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School Committee accepts gift to buy iPads for autistic students

Date: 9/5/2013

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee also unanimously voted to accept a gift from the Giller Trust that will help in the funding of an iPad program for autistic students at its Aug. 27.

Deborah Thompson, principal of Green Meadows School in Hampden, told the School Committee that the funding came from a charitable trust fund that gives funding to programs for persons with disabilities and overseen by the friend of one of the school’s consultants.

Thompson said that school has a few iPads and with those, students with autism have shown tremendous abilities.

“We were just incredibly blown away with the work we were seeing our students with autism were able to do when given an iPad,” she said. “We never knew that we had that capacity to really access reading, learning and communication using these devices. It was really exciting, but we only had a couple.”

Thompson explained that given the success with a limited number of iPads, the Green Meadows administration decided to put together a proposal and within a week received notification of a $5,000 gift, through which they would be able to purchase and equip two autism classrooms with 10 iPads, an app card and a wireless router.

School Committee Chair Peter Salerno expressed his gratitude on behalf of the board to both Thompson and her staff and the Giller Trust.

With the start of the new school year, Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea stressed the emphasis on collaboration between educational professionals.

O’Shea told the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee meeting that a focus of the recent convocation to kick off the 2013-2014 school year was “the concept of leading up and leading across.”

“By leading across, we’re referring to teachers who are willing to lead their peers,” he said. “With everything that is on our plate these days the only way we’re going to get the work done is [through] the efforts of the great teachers we have in this district.”

He said the district added 20 new staff members for the upcoming school year.

O’Shea credited his roster of teachers for taking an active role in the success of the district by participating in the many committees that help the district.

“We really have a well-committed staff,” he said.