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2009 2010




This publication is dedicated to those who achieve their dreams and those who help others achieve their dreams through programs at the Center for Special Services

Nurses Make Everything All Better


t’s a bright September morning and Rye Lake students are getting off their yellow buses, some escorted to classrooms by teachers and aides. School nurses Debbie Ryan and Nadine Jules watch the familiar scene from their office window, waiting expectantly for the students they know will stop in to see them before class.

Wearing a white medical jacket, a blue top and black jeans, Debbie runs a hand through her short blond hair and adjusts her glasses on her nose. “Every day is just a little bit different,” she says. Nadine, also casually dressed in jeans and a shortsleeved pink shirt, nods in agreement and absent-mindedly reaches out a finger to touch the leaves of a windowsill plant basking in the late summer sun. As the scene outside continues to unfold, voices can be heard in the hallway. It’s

8:45 a.m., and one of the expected students — ­ an 11-year-old girl — has arrived with her aide to have her blood sugar level tested. It’s a daily ritual the little girl isn’t looking forward to this day, the aide warns the nurses. Debbie soothes the stressed child, playing with her long brown hair, patting her on the back and telling her that everything will be all right.

Debbie Ryan and Nadine Jules She leads the girl by the hand over to a counter, where Nadine stands ready turns and clings to her aide’s side while with a stick used to prick the fingertip Debbie leafs through the pages of the and draw a tiny drop of blood for testing. communication notebook, which the As she gently pries open the girl’s small aide uses to share notes and instructions hand, Nadine speaks softly in an accent with the nurses about the girl’s daily care. filled with the musical tones of her native Debbie reads through the list of planned Haiti. “Come on now. You know this is snacks for the day (apples, oranges and not going to hurt,” she tells her patient. humus), which have been carefully In less than a minute, it’s all over. The girl See Nurses on page 2

A Message from the Director


utumn is the time when Rye Lake students’ dreams for the future begin to take shape. Our goal at the Center for Special Services is to help make those dreams come true. We provide a network of support so that students in each of our programs have a positive and productive experience at school and in their lives off campus. In this issue of “American Dreamer,” you’ll read about some of the wonderful people who support our students every day, including Debbie Ryan and Nadine Jules, two of the 10 nurses who care for students here at Rye Lake and in schools where Southern Westchester BOCES has classrooms. Youth Detective Frank Kolarik from the North Castle Police Department keeps our middle and high school students focused on their dreams with his positive, proactive approach in teach-

ing them to value their lives, walk away from trouble and keep their eye on the prize. Our students also are in the news: Jake Koocher and Justin Bobinski have successfully entered the work world through Project AIIM’s (Applied Intensive Intervention Model) transitions and career awareness program. Through Project AIIM, designed for students with autism spectrum disorders, Jake and Justin volunteer at the YMCA in White Plains. This has been a great opportunity for them to get work experience, gain confidence and make new friends. And our students with disabilities, their parents, teachers and caregivers, were treated to a day of fun on Sept. 29 during PepsiCo’s third annual Kids Sports Spectacular (KSS), held at the company’s headquarters in Purchase. As we head into the holiday season, let’s envision a successful school year that will take our students a step further along their personal journeys.

Mary Ellen Betzler

Director, Center for Special Services


Nurses from page 1 selected to balance carbohydrate and insulin levels. It’s a typical start to the day for Debbie, a registered nurse, and Nadine, a licensed practical nurse, two of the 10 nurses who work at various campuses around Westchester County that serve Southern Westchester BOCES students. Debbie and Nadine are in charge of the on-site healthcare of Rye Lake’s 100 middle and high school special education students, Intensive Day Treatment (IDT) participants, and the children and young adults enrolled in the campus’s Therapeutic Support Program (TSP).

One-of-a-kind thank you cards made by SWBOCES students adorn a wall in the nurses’ office.

