“We are not the enemy. We are an ally. We’re here to see what we can do to help you help your kids.” That comment was made by Chris Sarandoulias, director of the Y.A.L.E. School, a special education school serving students with social, emotional, learning and behavioral disabilities in 10 New Jersey counties. He was speaking at the recent annual conference of the New Jersey School Boards Association in Atlantic City as one of five panelists discussing the topic “How Private Special Ed Schools Can Help Your District Reduce Costs, Improve Outcomes and Build Local Capacity.”
Both Sarandoulias and Katherine Solana, director of the SEARCH Day Program, a school for children with autism in Ocean, NJ, explained how they run satellite classrooms inside public schools. Y.A.L.E. has nine approved private schools within public schools. Sarandoulias described some of the advantages they provide. “The districts,” he said, “receive revenue from the lease of the property, which can be used to offset the costs of their special education programs; there are inclusion opportunities with typical peers; and the public school staff receives additional training from our experts.”
SEARCH operates one satellite school, in the Marlboro Township district. “We have eight students,” said Solana, “and we also do about 900 hours of consulting each year for the district. Some of the students are from Marlboro, and some are from surrounding communities. It reduces transportation costs, and it increases the capability of Marlboro to meet the needs of students in-district.”
Additional panelists were Chris Lynch, principal of the Horizon School in Livingston, NJ, which serves children with a wide range of complex disabilities; Michael Carpini, principal at SEARCH; and Glenn Martins, assistant director at the Y.A.L.E. School and previously special education administrator at the Hamilton Township Schools. The panelists were introduced by Gerard Thiers, executive director of ASAH (formerly the Association of Schools and Agencies for the Handicapped), a not-for-profit association of more than 145 private special education schools in New Jersey representing roughly 11,000 students with disabilities.