‘Classroom Close-Up’ to spotlight program for students with disabilities

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District’s Career Choices program for eighth-graders with disabilities will be showcased on NJTV’s “Classroom Close-Up” series.

A video crew spent the day with staff, faculty and students in Woodbridge, where the program is housed at the Middlesex County Academy for Allied Health and Biomedical Sciences.

The 18-week program, which has morning and afternoon sessions, exposes eighthgraders to career curricula — including food and health technology, construction technology and digital media — that are available at the district’s campuses in East Brunswick and Piscataway.

“It’s a lot easier to choose something that you’ve done rather than something that is just explained to you,” said Dianne Veilleux, assistant superintendent of schools, who was one of the administrators interviewed by NJTV segment producer Kevin Ronan.

Michael Sullivan, supervisor of the Career Choices program, said more than 20 school districts participate, allowing their eighth-graders to attend the half-day sessions. The program’s capacity is 90 students in the fall and another 90 in the spring.

“This gives them an opportunity to decide whether they want to go to a vocational technical high school or a regular high school,” Sullivan said. “Our goal is to allow them to make a decision. Our teachers inspire these students to take that extra step to really be creative and accomplish things.” Tracey Maccia, the district’s director of special education, said about 90 percent of the eighth-graders who attend choose to go to a vo-tech high school.

The classes visited by the video crew included Linda Rozner’s Food and Health Technology room, where students made chocolate-covered strawberries and lemonade; Lynn Warmke’s Digital Media Technology lab, where students demonstrated computer animation and graphics; and Lawrence Langan’s Construction Technology shop, where students were working with wood.

The video crew also witnessed the awarding of prizes in the Positive Behavioral Support program, through which students receive “Career Cash” when they are “caught being good,” and can trade their cash in for donated items, such as books, Tshirts and craft kits, according to Maccia.

“Classroom Close-Up,” winner of 11 Emmy Awards, airs on NJTV on Sundays at 7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. The segment on the Career Choices program will be televised March 9 and 15, and April 13 and 19. It is a co-production of NJTV and the New Jersey Education Association.

The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District has seven schools on five campuses, located in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge.