HARRINGTON PARK, N.J.– Each school day is challenging yet rewarding for Kathleen Vuoncino, the director of Bergen County Region III special education in Harrington Park.
Recognizing her accomplishments, the Valley Regional Parent Teacher Organization plans to honor Vuoncino at an April 1 Casino Night fundraiser.
“I see the hardships she endures and the load she carries,” PTO President Debby Kenyon said. “Her heart is in it. She doesn’t look at is as a job. When someone is like that, you want to honor them.”
“Knowing the kids, making programs, growing the program - that’s the fun part,” said Vuoncino, who was hired as assistant director in 2001 and promoted five years ago.
Vuoncino leads the Valley Program, which is designed for 3-18 year olds on the autism spectrum, at Our Lady of Victory School. She also oversees both the therapeutic intervention program (T.I.P.) for K-8 students with emotional and behavioral needs and the "Little Tots" pre-school program, which integrates students with individualized education programs.
During Vuoncino’s tenure, the Valley Program has expanded from nine classes to 23. It is part of the Northern Valley Regional school district and is attended by students from 33 towns.
The Valley PTO fund learning experiences not covered by the school budget, including community-based instruction and an introduction to vocations for the older students to teach them to be “as independent as possible as they get older," Vuoncino said.
There’s inclusion – the mingling of general education and special education students – at all seven Valley Program locations, Vuoncino said. And the younger students have a once a week community-based experience.
More in-class speech therapists were hired. Sibling and parent support groups were added.
Vuoncino said she’s always striving to improve.
“I’m dedicated to what I love,” she said. “I have a fabulous staff, but I demand a fabulous stuff. I only keep people who are here for the right reasons.”
“The joy that the kids get from her…you see from their expressions that they feel loved,” Kenyon said. “She’s Superwoman, really.”