EDISON, NJ - Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ 6th District) visited the Multiply Disabled class on Monday at John P. Stevens High School to observe the outstanding program, Project Pieces, which has been developed by Edison School District's Teacher of the Year, Kate Rosenberg, and her teaching partner, Marissa Freeman.
Joining the Congressman in the visit were Melissa Perlstein, a representative from Edison Mayor Tom Lankey's office, Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Richard O'Malley, Board of Education members, Debbie Anes and Beth Moroney, Assistant Superintendent Chris Conklin, JPS Principal, Gail Pawlikowski, Cathy Swayze, Supervisor of Special Education, and Holly Clark, Edison Transitional Officer.
The students were eager to perform tasks for Congressman Pallone so that he could see them in action. One student was stocking the shoe racks in the simulated Marshall's area, another was putting together a faucet out of pieces, and one was shredding unwanted district documents. The students realized the significance of the dignitaries visiting with them as one greeted Congressman Pallone by announcing, “My father voted for you!”
Kate Rosenberg, one of the two teachers in charge of the newly developed vocational program explained, “Our goal is for the students to be fully functional in their jobs, and ultimately in the world.” Following their apprenticeship in the simulated Shop Rite, Marshalls, and Staples, the students are placed in local businesses for a real work experience.
Congressman Pallone received a tour of the school store and received a J.P. Stevens commemorative tee-shirt, made by the Project Pieces class as a memento of his visit with them. The next proceeded to the classroom where the students defined their curriculum for Congressman Pallone with the help of their instructors.
The teachers skillfully devise math problems around the practical issues with which students are dealing; handling money and measurements for recipes, for example. Students' curriculi are created with their individual needs in mind.
The students were encouraged to ask several questions of the Congressman. The first question dealt with what Congressman Pallone had done over the weekend. “I went to an Earth Day Celebration at the Edison Municipal Building as a matter of fact,” he stated. “It was a lot of fun, with games and activities for young people like you. I then proceeded to New York for an event held in Times Square to commemorate the genocide in Armenia.”
In an effort to better understand the responsibilities of a United States Congressman, the students asked Congressman Pallone to describe his duties in office. “Voting is the most important thing that I do. I have to vote on laws. That is my main duty.” He went on to explain that he spends half of his time in New Jersey and the other half in Washington, D.C.
“I have two offices in New Jersey,” he continued. “One is in New Brunswick and the other is in Long Branch. People who are having problems of all kinds come there for help and we try to solve their problems. A big issue that we see a lot is people trying to get visas. We do our best to help them with those kinds of things. This is called constituent services.”
The learners also explained the aspect of their educational program called “Community Based Instruction.” This is where they go into the community for practical experiences, like buying tickets for transportation and navigating both buses and trains. This Friday the class will be going to Pizza Hut, for example, where they will practice ordering their meals and paying for them as well. One student informed the Congressman, “Pizza isn't free, you know!”
Before he left the students asked Congressman Pallone his impression of their program. He responded, “I think your job training program is wonderful. It will prepare you for a job so that someday you won't have to stay home and be bored.” The Congressman ended by thanking the students for taking time from their busy schedules to share their program with him.