SCO Family of Services Holds Second Annual Taft Academy Conference

An innovative and collective approach to staff and leadership development
Huldah Schutt, a Teacher Assistant at SCO’s Westbrook Preparatory School, shares her group’s answers during a breakout session at the 2nd Annual SCO Taft Academy Conference.

Huldah Schutt, a Teacher Assistant at SCO’s Westbrook Preparatory School, shares her group’s answers during a breakout session at the 2nd Annual SCO Taft Academy Conference.

The SCO Taft Academy is a unique professional development initiative for 700 staff from SCO Family of Services working with children and youth with special needs who attend SCO’s five residential schools located in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Bronx counties. Through an array of staff development opportunities, the SCO Taft Academy advances high quality care for children and youth with developmental disabilities and behavioral challenges, helping them reach the greatest degree of self-sufficiency, family engagement and community integration possible.

SCO held its Second Annual Taft Academy Conference January 26-27, at the New York Institute of Technology in Glen Head, Long Island. Lee Thomas, Emmy award winning broadcaster and author of “Turning White: A Memoir of Change”, provided the keynote address. Centered around this year’s theme, “Collective Impact: Creating a Positive Ethical Environment,” the conference opened with remarks from SCO’s Executive Director, Douglas O’Dell who noted:

“We face ethical issues every day. We will engage in a conversation today as to how we can enhance, improve and build upon our established strong ethical foundation.”

SCO’s Taft Academy enhances staff skills and performance through educational and professional development opportunities and establishes a culture of performance excellence through consistent practice and interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches. Building upon the expertise and experiences of staff at each campus, SCO’s Taft Academy provides a conduit to sharing and infusing best practices between each residential program and school, as well as among the five campuses. Principals, program directors, direct care workers, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses, teachers and teachers’ aides participate in an innovative and collective approach to staff and leadership development and campus-improvement initiatives.

The Taft Academy comprises the following staff development components:

  • Classroom Instruction, focused on helping to establish nurturing and responsive relationships that support and advocate for youth served;
  • Learning Laboratories where staff volunteer to participate in a practicum-like experience on each campus to apply classroom learning to campus-based improvement initiatives;
  • Online Learning, that reinforces classroom instruction across the five campuses and provides staff with access to 200 course hours of specialized content in the field of developmental disabilities;
  • Mentorships; and
  • Tuition Assistance.

“The Taft Academy has had the greatest impact on our direct care staff,” said Patricia Daniels, Principal of The Christopher School for youth with developmental disabilities, located in the Bronx. “They are provided an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues not only on their own campus but across SCO’s five campuses and they come to realize that they are not alone in the daily challenges they face.“

“Having a strong ethical standard can always help one to persevere and make the best of any situation,” said Melissa Ficara, Special Education Classroom Teacher at the Tyree Learning Center in Sea Cliff, LI.

The SCO Taft Academy is made possible with a grant from The Taft Foundation. Learn more about the SCO Taft Academy.

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