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Director’s Message Dear Friends,


Director’s Message Sulam Board of Directors President’s Message Sulam Educational Programming Inclusion Targeted Instruction Social Emotional Skills Instruction and Behavior Management Reading Instruction Math Instruction Case Management Executive Function Instruction Communication College Counseling and Transition Parent and Student Testimonials

Sulam is an extraordinary community organization that provides a unique education to students with learning differences in the Greater Washington area. Students K though 12 are welcomed into their community day school, and learn alongside their peers in the general education classroom. They also receive targeted small group instruction as needed. Sulam’s multi-disciplinary team of special educators implements evidencebased research in special education to enable each student to reach his or her academic and personal goals in an inclusive environment. Sulam students are those who may have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, reading and language disabilities, ADHD, executive function challenges, sensory integration challenges, and gifted and talented with learning disabilities. Without the services of Sulam, our students would otherwise struggle to stay in a community school.

Sulam students are the children of families who live in the community, they are the brothers and sisters of students who attend their local community day schools, they are the children of our immediate families or distant relatives. They are our own children. At Sulam we believe that people have a communal responsibility to take care of one another. We emphasize acts of kindness and acts of justice by including and embracing diversity. At Sulam, we support a vulnerable population; one that simultaneously teaches every student within the host school to embrace diversity and learn that every individual, no matter his or her strengths or challenges, is entitled to being included. In addition, every student is entitled to being treated with dignity and respect, and is entitled to an education alongside his or her peers. Our accomplishments have been many, as proven by our students who have achieved high accolades in academics, in seminaries and yeshivas, in sports, art, music, and drama, in the workplace, and in their personal lives, as well as within the communities in which they live. Please join us in providing a service that has far reaching, long term benefits for all of us. Your support is essential for the future of our students, the sustainability of a just society, and an inclusive community. With gratitude, Lianne Heller Director, Sulam

Board of Directors Judah Lifschitz President

Ellen Bogage

Steven Schram Treasurer

Debbie Katz

Daniel Kapner Secretary

Lee Oppenheim

Elana Garfield Sam Melamed Ahuva Orlofsky Arnold Sherman David Volosov Dr. Edwin Zaghi


Lianne Heller Director Lianne Heller has worked in the field of Jewish education and special education for the past twenty years. Lianne’s work at the Montgomery County Public School Learning and Disabilities (LAD) program, as well as in the Center Programs for the Highly Gifted, inspired her to continue her studies in the field of Jewish education and leadership. She completed a work study tour of the Reggio Emilia school system in Italy and went on to complete the Jewish Early Childhood Leadership Institute program through the Jewish Theological Seminary and Bank Street College of Education.

Rachel Sushner Upper School Division Chair Rachel Sushner oversees the Upper School Division and Shearim High School at Sulam. Rachel holds a Masters Degree in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University. During her more than ten years at Sulam she has been instrumental in launching the Shearim program as well as other initiatives. Rachel is passionate about her role in supporting the students of Sulam. Rachel is an avid reader and enjoys the challenge of a good hike. She lives in Silver Spring with her husband and three children.

Debra Drang Division Chair, Lower & Middle School Debra Drang is the Division Chair of Sulam’s Lower and Middle School Programs. Currently in her 19th year in education, she holds a Ph.D. in Special Education from University of Maryland. She has served in a variety of capacities including classroom teacher, itinerant teacher, mentor, teacher trainer/coach, and researcher. Debra has a strong record of applying current, research-based best practices to everyday classroom life. Her areas of expertise include inclusion, universal curriculum design, tiered instruction/ intervention, classroom management, and progress monitoring. Debra is a foodie and loves to read.

President’s Message Sulam was founded in 1999 by a small group of mothers sharing a vital vision. They imagined a world in which all children would receive a fulfilling and meaningful education. They envisioned a world in which children with learning differences would be welcomed as valued and thriving members of their community. And they imagined a world in which “inclusion” would be an accepted and shared value. Today, seventeen years later, Sulam has realized this vision for so many children. Students diagnosed with learning disabilities, both visible and invisible, challenged and gifted, call Sulam their home – where they learn and grow in an inclusion-based program alongside their peers while gaining the extra educational support necessary to succeed. Each year the number of applicants to Sulam grows and the program expands. Sulam is dedicated to serving each and every student so the student can achieve his or her greatest potential. As Sulam’s President, I am honored to be part of Sulam’s critical mission. Alongside a powerful and dedicated Board of Directors, a talented team of Special Educators, and a passionate and dedicated Director, I am confident that our mission benefits not only our students but all students and the entire community as a whole. And the result of Sulam’s inclusion model is that our community values all learners and treats all children with the dignity and respect they deserve. Please help us realize the importance of this mission. We must never lose a single child simply because he or she had a learning difference. May we all learn and grow together, and as a community be “A Light Unto the Nations.”

