In schools in France and New York, there is an ongoing emphasis on students with special educational needs. At The École, we already have many systems in place. Our School Psychologist, Stéphanie Antoine, and her team do an admirable job every day ensuring that our most fragile students (whether the fragility is short- or long-term) are supported as best as possible. Our processes are increasingly better defined and more efficient at finding the right solutions for everyone.

The solutions vary depending on the specific difficulties and what causes them. Our teachers always observe, identify, and differentiate in their classrooms before looking to Stéphanie for advice. The team works together to find the right fit for a child, which could involve individual assistance in class or out, a short-term boost or long-term support, personalized plans, etc. Whatever choices are made, the parents are, of course, at the center of the conversation, and we keep them abreast of all developments. We are lucky to have some very highly skilled professionals on our team. Stéphanie can rely on our Counselor, Katie Repman, and on Dara Herschenfeld, Yuna Kwon, and Alisha Soto, who are all special education teachers. As I’ve said before, Stéphanie can also depend on our extraordinary class teachers who take special education needs seriously and explore all possibilities.

We are very proud of what we achieve together, but there is no question of us resting on our laurels; we are constantly working to be even better. Our efforts are fueled by two observations. Firstly, some of the solutions we currently provide to families are dependent on the New York City Department of Education (DOE). All too often, we see that what is put in place by the DOE–despite Dara’s excellent work as DOE Coordinator–is ill-suited to our context, and the results are far from optimal. My second observation is more personal; this school should be one where EVERY child gets a special education. The more I wander our corridors, the more I talk to my colleagues, the more convinced I become. It’s true when students struggle and when they shine, true when they succeed and when they strike out, true when they laugh, and when they cry.

It was with this objective in mind that I created a new department within the school; its mission will be to put pedagogical systems in place that will enhance the learning conditions for all our students, including those who are excelling. The exact contours of this STRIVE department  (Stimulate, Transform, Reach, Identify, Value, and Enrich) have yet to be defined, but we know it will support students and teachers on a daily basis by offering personalized and flexible solutions. Two certified French classroom teachers have been recruited, although they will not lead a dedicated class or grade level. Instead, they will work in every classroom, reinforcing our teaching team. They will be joined by Erika Cavallo and Lauren Vogel, our English Language and Literacy support teachers, who will take on full-time positions next year. I am really looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together and how much further we can go to meet our students’ educational needs.