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PRESS RELEASE

October 2, 2006

Cheryl Etters
(850) 245-0413

Commissioner Winn Announces Interagency Agreement to Support Students With Disabilities
Announcement kicks off Disability Employment Awareness Month

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner John L. Winn today announced the signing of an interagency agreement aimed at supporting the transition of students with disabilities from high school to postsecondary training and employment. The agreement was signed by Luci Hadi, Secretary, Department of Children and Families, M. Rony François, Secretary, Department of Health, and Shelly Brantley, Executive Director, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, as well as the Department of Education.

"Through the Interagency Agreement, we have pledged our commitment to ensuring that students with disabilities receive appropriate services to transition from high school to work or postsecondary education" said Commissioner Winn. "In the spirit of collaboration and teamwork, I encourage all agencies to join us in serving Florida's students."

The Interagency Articulation Agreement to Support the Transition Process of Students with Disabilities facilitates cooperation and collaboration between school district staff, the Department of Education's Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services and Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, Department of Health's Children's Medical Services, Department of Children and Families' Mental Health, and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

The state-level agreement will provide guidance and information for school district staff and the public in order to provide a smooth and successful transition for students with disabilities to meaningful, gainful, and sustained employment and/or postsecondary education with access to adult health care and mental health services. The coordination of services will occur through outreach and identification of students, as well as referrals and information sharing by the partnering agencies.

An example of collaboration is a pilot program — Transition Services Integration Model (TSIM) — a partnership between Leon County Schools, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. Students at Lively Technical Center in Tallahassee receive career counseling and guidance, which includes person-centered, customized and supported employment services, job coaching and on-the-job training, in addition to assistance with transportation and other support services for independent living.

"Every person, no matter the severity of their disability, is able to be employed with the assistance of an appropriate support system," said 2007 Department of Education/Macy's Teacher of the Year Conney Dahn. "The interagency agreement demonstrates the belief that persons with disabilities have the potential for success. This is an awesome project and I look forward to seeing it implemented throughout the state." Dahn is an exceptional education teacher at Jensen Beach High School in Martin County.

Florida will join the rest of the nation in recognizing the contributions of 3.5 million Floridians with disabilities by celebrating October as Disability Employment Awareness Month. The Department's Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services provide services to persons with disabilities so they can become employed. In 2005-06, Vocational Rehabilitation assisted almost 11,000 Floridians with disabilities achieve employment. In the same year, Blind Services assisted over 650 Floridians in becoming gainfully employed. During the history of both programs, they have had an overwhelming impact on the lives of thousands of citizens with disabilities by offering services including career planning, job placement, training, speech and language therapy and support services, in addition to medical and psychological diagnosis services.

The announcement was made at Lively Technical Center in Tallahassee. For more information about the Interagency Articulation Agreement to Support the Transition of Students with Disabilities or the Transition Services Integration Model, please visit www.abilityforum.com.