At the Innovations in Special Education awards on May 11, left to right, Kevin Ciak, Sayreville board member and National School Boards Association secretary/treasurer; New Jersey State Teacher of the Year Mark Mautone; Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director; Don Webster Jr., NJSBA president; Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, John Bulina, NJSBA immediate past president; Dr. Dorothy K. Van Horn, ASAH president; Gerard M. Thiers, ASAH executive director

More than 200 school district officials, special education teachers and parents, as well as special education students, gathered at the Westin Princeton on Monday to celebrate the annual “Innovations in Special Education” awards as part of Special Education Week.

The New Jersey School Boards Association and ASAH, an organization representing private special education schools, have sponsored Special Education Week since 1985. Presentation of the Innovation awards is one special event that takes place during the week.

Special education students from around the state gathered for the awards, displaying their musical talents; exhibiting artwork; and showing off programs designed to develop life skills and support learning.

“I’m very proud of them and they’re very proud to be here,” said music teacher Steve Palmieri, of the ECLC of New Jersey – Ho-Ho-Kus Campus. His students performed as a bell choir at the luncheon, using a system he devised that displays a picture of each student, on a laptop, to cue them to play their hand-held chime. The students, all dressed in black and white, beamed as they performed “In the Bleak Midwinter” to a great round of applause.

The program, “Innovations Rings at ECLC of New Jersey – Ho-Ho-Kus Campus,” was recognized for an Innovations Award.

Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, executive director of the NJSBA; Dr. Dorothy K. Van Horn, president of ASAH; and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey all spoke at the event. Also in attendance were NJSBA President Don Webster and Past-President John Bulina; 2015 New Jersey Teacher of the Year Mark Mautone; and numerous other school board members and other officials.

Special education teachers also took time to enjoy the day. The winning programs were each displayed, and many educators found the opportunity to network and share ideas.

“Teachers always want to collaborate and make things better for our students. The ability to meet other people in the field is fantastic,” said Jessica Sears, a teacher at the Daretown School, in the Salem County Special Services School District, after exchanging information with Paramus Life Skills Educator Jeanne Browne. Both districts had programs among the award winners.

Recipients of the Innovations in Special Education Awards for 2015 are:

  • Daretown School, Salem County Special Services School District – Project R.E.A.C.H. (Research, Educate, Act, Create, Help)
  • Grice Middle School, Hamilton Township School District – Colorful Transformations, Fusing Glass and Education
  • Hainesport Township School District – Hainesport Interactive Program (HIP)
  • Holland Township School – Life Skills Program
  • Marlboro High School, Freehold Regional High School District – Regional Assistance Program (RAP)
  • Paramus Public Schools – LEAP
  • Rancocas Valley Regional High School – Functional Life Skills Integrated Program (FLIP)
  • ECLC of New Jersey – Ho-Ho-Kus Campus –  Innovation Rings at ECLC of New Jersey – Ho-Ho-Kus campus
  • The Calais School – Gifted & Talented “Twice Exceptional” Program
  • The Children’s Institute High School – TCI Film School Production