Performing blood sugar tests, dispensing medication, monitoring diet and exercise programs, overseeing tube and pump feedings, and administering inhalation therapy to those with breathing difficulties are all par for the course, as is tending to the bumps, bruises and bellyaches typical of childhood. “And it’s anything that might have happened on the bus,” Debbie adds. “Who threw up? Who has buttons coming off? Who has a big scratch or an injury that happened over the weekend? We take care of it all.” Minutes later, a teacher’s aide comes in with another student and points out a small cut on the boy’s fore“Children just need to head. Debbie checks the know that somebody wound, sees that it’s on loves them, that they’re the mend and sends the warm and safe and dry, student back to class. after, the next and that nothing hurts.” Shortly emergency arrives: a boy with a bloody nose. Debbie blots away the blood with a tissue and sees that it’s actually coming from a scratch above his lip. “Does he have another shirt?” she asks the aide, wiping at the red splotches on the boy’s t-shirt. Nadine has been busy sorting through a survey of students who have received ­— and not yet received — their physical and dental exams. An immunization survey of all students is scheduled for October. Chasing down student medical and immunization records is one of the nurses’ biggest challenges. They also must have three emergency contact phone numbers for every student, medication orders, and permission slips on file for school trips, emergency room visits, photography and participation in a pet therapy program. At the beginning of every school year, the nurses say, it’s 90 percent paperwork

and follow-up phone calls to parents to get required documents. There is also the struggle at times to find substitute nurses on short notice. If a nurse at one BOCES location is out sick, another nurse may have to leave her usual campus to cover that site. And although BOCES works with a nursing agency to fill gaps, a sub who is experienced with school nursing may not always be available. “We are literally all over the county,” says Debbie. “We have BOCES students everywhere. And to have enough people to oversee all of that to the extent that we need to is hard.” Debbie and Nadine’s office is comfortable, large enough for two desks, computers, patient chairs, and a countertop lined with tools of the trade: stacks of pill cups, and glass jars filled with cotton balls, tongue depressors, Q-tips and syringes. Debbie pulls open a deep drawer filled with tubes of ointments and lotions, and sachets of moist hand towelettes and alcohol prep pads. She rips open a towelette sachet and cleans her hands. On the big bulletin board beside their desks hangs a collection of oversized cards carefully crafted from construction paper and adorned with tissue paper flowers, all hand-made in class by BOCES students over the years to thank the nurses for their care. A coffee cup doubling as a pen holder that sits on Debbie’s desk reads: “Nurses Make Everything All Better.” The office is housed in the Decagon, the 10-sided building where TSP students engage in arts and crafts, reading readiness and music classes, life skills lessons, and different forms of physical and sensory therapy. TSP students have varying degrees of cognitive and physical disabilities, and most have speech problems, making communication with them extremely difficult, if not impossible. “I think the biggest,

See Nurses on page 5


Saving Kids, One Classroom at a Time


rank Kolarik is a man with a mission: saving kids.

Youth Detective Frank Kolarik

As a Youth Detective with the North Castle Police Department, Det. Kolarik’s job can be a mixed bag of good days and bad: bad when he has to arrest a young person who has committed a crime, good when his teaching in school classrooms pays off and kids take his positive message to heart.

The message goes something like this: “Make good choices, stop and think before you act, walk away from fights, value your life, stay on the straight and narrow path to achieve your goals.” It’s the same message parents and teachers have been drilling into children for ages, but it’s always worth hearing one more time, especially when it comes from a uniform-wearing policeman, someone at-risk kids generally try to avoid. From his office in the North Castle police station in beatific Armonk, where it’s impossible to believe a misdeed could ever occur, Det. Kolarik runs a one-man crime prevention campaign at schools in his jurisdiction. One of those schools is Southern Westchester BOCES’ Rye Lake Campus, where he works one day a week with middle and high school students using the WhyTry? program, a contemporary curriculum designed for at-risk youth by a social worker from Utah. In use worldwide, WhyTry? teaches social and emotional principles in a multi-media presentation that incorporates

