Birchwood School Principal Receives State Honor

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Jonathan Slaybaugh

ALBANY, NY (03/26/2020) (readMedia)-- Jonathan Slaybaugh, principal at the Birchwood School in the Clarkstown Central School District, has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 K-12 Building Principal Award by the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). The K-12 Building Principal Award was created to recognize the unique characteristics of a K-12 building and the related demands, expectations, and challenges of a principal in this multi-level environment. It is given annually to a SAANYS member who is a successful K-12 principal, a recognized educational leader, and who demonstrates leadership in establishing the pace, character, and mission of the building and demonstrates creativity and resourcefulness in providing comprehensive programs and services for all levels and grades.

The Birchwood School is a therapeutic day school serving students requiring an intensive multidisciplinary team approach to learning. Recognizing the dramatic increase in students diagnosed with autism entering the school over the past ten years, Slaybaugh has been instrumental in designing and implementing changes to the physical structure and building utilization. He created a sensory room to meet the unique sensory needs of ASD students and created a sensory hallway where students are encouraged to hop, skip, touch, and feel the walls as they move from class to class, in contrast to the earlier practices requiring students to walk single file down the hallways without touching the walls or floors. Now, students are encouraged to experience opportunities for movement and to touch things that provide them comfort. During his tenure at the school, Slaybaugh has made it a priority to co-facilitate workshops to provide necessary training for staff to effectively and safely de-escalate situations. Staff members also receive additional training in non-violent crisis intervention through the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). A testament to this new approach can be seen by the number of students who graduated years ago who still visit the school to touch base and demonstrate and share their successes with their former teachers.

Commented Harry Leonardatos, principal of Clarkstown HS North, "Jon is a devoted and hard-working building leader who guides students with a variety of needs and learning abilities. As such, he is patient, flexible, easy-going, and adaptable. He is well-respected by both staff and students. Ultimately, Jon is able to engage each student in his school to perform the best according to their ability. He always recognizes and celebrates the successes of both his students and staff, and truly treats his role of principal as more of a mission than a job."

Slaybaugh received his bachelor of arts in psychology from Clark University, master of science in special education from Long Island University, and certificate of advanced study in school administration from SUNY New Paltz.

Slaybaugh will be honored for his accomplishments at an awards ceremony at a later date.

SAANYS represents nearly 8,000 school administrators, supervisors, and coordinators. As a professional association, SAANYS is committed to providing direction, service, and support to the membership in their efforts to improve the quality of education and leadership in New York State schools. SAANYS is affiliated with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).