• Irene LeFebvre, immediate past president of NJSBA, speaks at the NJ-SSEAC meeting as John J. Mulholland Jr., executive director of ASAH; and Lisa Marshall, chair of the NJSBA's Special Education Committee, look on.

Four programs were honored as Innovations in Special Education award winners at the New Jersey State Special Education Advisory Council’s meeting on June 13 at the New Jersey Department of Education’s building at the Riverview Plaza in Trenton.

Several representatives from the New Jersey School Boards Association attended the meeting, including Irene LeFebvre, immediate past president of the Association and president of the Boonton Town Board of Education; Lisa Marshall, chair of the NJSBA’s Special Education Committee, president of the Warren County School Boards Association and a board member of the Warren Hills Regional School District; and John Burns, senior legislative counsel at the NJSBA and a longtime member of its Special Education Committee.

As part of its celebration of Special Education Week, the NJSBA and ASAH, since 2002, have sponsored an “Innovations in Special Education” award program that has drawn wide interest from the state’s special education community. For this year’s awards program, public and private schools from across New Jersey submitted 27 eligible entries.

LeFebvre acknowledged the parents, teachers, staff, board members and the larger community that support special education students. “This is a village that supports and advocates for all of New Jersey’s special education students,” she said, noting that Special Education Week and the award program serves – most importantly – as a vehicle to acknowledge the achievement of students.

“This year’s winners are truly amazing, as you will see for yourself in just a few minutes … thank you all for recognizing their achievement,” LeFebvre said. The winners are:

  • Bombers Beyond Café, Sayreville Public Schools.
  • Children’s Adapted Physical Education/Creative Arts Support Program, Jersey City Public Schools.
  • Creating a Therapeutic Learning Environment, Lyndhurst Public Schools – Memorial Campus.
  • Unified Electives, Ridgewood Public Schools – Ridgewood High School.

Also speaking at the event and recognizing the winners were John J. Mulholland Jr., executive director of ASAH, who said his organization and the NJSBA truly appreciate the extra recognition given to the Innovations in Special Education Award winners via the NJ-SSEAC’s meeting.

“Recognition matters,” he said, explaining that it serves as motivation for those working on behalf of students and also serves as an example to others who can learn from what others are doing. Such recognition can also inspire others to launch creative and innovative programs of their own, he said.

“It is also fair to give credit where credit is due when people do exceptional things,” he said, adding that it is a real reminder that what teachers, administrators and other stakeholders do matters. “Last but not least, this is a chance for all of us to come together and talk to others who really get it.”

Marshall also recognized the winners, as well as Burns, who she called the “heart” of the NJSBA’s Special Education Committee. She noted that it’s been an honor representing the Association in presenting testimony to legislators on issues pertaining to special education.

As a judge for the award program, she noted that there were many exciting programs that were considered. The awards provide a way to recognize students and the hard work they are engaging in to achieve their goals – as well as the support they are given by staff, educators and stakeholders, she said.

Next, attendees watched a video that featured Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director and CEO of the NJSBA, who announced the winners and detailed their accomplishments.

Representatives from some of the schools attended the meeting in person while there were dozens of other participants, including some from the winning schools, that attended virtually.

A wide array of other business was conducted at the meeting, including a presentation highlighting the New Jersey Department of Education’s Autism Acceptance Virtual Art Expo and additional recognitions of students, schools and programs doing stellar work in the area of special education.