Women seek in­put on need for spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion school

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IAN­NETTA

jian­netta@ ce­cil­whig. com

— Two Ce­cil County women have joined forces in hopes of start­ing an al­ter­na­tive school for spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents in the county.

Teresa Flaugher, an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist, and Suzanna Aguilar, a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist, are cur­rently gath­er­ing in­put and meet­ing with peo­ple around the county to gauge whether there is a need for another school for spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents. The two have de­vel­oped a sur­vey and are hop­ing to get as much in­put from county par­ents as pos­si­ble about whether a school is needed and what ser­vices it should pro­vide, Flaugher said.

Called Ris­ing Stars School of Ce­cil County, the school would of­fer non- Com­mon Core aca­demics in a small group set­ting as well as vo­ca­tional train­ing, life skills train­ing and so­cial pro­grams,

CE­CIL COUNTY

she added.

“We would like to pro­vide fam­i­lies with another op­tion,” Flaugher said. “If fam­i­lies want change, we’re will­ing to put in the ef­fort.”

Al­though nei­ther Flaugher nor Aguilar have chil­dren with spe­cial needs, they both have ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents. Flaugher re­tired from Ce­cil County Public Schools last June after 18 years as an oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist and Aguilar started her ca­reer as a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist work­ing with spe­cial needs stu­dents in the New York City public schools sys­tem.

Aguilar also started a foun­da­tion in the county about five years — called Spe­cial Needs Sup­port — to help kids with spe­cial needs. Al­though the foun­da­tion had one fundraiser, the tim­ing wasn’t right for her to take on such a large project and it never re­ally got go­ing, Aguilar said.

But it was through the foun­da­tion that Flaugher first heard about Aguilar and Flaugher kept Aguilar’s con­tact info for nearly five years be­fore call­ing her about five months ago to see if she’d be in­ter­est­ing in help­ing start a spe­cial needs school in the county, Aguilar said.

Both women feel there could be room for another op­tion for spe­cial needs stu­dents in the county. Many fam­i­lies move out of Ce­cil County to find bet­ter sup­port for their chil­dren and other spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents are strug­gling to grad­u­ate from county schools, Aguilar said.

“We don’t want to lose our fam­i­lies in Ce­cil County,” she said. “We want to keep all the eco­nomic devel­op­ment and re­sources in the county.”

The devel­op­ment of the al­ter­na­tive school re­mains in the early stages though, and the two are in the process of look­ing at sev­eral dif­fer­ent school mod­els in­clud­ing a char­ter school, a pri­vate school and a Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Non­pub­lic Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion Fa­cil­ity ( MANSEF) school, Flaugher said.

MANSEF is a net­work of non­pub­lic schools across the state that are ap­proved by the Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and serve stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties whose needs can’t be met in public schools. Ce­cil County al­ready has three MANSEF schools: High Road School of Ce­cil County, High Road School of Per­ryville and Shore­haven School.

Though much about the al­ter­na­tive school — in­clud­ing its lo­ca­tion and fund­ing source — has yet to be de­cided, Flaugher and Aguilar have al­ready met with many peo­ple in the county dur­ing their re­search process, in­clud­ing Ce­cil County Public Schools, the Ce­cil County Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Ce­cil County Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion Cit­i­zen’s Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (SECAC).

Go­ing for­ward, Flaugher and Aguilar said they will con­tinue to take their cues from the com­mu­nity in terms of whether a school is needed and what type of school it should be.

“They say it takes a vil­lage to raise a child, but it’s go­ing to take the whole com­mu­nity to make this a re­al­ity,” Flaugher said.

The school sur­vey can be found on the Ris­ing Stars School of Ce­cil County Face­book page and any­one with ques­tions can con­tact ris­ingstars@ zoom­inter­net. net.

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