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PUSD Special Education Department to Honor Media Star, Exceptional Staff

Academy Award Winner Marlee Matlin to receive Albert Einstein Leadership Award

Published on Friday, May 27, 2011 | 6:31 am

The Community Advisory Committee (CAC) of the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) Special Education Department will host its annual Recognition Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 6 at the University Club of Pasadena. The event honors teachers, support staff, and administrators who are making a positive impact in the lives of PUSD special education students, their families and the community.

Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin will receive the “Albert Einstein Leadership Award.”

The event celebrates the people behind the educational achievements made by PUSD’s 2,000-plus students in special education. A generation ago, children with special needs were often segregated from the general education population. Expectations for special education students were set extremely low; it was assumed they could only progress so far. Not anymore.

Pasadena resident Marlee Matlin will receive the CAC’s “Albert Einstein Leadership Award,” which is presented to an individual who, through personal success or extraordinary effort, is helping tear down lingering stereotypes. Deaf since the age of two, Marlee became the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar and one of only four actresses to receive the honor for her film debut. She is a finalist on this season of NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, where she raised more than $1 million for the Starkey Hearing Foundation. She has authored three children novels and a New York Times bestselling autobiography.

The award is named after Albert Einstein, who lived in Pasadena for three summers while a visiting professor at Caltech. If he were born today, many believe Albert Einstein would be a special education student: he had a learning disability as a child, did not speak until the age of 3, struggled with math and had difficulty expressing himself through writing. Einstein’s life serves as a brilliant reminder that genius can be developed from the most unlikely of beginnings.

The accomplishments of PUSD’s Special Education Department this past year include the creation of two new signature programs. The Pasadena Adult Living Skills Program (PALS) for students aged 18-22 allows students to gain valuable work experience – a model transition program that prepares young adults for life beyond school. The program serves 58 students, the majority of whom are receiving on-the-job training by local businesses including Fresh N Easy, Crown City Tire, Lincoln Nursery, Smart & Final, Chuck E. Cheese, Westin Hotel and Marriott Hotel.

Focus Point Academy is a new therapeutic setting that serves students with more severe challenges who would otherwise need to be placed in a non-District setting. The program’s mission is to provide intensive intervention in a restricted setting with the goal of helping students quickly develop the skills necessary to be successful in mainstream classes with general education students.

The State of California established the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to give parents a voice in special education implementation. The CAC maintains ongoing interaction between educators and parents and advises the District on the development of local services and budget plans. The CAC’s responsibilities include recommending annual priorities, supporting activities that benefit individuals with special needs and assisting in parent and caregiver education.

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