Special EDition Created by: Dr. Gerry Crisonino, Candace Coccaro & Jaime Merced


Special EDition is a publication highlighting the latest student centered events and activities to keep families and educators informed throughout the Jersey City Public Schools.




Music Therapy in the Jersey City Public Schools

By the Creative Arts Support Program (C.A.S.P.) Music Therapists

Throughout a typical week in the Jersey City Public Schools System board certified music therapists: Jennifer Manno, Lindsey Robinson, and Paul Kates head out into the city to facilitate music experiences to over 643 special education students in 83 different classrooms in 21 different schools. These music therapists see students from pre-k through high school with behavioral, social, cognitive and/or medical needs ranging from mild to severe.

Music Therapy is defined by the American Music Therapy Association as “an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.” Through assessment and the establishment of a therapeutic relationship, a board certified music therapist creates music experiences that best target and provide opportunities for participants to practice and master objectives and goals in a non-threatening, universal format. By using a variety of instruments and songs, both familiar and novel, participants show an overwhelming willingness to participate in their weekly 45-minute group sessions.

Methods of music therapy include improvisation, composition, receptive/listening, and recreation. Some examples consist of therapeutic singing, songwriting, orchestration, guided relaxation, drum circles, body percussion, and movement exercises.

Targeted goals may include but are not limited to:

● Aiding in transitions

● Ability to self-manage/self-regulate

● lncrease self-awareness

● lncrease ability to solve problems

● Develop/Increase coping skills

● Develop/lncrease positive self-concept

● Increase ability to express self

● Improve communication skills

● Develop interpersonal skills

● Improve social skills

● lmprove cognitive skills

● Increase ability to make decisions

● Increase sensory input

The structure of the group setting allows students to participate at their own pace while still remaining an active part of the group dynamic. It can increase their sense of community and inclusion within the group. This experiential setting can be generalized as a microcosm for the larger community by presenting opportunities for mutual engagement and interaction on both verbal and nonverbal levels. Students experience a new way to communicate using the universal language of music. Their active music making and expressions evoke communicative responses from one another, mimicking a conversation dialog. Therapeutic benefits associated with these music techniques include a reduction in tension, anxiety, and stress.

Read Across America

By: Heather Piechocki

Christina DiFeo Petrella from Hudson Subaru of Jersey City and Jersey City Firefighters Buddy Hayes and Eric Lowemaster

The Jersey City Public Schools Department of Special Education recognized Read Across America in March, but celebrates reading every day throughout the year. The Department of Special Education provides numerous programs that focus on implementing different interventions to provide intense instruction in the development of phonics and phonemic awareness. Small group instruction provides teachers the chance to instruct students on the priority skills of reading daily. Reading development for students continues to be successful through the different interventions supported by the Special Education Department and it's dedicated teachers.

On Friday, March 2, 2018 several volunteers from the Jersey City community came to read to several classes at the Charles E. Trefurt, PS#8 School in celebration of Read Across America.

The students were thrilled to have guest readers come to visit their classrooms. This event affords an opportunity to build community relationships while also promoting literacy.

Thank you JCFD & Hudson Subaru!

(click the link ⬆to see the full article)

Opening Day of the Multi-Sensory Room at P.S. #22


By: Todd Lynch, M.S. 7

Congratulations to Coach Todd Lynch, and the M.S. 7 Starks who held off a tough P.S. 15 to win the J.C.P.S. 2017 A-TEAM Flag Football CityWide Championships.

Rolando Ishman is an 11 year old 6 grade student in the M.S. 7 C.H.O.I.C.E.S. program. From the moment he came to M.S. 7, Rolando captured the hearts of every staff and student in the school. As a member of the M.S. 7 Flag Football Team he helped his team go undefeated 7 - 0 to win the Jersey City Public Schools Championship. This young man came to every single practice and gave it his 100% best effort. He truly is an example for students who may have behavior issues, and learned to overcome them.

Rolando Ishman
Coach Todd Lynch Cheering on His Team

Let's Horse Around!

By: Dorothy Walsh

Maureen Coultas from Hope’s Promise Farm

Maureen Coultas from Hope’s Promise Farm in Chester, New Jersey, has created a program to help students who are experiencing difficulties in school or in their personal lives. Sometimes when individuals are offered an experience different than any they have encountered in the past - something unconventional and unanticipated - the messages and/or lessons from that experience can penetrate in a way that other attempts and therapies have not.

