• Vice Principal Devore Brings Inclusivity Training by Nutley Family Service Bureau to Nutley Public Schools

    Jackie Devore, Vice Principal at Nutley High School, had recently been appointed Coordinator of Physical Education, Health and Wellness, K-12 for the school district. This role involves working with physical education teachers and nurses on curriculum and programs related to mental health, wellness, and social/emotional learning.

    When the Inclusive Healthy Communities initiative was introduced to Nutley Public Schools by Nutley Family Service Bureau (NFSB), Superintendent Kent Bania believed Mrs. Devore was the right person to get involved on behalf of the school district.

    “There was a true need in our community and educational system to better understand what needs were not being met for students with disabilities,” Mrs. Devore said. “Our special needs population is growing consistently. We need to make sure our staff and buildings are properly equipped to meet their needs, not just physically and educationally, but emotionally.”

    Mrs. Devore points to the negative impact of Covid on students in Nutley and across the state, including a significant increase in emotional instability, anxiety, and depression, all of which affect a child’s ability to learn.

    Nutley has a history of going above and beyond to create an inclusive environment. However, the listening sessions and needs assessment organized through the Inclusive Healthy Communities program showed there is much more work to be done. For example, the IHC community needs assessment involving Nutley community members with disabilities revealed that special events such as festivals, farmer’s markets, fireworks, and tree lightings were not always accessible to people with disabilities.

    “Creating awareness that this need is out there, responding to this need, and taking a more proactive approach to making Nutley more inclusive is important,” Mrs. Devore said. “People living with disabilities want to know we care. It makes everyone, regardless of need, feel accepted in our community and our schools.”

    Now that data has been gathered and focus areas have been identified, actions are being taken to make a difference in the community. Mrs. Devore is excited to bring inclusivity training to Nutley Public Schools. Training will include the history of the disability inclusion movement, relevant laws, and disability etiquette from the past 50-75 years.

    “It’s going to start at the top with our administrators,” Mrs. Devore said. “I’ve recommended that we include the training during our three-day professional development session before the school year so we can train the staff, and they can train students. As a former social studies teacher, it was eye-opening when I realized there isn’t even a chapter in a textbook dedicated to disabilities. Bringing more awareness to their daily challenges and what can be done to create an inclusive environment is long overdue.”

    In addition to making changes that improve the accessibility and inclusivity of schools, public buildings, services, and events, Mrs. Devore hopes increased awareness will make inclusion a bigger part of everyday conversation and consideration.

    For example, when an architect designs a building, will they look beyond codes and laws to make everyone feel welcome? When the prom is planned, how will they make sure students with disabilities feel included? Are they being invited to participate in planning to ensure their needs are being met? When this becomes the norm, Nutley will truly become an inclusive community.

    “I got into education because I wanted to make a difference, and this initiative is an extension of that,” Mrs. Devore said. “When it was presented to me, I saw it as an amazing opportunity to help fill needs for people whose needs have been overlooked. I want students with disabilities to know that their feedback matters. They matter. This is such a fulfilling way to use my position to make positive changes in our community.”

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