“This was such a wonderful opportunity to sit down as a group and discuss some of the challenges we are facing and also brainstorm about how to better serve all students with special needs in the state through the services we offer,” Dr. Howard Lerner, chairman.

Officials from the state Department of Education met with the eight member districts of the Joint Council of County Special Services School Districts to learn more about the many ways they educate and empower students with special needs and significant disabilities throughout the state. Peggy McDonald, Assistant Commissioner for the Division of Student Services for the New Jersey Department of Education, and Kim Buxenbaum, Office of Special Education Director, visited Burlington County Special Services School District (BCSSSD) in January.  The meeting also served as a starting point for working through some of the challenges faced by the member districts to best serve their students and families.

Among the issues put on the table was the increasing demand for teachers, therapists and other professionals who are highly specialized and qualified to serve students in special services districts. The Joint Council members also discussed the competition among the various public and private providers of programs and services for students with significant disabilities. The special services districts expressed their interest in working with local public schools to provide services as needed and creating joint programming to put students first in a way that makes the most financial sense.

“This was such a wonderful opportunity to sit down as a group and discuss some of the challenges we are facing and also brainstorm about how to better serve all students with special needs in the state through the services we offer,” said Howard Lerner, chairman of the New Jersey Joint Council of County Special Services School Districts and superintendent of Bergen County Special Services School District.  “We thank Peggy McDonald and Kim Buxenbaum for coming to speak with us and know that with their help and support, we will continue to do great things for our students and their families.”

The meeting concluded with a tour of BCSSSD, during which McDonald and Buxenbaum visited students who were participating in career-focused, hands-on classes like wood shop and floriculture. They also saw a few of the many unique spaces and tools that help with social, motor, and language skill development, including an introduction to a robot named MILO.