This is where miniature horses enter the picture. The students from Ms. Meola’s 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes at PS 12 will be learning how to care for and interact with Ms. Coultas’ two mini-horses, Alexander the Great and Michaelangelo. The goal is for the students to teach them how to pull a wheelchair. The horses make many visits to nursing homes and rehab centers, and by teaching them how to pull a wheelchair, the students will be helping to create an even more special experience for the people the horses provide therapy for. Training therapy horses will help the students practice patience, following directions, remaining calm, not reacting out of fear or anger, and building relationships. Most importantly, it will give the students an extremely unique experience and something they can take pride in being a part of.

Miniature Horses Sporting their Sneakers

On the Move!

By: Melissa Cook

On January 19, the C.H.O.I.C.E.S classes had the opportunity to play basketball alongside the Gothic Knights of NJCU. This is an annual field trip where N.J.C.U. and J.C.P.S. work in collaboration to provide a basketball clinic for our students.

Coach Brown introduced himself and divided up the students into different stations each led by one or two of his players. The students were taught how to dribble, pass, and shoot like a pro. The students rotated through each station and practiced each of the skills. This provided an opportunity for the students to participate and interact with their peers and authority figures in an appropriate manner. It was a slam dunk!

Rock, Rock, and Roll

By: Mary Hussey and Andrew Esposito

Since the winter break our students in our C.A.P.E. Program (Children’s Adapted Physical Education) have been busy developing their basketball and bowling skills. They learn how to “Rock, Rock, and Roll” the ball to the pins to knock them down. They take turns being the “bowler” and the “pin setter.” They develop life long skills and socialization during our time bowling.

Phonics Stars!

By: Cara Van Note

The Sonday System Essentials is an Orton Gillingham based phonics program designed to be implemented during whole group instruction. This program is being piloted in different schools across the district with classes in grades K, 1, and 2. During these 20-30 minute lessons, students are instructed and exposed to different phonemic awareness activities and strategies that are implemented during the daily instruction. Each classroom set features daily lesson plans and materials needed to provide multisensory reading instruction within the classroom setting.

P.S. 30: In Ms. Polowy’s 1st grade class, left, students utilize the strategy, “touch spell” to help in spelling different words during their lessons. In Ms. Minichiello and Ms. McFadden’s Kindergarten classroom, right, students use “trace and say” when learning new sounds.

Students are corresponding letters to sounds, segmenting, blending, reading, and writing, all throughout these daily lessons. In the 1st and 2nd grade classrooms, students are identifying vowel teams and distinguishing when to use certain pairs. Through eliciting questions, students are using higher order thinking skills to apply the skills they are learning through the Sonday System Essentials.

At PS#39 in Ms. Vagias’s and Ms. Perez’s 2nd grade classroom, students have made over a year growth in just THREE months by utilizing different strategies and being organized in their Sonday System Notebooks.

Since implementing the Sonday System Essentials in the fall of 2017, these students have progressed tremendously. Students are engaged and active during each lesson, utilizing multisensory techniques that prove to be successful. Certain classes have made more than a full school years growth in just three months! We are incredibly proud of these students and their teachers! Way to go!

Autism Awareness Art Show

By: Amanda Philp

Students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder have a unique way in which they view the world and express their views and creativity through their art. Students in the Self-Contained Secondary Autism Program, Dickinson High School and McNair Academic High School, proudly displayed their work of art in the first collaborative Art Exhibition called "Through My Eyes" located at Dickinson High School. Opening night (April 12, 2018) attracted 97 community members, parents, students and school personnel in which three local Jersey City artists judge the art and awarded four outstanding pieces. To see the winners and all the other amazing artwork the Art Exhibition will be open to parents and students of the Jersey City Public School community until May 2, 2018. The show is available for viewing from the hours of 8:30am-3:00pm.

Click a Photo to Enlarge

Developing a Growth Mindset

By: MIchele Anastos

In a growth mindset students are motivated to learn. This mindset is likely to encourage students to develop feelings of empowerment and positivity. Students will begin to see how they might take action to positively influence their community and their own learning.

