Boeing gives school $15,000


October 01, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Cedar Lane School in Columbia, which educates severely disabled Howard County students, will offer more training and development opportunities to its teachers and support staff this school year thanks to a $15,000 grant.

The donation by the Boeing Co. will enable the school to equip teachers with the latest research and techniques for educating students with physical and emotional needs, school officials said yesterday.

"We have a staff who are second to none," said Principal Nicholas Girardi, who accepted a check from Boeing officials yesterday. "But there is always room for growth. It allows us to grow."

The school serves 96 profoundly disabled students ages 3 to 21, whose disabilities range from autism to cerebral palsy to mental retardation.

The unique needs of each child make it crucial for the nearly 80 teachers and staff members, including physical therapists and behavioral specialists, to keep abreast of the latest research and studies on physical and mental disabilities, said Dr. Lois Pommer, the school psychologist who also oversees professional development.

"Boeing is sending a message that our students are important, their education is important and the work done by the staff at Cedar Lane matters to the parents, families and the community at large," Pommer said.

Boeing's $15,000 grant is the company's largest gift to a public school in the Baltimore-Washington region, officials said. Of the 700 Boeing employees in Maryland, about 250 work in Howard or Anne Arundel counties.

In reviewing Cedar Lane's grant application, Boeing saw an opportunity to get involved in the development of teachers who are "already doing an outstanding job," said John Werle, vice president of Boeing's Mission Systems.

"It's really humbling for us to see the results you achieved here," Werle said.

School officials have plans to send about a dozen teachers to a national special-education conference next year; hold Saturday seminars on behavioral issues, vision impairment and motor skills; and organize a workshop on dealing with grief and loss for parents and teachers after the death of five students last year, Pommer said.

With the grant, the school also can pay teachers and staff members for their time on weekends and get parents involved in other training sessions, Girardi said.

"I see nothing but truly enhancing the quality of education provided to our children," he said.

Putting money toward training teachers is a good investment, said Bob Seipel, president of the Cedar Lane School PTA and a Boeing employee. Seipel and his wife, Julia, moved to Howard County 3 1/2 years ago to provide their 5-year-old son, William, who has cerebral palsy, with the best possible educational and medical opportunities.

"We consider staff here to be an extended family for our child," he said.

Next fall, Cedar Lane students are scheduled to move into a new building near Lime Kiln Middle School in Fulton.

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