visual analogies reinforced with music and physical activities. The major learning styles—visual, auditory and bodykinesthetic—are all used so that any child can readily connect with WhyTry? Ultimately, WhyTry?’s messages aim at giving young people hope that they can overcome poverty, violence and failure. As the New York State DARE coordinator (DARE is a substance abuse prevention program) and a certified WhyTry? teacher, Det. Kolarik makes use of either program depending on a school’s needs. But at Rye Lake, WhyTry? seems to work best, especially with the younger students. High schoolers, on the other hand, prefer to discuss topical issues such as If kids can...recall violence and peer pressure what he's taught and how to deal with it. a toughchoice moment, a lot of problems can be headed off at the pass.

What’s most important is gaining the students’ trust. Now in his second year working at Rye Lake, Det. Kolarik says he can go to the campus, “walk up to the kids, shake their hand, ask them how they’re doing, and they’ll be okay with that. Before, they would never talk to a cop.” And that’s just the point. If kids can just confide in a trusted adult like Det. Kolarik, or even recall what he’s taught them in the classroom in a tough-choice moment, a lot of problems can be headed off at the pass. “Instead of the kids seeing me in a negative situation because I’m only around when someone has messed up,” he says, “they can get to see me in a proactive setting, in a place where I can bond with them, create a relationship with them, and have them come to know a police officer in a positive way.” As Det. Kolarik sees it, it was the divine scheme of things that

Walking Wins Award for AIIM


peech pathologist Julie Crosier, left, and special education teacher Leslie Auerbach hold up the award the SWBOCES Project AIIM staff won for participating in the annual Autism Speaks fund-raising walk in June. The team generated $7,000 this year, bringing the total raised by Project AIIM over the eight years the 2.5-mile walk has been held in Westchester County to more than $50,000. Ms. Auerbach was captain and Ms. Crosier was co-captain of the SWBOCES team, which Autism Speaks also named Top Service Provider organization for the third year in a row. Proceeds will fund biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatment and cure for autism, and to raising public awareness about autism and its affects on individuals, families and society.

See Kids on page 5


A Spectacular Day for Kids with Disabilities


outhern Westchester BOCES students with multiple disabilities, their parents, teachers and staff, had a day filled with fun, games and prizes at PepsiCo’s third annual Kids Sports Spectacular (KSS), held at the company’s headquarters in Purchase. Approximately 20 children from Isaac E. Young Middle School, Trinity Elementary and Eastview School came out for the event, jointly hosted by PepsiCo and the United Spinal Association, whose mission is to help Americans with spinal cord injuries and disorders live a rewarding and active life. “It’s great to partner with the corporate community and reach out to local schools,” said Marlene Harmon-Perkins, vice president, Corporate & Donor Relations, United Spinal Association.

Back row, from left: Teacher’s aide Natasha Hadley and teacher Erroll Rivera from Isaac E. Young Middle School in New Rochelle spent the day out with students ( front row, from left) Aleksy M. (Mount Vernon) and Daniel M. (Rye City), and Daniel’s mom Julia. The carnival-themed event, complete with clowns and balloons, gave the kids a chance to participate in adaptive sports, including bowling, basketball, softball, tennis, water fishing and hand-cycling, and to win prizes donated by PepsiCo suppliers. The kids also were treated to lunch from Pizza Hut. “There’s no activity where a child cannot be successful,” said Lynda Costa, president of PepsiCo’s Westchester EnAble, a corporate employee network that promotes diversity and inclusion. EnAble volunteers work a year in advance to plan for the big day, which Ms. Costa said gets better every year. “We keep making it a little more exciting.”

The Kids Sports Spectacular team from PepsiCo, l-r: Linda Costa, Pauline Gordon, Ann Dallas, Mary McEvoy, Maryann Herrick, Sandy DeQuatro and Marlene Harmon-Perkins, vice president of Corporate & Donor Relations at the United Spinal Association.

