I was a school principal for many years at Northview High School of the Special School District (SSD). During this time, I became very familiar with the Special Education Foundation (SEF). SEF is a nonprofit organization that provides funds to further support students with special education needs through its Dana Brown Teacher Mini-grant Program. These funds are for items that go beyond what the school district provides. A large number of teachers I worked with applied for and received mini-grants. I was responsible for reading those grants and signing off before sending them in. My first response was “WOW” for several reasons. I was so impressed with the creativity of the teachers, I loved the simplicity of the application, and I was excited about the possibility of additional help for our students. Along with the Northview teachers, I attended the mini-grant reception hosted by SEF for all teachers receiving grants and was further impressed with the creativity of teachers and the dedication of the executive director, Diane Buhr. I quickly became a huge fan of SEF; it is one of the best organizations I have worked with during my 35-year career. As Diane became familiar with our school, she helped provide the funds for excellent assemblies through Springboard for Learning in character education and history through music.
Our students were able to benefit from a variety of cultural events at the Repertory Theater and other theaters in our community that our students would never have experienced otherwise. Exercise equipment helped the students become familiar with the benefits of exercise adapted to their needs. Students were able to grow a variety of vegetables and cook with the produce learning about healthy eating and cooking. Students involved in volunteer work in our community were able to wear uniforms to work. Materials for games so students could work on social skills and how to have fun with their peers were provided. Materials for a Pinewood Derby were funded as well as uniforms for a school basketball team and materials for a carnival. I could go on and on with the many things that were funded to help our school grow and develop. The Special Education Foundation provides additional help for the neediest students in our community. SEF brings out the creativity in our teachers, provides funding for materials not funded by the school district. SEF provides additional funds to our SSD principals to support new projects and often to provide for basic needs of students.
Stephanie Valleroy retired as principal of Northview High School in 2016. She serves as a member of the SEF Women Leaders Group, which raises money to support students at the five SSD special education schools.