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Exceptional Educational Outreach (Bahamas)

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Exceptional Education Outreach: A Stellar Report
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Posted by:Jun 15th 2004, 07:28:14 pm
Fig Tree News TeamCongratulations to Lang Fincher, Crystal Lawson and the entire EEO Team for a job well done!

Exceptional Education Outreach (EEO) is a non-profit special education and literacy project that operates in the Bahamian Family Islands.

Progress Report
2003-2004 School Year

EEO’s mission is to partner with the Bahamian Ministry of Education to create a sustainable special education program for children across Eleuthera and Harbour Island. The project’s vision for Harbour Island and Eleuthera is to ensure that children with special needs have access to innovative educational programs and materials to help them reach their full academic and personal potential.

Through collaborations with Bahamian and American educational organizations, EEO strives to equip local teachers, parents, and volunteers with materials and skills to assess students and remediate learning challenges.

This report reviews EEO’s accomplishments during the school year 2003-2004. The aim of this report is to inform and describe goals achieved by this Family Island special education project. EEO hopes that this report will foster feedback from the superintendent, principals, and teachers of the targeted schools. Such feedback will assist in the development of a more efficient and collaborative effort in planning for the needs of the special education students in the upcoming school year. Feedback is essential not only to the administration of the EEO project but also to the continued success of the participating students.

Goals of Exceptional Education Outreach—Eleuthera, Harbour Island
* Assess physical and neurological impairments that may be interfering with a child’s academic progress.
* Conduct daily, in-school, special education sessions with special needs children. These challenges include low cognitive functioning, Pervasive Developmental Delays (PDD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, mild to severe retardation, apraxia, severe processing delays, hearing and speech problems.
* Build local capacity through monthly training seminars that integrate literacy-building and teaching strategies for working with children with special needs. All community members are invited to attend.
* Establish and furnish special education resource rooms across Eleuthera.
* Assemble specialized resource rooms in each district of Eleuthera to aide in the professional development of parents, teachers, and volunteer community members. These rooms will be complete with professional journals, text books, instructional materials and best practice video tapes.
* Train local community volunteers to assist with in-school and after-school tutoring sessions, as well as clinical diagnosis and remediation.
* Initiate an on-going learning community in which teachers, parents, and the general public recognize and consistently address the challenges faced by special needs students.

The above efforts (i.e. training, gathering professional resources, establishing a professional network, and providing hands-on assistance) are intended to foster and sustain an independent, student-supportive, special education system in Eleuthera. The ultimate goal of this undertaking is to establish a knowledge-base whereby the responsibility for the education of children with special needs will continue on the local level, while at the same time forging links with stateside resources, on an as-needed basis.

Project Accomplishments
In 1998 a special education and literacy outreach program was implemented in Harbour Island. Within the following two years, this program spread to schools in North Eleuthera. Rapid expansion, greater community awareness, and increasing support from the Ministry of Education, Eleuthera District, has resulted in five full-time special education resource rooms within the public schools, after-school programs, computer centers, summer programs, and the formal establishment of the Exceptional Education Outreach as a non profit organization.

The personal and academic improvements demonstrated by students in EEO programs have motivated teachers and parents across the islands to implement new approaches to working with children of varying abilities. In a ground-breaking partnership with the Ministry of Education, EEO opened a full-time center for severely challenged students in Savannah Sound in January, 2002. Utilizing this newest facility, five other special education resource rooms, and an established seminar series, EEO has created a solid foundation and network to assist special needs children in Eleuthera.

This year Prime Minister Christie formed the National Commission on Special Education (NCOSE) to address the need for nation-wide special education system in the Bahamas. EEO has consulted with the NCOSE and representatives have visited EEO resource rooms and reviewed EEO’s approach in reaching children with varying special needs. The EEO programs established in Eleuthera and Harbour Island will be used as a model for the other Family Islands.
Accomplishments up to 2004:

* EEO has established and equipped resource rooms with professional development and specialized educational materials as well as computers with educational software. In these rooms, EEO serves the following numbers of students:
Governors Harbour Centre for Exceptional Learning 19
Gregory Town Primary School 15
North Eleuthera Primary School, Bluff 25
Harbour Island All Age School 29
Weymss Bight Primary School 10
James Cistern Primary School 18

* Approximately 1,200 students from all districts of Eleuthera have been given a hearing screening. Upon recommendations of teachers and parents, 200 students have been given a vision screening.

