Merger Updates

Update April 7, 2018

PARENT MEETING - May 7, 2018 from 6-7 PM at Hawthorne School in Mattoon.

Parents, families, staff and community are invited to attend and hear the progress of LIFE Academy. Come and hear the exciting things that are transpiring as well as the opportunity for a Q&A. Refreshments will be served.

A copy of the invitation will go home with Armstrong and DDC students on Monday April 9th.

Update February 26, 2018

Over the last month, LIFE Academy committees have been meeting in order to provide sound recommendations for the program. We appreciate all of these people's hard work and wisdom as they have researched, collaborated and drawn from experiences to give realistic and meaningful advice. The Steering Committee will meet on Thursday March 1, 2018 to receive and discuss these recommendations.

Two weeks ago, Armstrong program and DDC both had their Valentine's Day parties. Here are some pictures from the events. It looks like the students had a great time!

Update February 2, 2018

The final and overwhelming results are in from the survey for naming the new program:

Learning Independence ~ Fostering Excellence (LIFE) Academy

Thank you to all those who participated in the survey. We look forward in the coming weeks for the students and staff to choose a mascot and colors for LIFE Academy.

Please go to our homepage to see the results!

update January 18, 2018

There are some exciting things that have happened and that are happening!

1. The week of December 18, 2017 DDC and Armstrong programs came together at Hawthorne School to celebrate the season with a dance for the students in the upper grades and a cookie decorating and games party for the lower grades. It was amazing! The students interacted very well as the staff became aware that the students knew each other from their buses and Camp New Hope! Below is a picture from the dance.

2. On January 5, 2018 the steering committee met for "Dream Day." This was a day for touring Hawthorne School and the Adult Education buildings in order to visualize where the programs will be held. From here the committee met at EIASE to dream and brainstorm ideas, suggestions, and needs for the new program. It was an incredible session! We then made realistic goals for August of 2018 when the program will begin. There is much to be accomplished over the next several months but the team is committed!

3. The four committees (Transition/Vocational, Family Engagement/Celebration, Curriculum/Assessment, and PBIS/Behavior) are now organized with participants and goals. They will be meeting over the next three months. Stay tuned for updates!

4. For the name of the new program, we have narrowed the choices to three from the survey results. Please find the survey on the home page of and complete it. Thanks!

5. On January 9, 2018 the teachers met for another Merger Meeting. Progress is being made in these meetings. Also, therapists have begun meeting to plan and organize for transition, services, and also physical needs of the buildings for students. What a great group of professionals!

6. Armstrong teachers have an upcoming deadline of February 1, 2018 to declare if they will transfer to EIASE according to the Memorandum of Understanding between Mattoon CUSD#2, Mattoon Education Association, EIASEA and EIASE.

Armstrong/DDC Christmas Dance 2017

Update December 15, 2017

1. On Tuesday December 12, 2017 the EIASE Executive Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Mattoon Armstrong Paraprofessionals, EIASEA, and EIASE. It allows for Armstrong paras to transfer to the New Program.

2. At the same EIASE board meeting, Armstrong teacher Patricia Spence was hired as the Assistant Principal for the New Program starting in July 2018. She will finish this year teaching her students at Armstrong. We are very excited to have Patty on board! She brings with her great knowledge, expertise and passion!

3. The Merger Meeting on Tuesday was very beneficial. Teachers from both programs collaborated for student need and classroom levels. Next month, we begin looking at schedules.

4. The Steering Committee met on Wednesday to organize the committees and create goals/charges for each committee. Please contact me, Jenny Weber, or Lisa Jaco if you are interested on serving on one of the committees. Anyone can serve. (Transition/Vocational, Curriculum/Assessment, PBIS/Behavior, and Family Engagement/Celebration)

5. Next week, a Parent Input tool will be sent home with students and will be available on the EIASE website as well. This is for parents to have the opportunity to let us know information they feel they should share and we should know.

6. Students from Armstrong and DDC will have combined activities next week! Upper level will have a Christmas Dance on December 21st and the Lower and Middle level classrooms will meet on December 18th for cookie decorating and games.

Update December 7, 2017

Here's the latest...

1. On Monday December 4th, Lois Frazier, Kinda Helms, Lisa Bloemer and Jenny Weber toured three different programs in the Chicagoland area for students with low incidence disabilities. Last week's update shared the CITE and AERO programs. Here is the third program toured - Southside Occupational Academy. The team returned with great ideas!

2. Armstrong and DDC students will have combined school Christmas activities for students!! On Monday December 18th, the elementary and middle level classrooms will meet at Hawthorne for a cake walk, cookie decorating, and other activities. The upper level students will also meet at Hawthorne for a Christmas Dance on December 21st! We are excited our students and staff will be able to socialize and interact. We hope the students have a great time!

