Vogelweid Learning Center is a special services program associated with Saint Peter Interparish School in Jefferson City, Missouri. It was opened in September of 1964 by Monsignor Joseph Vogelweid at the urging of parents from Saint Peter Parish who had children with mild to severe disabilities. At its inception, the Vogelweid program operated as a self-contained special education program enrolling children from the parish. It has since evolved into an inclusive program within Saint Peter Interparish School and now enrolls children from other Catholic parishes as well as children of other faiths. Children receiving services through the program remain in the regular classroom whenever possible. When needing a different approach, children travel from the regular classroom and receive small group or one-to-one instruction.
Monsignor Joseph A. Vogelweid established the special education classes because of his concern for children. The first classroom was opened on September 9, 1964, serving 15 students. The program began as a result of direct action on the part of parents who wished to keep their children in the parochial school. The program was first called Saint Peter's Special Education Program. It was changed in 1984 when the building was renamed in honor of Monsignor Vogelweid.
Vogelweid Learning Center is based on the belief that the students served must be accepted and instructed as individuals. As such, the potential and rate of learning for each child will be different. There will be differences in personality and temperament. Students with a variety of cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds will be enrolled. Children with varying types and degrees of disabilities will be accepted.
Considering all of the unique attributes of each student, the rights of each person will be upheld. Each student will be encouraged to develop to their fullest God-given potential.
The overall mission of Vogelweid Learning Center is to provide individualized educational opportunities for children with disabilities from any cultural, economic, or religious background.
The goals of Vogelweid Learning Center state that each child will be:
- Directed in discovering and using his/her God-given talents and abilities to the fullest.
- Recognized as a valued peer in his/her regular classroom setting.
- Encouraged to contribute to his/her class through participation in a variety of activities.
- Given opportunities to interact with peers through lunch, recess, physical education, music, art, computer, and other classes whenever appropriate.
- Instructed on their present level of functioning with flexible groupings. Academic achievements will merit change in placement as needed.
- Given tasks that are success-oriented to develop a sense of self-confidence. Challenges will also be issued to help students prepare for/strive to achieve higher levels of functioning.
- Exposed to a variety of experiences through community interaction.
- Taught methods of compensating for learning difficulties.
- Provided individual instruction as needed, using particular methods and materials required for varied learning styles.
- Instructed in the Catholic faith and be expected to follow Christian guidelines.
- Assisted in developing a code of self-control and self-discipline, and in being able to take responsibility for his/her own actions.
Educationally the center operates a multifaceted program. One part of the program offers a basic academic curriculum to children diagnosed with a learning disability or those who are experiencing significant learning problems in the regular classroom. The other part offers a functional, life skills curriculum to children with severe disabilities. Each child has an Student Service Plan (S.S. P.). This is an academic guide for the year which lists the overall goals for each subject along with objectives to reach these goals. Class scheduling and daily instruction focus on mastery of the goals and objectives listed:
- Speech therapy
- Independent living skills
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Enrichment activities
- Individual instruction
- Education to promote spiritual and moral growth
- Development of civic responsibility
- Guidance in social and personal skills needed for acceptance in the mainstream of society
The program received national recognition as a "Selected Program for Improving Catholic Education" in 1997 from the National Catholic Educational Association (N.C.E.A.). The N.C.E.A. presented 13 schools in the country with awards for having outstanding programs that were creatively meeting the needs of children, youth, and their families.
Children receiving services at Vogelweid are not only from Saint Peter Parish but come from other area parishes where special education is not available. These parishes usually work with parents to help with financial costs. Students of other faiths also attend. Parents have commented on how fortunate they feel to have Vogelweid as an option for their children.
- Students must be diagnosed as developmentally disabled* by a standardized instrument given in the last 2 years by a qualified examiner.
*Specific learning disability must significantly interfere with classroom performance. Priority will be given to students with severe-multiple learning deficits or learning disabilities with a classification to slow learner.
- Students must be of school age at time of enrollment- exceptions will be made on an individual basis.
- Parents/guardians must contact both the principal and the Vogelweid director.
- Financial arrangements must be made through Saint Peter School Office.
- Students must have a recent (within 1 calendar year) written evaluation or written confirmation of scheduled evaluation.
- Students must exhibit acceptable classroom behavior.
- Students must be ambulatory, able to care for their own feeding, dressing, and toileting needs.
Staff needed to provide the services include:
- One full time director/teacher
- Two full time teachers and two part time teachers
- Two full time teacher aides
Responsibilities of the director include recruiting and screening prospective students, monitoring the physical plant, providing staff in service, reviewing all S.S. P. 's, preparing schedules for children and staff, coordinating public school therapy schedules, informing teachers with regard to modifications for students, attending school board meetings, addressing parent, student, and teacher concerns throughout the year, helping area counselors and principals when concerns arise with children in other diocesan schools, preparing an annual budget for the principal and church finance committee, speaking to organizations about the program, writing letters and grants to seek funding, and following up with personalized thank you notes for all donations received. The parish is kept informed by placing notes in the church bulletin recognizing group donations as well as families designating the Vogelweid Center to receive memorial gifts. A variety of fund raising projects are promoted throughout the year including an annual special collection held at Saint Peter Parish. A scrapbook highlighting the year's activities along with a list of contributors provides an avenue to share the good news of Vogelweid. The Vogelweid staff also compiles a list of contributors along with a scrapbook highlighting the year's activities providing an avenue to share the good news of Vogelweid.
Responsibilities for the teachers include writing an S.S.P. for each child in each subject area taught, teaching and monitoring the goals of the plans, and evaluating students at the end of each quarter. They also make daily lesson plans, help with fund raising activities, and plan field trips providing for "real world" experiences for the children.
Responsibilities for the teacher aides include planning weekly lessons and activities to help with mastery of S.S.P. goals and objectives, transporting the children for community training, traveling with students to regular classes when assistance is needed, and supervising at lunch and recess.
The primary funding source for the over $200,000 budget comes from Saint Peter Church. Contributions are received from the Knights of Columbus, Western Catholic Union, A.J. Schwartze Community Foundation, Orscheln Industries Foundation, and the Jimmy Durante Children's Fund - Fraternal Order of Eagles, as well as other local organizations, businesses, and individuals. These contributions help to offset the financial burden on the parish, but to insure the continuation of the program, new funding sources are vital. This funding helps Saint Peter Parish to provide for teacher salaries, building maintenance and utilities, textbooks, teacher supplies, audio-visual materials, and student/faculty activities.
The program receives no state, federal, or United Way funding.
One final aspect of this program is a scholarship fund that was set up by a local family. The Herman Huber Memorial Scholarship Fund was established to help families with tuition costs. A need was demonstrated approximately 15 years ago when a family wanted their child to attend Vogelweid, they were not members of the parish, and could not afford the tuition. The director of Vogelweid at that time approached a local family requesting help. In their goodness, they answered the call to serve those with disabilities, and those less fortunate by establishing the scholarship fund. Each year this family renews their commitment by increasing the investment so that a larger amount of interest can be used to help with tuition.
For further information, contact:
Vogelweid Learning Center
314 West High Street
Jefferson City, Missouri 65101