Program Helps Students Transition from School To Work
(Presentation to School Board 11-23-2011)
A St. Tammany Parish Public School System program to help special education students make the transition from the school environment to the work force when they graduate is bringing together teachers, parents, and business partners from throughout the community.
Using a collaborative approach, the “Community Based Vocational Education” program (CBVE) nurtures key relationships between the schools and community businesses, preparing special needs students for getting a job after school by providing specialized job training, both in the classroom and on the jobsite.
The CBVE process extends classroom learning into the business world through community “business partners” so the students can learn specific work-related skills in actual business locations. It also provides the students with the knowledge they need to find employment after they graduate.
In a report before the School Board November 17, Sharon Hosch, Supervisor of Special Education, gave an overview of the program. She thanked Board Members for making the service a part of the mission to serve every child every day. “This is a program that is near and dear to my heart,” she said. “It ensures that when students with special needs reach high school levels, community access and vocational training/employment become key considerations.”
She noted that not only are job skills taught in the vocational curriculum, but also Life Skills. “When one considers all of the skills that go into maintaining a job, it becomes clear that life skills are as important as job skills,” she said. “Prior to going to work, a student must figure out what to wear, wash up, figure out what he might have for lunch, and make sure there is transportation to get to work on time.”
Throughout the educational process, each special needs child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which is updated annually with the collaboration of parents, teachers, and special education program monitors. When the student reaches 16 years of age, a “transition plan” component is added to the IEP to help the student prepare for becoming part of the workforce after they graduate from high school. Transition services are meant to look at the student’s current assessment, personal interests and how the school, family, agencies, community and student can work together to create a goal for after completion of high school.
CBVE is a two-stage program. During the first two or three years at the high school campus, a student will participate in on-campus vocational training. The student will work through vocational lab materials and software programs in areas such as data entry, culinary, clerical, and assembly. They will explore their own areas of interest and capabilities, as well as developing accuracy and fluency. Part of the on-campus program is to participate in learning general work skills in areas such as the office, library, food service, gardening, student clubs, and sports events. These skills and positions are added to the student’s portfolio.
Students in 11th and 12th grades will then begin to work off campus at local participating businesses up to four days per week with an emphasis in one of seven vocational career areas: (1) agriculture, food and natural resources, (2) business management and administration, (3) education and training, (4) health and science, (5) hospitality and tourism, (6) human science, and (7) marketing, sales and services.
Participating business managers are informed about the CBVE program, its goals and implementation. When a student begins at a worksite, the teacher will work with the business owner to emphasize an individual student’s strengths to maximize the vocational training experience. The students are “shadowed” by job coaches who help them become familiar with the routines, tasks, and work habits that lead to success.
There are 42 business partners now taking part in the Community Based Vocational Services Program, with 145 students involved. Seventy-eight of those are in the on-campus program and 67 students are in the on-site business partner program.
Ms. Christine Lagarde spoke to the School Board about her experiences with the program. A 2011 graduate of Mandeville High School, she is now employed at St. Timothy On The Northshore United Methodist Church Preschool. She told the Board how the CBVE program has helped her after graduation. “I learned how to complete a job application and be interviewed for a job,” she said. “I learned many things that have helped me do a good job.”
She enjoys working with the children at the pre-school, teaching them songs, using musical instruments, and generally helping the teacher of the class.
A Channel 13 video showed both the classroom sessions and the students being trained at various business locations. In the video, Suzie Hughes, Special Educator coordinator, explained how important and effective it was for the students to take the skills learned in the classroom and apply them to real-world situations at one of the off-campus business partner sites.
Dan O’Sullivan, a special education teacher at Northshore High school, said the students can go to a lot of different sites to gain experience in different areas. It helps build an awareness of the various work settings available to them, he said.
The main goal of the program is to teach each student work skills to give them a competitive edge when seeking employment after high school, said Monique Hebert, special education teacher at Fontainebleau High School. “More and more businesses in the community are agreeing to become a work site for the program,” she said.
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Development Cheryl Arabie presented Certificates of Recognition and Appreciation to representatives of the business partners who participate in the on-site skill training.
“We applaud each of our business partners for providing natural work environments, typical role models, and real job situations,” said Ms. Hosch, “and we thank you for considering our students for employment upon graduation.”
Among the businesses taking part in the job training program are Pelican Athletic Club, Bed Bath and Beyond, Pizza Hut, GG’s, Northshore Living Center, Bear’s Grill & Spirits, Forest Manor of Covington, Domino’s Pizza, American All Star, Greenbriar Community Care Center, Garden Spot Nursery, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Sam’s Club, Walgreen’s, Rouses Supermarkets, Marco’s Pizza, East St. Tammany Rainbow Child Care, Franco’s Health Club, St. Tammany Parish Hospital, Walmart, Slidell Memorial Hospital, Claiborne Hill Veterinary Clinic, Crossgates Athletic Club, VooDoo BBQ & Grill, Lakeview Regional Medical Center, Winn Dixie, STARC, the City of Slidell, Beau Chene Country Club, Clarion Inn & Suites, Papa Johns Pizza, Premiere Cleaners, Dante’s of Slidell, Bath & Body Works, and the St. Tammany Parish Public Library.
Key staff from the Special Education Department who were recognized at the School Board meeting for the Implementation, Training, and Work Site Obtainment were Suzanne Hughes, Coordinator of the Moderate/Severe Program; Paul Meeker, Coordinator of Transition Programs who works with graduation coaches and district Postsecondary Mentoring Program for students with disabilities and 504 eligibility; George Forrest, Special Education Secondary Coordinator; Jeanne Bower, Assistant Supervisor of Special Education; Gia Baker, IEP Facilitator; and Kim Cochran, IEP Facilitator.