked absolutely perfect.  Nobody would ever think that he was anything other than typical.  Fast forward two years.  Tyler didn't act like other kids his age.  He scripted movie lines, was enamored with fans and wheels and didn't play much with other kids.  My gut told me that something was off, so I made an appointment with a developmental pediatrician.  
Co-Teaching "Match the Model - Win a Beverage"

In our last newsletter, you were challenged to match the co-teaching model to win a beverage.  Congratulations to Amie Hasson of Bridle Path Elementary School, who was chosen at random draw for correctly matching the models.  Amie will be surprised with her favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage - a Starbucks Java Chip Frappucino.  Thanks to all of those who played!  Click here to view the answers.
Data Update

Over the past several years, elementary schools in North Penn have begun implementing more inclusive practices similar to the practices implemented in secondary buildings for many years.  So...how are we doing?  

PSSA and GRADE results from last school year indicated that special education students in tested grades included in general education classrooms significantly outperformed students of similar profiles in self-contained classrooms.  Further, general education students in co-taught classes performed similarly or better than their peers in non-co-taught classes.  These results held true for both reading and math.

This year's data is trending positively as well.  DIBELS mid-year results for grades K-2 demonstrate that students with disabilities continue to show an increase in the percentage of students scoring at Benchmark and a decrease in the percentage of students with disabilities scoring at "below cut point for risk."   Current 2016-17 GRADE mid-year results for grades 4-8 demonstrate that students with disabilities are trending to significantly exceed the end of year expected gain as measured by Growth Scale Value (GSV).  Grade 3 DIBELS results did not increase at the rate expected for all students, including students with disabilities.  This is something we will continue to monitor.

Overall, thanks to the staff who works tirelessly to support the achievement and growth of all students in North Penn!

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