Women seek input on need for special education school
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,
“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.