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Educators Tackle Thorny Issues At Future School Leaders Academy

Amanda Allison, a special education administrator in the Carmel schools, explored ways to prepare developmentally disabled students to transition into life after school.
Amanda Allison, a special education administrator in the Carmel schools, explored ways to prepare developmentally disabled students to transition into life after school. Photo Credit: Contributed

Educators who want to move up the ladder got a crash course at the Future School Leaders Academy at Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES.

The educators are about to graduate the two-year, 30-credit FSLA program, which leads to dual New York State certification as a school building and school district leader. The academy is a program of the Center for Educational Leadership at BOCES and is offered in partnership with the Bank Street College.

Twelve different school districts displayed their projects at BOCES headquarters in Yorktown Heights. They explored topics including closing a foreign language achievement gap, the connection between poor reading skills and behavioral issues in early elementary school students and transitions to post-secondary education.

In Ossining, kindergartners who lagged behind their peers in identifying letters made leaps forward when their parents were recruited to help with home exercises.

Mary Catherine Hillman, an Ossining kindergarten teacher who led the initiative to give home exercises to parents, said the results were dramatic. One student who had identified random letters at a rate of four per minute improved to picking out 26 letters in the same timeframe after working with a parent.

“We just made sure that the parents understood how to do it,” Hillman said. “All parents want to help their children be successful.”

Amanda Allison, a recently named special education administrator at Carmel High School, worked on preparing students with developmental disabilities for adult life. Over the next decade, she said, more than 500,000 adults with autism are expected to move from schools to the adult world.

“We’re not even prepared to handle the adults that we have now,” she said.

The district is building an apartment at Carmel High School to practice life skills, teachers are receiving professional development, and parents are invited to sessions with service agencies to learn how their children can make the transition to the adult world.

Mary Harrison, the social studies and business coordinator at Bedford, studied why African-American and Hispanic boys were not entering their college preparatory program Boys overall were entering at much lower rates than girls, until they changed the criteria, using test data and one-on-one interviews rather than relying mainly on teacher recommendations.

The upcoming 7th-grade class will be split 50-50, girls and boys, Harrison said.

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