Visit us on the Web! The Southern Westchester BOCES Web site is: Visit for important updates, links to other education sites, and workshop and training information.

The mission of Southern Westchester BOCES is to collaborate with school districts and communities to meet their educational challenges by providing regional leadership and cost-effective, high-quality services.


Kids from page 3 landed him in his position as North Castle’s Youth Detective. Before becoming a police officer 16 years ago, he survived two combat deployments in Central America while in the Army. When he came home, he entered the Dutchess County Police Academy and, after graduation, worked for two years in Wappingers Falls before joining the North Castle force, where he became a member of the department’s scuba unit and was on the SWAT team. But it was a film on the DARE program that he happened to see while in the police academy that captured his imagination. “It was a pretty moving clip. It looked like a neat program,” he recalls. When he arrived at North Castle, Det. Kolarik mentioned his interest in the DARE program Parents have to to the chief. As luck would have it, 18 months later the current DARE remember one officer was promoted to sergeant thing: that their and Det. Kolarik took over the program. He got further training as a kids absorb youth detective and school resource who they are. officer, and the position grew from there. In addition to his prevention work in schools, Det. Kolarik runs a Youth Police Academy for graduating high school seniors. The six-week unpaid internship is akin to a bootcamp and includes four weeks of rigorous physical training, law classes, and field trips to prisons, jails, courts and other police departments. During the last two weeks, the students go on ride-alongs in police vehicles. “I have kids tell me they’ll never forget their experience,” Det. Kolarik says. “They come back and say they’re taking academy civil service entrance exams, or tell me they got hired as a park ranger with the county police for the summer.” It’s an opportunity Det. Kolarik would like to see his Rye Lake students have, too. “It’s so easy to forget everything WhyTry? teaches once you get back into your home environment,” he says. And that’s where parents can make all the difference—by bolstering their children with positive reinforcement. Parents, he says, have to remember one thing: that their kids absorb who they are. “They see what you do, they see how you act. They become like you. That’s my experience with my own kids, and that’s what I’ve seen in my years working with students. Apples and trees…you know how that works. Parents are the ultimate role model.”

Learn more about WhyTry? by visiting:

Nurses from page 2 most prevalent frustration is that they can’t tell you when something is hurting,” Debbie says. “Maybe you’ve got a child with an earache who’s banging the side of his head with a fist because he can’t tell you his ear hurts. Or another child who just sits in a chair rocking and screaming because he’s got stomach cramps.” Correctly diagnosing a problem often comes down to guess work. “You check vital signs, take their temperature, and ask a lot of questions,” she explains matter-of-factly. “When did they last eat? Are they thirsty or hungry? Maybe they’re just coming down with something. I may call their parents to see if they slept much the night before or weren’t feeling well. Maybe all they need to do is lay down and rest for a while.” Between them, Debbie and Nadine have more than 30 years of nursing experience. Debbie worked as a hospital pediatric nurse and in a doctor’s office before coming to Rye Lake 17 years ago. Nadine, who was a BOCES classroom aide for 15 years, graduated from the BOCES nursing program in 2003 and has worked at Rye Lake for the last five years. She plans to continue her studies to get a registered nurse’s license. Both women agree that without a doubt, nursing is their professional calling, but a tragic accident also played a hand in influencing Debbie’s decision. When she was 20, her brother was hit by a car five days shy of his eighteenth birthday. The accident left the tall, strapping young man, who dreamed of a career in architecture, a quadriplegic. Although Debbie was in college in Connecticut, she helped care for her brother when she came home to visit. “I was always able to see past disabilities,” she says. “You see past the things that a person can’t do to the things that they can.” Conversely, growing up in Haiti, Nadine says it was rare to see someone with any kind of disability in public. “It was kept hidden,” she says, adding that she was “shocked” the one and only time she did see a boy in a wheelchair. Overcoming her feelings in a job that can be emotionally challenging took some time for her, but Nadine now sees all of the TSP students the same way she sees any other child. “They are no different than anyone else to me,” she says firmly. A diverse student population like Rye Lake’s has groups with unique problems that require not only the specialized clinical care the nurses provide, but patience, tolerance and a dose of love. “It’s not just about giving out Band-aids and lollipops,” Nadine says with a wide smile. “Children just need to know that somebody loves them, that they’re warm and safe and dry, and that nothing hurts,” Debbie says.