The students in Ms. Ingrassia’s first grade class at PS 23 Annex are developing a Growth Mindset. In order to begin this quest in developing a Growth Mindset students were exposed to several mentor texts such as A Girl Who Never Made a Mistake and How to Catch a Star. Both of these stories focus on children who never gave up on their dreams and learned that it was okay to make mistakes. Ms. Ingrassia then continued with the development of Growth Mindset in her class by rewarding students when they expressed positive thoughts and tried their best with Growth Mindset badges and stickers.

Students are exploring the concept of Growth Mindset by using phrasing like “I can’t do this yet”, “I made a mistake and I can learn from my mistake” or “I am going to keep trying” instead of saying “I can’t do this” or “I give up.” They are learning that it is okay to make a mistake and we learn from mistakes. By creating a Growth Mindset in the classroom the students are excited to learn. They are developing a stronger self-esteem and building a stronger level of confidence.

Terrific Teamwork

By: Tiffany Magliulo

The Students at Whitney M. Young Jr. Public School # 15 continue to make us proud. Eighth grade National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) students participated in a cooperative learning service project facilitated by Mrs. Sheil. Ms. Caputo and Ms. Kendall. This writing project called, "How To," required the NJHS students to work collaboratively with the students in Ms. Caputo & Ms. Kendall’s class on following directions to construct a magnet and a wreath in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Upon completion of their project, the students worked on crafting Valentine’s Day cards. The social interaction offered by this amazing project, was outstanding. This cross curricular activity is a perfect example of what we can accomplish when we allow students to work together toward a common goal or commitment. Click on the link below for full article and slideshow. P.S. #15, WE ARE PROUD OF YOU!

Celebrating Black History at P.S. 22

By: Jenn Arends

During the month of February, Rev. Dr. Ercel F. Webb Elementary school P.S. 22 was celebrating Black History by honoring the contributions and achievements of African Americans in our nation’s history.

On Tuesday, February 20th, the students were encouraged to dress like an astronaut as they honored Dr. Mae Jemison, who was the first African American female NASA astronaut, and the first Black American woman astronaut to go on a space mission aboard the space shuttle Endeavor on September 12, 1992. Ms. Ortiz’s class has been studying the different planets for the month of February, so to honor Dr. Jemison, the students dressed up as astronauts with jetpacks and helmets, and simulated traveling to a planet. Each student chose a planet they were travelling to, and explained why they chose that particular planet. One student stated he went to Jupiter to see the storm, and another chose Mars as he wanted to see aliens. Whatever the planet or reason, the students learned about the valuable contribution Dr. Jemison made to the advancement of space exploration in our country.

Smarty Ants Acheive

By: Kara Ryan

On Tuesday, October 17th, the Special Education Department provided teachers professional development for the implementation of Achieve3000’s Smarty Ants program. The program will be used with 4 year-olds in seven preschool disabled classrooms at PS#12, PS#23, PS#26, PS#27, PS#30, and 2 classes at PS#41. Smarty Ants is a research-based personalized program that has been purchased by the Special Education Department to assist in accelerating foundational reading skills.

The Jersey City Pre-K program utilizes the HighScope curriculum within all classrooms. This program is based on the principles of active learning and support of a child's positive interactions with adults and peers. Students classified as preschool disabled, often need additional supports in order to keep up with their peers, particularly in the areas of early literacy skills. As a result, the Jersey City Special Education Department will provide these identified students with additional support in the areas of print awareness, phonological awareness and the alphabetic principle. In doing so, students in self-contained special education classrooms will be engaged with a research-based and developmentally appropriate technology system designed to individually accelerate their foundational literacy skills. Our goal is to close the gap so that students will have the literacy skills necessary for learning to read and write and transition into least restrictive environments whenever possible.

The Smarty Ants program is an educational tool that delivers customized, phonics-based reading instruction via an engaging, interactive gaming world. The program was developed by a team of renowned reading experts, game developers, and student engagement specialists to create the most optimal learning environment for young learners.

It is a comprehensive cloud based program of systematic, explicit instruction in foundational literacy skills. Students will use the program daily in the classroom using a tablet and headphones.

