ESE Department News

Florida’s ESE Parent Survey

ESE Parent SurveyCalling all parents of students with Individual Educational Plans (IEP). The Florida Department of Education wants to hear from you. Make your voice heard! Please take a moment to complete the online survey at or request a paper survey from your child’s school.

The survey will be open from February 1 through May 31.

New Reading Curriculum in Access Points Classrooms

Students with significant cognitive disabilities are enjoying new supplemental reading materials. ESE teachers have received training in implementing SRA Early Interventions, Rewards, and Edmark Level 2 in their classrooms. Instructional literacy coaches have also received training and are providing support to the teachers. Additionally, training by the Access Project and district curriculum program specialists has focused on utilizing district curriculum maps and other resources to modify materials used by our students’ general education peers, regardless of whether instruction happens in the ESE class or the general education setting.

Programs for Students with Disabilities Ages 18-21 are Growing

The Life Work and Project SEARCH Transition Programs use the workplace to provide students with the knowledge and skills that will help them connect experiences while in school to real life work activities and future career opportunities. Over the past four years, enrollment has grown from 6 students to 52 students. Our partnership with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation has resulted in funding that supports job coaches to assist students in finding and keeping jobs. Our Project SEARCH site at the Renaissance World Golf Resort was recognized for an employment rate over 85% and the Renaissance received the Inclusive Employer Award for the Agency for Persons with Disability. We’re looking forward to more growth and successful outcomes for our young adults with disabilities.

Programs for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH)

In October, SJCSD staff presented at the state contact meeting for teachers of the deaf and visually impaired on the successful use of a research-based reading and language intervention used for students who use sign language. The SJCSD was one of two counties implementing this intervention that presented data and results. The data showed improved reading and language skills and a clear closing of the gap in reading levels.

In November, the DHH department will be featured by a statewide newsletter highlighting the Deafinition Competition. This competition was created by the district teachers of the deaf to support vocabulary growth for secondary students. The fourth annual Deafinition Competition will take place in March and uses vocabulary from statewide tests and secondary curriculum. The competition grows each year and includes many middle and high school students from St. Johns and neighboring counties, including FSDB.

The DHH department has partnered with Lend an Ear, a non-profit organization that provides hearing aids for those in need. In October Lend and Ear and SJCSD Deaf/Hard of Hearing staff participated in a hearing aid drive in Hastings in which 40 people started the process to receive free hearing aids. The DHH staff will assist in the final fitting of these hearing aids in December.

Unique Social Skills Lesson at Murray Middle School

Dr. Esther Seward, assistant principal at R. J. Murray Middle School, hosted a tea party for an inclusive group of young ladies at the school on October 30. Everyone had an opportunity to learn and practice social conversations, manners and etiquette in a fun way.


Annual Transition Planning Parent Advisory Meeting

As of 1997, federal law mandates that students with disabilities who have an IEP (Individual Education Plan) must begin a process called transition planning at age 14.  This program is designed to connect students with the proper transition planning services that give them the important skills and career planning tools to better prepare them for a successful life after high school, whether it be in a college setting or in the community.

As a method of ensuring parents and students are informed, on October 2, 2018 at Fullerwood Training Center, the Parent Advisory Committee brought together SJCSD ESE Transitions and community-based organizations to support students that are beginning or already involved in transition planning.

SJCSD Transitions Programs:  Life Work and Project Search, The ARC, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and Project 10 all shared pertinent information for parents, students, teachers and administrators. Parents and students left with additional knowledge about transition planning services in SJCSD schools and community. If you missed this event and would like to know more, you can access the presentations on the ESE Advisory Council web page.

Donate Your Gently Used Hearing Aids

Did you know that there are almost 150 deaf or hard of hearing students in St. Johns County Schools? Many of these students wear hearing aids daily to help them hear and learn. Hearing aids are very expensive and often not covered by health insurance. This is why St. Johns County Schools is proud to have partnered with Lend An Ear, a local non-profit organization, that provides the gift of hearing by furnishing quality hearing aids to those with limited or no means in an atmosphere of dignity and compassion.

You can help our deaf and hard of hearing students by donating your gently used hearing aids today. You can drop off hearing aids at the St. Johns County School District Office at 40 Orange St., St. Augustine, Fl. 32084 or at a site near you.

Please check the Lend An Ear website for additional drop off locations near you. All donations are tax deductible! Thank you so much for supporting this wonderful organization & the deaf/hard of hearing students in St. Johns County.

Drop off locations are listed on the Lend An Ear website.

Phone: 904-241-HEAR or 904-241-4327
E-mail: [email protected]

October 25 was the Lend An Ear gala where the SJCSD was presented with another eight sets of hearing aids valued at $35,000 – $40,000! On September 28, they donated three sets of hearing aids and hundreds of hearing aid batteries valued at $20,000-$25,000. Thanks to Scott Hetzinger, Executive Director of Lend An Ear and Sonia Howley, ESE Program Specialist, for getting this program off the ground for the benefit of our deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Disability Employment Awareness Awards

The World Golf Village Renaissance Resort, St. Augustine, home to the St. Johns County School District’s Project SEARCH site was honored as an exceptional employer for adults with disabilities by Florida Ability Works. Byron Pennington, Project SEARCH instructor, represented the hotel and school district at the ceremony on October 4 in Tallahassee, which was hosted by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Division of Blind Services. Florida was designated as an Employment First State with the intent to raise expectations that employment should be prioritized for individuals with disabilities and to change systems to better support integrated employment.

The St. Johns County School District Project SEARCH site had a 100 percent employment rate with the nine student-interns at the end of their first year and are starting strong into year two with eight student interns who are already making great progress and assimilating nicely into the hotel environment.

**Pictured here is Byron Pennington, Project SEARCH instructor


Project Search

Project SEARCH and the new 2018-2019 interns are back in action at the Renaissance World Golf Village Resort. Now in their second week of orientation, the interns have undergone numerous team building activities and hands on training in several different departments. They have also had intensive instruction that covers self-advocacy, communication, task analysis and the different department roles and responsibilities. Toward the end of this week and into next week the interns will be transferring what they’ve learned so far in their orientation weeks and begin shadowing different department employees, supervisors and managers. Soon after, everyone will be placed into their first of three internships. We could not be more proud of our group of interns this year and we can’t wait to celebrate all their future successes!

*Pictured here are the new 2018-2019 Project SEARCH Interns with The Renaissance World Golf Village Resort’s managers and supervisors.*