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St. Joseph Cathedral School has doubled the size of its special education department. While that means having two certified special education teachers instead of one, the expansion has enabled the school to have someone specialized in working with children on the autism spectrum.

“Private schools and parochial (schools) haven’t always had the best track record of being able to help kids with educational challenges,” said St. Joseph Cathedral’s Principal Spencer Allen, adding families who have wanted a Catholic or Christ-centered education have not always been able to have the resources their children need.

However, Allen said, “We are among those Catholic schools that are trying to change that.”

Polly Colozza is the new teacher who specializes in working with children on the autism spectrum.

“When I interviewed for my position, I asked Mr. Allen that question,” Colozza said of what St. Joseph Cathedral will be able to do that it could not before her position — adding the answer was “just being able to reach more students.”

“We’ve got to be able to reach all kids. All kids have gifts. All kids need help, and there are many ways to provide learning supports. The more strategies we can offer, the more kids we are going to reach,” Colozza said.

Allen said a side effect of having more special education services is being able to retain more children, but it’s “really just to make sure if people come to us because they want a Christ-centered education,” St. Joseph Cathedral will be able to say yes to them.

He said both of St. Joseph Cathedral’s special education teachers can work with general special education needs in addition to their specialties, and each has their own classroom after another room was added to the department.

Allen said special education teacher Terri Kuster specializes in working with children with dyslexia.

A Jefferson City Special Education Parent Teacher Association was planned to organize this weekend — one of the first of its kind in the state.

Allen said, “when we talk about what a Catholic school is, it’s a support system for parents as the first and best educator,” so any partnership with parents is a win-win.

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