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Special Education News


CHSD Unveils New PREP Academy at Brookside

In order to develop a next-level education, recreational and vocational experience for students within the Central High School District through age 21, the department of special education and pupil personnel services created a PREP Academy to help prepare them for adult life.

“Through work with parents, students, teachers and community organizations, we have identified areas that are essential for our students to be successful adults,” explained Eric Arlin, director of special education and pupil personnel services.

Goals of the academy include social understanding and skills, self-advocacy and developing specific job skills and independent recreational skills. Students are also taught functional academic skills such as managing a bank account or understanding their paychecks. Some students will also be continuing high school coursework necessary to complete graduation requirements.

“This program culminates in students obtaining a local or Regents high school diploma,” explained Emily Paluseo, assistant director of special education and pupil personnel services. “Additionally, we are providing non-credit bearing courses to prepare the students for transition.”

The district’s current high school-aged special education programs, PREP for Life and COORE are housed at Calhoun High School. PREP Academy provides services for 18 students at Brookside, however, they have the capacity for up to 30 students. Additionally, after-school clubs and activities will be available.

Staff at the program includes Arlin, Paluseo, on-call psychologists who also work full time at the Meadowbrook Alternative Program in the same building, various special education teachers, as well as job coaches.

While all related services that are on a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) are available, the program will also provide support language, communication and social understanding. PREP Academy program will continue to work with MaryJo Kennedy and the South Oaks vocational team, as well as several other external adult day program agencies.

Once the state allows, students will be paired up at job sites such as offices, department stores, manual labor and more. Job coaches will also attend to help facilitate work-related responsibilities, travel and breaks.

“During pandemic-related limitations, an in-building job site plan will be made available to all students in the program daily,” Arlin said.

Some of these enhanced opportunities at Brookside include entrepreneurial, culinary and custodial experiences, mail and printing, office work and more.

“Additionally, we will offer an agriculture opportunity, where the students learn how to cultivate vegetables that are later used in our district’s food bank, the Community Cupboard,” Paluseo added.


Katie Magliaro Receives Youth Advocacy Award 

On Sept. 10, Katie Magliaro was recognized as the youth advocate of the year by receiving the Mary Margaret Quinn Youth Advocacy Award from SANYS (Self-Advocacy Association of New York State).

This award recognizes a youth advocate that has worked hard to speak up for themselves and others in their community. It is named after Mary Margaret Quinn, a remarkable young woman who spoke up for herself and truly lived a life of distinction. 



Family Project Hosts Paint Night Event 

Family Project recently enjoyed an engaging and instructional Paint Night event at Merrick Avenue Middle School.

Toni Niederhauer was the paint instructor and made this opportunity possible by providing a small canvas, paint and paintbrushes for all of our young artists. The students had the opportunity to paint a purple or yellow flower against a blue background. Niederhauer walked the students through the step-by-step process and student helpers assisted the students with following instructions to complete their projects. 

Family Project is a club held at Merrick Avenue Middle School from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday evenings to foster socialization opportunities for students with disabilities by enjoying recreational activities with their typical peers by crafting, baking, playing in the gym and more. Families are welcome to attend.


District Hosts Recreation and Resource Fair

On Nov. 27, the SEPTA 12th Annual Recreation and Resource Fair was held at Calhoun High School. 

Opening remarks were given by Eric Arlin, Director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services.

The Express Yourself! Students performed to begin the event. Key note speakers included Erin Murphy, an alumnus and Robin Segermeister, a parent. 

“They shared their experience with transition from school age to adulthood from the perspective of a student and parent,” explained Assistant Director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services Emily Paluseo.

Numerous agencies attended the event sharing resources regarding services and recreation opportunities for students with specific learning needs. 

Various informative workshops were held, providing parents and students with information about how to access support services while in school and when transitioning into adulthood. 

“The highlight of the event is the student workshop. Various alumni return each year to share their adult experience with peers whom are still enrolled in school,” said Arlin. “They share information about how the program at Calhoun has prepared them for their adult life and offer advice to students currently enrolled at Calhoun High School.”

Photos taken by student photographer Catherine Schexnayder:



Students, Staff Win Awards at Self-Advocacy Association Conference

On Oct, 30, members of the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District, along with parents and students attended the 2018 Self-Advocacy Association of New York State Conference in Melville.

The staff present were presented with an award for “the Standard of Excellence of teaching their students, parents and staff the importance of Self-Advocacy.” 

Cheryl Gitlitz, transition coordinator, Theresa Catalina, Special Education Chairperson at Calhoun High School, Emily Paluseo, Assistant Director of Special Education and Eric Arlin, Director of Special Education were present on behalf of the district. Mary Jo Kennedy, the vocational counselor from South Oaks Career and Educational Counseling Center was also present. Additionally, parents from SEPTA Alyssa Gecsedi and Gail Broder-Katz were in attendance.

In addition to the district being recognized, Brett and Scott Weisbrot from Sanford H. Calhoun High School were presented with the Mary Margaret Quinn Award. They were nominated by Emily Paluseo, the district’s assistant director of special education and pupil personnel services for their work as youth advocates.

“The award is named after Mary Margaret Quinn, an remarkable young woman who spoke up for herself and truly lived a life of distinction,” explained Paluseo. “The Weisbrots and their parents were present to receive this award. They both follow in Mary Margaret’s footsteps as they advocate for themselves and others on a regular basis.”

The Weisbrots will graduate from Calhoun High School this June with High School Diplomas.


Family Project Hosts Annual Halloween Dance

This district-wide Family Project hosted their second annual Halloween Dance at Merrick Avenue Middle School on Tuesday, Oct. 23. 

“Students helped to prepare for the dance by making decorations at a few of the weekly meetings prior to the dance that were displayed proudly throughout the MAMS cafeteria,” said Assistant Principal Katelyn Dunn. “DJ Zinke did an incredible job providing amazing music for the event and kept everyone dancing all night long.”

Family Project is a club held at MAMS from 7:30-9 p.m. on Tuesday evenings to foster socialization opportunities for students with disabilities by hanging out with their typical peers and crafting, baking, playing in the gym, etc.

Calhoun, MAMS Students Enjoy Kickball Tourney

The students at Calhoun High School and Merrick Avenue Middle School participated in The Burning Bases Kickball tournament at Garden City Middle School on Oct. 25. All participants had a wonderful time and exhibited sportsmanship as they played kickball. 

COORE Students Hang Loose at the Beach

On Sept. 12, the COORE program in Bellmore-Merrick participated in the Surfers Healing camp at Lido Beach. Mr. Eduardo Martinez, Special Education Teacher at Calhoun High School, organized the event.

Surfers Healing is a nonprofit organization that allows students with disabilities the opportunity to catch some waves. The surfing instructors travel from all over the world to be able to provide students a unique experience at the beach. 

While at the beach, the students suited up with life vests, received some words of encouragement and were taken away on a surfboard to brave the waves without the help of their teacher or supporting staff. 

“It was an amazing experience that we hope will continue here at Bellmore-Merrick for years to come,” said Assistant Director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services Emily Paluseo.

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