CELEBRATING THE SUCCESS OF SARAH

When her mother enrolled her in school, Sarah, a child with autism, presented challenges for the education team. Sarah had significant communication and behavior issues. The education team worked diligently with the family to provide an educational program that addressed her specific academic needs, as well as necessary support services for her entire school experience.

One of the first major obstacles was transporting her to and from school. Since she had limited communication skills, she rode in a van with a driver and an attendant during elementary and middle school. The transportation personnel communicated regularly with the education staff to ensure a safe and nondisruptive ride. By the time she entered high school, her behavior had changed, and she was mainstreamed during the school day and rode a regular school bus with other students.

Sarah participated in several programs to prepare her for the world of work after high school. The school district had partnered with Goodwill Industries to provide a transition program for special needs students. The transportation, food service and facilities departments in the school district participated in the program. Supervisors and employees in these departments were trained to work with special needs students.

Sarah was the first special needs student to participate in the transition program in the food service department. Although noncommunicative when she began to work in the kitchen at the elementary school, she was nurtured by the food service staff and developed a positive relationship with the employees. On her last day of work with the staff at the end of the 2003-2004 school term, she brought bagels to share with the employees and thank them for their help. Each one of the food service employees had helped a young lady learn to be productive in life, and each was positively affected by Sarah’s presence in the kitchen.

On a warm Monday evening this past June, I participated in the commencement program at the high school stadium. Seated next to the supervisor of special education, I observed her sense of excitement as Sarah’s name was called. What had begun as a difficult challenge years ago for her and the staff to meet Sarah’s needs ended that evening in success. As Sarah proceeded with enthusiasm and pride to receive her diploma, she gave the high school principal a big hug. For all of us, this was a celebration of success for Sarah.

This is just one of the many stories that I recall when I reflect on my 37 years in education as a teacher and an administrator. I have observed so much success in our education system. Whether we are in the classroom, in an office, or in any other supporting role in the school system, school business officials contribute to the success of children in education. We need to remind ourselves of the impact that we have.

Although there are those who claim our education system is broken and failing our students, I take exception to this view. Without question, we do have schools that are not meeting the needs of all students; however, we must be cautious that a test score is not the only measure of success. Children are successful in so many ways, and we have many success stories to share.

So much time is expended on the negative issues in our schools. It is time that we take a more positive approach. We must share what is right about our schools. We have served the needs of those students who have come through our doors for many generations, and those students have experienced much success. I challenge you to focus on“Celebrating the Success of Children.” We have much to celebrate.

Printed with the permission of the Association of School Business Officials International (ASB0). The full article is available in the January 2005 issue of School Business Affairs, ASBO’s monthly magazine or by visiting .

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