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Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014

Bringing effective workforce preparation to special education students in NYS

... a 5-year $5.3 M contract awarded by the NYS Education Department will assist public schools

Berkshire Union Free School District, which has pioneered curricular and experiential learning that prepares special education students for the workforce and college, will soon work with some 300 school districts in New York State’s Capital-North Country, mid-Hudson, and Long Island regions under a five-year, $5.3 million contract awarded by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) in October. image

Berkshire will provide Community Employment Specialists to work with school district personnel and Committees on Special Education (CSE). “Our specialists will ensure that the local school personnel have the necessary training, knowledge, information, and procedures in place to identify students who may be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation Services through a variety of New York State agencies,” explained Bruce Potter, Superintendent of Berkshire Union Free School District.

With the new contract, Berkshire will expand its Workforce Development Program by adding nine full-time providers of specialized services to the school districts. Potter noted that the State has recognized the exceptionally effective program Berkshire has created in its own district, dramatically improving graduation rates and preparation for productive, independent post-high school life in a population that typically has limited success.

“Berkshire has proven expertise in preparing special education students for college and employment, and we are happy to share that expertise with other school districts,” said Tim Giacchetta, President of Berkshire UFSD Board of Education and President and CEO of Berkshire Farm Center and Services for Youth.

Berkshire’s Jr./Sr. High School, in Canaan, NY, is a top-ranked public Special Act School District, nationally recognized for its effective college and career preparation. The school’s World of Work (WOW) Curriculum is designed to prepare students to meet the needs of employers as alumni enter the workforce. The curriculum meets the requirements for the NYS Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential, ideal for new job seekers. Berkshire’s highly successful Workforce Development Program, which connects real work experience to what students learn in the classroom. “We know that students who make that connection have far stronger motivation to complete high school and continue on to college or trade school,” said Giacchetta.

“We have been able to strengthen our continuum of services and expand our positive impact on the children and families we serve,” added Giacchetta. “I want to publicly thank everyone at Berkshire for their hard work and dedication to strengthening children and families – our core mission.”

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