New (School) Year, New You

It’s hard to believe that another school year is already here. Where does the time go? Last week was a sort of “soft start” to the year, as all our staff return for a week of inservices. We were excited to introduce to them a new program for this year, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Designed to be school-wide, this system of support applies to both students and staff and works by helping individuals to use proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments. As we begin to implement this with our staff, we are focusing on a trifold matrix: Be Kind, Be Safe, Be Independent. We are excited to see what impact this focus will bring, and I wanted to share with you the thoughts I read to our staff on their first day back.


back to school_1Welcome back to the start of this 17-18 school year! Judging by the smiles on your faces, I’m sure that you all had a great summer. I’m really looking forward to the positive changes that our PBIS team will bring about this year, and I wanted to share a few thoughts of my own.

Some of you may have heard the story of how the Elizabeth Lee Black School began, but for those of you that haven’t, it began in 1952. My aunt, Gertrude A. Barber, was a psychologist for the Erie School District. It was her job to tell parents that their children could not come to the public school – their options at that time were either institutionalization or to keep their child at home. As you can imagine, neither Dr. Barber nor the parents were satisfied with these being their only choices. So, they started a single classroom for children with special needs. The teacher was a volunteer – no funding was available to pay anyone. Over the course of the next decade and beyond, this one room has expanded dramatically into many classrooms serving dozens of children.

You may not know that I began my career here in the school as a classroom aide; so I truly understand each of your roles. It is because of these first-hand experiences that I know how valued each of you are to our team.


Whether you are a therapist, a teacher, a paraeducator, or support staff, you make a significant contribution to the vision and success of our school. I hope that you believe this and feel this each day as you walk through the doors. You should be proud of your work here with us.

It was my aunt’s mission then as it is my mission today to provide the highest quality services available to these individuals. You are an integral part of that high standard – our work together ensures that we will be successful in making dreams come true for our children and their families. I encourage you to always come to me with your successes as well as your challenges. I know we are already off to a great start of the year!

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