Cranford Unveils Strategic Plan for Special Education

For The Leader/Times

CRANFORD — At the Cranford Board of Education meeting on Monday, Kristin Szawan, director of student services, and Heather Austin, Ed.D., supervisor of special services, presented the board with a strategic plan for special education. The three-goal plan will be implemented and evaluated over the next three years.

The first goal is to create a better data-tracking system for students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). The district will transition from the TIENet system for IEPs to the Frontline Special Ed & Interventions program, formerly known as IEP Direct. Ms. Szawan said she hopes the new data-collection tools will help teachers record “seamlessly within the classroom setting.”

Special-education students will spend 80 percent or more of the school day in a general-education classroom to meet the plan’s second goal. To achieve this environment, schools will use a co-teaching model, with both a general-education and special-education teacher working together in the same classroom.

The third goal expands the district’s offered programs. The district’s kindergarten through second grade autism program will be extended for students in grades 3 to 5, so they may continue their education in a familiar environment. A similar self-contained program will be established in the high school to keep students with special needs in district.

Board member Nicole Sherrin-Kessler said the expanded programs are “not only great for our kids,” but may reduce the cost spent on out-of-district tuition. Ms. Szawan said that case managers are working to determine if a group of students that are out of district could return with the expanded program.

The district has hired the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education (NJCIE) to help with the strategic plan. NJCIE started working with the district last year and will continue to help plan and implement professional development.

Ms. Sherrin-Kessler reported that the Curriculum Committee heard a presentation about aligning grading practices from Cranford High School Principal Mark Cantagallo and Supervisor of Mathematics and Computer Science Gregg Caverly. Ms. Sherrin-Kessler said this shift in practice would give students a “uniformity of experience.”

The district also is modernizing a Microsoft Office-based technology course to teach students relevant technological skills. The new course will be called “Information Technology and Digital Skills in the 21st Century” and will focus on more modern platforms such as Google Apps for Education, Ms. Sherrin-Kessler noted. Another new course, Advanced Placement (AP) Japanese, was proposed at the Curriculum Committee meeting. According to Ms. Sherrin-Kessler, staff is available for the added class and a group of students will be ready to advance to the AP level next year.

In other board news, Superintendent Scott Rubin, Ed.D., thanked local organizations Front Line Appreciation Group (FLAG) of Cranford and Cranford Family Cares for donating gift cards to help students who receive Free and Reduced Lunch. FLAG donated $3,500 in gift cards for local businesses and Cranford Family Cares donated $4,000 to $4,500 in ShopRite gift cards to help these students’ families buy groceries.

Board member Patrick Lynch asked the community to support the Booster Club, which pays $5,000 annually for the Memorial Field Turf Project, the new sound systems in Martin Gymnasium and at Memorial Field, scholarships for students, and many other sports-related contributions. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Booster Club has been unable to run its biggest fundraisers.

Membership is open to all, not just families with high-school students or student athletes, noted Mr. Lynch, who urged members of the community to join the organization.

The next meeting of the Cranford Board of Education will be on Monday, November 9.

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