Sarah Bilotti has been named Director of Special Services at Watchung Hills Regional High School, filling the position vacated by Beth Scheiderman ().
Bilotti brings a rich background to the position, having served as assistant principal, principal and director of special education at schools in Greenwich and Stewartsville, both in Warren County. In her position at Watchung Hills, she oversees the activities of 40 staff members in the area of special education, including teachers, paraprofessionals and caseworkers who serve roughly 300 students at Watchung Hills.
The area of special education has changed and evolved over the years, says Bilotti. Whereas, in past decades, students with special educational needs were to a large extent separated from their peers—even to the extent of being sent out of district or to special schools—the goal today is to keep them on their “home turf” and to integrate them into regular classes as much as possible. Bilotti has found both teachers and students at Watchung Hills “incredibly accepting” of the practice of integrating some special needs students into the “regular” classroom environment.
Experience has shown that special needs students can be successful in a typical high school setting, and, indeed, with an emphasis on study skills, special ed students can be successful in a typical high school program. As a matter of fact, most special ed students attend regular classes, and a high number of them do go on to college, Bilotti said.
Bilotti has found upper-class students at Watchung Hills to be supportive and welcoming to special students through such outlets as the Peer Outreach Club, whose members accompany them to extra-curricular activities such as dances, bowling, ice-skating.
The goal of educators, always, is to prepare students for life after school and for independent living. For some special education students, this will mean learning such practical skills as budgeting, food-shopping and preparation, banking, using public transportation, and vocational skills and job-training—all calculated to allow them to be independent and successful, prepared for life post high school.
The new director is still in the process of becoming acquainted with the area and with the programs of the four sending districts. She said she had found the quality of Hills’ special education program to be “really good, above average.”
Bilotti grew up in Easton, Pa., and still resides in that area, attended Penn State as a special ed major, and received a master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Lehigh University.
She follows in her parents’ footsteps; both were in the field of special education.