3. EIASE Executive Director Tony Reeley will meet on Friday, December 8th, at 2:30 pm with Hawthorne paraprofessionals for a follow-up meeting in order to answer some questions they have regarding employment.

4. Next Tuesday, teachers from both programs will once again meet for a monthly "Merger Meeting" and discuss student needs. That will be from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm at Hawthorne School.

5. On Wednesday of next week the Steering Committee will meet at DDC from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm regarding committee goals, structure and assignments.

6. A candidate has been selected and recommended for the Assistant Principal position. The EIASE Executive Board will make a decision on hiring the candidate at the monthly board meeting on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

update November 29, 2017

We have had some exciting events transpire over the last two weeks. Here is an update:

1. We will begin interviewing candidates for the Assistant Principal position this week and next. We hope to have a decision made quickly.

2. Principal Jenny Weber, Speech Pathologist Jill Bolin, Teacher Becky Hayes, and EIASE Autism Consultant Jill Shuemaker all attended the "Ohio Conference for Autism and Low Incidences" or OCALI. Here is what Principal Weber said:

"The OCALI conference covered a wide variety of topics in relation to autism and low incidence disabilities. Our group attended sessions addressing the following topics: planning for students' futures beyond their school years; the advantage of employing adults with autism; curriculum to share with emergency responders in relation to ASD; behavioral crisis management for families; school and community based models to support mental health for persons with ASD and many more topics. Patrick Henry Hughes and his father shared Patrick's story - I Am Potential: Overcoming Obstacles, Breaking Barriers, and Being and Doing More Than You Think You Can. Patrick's story was motivating and renewed our energy to never give up on the hopes our parents share with us for their children."

3. On Monday December 4, 2017, representatives from Armstrong and DDC will be touring two programs in the Chicago land area. The programs are the CITE program and AERO Educational Center. Click on the links to browse their websites!

4. November 28th Hawthorne hosted the Parent/Community Meeting regarding the new program. There were over 50 people in attendance who came to share concerns and support. Parents and professionals asked great questions and gave meaningful input. We appreciate all those who attended.

5. The new program's Steering Committee members who are advising and guiding the development are: Lisa Jaco, Jenny Weber, Lisa Bloemer, Lynette McReynolds, Kyla Zastrow, Dr. Jennifer Stringfellow, Dr. Katie Havercroft, Lois Frazier, Kim Harden, Patty Spence and Jeremy Doughty.

6. Remember to let us know if you would like to serve on one of the following committees:

Curriculum and Assessment



Family Engagement and Celebrations

Update November 16, 2017

A few updates on the new program:

1. Our November Merger Meeting with the teaching staff was on Tuesday the 14th. We met to discuss students needs and how we organize those needs and students into classrooms. We are in the infancy stage but it is coming along! Collaboration was strong and beneficial.

2. An Assistant Principal position has been created for this program. You can see the job posting and job description on the EIASE website. Click here. It is posted internally for five days and will then be posted on the website by Monday, November 20th.

3. Tony and Jeremy have met with MESPA and EIASEA to discuss options for teacher's aides to transfer from Armstrong to the new program. A Memorandum of Understanding is being written. As soon as information can be shared, we will.

4. A Steering Committee for the new program has been formed. Joining the Steering Committee will be Dr. Jennifer Stringfellow and Dr. Katie Havercroft both from Eastern Illinois University, Department of Special Education. We welcome them to the team!

5. Remember the Parent/Community Meeting on November 28th @ 6 pm at Hawthorne School in Mattoon. Here is the link to the survey if you have not already participated.

Update November 8, 2017

We are very excited as we enter this next phase of dreaming and planning for our students. We wanted to give you some updates and information on what is happening with the new program:

  • On October 12, 2017 both the EIASE Executive Board and the Mattoon Board of Education passed resolutions approving the creation of a new program.
  • The Parent/Community survey is available. If you have not taken the survey, click here to participate. One of the questions asks for suggestions for a new name for the new program. Please give us suggestions!
  • On EIASE's website ( there will be posted updates on the progression of the new program.
  • On November 28th @ 6:00 - 7:00 PM at Hawthorne School there will a Parent/Community informational meeting for the new program. Anyone with an interest in this program is welcome to attend.
  • Both Hawthorne and DDC staff (teachers and paraprofessionals) are wanting to tour reciprocal programs. Lisa Jaco and Jenny Weber are working out the logistics so this can be accomplished.
  • The next Merger Meeting for teaching staff will be Tuesday, November 14th at 3:00 PM at Hawthorne. Discussions will be focused on student needs and grade/ability level classrooms. Teachers - please complete your Student Profiles.
  • In December, Lisa Jaco and Jenny Weber have planned for students at different age/grade levels to interact and socialize. DDC students who are in high school and older will attend the Hawthorne Christmas Dance on December 21st! Elementary/Middle level activities are in the planning process. Stay tuned!