General Brown superintendent recognized for breaking barriers

DEXTER, NY — General Brown Central School District’s superintendent is being recognized for her efforts in making the district more inclusive for people of all abilities and connecting its students and their families to community resources.

On July 24, the Northern Regional Center for Independent Living (NRCIL) will present the 2019 Ed Roberts Barrier Buster Award to Superintendent Barbara Case. NRCIL is a peer-run
disability rights and resource center that promotes community efforts to end discrimination and segregation against people with disabilities, according to its website. It annually awards the Barrier Buster award to individuals, businesses and agencies that break down physical and attitudinal barriers within Northern New York.

Case worked for nearly a year with district officials to research and study inclusive classroom instruction. The result is that in September, the district will implement at all grade levels integrated co-teaching, which is an educational model in which a general education teacher and a special education teacher jointly provide instruction to a class that includes students with and without disabilities.

This will enable teachers to meet the diverse needs of all students in their classroom rather than sending some students out of the classroom for such services as math and English language arts support. Eventually, the district would like to see all services, such as occupational and speech therapy, taking place in the general education classroom.

Christian Taylor, a family peer advocate with NRCIL, said NRCIL is excited about the district’s move to make its schools more inclusive, which is why the nominating committee selected Case for spearheading the co-teaching initiative.

If students with disabilities spend their time in separate classrooms from their peers, they may struggle when they graduate because they will be in a different environment from what they are used to, Taylor said. The move to offering more inclusive classrooms will benefit students and allow them to be prepared after graduation to share their gifts and talents with the greater community, she said.

In February, the General Brown Board of Education approved a new strategic plan for 2019-22 that includes a focus on inclusion. Plan outcomes include all students being educated in
inclusive settings and all staff hires reflecting the district’s mission and vision of providing an inclusive teaching and learning environment for students.

To help achieve those outcomes, the district formed an Inclusion Steering Committee, which is made up of district administrators and staff, as well as a representative from NRCIL who has been working closely with the district throughout the past year.

“We are so proud to receive this award,” Case said. “Staff members, students, parents and
community members have helped shape the direction we are headed, and we strongly feel it’s a direction that will position all of our students to reach their full potential, both in and out of the classroom. NRCIL has been a steadfast supporter of our efforts, and we are so grateful to have them present in our community.”

The award will be presented at the Thompson Park Pavilion in Watertown during NRCIL’s
celebration of the 29th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The event will take place from 4-7 p.m. and feature free food, games for kids and entertainment.