*We print here an abbreviated version of the annual report.
May 2, 2011
The Board welcomes all of you to this annual meeting and thanks you for the support you show by your attendance this evening.
The Lord in His infinite knowledge and plan has given us the privilege of educating all the covenant children that He has given us. We as a Board are privilegedto work for the children with special needs whom God in His wisdom has given us. We need your help, your prayers, and your financial support, but also we need you to advocate for this great cause. More members are needed for this Society as we are reminded of the great need. As the number of students and schools increases, so too must the level of support increase. More men need to be informed of the work that the Society does on behalf of the families and children God has blessed us with.
I’d like to give you some history that I’ve gleaned from the past.
In August of 1983, almost 28 years ago, the Board of Special Education published their first newsletter. I will quote a portion from that publication here:
A few months ago a society and board were formed to begin Protestant Reformed special education. What follows is some information about who we are and, the Lord willing, what will happen. Last fall, under the direction of the Hudsonville consistory, Mrs. Gertrude Hoeksema conducted a Bible study class with four children. Believing that this teaching could be exÂ¬panded biblically and academically, the consistory held an informational meeting for all interested on March 16, 1983. At the meeting Mrs. Hoeksema detailed her work with the children and discussed what she has learned through research and experience with special children. Also, two committees were formed to lay the groundwork for organization. A second meeting was held April 20. A constitution was adopted, a society was formed, and board members were elected. The board has been busy with a number of issues. First of all, the evaluation of potential students with the capable assistance of Miss Jessie Dykstra. Also, the location of the school and the ensuring that all laws are met. The board is holding a special public meeting on August 6 at 4 p.m. at Jamestown’s Spring Grove Park. There will be guest speakers, activities for special children, and a covered-dish supper. We encourage members of the society and all interested to attend. Being members of the covenant, handicapped children need God-centered education. With the Lord’s blessing, it will become reality. We ask for your support, both prayerfully and financially.
At the organizational meeting of April 20, a committee reported. The committee was titled “Committee to investigate staffing, laws, and building for a Special Education Society and School.” The committee was made up of John Buiter, Deane Wassink, and Greg VanOverloop. The committee brought the following recommendations:
1. If we organize as a school society we seek the services of a qualified lawyer in order to arrange the necessary state and federal registrations.
2. Our society acquire precise information on potential students by asking parents to release records of their child or children and having these records studied by a knowledgeable person for the purpose of giving recommendations as to educational needs of the children and possible groupings in classes. We recommend Miss Jessie Dykstra for this work. She is willing to do this work and is qualified in special education by training and experience.
3. Our Society will seek information on interested teachers and aides by means of public notices. Also that we seek out all possible students for a school by the same means.
4. Decisions regarding the type of classroom or classrooms to be established should wait until a detailed study of possible students is completed.
5. That a school operated by this society be operated in conjunction with an existing P. R. Christian School.
a. We can share facilities (gym, playground, transportation).
b. This will provide social interaction with other students.
6. That our society contact Hope P.R. Christian School and discuss the possible cooperation in facilities and services in the proposed satellite school in Hudsonville.
At that meeting on April 20, 1983, a constitution was approved, from which I now quote:
The purpose of this Society is to provide God-centered education for those who cannot at the present time receive instruction in our present schools because of mental and/or physical handicaps.
And now, moving forward….
Last year’s report mentioned that our drive was about $35,000 short of its goal. We conducted a second drive, and the response exceeded our shortage. This year’s drive fell short by $44,500, and we are currently conducting a second drive to fulfill our obligations. As of last week, we have received $20,100. Please be mindful of this shortage of $24,400. As a board we covet your support, in prayers, in participation, and financially.
As you can see on the proposed budget, we have dropped our support of resource rooms from 25% to 20%. This was done after much discussion to present a budget that is attainable. We face the fact that our budget of last year anticipated $193,000 in expenses and $10,000 in normal income. Past years show similar projections. Reality is that we depend on gifts, church collections, and our drives to finance our operation. Please remember our cause in your giving. We have attempted to keep our cause in front of our constituents through newsletters and bulletin announcements. Our covenant responsibilities to all the causes God has given us should be part of our conversations with friends and relatives.
This past year we have been approached by more schools as evidence of the growing need of this great cause. We thank and encourage Hope school, which has begun a resource room. Mrs. Deb Kuiper is ably handling her duties there in coordination with Mrs. Audrey Starret.
The PR school in Doon, IA has contacted us. They have up to three special education students coming up, one from Doon, possibly one from Sioux Falls, and possibly one from Hull. We are striving to help them. We have committed $25,000 financially. We also have offered them the knowledge and experience of our staff, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
The school in Dyer, IN, formerly South Holland, has also been in contact with us. To date, they have not made request for financial assistance or other support. We do encourage them and anticipate in the future there may be additional opportunity for the Society.
Covenant Christian High School has made plans for a Special Education Room within the new addition. We have met with representatives of their board to review and plan for special education at the high school level. In the near future there will be students coming out of our Special Education classroom who will need to continue their education, and we desire to make that possible at Covenant. More meetings lie ahead to deal with how this will be handled.
One last note on our current year. “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Day” was held at Heritage again this year. Once again it was very well received and gave the families and individuals an opportunity to share their experiences. We have encouraged the other elementary schools also to have this program. Mr. Deane Wassink gave the chapel speech that day. We thank him for his work on behalf of the Society.
We currently have five students in special education. We are blessed with a staff that has great dedication to this cause. The work they do and the love they show is much appreciated. They are gifts to us through their work with the children.
God has given us many gifts, as we call them. However, He has also given us everything else—including the trials and the heartaches that come with special-needs children. All this is in His plan, and all of this is for our good. May we be a thankful people. Our tendency is to take thought for the morrow, what we shall eat, what we shall drink. As we are directed in the Scriptures, may we take our example from the birds.
May our efforts on behalf of Special Education students be pleasing to God, and may our covenant God bless the work.
Mr. Jim VanOverloop
Special Education Board Secretary