Million Dollar Gift Given to College of Education and Social Services

The University of Vermont College of Education and Social Services has received a gift of $1 million to launch a major national effort that will prepare school principals, superintendents, and other K-12 educational leaders to address issues surrounding students with disabilities and those at risk of failure in school. The generous donation – the largest ever received by the college – was made by an alumni couple and their families, who wish to remain anonymous. “We are enormously grateful for this generous gift,” said Jill Tarule, dean of the College of Education and Social Services. “It will enable us to take a significant leadership role on an issue of critical importance to all the nation’s schools.” The number of K-12 students identified with disabilities and at risk for failure has risen dramatically in recent years, according to Tarule. “Improving the educational outcomes of students with disabilities and those at risk is one of the most important challenges we face as a nation,” said UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel. “I’m proud that UVM will be taking a leadership role in this area – and enormously grateful to our donors for making it possible.”UVM will use the gift to establish the Institute for Leadership, Disability and Students Placed at Risk. Susan Hasazi, UVM professor of educational leadership and special education, will direct the Institute. With UVM as the lead, the Institute has chosen six other major universities nationally known for their expertise with at-risk school populations to collaborate on the development of course curricula, and has appointed a team of faculty and doctoral students from each university to carry out the plan. Over the next four years, the teams will create instructional materials on leadership, disability, and students placed at risk that professors teaching K-12 administrators can insert into existing coursework and practices. The materials include training programs, course modules on video or CD-ROM, and research briefs on best practices for teaching students at risk of school failure. “The need for these materials is urgent,” said Hasazi, a nationally recognized scholar in leadership and special education. “Research shows that today at least 25 to 30 percent of K-12 students are at risk of failing in their schools, but materials addressing students with disabilities and at risk have not been fully integrated into programs that prepare educational leaders. Our Institute will close this gap.” According to Hasazi, the materials will make principals, superintendents, and other school leaders more aware of social and cultural issues surrounding students with disabilities and those at risk, more informed about effective teaching strategies, better able to marshal school and district resources, and better able to serve as a resource for classroom teachers. “Hasazi’s design of collaboration across six major universities has the potential of touching the lives of thousands of aspiring educational leaders,” said Ted Creighton, executive director of the National Council of Professors of Education Administration (NCPEA) and a faculty member at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Tex. “The Institute calls for a first step of making school leaders aware of the needs of students with disabilities and those placed at risk of educational failure. The strategic second step will be to infuse meaningful instructional strategies into the approximately 450 university programs. I believe the place to start is at the university, where we begin to shape and mold the future school leaders of our nation.” The six participating universities are University of Connecticut, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois, University of Oregon, University of Utah, and Sam Houston State University. Thirteen faculty from these universities have been named Stafford Faculty Fellows and six students were awarded Stafford Student Scholarships to work with the Institute this year. The awards are named in recognition of the lifetime commitment of Vermont’s U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford to improving the education of all students. University of Vermont faculty participating in the Institute include Hasazi, Judith Aiken, Katharine Furney, George Salembier, Wes Williams, Chigee Cloninger, Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin, and Kieran Killeen. Dean Tarule will also play a role.-UVM News Services