OPRF Best Buddies shine at first talent show

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The Best Buddies program at Oak Park and River Forest High School hosted its first talent show on Feb. 26.

The idea for the show came from OPRF special education student Monique Blackwell. About 150 kids participate in OPRF's Best Buddies program, which partners special education students with their regular-ed peers in fun activities. The talent show, which took place in the Little Theater, included dancing, singing, comedy and poetry. The talent show will become an annual event, says Fawn Joyce, a special-ed teacher and co-faculty sponsor of Best Buddies with fellow special-ed instructor Regina Topf.  

Best Buddies is an international, nonprofit program that started in 1989 to match individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with people without special needs in "one-to-one" friendships, according to the Best Buddies website (http://bestbuddies.org). 

Best Buddies can be found in numerous colleges, high schools and grammar schools, as well as corporate and community settings. OPRF's program hosts events and activities each month with Best Buddies students from Riverside-Brookfield and Lyons Township high schools, said Joyce. The students and their regular-ed peers also engage in activities on their own. The sponsors helped performers with their talent show acts, but the Best Buddies Club is entirely student-run, Joyce said. 

At the talent show, she added, everyone was a winner.  

D90 offers free early childhood screening

River Forest District 90 is offering free screening services to kids who live in the village but are not enrolled in the schools. Children, age 3-5, can receive speech and language development, as well as vision and hearing evaluation from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 9, at Lincoln and Willard schools. Children 3 and younger who have a suspected delay in fine-motor, communications, gross-motor, cognition, self-help or social development may receive screening by Oak/Leyden Developmental Services.

Children living north of Chicago Avenue will be screened at Willard School, 1250 Ashland Ave. (708-366-6740 for an appointment). Children living south of Chicago Avenue will be screened at Lincoln School, 511 Park Ave. (708-466-7340 to schedule an appointment).

To schedule a screening for children from birth to 3 years, call Krissie Russell at Oak Leyden: 708-524-1050, ext. 136. For more information: D90's website, district90.org, under Student Learning/Special Education. 

D97 curriculum director leaves for Skokie

District 97's curriculum director, Lisa Schwartz, is leaving the Oak Park schools for a similar position in Skokie, the district announced last week.

Schwartz was hired in 2010 as one of two curriculum coordinators, later taking on the sole role as director of teaching and learning. She'll start her new job in Skokie School District 68 as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction on July 1.

In a press statement from D97, Schwartz described the Skokie job as a "unique opportunity I could not pass up."

In the same statement, D97 Supt. Al Roberts called Schwartz a valuable member of the D97 team. A search for her replacement will begin soon, Roberts added, and a review of the teaching and learning department will also take place during this period.

"We anticipate that this search process will include a thorough assessment of our teaching and learning department's existing administrative structure, which will enable us to determine if there are changes we can make to more effectively meet the needs of our families and staff," Roberts said.

Needs-assessment planned for new headquarters

The next step in D97's plans for a new central office building is to conduct a needs-assessment for what staff and administrators are looking for in a new space, officials announced last week. The focus will be on how much space would be needed in a new location, which still has yet to be determined. The district wants downsize from its current headquarters at 970 Madison Street near Home Avenue, which covers roughly 20,000 square feet, including a second floor.  

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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