Local businesses sought for special education program at Hampton School District

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 | 12:01 AM

A $30,000 Special Education Performance grant helps add to the ongoing efforts to provide a quality education for Hampton’s special needs students and to prepare them for a career.

Along with their non-disabled peers, these students have their eyes set on life after high school.

The grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education will be used to launch the Competitive Employment Options program for these students, according to Sharon Smith, HTSD special education/transition coordinator.

Hampton achieved this grant thanks to the collaboration of its Special Education Advisory Committee, high school and middle school administrators, special education teachers and the special education department.

There are approximately 270 Hampton students with an Individualized Education Plan, according to Smith. These plans are created for those students who qualify for special education services.

“As with all programming for students, special education is extremely important to HTSD. It provides support and services to students who need specially designed instruction to be successful in the general education curriculum and make progress on their individualized goals,” Smith said.

The CEO program “is designed to develop competence, confidence and connections to increase opportunities for careers and community participation for students receiving special education services,” according to a district announcement.

Smith said they are looking to work with the North Hills area business community to participate as partners in the CEO program.

The CEO program will provide various avenues of job experience, including job shadowing and mentoring opportunities. The CEO program will offer work-based opportunities, giving students the chance to train on the job. A community job site will provide them with employment during after-school hours or on the weekends at the participating businesses to gain experience, according to the CEO program.

Parents of special needs students were recently invited to a training program on the endeavor, according to Smith, who worked as assistant director of Special Education at Bethel Park School District prior to Hampton.

Local businesses are encouraged to serve on an advisory committee for the CEO program. As members of the committee, they will provide information about their profession in the school setting; serve as an adviser for program development; and allow students to tour their businesses, according to the program description. Advisory committee members also may be asked to assist a class by serving as a guest speaker or assisting with job search skills such as resume writing, job search strategies and preparing for an interview.

Dr. Rebecca Cunningham, assistant superintendent for HTSD, agreed on the importance of this program.

“We are so proud of this collaborative effort to provide additional resources for our students, and to continue building opportunities for their success,” she said.

This is just another piece of Hampton’s goal to provide appropriate programs and services for students with disabilities by facilitating collaborative efforts among parents, teachers, students, therapists, administrators, and other support personnel, Smith said.

Inclusion for special education students is important to HTSD. Smith said special education in the HTSD is organized around the “premise that special education provides comprehensive support and services to eligible students in the least restrictive environment. Teachers, therapists, and paraprofessionals deliver these services in typical settings with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent appropriate.”

Levels of intervention, goals, accommodations, modifications and specially designed instruction are based on student need and are determined by the IEP team, she said.

Smith, who worked at the Watson Institute for more than 17 years, said Hampton’s strengths in the special education department lies with teachers, therapists and paraeducators who are extremely dedicated to helping the students reach their maximum potential.

“We believe strongly in a collaborative, student-centered team approach which includes the parents as essential team members. We continue to work on improving outcomes for all of our students to help ensure that they are college and/or career ready upon graduation from high school. This is also a focus of the grant we were just awarded,” said Smith of Penn Hills.

If a business would like to partner with Hampton in the special education program, Smith asks that they contact her at sharonsmith@ht-sd.org.