SWBOCES Social Workers to Host Regional Meetings


n most days, you can easily drive from village to village around Westchester County in about 15 minutes. But tie that roundtrip commute time in with a business meeting and your day gets considerably longer. That was the case for Southern Westchester BOCES social workers and other social work professionals who would make the journey north to Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES in Yorktown Heights to participate in monthly Regional School Social Workers Forums. Last April, SWBOCES social workers hosted a regional meeting in their own neck of the woods for the first time. A meeting planned for 40 social workers and social agency members to discuss issues affecting their work wound up with 70 participants from Putnam County and the northern and southern reaches of Westchester County, making the meeting an even bigger success than expected. As a result, PNWBOCES invited SWBOCES to co-lead future forums. “PNWBOCES saw what a turnout we had and agreed with us that we should host a few meetings this year,” says Rebecca Phang, a member of the SWBOCES social workers team, which also includes Nadine Bernstein, Nicole Ciavardini and Yolette Levy. “It really shows that there’s a clear need for a collaborative effort for professionals working with children and families.” This year four of the 10 planned regional forums will be hosted in SWBOCES locations, the first of which was held on Oct. 29 at the Rye Lake Campus in Valhalla. Guest speaker Dr. Ken Mann, an SWBOCES school psychologist, presented an engaging case study of an SWBOCES student whose teacher had documented the child’s acting out behaviors in the classroom over a period of time. Dr. Mann walked the social workers through the student’s profile, giv-

From Southern Westchester BOCES (left to right), social worker Rebecca Phang; psychologist Dr. Stan Rybicki; social worker Nadine Bernstein; psychologist Dr. Ken Mann; and social workers Yolette Levy and Nicole Ciavardini. ing an analysis of why certain behaviors may have manifested. During the second half of the meeting, SWBOCES school psychologist Dr. Stan Rybicki demonstrated a computer software called Architext that provides a behavior assessment and behavior intervention plan based on student data social workers log into the software’s database. Using information from Dr. Mann’s student case study, the 25 social workers in attendance were able to try out the software on work stations set up for the demo. The remaining three forums to be hosted by SWBOCES social workers this year are:

• Family Ties and MHA – An Overview of Agency Services • Department of Mental Health Panel Discussion and Q&A • Re-entry into School from a Hospital Setting

Special Ed Teachers, Administrators Take NYSAA Training


ore than 200 special education teachers and 15 administrators gathered at Southern Westchester BOCES’s Center for Career Services for training in using the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSAA), a state assessment used to evaluate students with severe disabilities on the New York State core curriculum. The curriculum covers the four major content areas: English, social studies, math and science. SWBOCES NYSAA specialists administered the training. BOCES and New York State’s Big 5 Cities (New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) serve as regional leaders and trainers to ensure that special education teachers and administrators conduct the assessment according to New York State Education Department guide-

See NYSAA on page 7

Special education teachers get instruction in using the New York State Alternate Assessment.


Volunteer Position ‘Working Out’ for AIIM Students


eet Jake Koocher and Justin Bobinski, two young men who (their peers would probably say) have a dream job. Both men volunteer twice a week at the YMCA gym in downtown White Plains — where they also get to work out and swim for free. Jake, 18, and Justin, 20, are enrolled in the Southern Westchester BOCES Project AIIM (Applied Intensive Intervention Model), designed for students with autism spectrum disorders. The young men are participating in Project AIIM’s transition and career awareness program, in which students gain job experience volunteering and working in community businesses. “It’s a very pragmatic program based on using life skills in the community,” says their teacher, Ed Illiano, who helped them secure the position. The YMCA is located across the street from St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church on Mamaroneck Avenue, where SWBOCES holds AIIM classes, so the guys don’t have far to go to get to work every Monday and Friday.

