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Privilege of teaching those with special needs

Dear Friends of the Catholic Schools:
This Easter season, as I reflect on the blessings bestowed on us by the Risen Lord, thoughts of rebirth and new life associated with spring also come to mind. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I would like to share with you some new priority initiatives in reference to serving more children with special needs in our Catholic schools.
When I met during region meetings with the educational leaders of our schools, I offered them the opportunity to submit plans for creating specialized programs in their schools to more intensively support children needing academic and behavioral interventions. As a result of the immediate and enthusiastic response, I am happy to announce that during the 2016-17 academic year, several schools will have established specialized programs to expand the services that they are able to offer to children with learning challenges. While each program will reflect the needs of its student population, all of the programs will be characterized by highly qualified staff, intense professional development opportunities and support for teachers and parents, quality educational resources, and emphasis on using data to drive differentiated instruction and prescriptive teaching.
Additionally, it is a privilege for me to announce a second initiative. By the 2017-18 academic year, we will have established pilot programs to invite students with more substantive challenges to join our schools. We are particularly interested in having opportunities to work with students with autism and Down syndrome. These programs will focus on academics, as well as hands-on life and social skills training. A long-range goal is to allow students to interface with additional ministries of the archdiocese as volunteers and potential employees.
For a complete report on the special needs initiatives presently in our schools, please read the archbishop’s commentary.
This is an exciting time for education in our archdiocese. As Archbishop Aymond mentions, we are seeing a cultural shift among school personnel. No longer is the prevailing view that children must adapt to the curriculum, but rather a view that the curriculum should reflect the unique needs of individual learners.
I would ask for your continued support and prayers for the success of these initiatives as we consider it a privilege to welcome more children to our family of schools.
Dr. Jan Daniel Lancaster is superintendent of Catholic Schools.

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