West Orange Special Needs Meet and Greet Welcomes Parents and Community

Director of Special Services Connie Salimbeno, Superintendent Jeff Rutzky, and BOE member Laura Lab speak to a parent. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
From l-r: Michelle Pipes, Mt. Pleasant; Ellen Gilio, WOSEPAC Vice-Chair and Roosevelt; Tanya Atterberry, WOSEPAC Chair and Redwood; Carol Murphy, Liberty; Jason Davidson, Mt. Pleasant. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
BOE member Sandra Mordecai, parent Gina Rivas Velazquez and district special needs employee Sandy White. Credits: Cynthia Cumming
WOSEPAC Chairperson Tanya Atterberry, Director of Special Services Connie Salimbeno, Superintendent Jeff Rutzky, BOE member Laura Lab. Credits: Cynthia Cumming

WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange Special Education Parent Advisory Council (WOSEPAC) sponsored a standing-room-only Meet and Greet event at Liberty Middle School on Oct. 19 to introduce themselves and provide information about the special education program in the West Orange School district.

WOSEPAC Chairperson Tanya Atterberry explained the purpose of the council as “an organization of parents working collaboratively with the district to enhance education and promote acceptance and inclusion and acceptance of classified students with special needs into school and extracurricular activities.”

The council comprises parent voting members, one from each district school, out of placement schools, and a community parent. In addition, non-voting members include three Child Study Team members, Special Education teachers and paraprofessionals, a general education teacher, and Principals Marie DeMaio, Dr. Joanne Pollara, and Michele Thompson. Superintendent Jeff Rutzky, Special Services Director Connie Salimbeno, and Special Education supervisors Dawn Ribeiro and Kristen Gogerty complete the non-voting membership.

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Each special education advisory parent and member, along with each school, has contact information so that they may assist other special education parents in their schools.

Superintendent Jeff Rutzky addressed the crowd, noting that he is the parent of a special needs child.

“Every child is different and we want to meet each student at their level of need.”

“We have a phenomenal special education program and we want to see each child go to a higher level and challenge them – without frustrating them,” he continued.

Rutzky advised parents that the school district is focusing their efforts on inclusion.

“Inclusion is going to become an important part of our district,” he said.

“Special and general education teachers are receiving very specific training,” he added. “We want to see them co-teach and combine general and special education to become one.”

Full inclusion is described as “Youth with disabilities are always included in activities with non-disabled participants, while being provided with appropriate supports and services,” and Partial Inclusion is described as “wherever possible, youth with disabilities are included in general activities and treated like a full member of the group. However, they can be pulled out for specialized activities that might be disruptive to the full group.” (Visit the Autism Speaks website for more information.)

The WOSEPAC will hold a presentation on Inclusion on Monday, Jan. 15, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at West Orange High School. All are welcome to attend.

Parent liaisons are still needed for Hazel, Gregory, St. Cloud, Washington, and Edison. For more information and to receive a contact list, contact Tanya Atterberry at or call 646-591-6442.

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