Jake Koocher keeps the Y’s workout equipment in tip-top shape.

Jake and Justin share responsibilities with other volunteers, which include cleaning the workout equipment, keeping the weight room organized, tidying up around the facility and polishing the brass handrails throughout the 110-year-old building. Their hard work benefits the customers, but the big payoff comes with pleasing the boss. “We can always use an extra hand around here,” says YMCA Wellness Director Kenia Velez, who interviewed Jake and Justin for the volunteer spots. “They’re great guys. They’re learning the job well. They listen and they always try to do what they’re asked.” This isn’t Jake and Justin’s only job experience. In the summer, Jake flies out to Nebraska to work at a family friend’s truck stop, where he cleans out trucks and busses tables in the restaurant. He also has bussed tables at Friday’s restaurant in Tarrytown, the same eatery where Justin has worked as a busboy for the last three years. Keeping customers happy wherever they work is their main goal, both men say, but it’s the feeling of self-worth that comes from taking on the responsibility of a job, and having

NYSAA from page 6 lines. Unlike general state assessments, the NYSAA takes place over a period of several months and requires extensive training and support. Scoring is coordinated regionally. SWBOCES supports 33 school districts, Special Act school districts, and several private schools in administering the NYSAA, and coordinates and oversees the scoring of approximately 800 different assessments. 

Justin Bobinski shows off his handiwork on the rails around the basketball court and track lane. an opportunity to gain customer service experience and socialize with others, that makes volunteering at the YMCA especially satisfying for them. Oh, yeah. And those free workouts. For more information about Project AIIM and other special education programs, visit: Jeanne Graham, supervisor at the SWBOCES Rye Lake Campus, is the Regional Score Site Coordinator and Trainer for the Southern Westchester Region. Sara Stave and Chris Wynne, both BOCES psychologists, are Alternate Assessment Training Specialists. SWBOCES Supervisors Neil Manis and Steve Bicchieri also provide support to BOCES and regional teachers.


Ghosts, goblins and spiders! Oh, my!

Decked out for Halloween, the Rye Lake Campus gym was the place to be for fun and games for trick-or-treaters of all ages. Students came face-to-face with some spooky characters and had a good time playing games and enjoying organized activities.

Robert Monson, Ph.D., District Superintendent Sandra A. Simpson., Deputy District Superintendent G. Raymond Healey, Ph.D., Assistant Superintendent for Special Education Nancy A. Jorgensen, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources Stephen J. Tibbetts, Assistant Superintendent, Business & Administrative Services Mary Ellen Betzler, Director, Center for Special Services Board of Education Georgia Riedel, President Joseph Wooley, Vice President John DeSantis Nancy Fisher Richard Glickstein Beverly A. Levine James Miller Newsletter Editor: Suzanne Davis The Southern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services, its officers and employees, shall not discriminate against any student, employee or applicant on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, religion, marital status, gender, age, handicapping condition or sexual orientation. This policy of nondiscrimination includes access by students to educational programs, counseling services for students, course offerings and student activities, recruitment, appointment and promotion of employees, and employment pay and benefits, and it is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended and then promulgated thereunder, not to discriminate in such a manner. SWBOCES IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER 17 Berkley Drive, Rye Brook, NY 10573, 914-937-3820 Title IX Coordinator, Michael R. Gargiulo, Director of Human Resources Section 504 Coordinator, Thomas DiBuono, Director Of Facilities And Operations

American Dreamer Fall 2009  

A Southern Westchester BOCES newsletter for and about special education students and staff