Judah Lifschitz President

Sulam Educational Programing

Inclusion In the field of special education, the term “inclusion” means the practice of placing students with different learning styles within the general education classroom so that they can learn alongside their typically developing peers. Evidence-based research indicates that diversity within a classroom leads to greater levels of creativity and achievement for all students. Furthermore, research has shown that the inclusion of students with learning differences in general education leads to enhanced social interaction within a diverse group, higher levels of empathy amongst all students, and a stronger commitment to creating a just society. Inclusion provides students with disabilities access to higher standards of academic content and an attitude of “unlimited learning.” Putting inclusion into practice in the general education classroom is complicated. Practicality plays a big role in deciding whether an inclusive environment is best for any particular student. Through a rigorous admissions process, Sulam takes into account the learning needs of each student to determine if this style of education is best for him or her. Including a student in the general education classroom requires the understanding and openness of the host school, the general education teacher, the guidance of the Sulam multi-disciplinary team, and the support of an Instructional Assistant who enters the classroom alongside the student. Individualized educational, social, and emotional, and behavioral strategies are devised so that students can enjoy success within the general education classroom. Successful inclusion requires accommodations, modification at times, and specialized instruction in areas of academic need. Strategies include help with socialization, organization, study strategies, note-taking, memorization, use of technology and graphic organizers, and more.

Targeted Instruction

Students with learning disabilities such as language-based disabilities, processing challenges, dyscalculia (math disability), etc., receive small group targeted instruction at Sulam. Classes in English, math, Judaics, science, and social studies provide special education strategies to help students access content. The Sulam reading specialist provides some targeted one-to-one instruction and will also provide support within the classroom as needed. Speech consultants and occupational therapists provide services both within the general education classroom, as well as on a one-to-one as needed.

Social Emotional Skills Instruction & Behavior Management

Sulam’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) creates a social, emotional, and behavioral profile for every Sulam student. Strategies are provided, and teachers are guided in implementing strategies for every student throughout the school day. Students requiring behavior management are closely monitored by Sulam’s BCBA. Specific social language is used to help students develop the important social skills needed to acquire friendships and develop meaningful relationships. Social skills groups help further develop the social skills necessary to build enduring relationships. Sulam’s Clinical Psychologist provides weekly therapy sessions to those students identified by Sulam as requiring therapy.

Reading Instruction Sulam’s Reading Specialist creates a reading and language profile for those students in need of specialized reading instruction. Using base-line assessments, the Sulam Reading Specialist develops reading strategies for each student and guides and supports the Sulam special educators in implementation of these strategies. Regular monitoring of progress informs and guides instruction throughout the year. The Sulam Reading Specialist also works with individual students as needed.

Math Instruction Sulam’s Math Specialist researches best practices in math education, explores math curricula, and implements special education math strategies for maximum student success. In addition, the Sulam Math Specialist administers math assessments to determine present levels of performance and guide instruction.

Case Management Sulam students are monitored throughout each day by Sulam administrators, teachers, specialists, and instructional assistants. Collection of data regarding tests, homework, behavior and classroom engagement, and social development is conducted regularly and consistently. Using this information, we are able to make data-driven decisions related to instruction and goal development for each student.

Executive Function Instruction Executive Functioning is the set of cognitive processes that include attention, inhibitory control, working memory, cognitive flexibility, reasoning, problem solving, and planning. These important skills are all necessary for maintaining behaviors that lead to successfully attaining academic and social and behavioral success. The Sulam team observes students to assess their executive functioning, and develops strategies to practice and strengthen these important life skills. Every student participates in a study skills class in which the focus is on development of executive functioning, and strategies to compensate for areas of challenge.

Communication Sulam prides itself on our strong parent teacher relationships. The culture within the school is one of genuine caring for every student and his or her family. Parents are viewed as members of a collaborative team that works together to solve problems and challenges as they arise. Sulam communications consist of parent teacher conferences, report cards, in-depth progress reports, and Formal Education Plan meetings. In addition, regular informal communications between parents and teachers and instructional assistants regarding work habits, classroom successes, and challenges, is a culture at the school.

College Counseling and Transition Sulam faculty members coach students from the early grades to be strong self-advocates. Strong self-advocacy is one of the biggest predictors of success in college and the workplace. Our strengths based transition program ensures that students are self-aware, and are encouraged to pursue careers in their areas of interest. Sulam provides two and four year college counseling to Sulam students. Workshops and presentations by community experts are provided during junior and senior years to help parents and students navigate the college process. Students who will be entering the workforce are prepared through Life Skills training throughout their school experience. Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) Funding and other agency funding information is regularly updated and provided to parents of graduating students.

Parent & Student Testimonials “The Sulam program and staff have helped our son acquire the academics, life skills, and self-confidence he will need as he transitions into the next phase of his life.” — Shelly, Sulam Parent “Before Sulam, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do. I would ask friends for help and stuff but they would get in trouble for not doing their work. I ended up just not doing it. Since Sulam, it’s very helpful to know that I always have support. I feel more confident. I recently figured out that I am really good at creative writing and that inspires me to push myself more. My dream for the future is that I want to work with kids with special needs.” — Jessica, 11th Grade “Before I was at Sulam, I felt really confused at school. I didn’t feel like I had any foundation or support. Sulam helped me get on to a straight path. I had all my resources and everything right in my back pocket. I had a guide and all the help I needed from all of the Sulam faculty members that were there to help.” — Ephraim, Graduate, 2016

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Sulam Annual Report 2016