Gifford School Hosts Education Commissioner

Gifford School in Weston hosted Massachusetts education commissioner
Posted on 11/18/2019
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Published by Special in the Weston Town Crier
Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeff Riley made a special appearance at the Gifford School, a nonprofit therapeutic day school in Weston that serves students with social, emotional and complex learning challenges.

Riley wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the school’s student population, academic and clinical programming, and elective programs. During his visit, he met with students, staff and administrators and toured the school’s Lower and High School, wood shop, computer lab and multimedia studio.

While touring the multimedia studio, Riley granted an impromptu interview with high school student and Gifford News Network (GNN) host Will Gilson. During the interview, Riley detailed his extensive education background and shared his philosophy for the future of schools like Gifford.

“As a former special education teacher, I have a lot of love for this area,” said Riley. “What I’m looking for in education in Massachusetts is for all of our kids to maximize their development, no matter where they start and no matter what issues they may or may not have.”

Originally established in Cambridge in 1964, Gifford provides educational services in a clinical milieu to approximately 100 students with academic, behavioral and emotional needs.

Wil Fredian, executive director of Gifford School, joined Riley on the tour as he met with students and instructors.

“What struck us was how deeply knowledgeable Commissioner Riley is about special education, and how committed he is to seeing that children like those served by Gifford get to maximize every opportunity to learn, grow and become productive and contributing members of society in every way,” said Fredian.

During one conversation with a student, Luca Kiami of Boston, Riley asked the 11th-grader what he enjoyed about his experience at the school.

“Everybody who goes to this school has their own challenges,” Kiami replied, “but we’re OK because we’re here and getting the support we need.”

“Over the last 15 years, state figures show, the number of students with the most complex and challenging special needs has grown rapidly, including a 400% increase in children on the autism spectrum,” said Elizabeth Dello Russo Becker, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools (maaps). “Schools like Gifford, and all the member schools of maaps, are so grateful for every chance we get to help leading policymakers like Commissioner Riley see and experience the complex, valuable work we’re doing every day and the needs – and amazing capabilities and successes – of the students we’re here to serve.”

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