In Tuscarawas County, the Board of Developmental Disabilities sets out with a purpose that includes empowering, partnering and achieving.
The organization and all its staff members passionately offer services and programs designed to meet the needs of those with a developmental disability and their families.
A piece of that mission involves the Starlight School. Officials explained the purpose is to ensure that students living with developmental disabilities have available to them the programs, services and supports necessary to help them enjoy a fuller, richer life.
Starlight School serves children through the following services:
- Early intervention program who services children 0-3 years of age within their home setting
- Integrated preschool program
- School-age program
- Outreach program where specialist will provide consultation and resources to the public schools and the community
Officials note the programs are very important to enrich the lives of students, to assist families with necessary resources, and to provide additional support through the outreach program with the goal of improving students’ educational experience and wellbeing.
Farrah Raines has been providing therapy services for the organization the last 13 years. “Every year brings growth and opportunities for our students and staff,” she explained. “I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work at a facility that takes such great pride in providing the quality of programing that puts our students’ needs fist.”
She noted all therapy services, for example, are provided as wrap around services meaning they are all ‘in house.’ They work closely with the interventions specialist and the classroom assistance to do what’s best for each individual child.
Sophie Graves-Clores has been a classroom assistant for 3 years at Starlight School. “I am so proud to be involved with a school that gives a voice to the children that don’t always have one,” she said. “It is great to be a part of an organization that is making a difference not only within our school, but also in our community.”
Both indicate that the staff at Starlight School is made up of truly dedicated individuals who are passionate about making a difference.
“I love all the collaboration that goes on at our school,” added Raines. “We work so well as a team, and knowing that I can rely on my co-workers to have my back makes for a strong working relationship. I always hear from people that it takes special people to do that work that we do, and it’s 100% true. For I witness it daily with our staff who is made up of some pretty amazing people.”
Graves-Clores noted she sees her co-workers as family. “They are supportive, loving and so much fun,” she said. “They love what they do and it shines through in how they work with the children.”
That dedication is prevalent not only to members of the team and the Tuscarawas County community, but also to the state of Ohio.
Starlight School’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program was one of only seven recipients of the 2017 Gold Award in the region. The award was given by the Ohio PBIS Network and the state support team for successfully implementing the Ohio Department of Education’s PBIS program to improve student behavior, academic achievement, and overall school climate.
108 Ohio schools were recognized in total for their success in implementing PBIS. Seven schools earned recognition at the gold level, 15 schools at the silver level, and 86 schools at the bronze level.
On November 30, 2017 two of the Tuscarawas County team members attended the PBIS Showcase luncheon to receive the official certificate to display our gold recognition.
Program officials note the award represents the level of dedication the school staff has committed in supporting and implementing our unique and one of a kind Lego theme positive behavior program. It shows the overall buy in from the staff and the students in making this program such a success. In January the PBIS team held a gold celebration for the entire school. This event included decorating the school in with gold covered doors, gold stars with each student’s name, hanging a big banner in the front office, staff dressing in gold, and a student vs. teacher kickball game. The event was a great way for the whole school to get excited for our achievement.
Raines noted as the only original member from the start of the program, the award means a lot to her personally. “I have seen this program from the development stage to the implementation stage. I feel like this is the strongest the program has ever been. The success comes from the creative PBIS team who is not afraid to think outside of the box! Receiving the gold award just confirms the strength of our team and overall program.”
The local PBIS program focuses on teaching our students expected behaviors in a consistent and positive way, modeling and acknowledging those behaviors, and helping all students meet expectations and be successful. The team consists of five members: Alisha Ketchem, Dana Digenova, Farrah Raines, Katy Ganz, and Sophie Graves-Clore. The staff uses a Lego theme for the program that includes the help of PBIS mascot legoman. He teaches behavior expectations to the students through school wide pep rallies and special events.
The school wide behavior expectations consist of: 1.) Be a friend, 2.) Use your words (using speech, communication devices, pictures, or sign language), 3.) Safe hands and feet, and 4.) Eyes looking.
Raines noted, “A highlight of our program is seeing the students light up when they are visited by Lego Man and awarded their special badge and lanyard in recognition of their achievement is the biggest bonus in using this incentive program.”
The students also have the opportunity to earn Lego money for demonstrating the behavior expectations throughout the school day. Each student has their own wallet to keep their Lego money in that they can spend at the PBIS store. The store is open once a month and is stalked with items donated or made by the older students (stress balls, sensory bottles, jewelry, and sensory gel bags). The store is ran by the school age children who have a chance to work on math and social skills.
The public is invited to give back to this innovative program that is designed to support, educate and inspire all its members, and it’s done so with a $0 budget over the last six months.
Monday, February 12th from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. Chipotle in New Philadelphia is donating 50% of all sales to PBIS.
All you have to do is mention Starlight School at the register for the program to get credit. The money will be used to continue the monthly PBIS schoolwide events, and supply the store for the student incentives.
More information about Starlight School and the PBIS program can be found by visiting Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities online.
Michaela Madison Reporting