* Further student evaluations and assistance in remediation strategies have been given by an audiologist, a paediatric neurologist, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist and a child psychologist. Follow up visits are made each semester by the paediatric neurologist.

* A Computer Learning Centre has been constructed in Gregory Town for after-school and summer programs.

* During the 2003- 2004 school year, EEO organized five seminars with over 120 teachers attending. The Ministry of Education Eleuthera District has mandated a half-day of school for certain EEO’s seminars so that all teachers may learn valuable new skills in literacy and special education strategies.

* Six parent workshops have been conducted with more than 100 parents. EEO representatives also make monthly presentations at school PTA meetings. Transportation is provided through EEO from the settlements in the Central and South of Eleuthera.

* A professional library with various Special Education and current literacy information has been established in Savannah Sound Resource Center. Similar libraries with teacher reference materials are also available within the established resource rooms in Harbour Island, North Eleuthera Primary School and the Gregory Town computer Center.

* To date, EEO has worked with over 15 community volunteers and a consistent core of Ministry teachers. EEO provides Ministry teachers with targeted materials and has installed computers and educational software in the special education classroom of North Eleuthera Primary School, Harbour Island All age School, Center for Exceptional Learning in Governors Harbour, Gregory Town Primary School, Central Eleuthera High School, and North Eleuthera High school.

* Each resource room is also equipped with graduating level phonics books, workbooks, learning games and accompanying education material to reach the various learning styles of the children receiving assistance through EEO.

* A partnership with the Gregory Town Public Library has been established to further the goals of EEO and increase literacy outreach.

* A partnership with “Out Island Adventures” has been established to provide the children with information and practice of environmental conservation. Beach Clean ups across Eleuthera are paired with reward kayak trips to motivate and educate the children participating.

* For community awareness, EEO distributes a bi-monthly newsletter, “Opening Books and Minds,” to all settlements in Eleuthera. Volunteers submit monthly reading tips and reports on EEO activities to the island’s monthly newspaper, The Eleuthera Advocate. Two local Web sites also feature EEO activities.

Professional Assistance
For those children who have exhibited severe learning and emotional difficulties, EEO has engaged Dr. Timothy Barrett, a psychologist from Nassau, to help identify new strategies for learning and behavior management. Dr. Barrett has met with eleven students and their parents or guardians in the North Eleuthera District, providing them new techniques and perspectives on how to deal with learning and emotional problems.

Students needing additional consultations have been seen by a pediatric neurologist, Dr. Edwin Demeritte, from Nassau. He combined efforts for the initial visit with an interdisciplinary team of therapists, including two occupational therapists, infant stimulation and a speech therapist. Dr, Demeritte also held a parent workshop and individual meetings with parents to provide concrete suggestions on how to improve behavior and maximize personal and academic potential.

EEO also supported teachers to travel to Abaco to attend monthly clinical diagnosis and special education trainings. The trainings are conducted with professors from Florida International University have resulted in a clinician certification. These training opportunities are open to all interested individuals who are willing to volunteer their time.

The following individuals currently work with EEO:
* Ms. Lang Fincher, Coordinator/Teacher
* Ms. Jessica Howington, Teacher, Center for Exceptional Learning, Governors Harbour
* Ms. Gloria Banks, Teacher, Gregory Town Primary/North Eleuthera Primary
* Ms. Crystal Lawson, Teacher, Harbour Island All Age School
* Ms. Mozina Smith , Teacher, Weymss Bight Primary School
* Ms. Barbra Hall, Ministry Teacher, Center for Exceptional Learning
* Mr. William Holland, Ministry Teacher, North Eleuthera High School

Seminar Presenters
The following individuals were participants in the monthly seminar series hosted by Exceptional Education Outreach. Seminars are attended by teachers across Eleuthera and Harbour Island as well as interested community members. Often Parent Workshops are also hosted in conjunction with their visit.

