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Special Education News

Please see below for news stories published prior to the 2022-2023 school year.


PREP Academy Surfs Into Learning

The Brookside PREP Academy is “hanging ten” now that it has partnered with Skudin Surf in Long Beach to bring a new experiential learning opportunity to students.

Brothers Cliff and Will Skudin own and operate Skudin Surf and paired up with a local school psychologist, Jeanine Sorenson and the Bellmore-Merrick PREP Academy to create a first of its kind surfing program partnership.

The 10-week voluntary program is ongoing this fall and the curriculum includes oceanography, environmental awareness, as well as increasing physical agility and adaptive physical education through surfing.

“Seeing students apprehensive at first, then growing more confident and getting up on boards in the water, actually surfing, during the first session was such a proud moment to witness,” said Eric Caballero, the Director of Physical Education, Athletics, Driver Education and Health.

Caballero and Emily Paluseo, the Director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services, jointly worked on this venture.

“We are looking forward to a continued partnership and growing this program,” Caballero added. Cliff and Will are such ambassadors for the not only the great sport of surfing, but also the therapeutic qualities of the ocean including its benefits to the environment and mental health.

A future goal includes incorporating leadership students from the district’s Meadowbrook Alternative Program as peer leaders.

In order to develop a next-level education, recreational and vocational experience for students the CHSD through age 21, the department of special education and pupil personnel services created a PREP Academy in 2020 to help prepare them for adult life.

Surf Photo


VIDEO: MAP, PREP Academy Students Plant for Earth Day

Zachary Gosse’s students from his School and Community Leadership class at the Meadowbrook Alternative Program joined with the PREP Academy for an Earth Day activity aimed at brightening the grounds and serving as a future fresh produce supply for the Community Cupboard.

“Our 9/11 Plaza and Memory Garden in the front of the building now have some beautiful petunias which will fill the space with color far into the next school year,” explained MAP Principal Susan Ellinghaus.

Students learned gardening skills as the beds in the Brookside Farm located in the main courtyard had to be weeded, composted and treated with peat moss. Two of them are now planted with four different varieties of lettuce and spring onions, which had re-seeded themselves.

“Our PREP Academy students will tend to the garden and eventually harvest it for donating to the Community Cupboard,” added school psychologist Dr. Joseph Netto.

The district developed PREP Academy as a next-level education, recreational and vocational experience for students within the district through age 21. Goals of the academy include social understanding and skills, self-advocacy and developing specific job skills and independent recreational skills.


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.

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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.

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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. 

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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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