In the Smarty Ants program students start with a Level Set, so the program can find out what the student already knows, from there the program records every interaction that each student makes on his or her personalized learning path. Students get to adopt their very own dog to be a special reading buddy, students choose games from the Activity Board and each lesson involves a variety of activities, including reading books! They can choose any game to practice the skill they are working on. Playing games is the way students earn coins, as there are a variety of games and motivational tools within the program. The program encourages and motivates students to move from lesson to lesson and level to level as they strengthen reading skills at their own pace. Teachers see how quickly each student masters each reading skill, and how well students can recall and apply those skills. By collecting this data for each skill, the Smarty Ants program is able to quickly recognize patterns which give insights into students who are having specific difficulties, and Smarty Ants provides immediate intervention and scaffolding specific to that issue. The personalized instruction and data provided from the Smarty Ants reports are both used to inform instruction and provide additional practice for students.

The Smarty Ants program implemented in Ms. Thomas's preschool disabled class at P.S. 41: Ms. Thomas's students are excited about using the Smarty Ants app. on their individual tablets to enhance their learning. Students work on letter sounds, word building, word matching, and rhyming. The program has an in-depth progress report that allows Ms. Thomas to use individual data to plan and implement lessons that correlate to her students' specific levels.

Progress in Preschool

By: Stephanie Velenger, T.E.A.C.H Program

Students and teachers in the Preschool Disabled (PSD) classes earmarked for Autism work very hard on developing many different skills. Students learn independence and self-help skills, such as toileting, washing hands and independently feeding themselves, social skills, such as working in a group, communicating with others and play skills, as well as pre-academic skills, such as following directions, appropriate sitting, eye contact, and attending to teachers during instruction.

In addition to all of the important and necessary developmental skills taught in the PSD classes, teachers also incorporate instruction in Language Arts through use of the program Language for Learning. This research-proven direct instruction program is designed to teach young children basic vocabulary, concepts and sentence forms found in typical classroom instruction. The focus of the Language for Learning program is oral expression, an imperative skill many of the PSD students are working diligently to improve upon.

Daily exercises provide the building blocks of listening and reading comprehension by teaching using the language of instruction. By familiarizing PSD students with the phrases and vocabulary used by teachers in instructional settings, students are being set up for success in the classroom environment. Students also learn word knowledge, common information, concepts, sentence forms, classification, and problem solving. Through a heavy focus on repetition, all skills and concepts taught are continuously integrated into more sophisticated exercises.

As pictured, Ms. Arvinger’s class at PS #39 has been working hard utilizing the Language for Learning program since the beginning of the school year and the students have shown excellent progress in many skill areas including language development, oral expression, listener responding, imitation skills, as well as progress in pre-academic skill areas such as sitting appropriately, attending to the teacher and following directions. Keep up the good work!

Eat and Learn Luncheon

Autism Secondary School Program

By: Amanda Philp (BCBA-D) & T.E.A.C.H. Team

Going out to eat at a restaurant can be difficult for any family, but especially for families of individuals with autism. As an on-going effort to improve daily living, social skills and communication for individuals with autism it is imperative to get them involved in community and life experiences. That is exactly what the Eat and Learn luncheon provided the students in the Autism Secondary School Program. The unique learning event expanded on the skills students worked on in the classroom and school into the real world and community, promoting generalization.

Eat and Learn Luncheon

As a joint event between the Autism Secondary Program campuses, Dickinson High School and McNair Academic, this unique opportunity allowed the Autism Secondary Program students to get together and socialize with each other and work on various skills that are necessary for socialization and dining out. The event took place on Friday March 23, 2018 at a local downtown Jersey City Restaurant. The Bistro on Grove Street worked cooperatively with the teachers from the two programs to create a unique dining experience to promote some the following skills:

1) Navigating the community - understanding how to get from point A to point B, obeying pedestrian rules and traffic signals.

2) Waiting - waiting for their section to be called to get food, and waiting in line at the buffet.

3) Communication - making a food choices at the buffet and speaking at an appropriate volume during the meal.

4) Sitting appropriately - in the absence of non-contextual vocalizations, in the absence of any inappropriate body movements, and minimizing self-stimulation behaviors.

5) Social skills - having a conversation at the table, requesting song play list, introducing self to unfamiliar peers, and making new friends.

6) Other skills - using a public restroom, etc.

This is the first event that has occurred like this for the Secondary Autism Program and the students reported they had a great time! New friends were made and students went home talking about their day.

Many thanks go out to the community of Jersey City, the teachers in the Autism Secondary Program, and The Bistro on Grove Street for their support and involvement in making this learning experience happen. Eat and Learn!!!!!


Jersey City Public Schools Special Education Department

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