* Dr. Judith Gold, Bank Street College:Project LEARNS, New York City
* Mrs. Jodi Marshall, Literacy Specialist, University of Miami, Florida
* Ms. Lang Fincher, Special Educator, Harbour Island, Bahamas
* Dr. Edwin Demeritte, Pediatric Neurologist, Nassau
* Mrs. Suzy Siel, Literacy Specialist, Wisconsin

Visiting Medical Professionals
These professionals have performed evaluations on several students in the ECC program who require additional medical assessment beyond who EEO clinicians can do. Initial consultations have been followed up with recommendations and additional visits to assess progress.

* Psychologist, Dr. Barrett, Nassau
* Hearing specialist, Dr. Benabe, Nassau
* Speech Therapist, Jennifer Alexiou, Nassau
* Pediatric Neurologist, Dr. Demeritte, Nassau
* Infant Stimulation, Cynthia Stanko Nassau
* Occupational Therapist, Vanessa Williams, Nassau
* Occupational Therapist, Andrea Moss, Nassau

Board of Directors
Lang Fincher
Peter Vlasov
Bernadette Christie
Dr. Robert Moore
Jane Fincher
Elizabeth Easton

Consulting Board members:
Crystal Lawson
Wallace Tutt III
Craig Symonette

Students in the EEO Program have been tested using the following screenings:
* Maico Audiometer(hearing test)
* Dolch Sight Word assessment
* Wepman Auditory Discrimination
* Keystone Telebinocular (vision screening)
* Eckwall /Shanker Reading Inventory (Full Diagnostic screening)
* Alphabet Screening
* Key Math Computation
* LAC Assessment (Linda Mood Bell) – phonological awareness test

A few success cases:
Henry Thomas, a ten-year-old , first came to the Center for Exceptional Learners in Govornors Harbour in a wheel chair. He struggled academically as well as overcoming physical impairments. In his small group setting with supportive staff that worked at his level he thrived. His motivation soared and his charismatic personality blossomed in the safe environment. Henry Thomas’ reading level significantly soared as he also began to heal from the recent surgery he had to walk again with help of his newfound friends’ encouragement.

Peter, a tenth grade students started working daily with EEO teachers on improving his reading. He was failing in nearly all his subjects because of his inability to read. Within a year his reading level soared from a preschool reading level to a third grade level. He graduated with a commitment to keep improving his reading despite significant learning challenges and has since then started his own landscaping business with his new found self confidence and belief in himself.

Jordan appeared to be a regular 3rd grade student who was active in the playground and after school with his friends. But, in the classroom he was frustrated and he translated his failure into isolation and self-defense with his teachers. He was practicing the familiar teaching adage that warns about children who fail to learn and thus, learn to fail. Finally, his exasperated teacher recommended Jordan to EEO for testing. EEO teachers found that Jordan had vision and hearing difficulties that were the major obstacles to his success in school. Jordan was set back for numerous years because of these physical impairments. Last year, EEO invited this frustrated 3rd grader into one of its special needs classroom so that he could receive more individual, focused attention. Every little accomplishment bolstered his efforts in school and now he is boastful about his once hidden abilities and confidence. He is now able to reach his reading grade level and has the motivation to continue.

Exceptional Education Outreach is a completely volunteer-driven organization that depends on the generous financial and in-kind support of individuals, organizations, and the local government. In FY 2003 and thus far in the 2004 school year, EEO has received contributions from the following:

McCrea Foundation Leandro Vasquez
Adrian Ellis Peter Vlasov
Bob Smith Boris Vlasov Foundation
Lisa Bowles John Noel
Mr. and Mrs. Berens Jonathan Wright
Marion Bassett Philip Miller
Mr. Whitehall Alan Fischel
Scheerer Family Foundation Diller Von Furstenberg Family Foundation
CIBC Miracle Day Diane Kent
Schultz’s Hudson Family Foundation
John and Felicia Eberle Howard Simpson
Mary Loiuse Designs Howington Family
Lloyd Hooper Steinfurth Family
Nathan Browning Gilles Prod’homme
Tom Daniel

In-kind contributions:
Shake Productions
Bahama House Inn
Island Services Ltd.
Tom Cooper, Gulfstream Airlines
Bahamas Fast Ferries
G & G Shipping
Ministry of Education, Eleuthera
St. Gregory’s Catholic Church, Eleuthera
Office General, Eleuthera
Gary Kelly
Aranha Construction
Coral Sands Hotel
Jane Fincher
Vincent Sullivan

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