FALL RIVER — It can often be difficult for families to find a school where their student with learning differences is welcomed and given an optimal opportunity to thrive, especially during the pandemic. The Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools, in partnership with the S.E.A.L. Foundation, offers state-of-the-art special education programs through the implementation of the S.E.A.L. Foundation’s Pathways Approach Program which ensures students with learning differences can thrive, achieve and succeed. Every day this year, through the Pathways Approach Program, students with learning differences had full access to an in-person Catholic education with the accommodations and modifications needed to support their unique learning profile.
Under the expertise and leadership of Katherine Gaudet, executive director of Programming for the S.E.A.L. Foundation, the implementation and accreditation of the Pathways Approach Program is a rigorous two-year process. Each Catholic school offering these educational services commits to the state-of-the-art programming developed by Gaudet and the S.E.A.L. Foundation team.
According to Kerry Peroni, founder and president of the S.E.A.L. Foundation, “Having spent the early part of my career as a classroom teacher, I witnessed first-hand the lack of school choice families encountered when trying to find the best fit for their children who had learning differences. It was disheartening to witness the closed doors so many parents faced if they simply wanted the culture a Catholic or non-public school setting typically offers: including smaller class sizes, individualized instruction, an atmosphere that teaches the need for service and civic engagement, a college-preparatory curriculum, as well as the presence of passionate teachers and staff. That type of atmosphere, socialization, culture and family involvement can enrich both the lives of children and their families and should be available to any child, regardless of how they learn.”
“Students with learning differences and their families deserve access to a Catholic secondary education with full support for their unique learning need,” said Peter Shaughnessy, president and principal of Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth. “The S.E.A.L. Foundation’s Pathways Approach Program at Bishop Stang High School is rooted in the Church’s mission to serve a diverse population and the conviction that education should be accessible to all children. The Pathways Approach Program integrates and provides the necessary support for young people to flourish and thrive as they prepare to excel in learning and life as a people of faith, integrity, knowledge and service. It is exciting to know that this program is gaining traction in the broader community with the increase in inquiries and enrollment.”
Daniel S. Roy, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Fall River, added, “The partnership with the S.E.A.L. Foundation has been incredible. A key teaching of the Catholic faith is that we are all made in the image and likeness of God. Part of our mission is to make our schools available to all families who desire a Catholic education for their children.”
“The professional development offered our faculty has resulted in teaching techniques that can benefit all students,” indicated Andrew Raposo, principal of Espirito Santo School in Fall River. “There has been such positive feedback from my staff, including the fact that teachers believe they are better educators because they have a clearer understanding of the frustrations from children with learning differences. Knowing how these kids feel is an important part of being able to rethink how we educate and support them.”
Sandy, who indicated she is a grateful parent of a child with an IEP, said, “As a parent of a child with a learning difference, I spent many years fighting to make sure my daughter received her educational accommodations. We moved our daughter to Bishop Stang High School specifically for her to be part of the S.E.A.L. Foundation’s Pathways Approach Program. The special education teachers funded by S.E.A.L. are amazing and work with my daughter and her teachers to make certain that she has all the necessary tools to succeed. My daughter has not only benefited academically, but has also blossomed into a very confident young woman.”
It is not only parents who are grateful for this partnership, but the students as well. Mackenzie, who is in third grade at Holy Name School in Fall River, said, “Thank you S.E.A.L for helping me read. I couldn’t read last year and now I can. And I’m so happy.”
The following Catholic schools are accredited as Pathways Approach Schools: • Holy Family-Holy Name School, New Bedford; • Bishop Stang High School, North Dartmouth; • Espirito Santo School, Fall River; • Holy Name School, Fall River; • Holy Trinity School, Fall River; • St. Michael School, Fall River; • St. Stanislaus School, Fall River. The following Catholic schools are in Year 1 of the accreditation process: • All Saints Catholic School, New Bedford; • St. James-St. John School, New Bedford.
The following schools will commence special education services for the Fall of 2021 utilizing the S.E.A.L. Foundation’s expertise and guidance, with the goal of being accredited by the 2022-23 school year. • St. Joseph School, Fairhaven; • St. Francis Xavier School, Acushnet.
Families who are interested in this program can go to www.catholicschoolsalliance.org/special-education-2/ for more information and an updated list of schools. We encourage families to contact the Catholic school directly for more information about their specific abilities to support IEP/504 accommodation plans.
The S.E.A.L. Foundation’s mission is to create and fund educational and social opportunities in non-public school and camp settings for students who learn differently in order to ensure they maximize their potential. The goal of the S.E.A.L. Foundation is to fund the delivery of a range of special education services, staff development, advocacy support and technical assistance to a broad community of non-public schools and programs that share and honor our mission of serving learners of all types. We are taught to help those in need and our mission reflects this commitment to others.
For more information about the Catholic Schools Alliance, please go to www.catholicschoolsalliance.org/we-have-a-place-for-you/
For more information about the S.E.A.L. Foundation, please go to www.thesealfoundation.org