By Matthew Sockol
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – The Parent Advisory Council for Excellence (PACE) has provided funding for programs in the Freehold Township K-8 School District with a donation of $17,560.
PACE is an organization for parents and guardians who have children with special needs. Representatives of the organization reviewed, voted on and approved 19 grants that were applied for by district staff members who are members of PACE. A $1,000 donation from the Barkalow Middle School PTO helped cover the grants.
According to Kerry Vendittoli, the co-president of PACE, the organization pays an hourly stipend to teachers who run the grant programs and provides supplies. Additional payments include uniforms for the Special Olympics bowling team and bowling alley fees.
Members of the Freehold Township Board of Education approved the PACE donation at their April 12 meeting.
The donation includes the following selected grants:
- Program for After School Studies (PASS), $2,024, received by math teacher Tracy Cwiakala for the Barkalow Middle School
- Peer Buddies, a social skills program for middle school students, $2,024, received by language arts teacher Kerri Farrell and school counselor Courtney Colford for the Barkalow Middle School
- Bulldog Buddies, a social skills program for third, fourth and fifth grade pupils, $1,944, received by special education teachers Sarah Strazella and Lindsey Dolan and teacher assistant Silvana Verzolini for the C. Richard Applegate Elementary School
- Kids Connection, a social skills program for first and second grade pupils, $1,944, received by special education teachers Sarah Strazella and Lindsey Dolan and teacher assistant Silvana Verzolini for the C. Richard Applegate Elementary School
- Special Olympics bowling, $1,250, received by special education teacher Tina Belka for the school district
- Social Skills Through Sports, a social skills program, $1,056, receieved by physical education teachers Tami Campfield and Ted Olsen for the Laura Donovan Elementary School.
“Every year the group gets smaller, our fundraisers take in less money, but we manage to do more, which totally amazes me,” Vendittoli said. “And it is due to the dedication of the parents, teachers, staff and administrators who truly want to make a difference. Having or working with a child who has special needs really changes your perspective in life. Things that most people take for granted when they have a typical child are sometimes the most glorious things to a parent or teacher or therapist of a special needs student.
“These grants enable a lot of those glorious things to happen, they enable a lot of children who otherwise would just be going home after school and who are unable to participate in a lot of organized sports programs or activities a chance to be part of something, an opportunity to make friends,” she said. “And the best part of a lot of these grants, to me, is that they not only benefit the special needs student, but they benefit the general education student as well. They are given the opportunity to see past a child’s disability, a chance to see this boy or girl for who they really are, a chance to make a new friend, and the chance to really make a positive impact on the life of another child.”
Vendittoli thanked Heather Mills, the supervisor of educational services of PACE, for her support.
In other business, the board accepted a donation of a Buddy Bench valued at $409 from Girl Scout Troop 526 for the C. Richard Applegate Elementary School.
Finally, the board approved certification of a merit pay bonus to Assistant Superintendent Neal Dickstein for meeting and achieving a qualitative merit goal. According to district administrators, Dickstein designed and implemented a support system and monitoring system consisting of multiple measures and assessments for students who are in their first year without receiving direct English as a Second Language services.
The certification will be sent to Lester Richens, the interim executive county superintendent of schools. Upon approval from Richens, Dickstein will receive a merit bonus of $3,018, which is 2 percent of his annual salary, according to information provided by the board.
Board President Christopher Marion, Board Vice President Jason Levy and board members Michael Amoroso, Kay Poklemba-Holtz, Edward Hudak, Michelle Lambert, Jennifer Patten and Staci Triandafellos voted in favor of the merit bonus. Board member Daniel DiBlasio abstained from the vote.