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New head of special ed. on the job   in Greenfield

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>William Bazyk, Director of Pupil Services for the Greenfield Public Schools, in his Davis St office.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    William Bazyk, Director of Pupil Services for the Greenfield Public Schools, in his Davis St office.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>William Bazyk, Director of Pupil Services for the Greenfield Public Schools, in his Davis St office.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    William Bazyk, Director of Pupil Services for the Greenfield Public Schools, in his Davis St office.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>William Bazyk, Director of Pupil Services for the Greenfield Public Schools, in his Davis St office.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>William Bazyk, Director of Pupil Services for the Greenfield Public Schools, in his Davis St office.

GREENFIELD — The way Greenfield’s new special education administrator William Bazyk sees it, doing his job successfully will help to some day make it obsolete.

On a national level within five to 10 years, special education — uniquely designed curriculum and teaching methods, delivered by the public school system for free, used to teach and meet the needs of students with disabilities — will become integrated with traditional education, said Bazyk, 41, who started the job last month.

“When we start looking at special education as one department, it’s never going to grow, it’s never going to change and it’s always going to be discriminated against,” said Bazyk. “What we do with special needs kids is good for all students.”

Teachers will receive more training on how to teach to a classroom of students who learn at different paces and in different ways.

And instead of employing paraprofessionals, who serve as in-class tutors for special needs students, districts will begin to hire interventionists to look at problems across the board.

They’ll develop strategies to work with any children who are having trouble reading, for example, regardless of whether those students would have been typically served by special education.

Greenfield — a district with about 380 students, or 18 percent, enrolled in special education programs, according to state data — has already begun the transition, said Bazyk.

The school district already uses a “gains-based” evaluation model for all students in grades 1 through 8. Tests are taken at three points during the year, and teachers use the data to tailor their curriculum to each individual student.

Bazyk plans to build on that testing model and introduce new training for all of the district’s faculty. Two main goals will drive his every move: provide services that allow students to learn in the classroom, if they can, and keep Greenfield children in their home district.

At Manchester Elementary Middle School in Vermont, Bazyk oversaw a full inclusion rate — a figure that tracks if special education students are in the general education classroom for at least 80 percent of the day. According to state data, Greenfield’s full inclusion rate was 26 percent two years ago, with a majority of the students participating in the classroom between 40 and 80 percent of the day.

Putting an effective system in place improves the program’s long-term quality because operations won’t dramatically change even if there are new faces on staff every year, said Bazyk. He won’t know specifics on his future plans until he becomes fully acquainted with the district’s current setup.

But he was impressed by Greenfield, its preschool program and two special options: the “Foundations” program for autistic students, and the “Poet Seat” therapeutic program, which serves as an alternative learning environment until students are ready to return to traditional schools.

Superintendent Susan Hollins has “done an incredible job breathing life back into the school system,” said Bazyk.

“I think there’s some real opportunity to bring some systems and consistency here,” he said. “While it may sound corny, that’s the kind of stuff I like, to be able to say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to set this system up and hope people rise to the expectations.’”

The administrator of special education and the superintendent are the two positions within a district that have the greatest impact on curriculum, said Hollins.

She selected Bazyk as one of two finalists for the $95,000 position, out a pool of 10 qualified applicants, in part because of his experience in general education administration.

“We want to build a reading/English department within the school system and not rely on special education for every student who needs reading services,” said Hollins. “I am hoping he will help me sort this out. We also want to study our populations with autism and review how we provide services.”

In January, the Greenfield School Committee voted four to two to appoint Bazyk to the post. The two dissenting opinions, Maryelen Calderwood and Francia Wisnewski, had previously put forward an unsuccessful motion to appoint the other finalist, Janet Dickinson.

Nationally, the shift in special education will occur because of improvements in technology and data collection, said Bazyk. Students will soon have more in-class access to laptops or tablet devices, and administrators will be able to more precisely evaluate students to track their progress.

And as changes happen on the national and state level, Bazyk said he’ll be ready to oversee the adjustments here in Greenfield. He said he’s equipped with 17 years worth of knowledge on special education law and curriculum.

He spent the past six years working for the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union, which serves as a central organization for seven Vermont towns. First working as director of special education, and then transitioning to Manchester Elementary/Middle School’s dean of students, he oversaw a 100 percent inclusion rate for special education students at that school.

He previously worked for 10 years as a special education teacher, and then coordinator, at East Longmeadow High School.

Bazyk lives with his wife, Donna, in Manchester, Vt., but has also purchased a Greenfield apartment for nights when school meetings run late. He has three children in college and high school: Billy, Morgan and Jacob.

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