2007-05-23 / Front Page

Howell Mania puts focus on special ed achievement

BY TOYANETT HALL Staff Writer

BY TOYANETT HALL
Staff Writer

HOWELL - Mike Bruen is a third-year participant in the 21-year-old celebration of special education pupils and achievement in Howell that is known as Howell Mania.

Bruen, who carries the alias "Mr. Mom," is a father of two boys. He said the Howell school district's special education program has helped his son, Liam, 5 "make leaps and bounds."

Bruen, who is a retired New York City police sergeant, said his wife gave birth to Liam prematurely in the midst of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Liam was 12 inches long and weighed 1 pound 3 ounces at birth.

Bruen, who proudly watched his son as the youngster bowled in the Pee Wee Division of a Howell Mania event at Howell Lanes last week, said, "It is only by the grace of God why he's still here. If you looked at him now you could never tell he was born premature.

"My son has been in the special education system since birth. He's been at Howell now for three years. They do great work and the main thing is the parents are really involved with their children's progress," Bruen said.

Parents, teachers, administrators and special education pupils from kindergarten through second grade from Howell's elementary schools participated in the Pee Division of the Howell Mania bowling tournament. However, many of those people agreed that the tournament was not about winning, it was about social enrichment.

Julia Sandler, supervisor of special education for the Howell school district, said, "the importance of having these week-long celebrations is to capitalize on Special Education Week (May 13-19) as cited by the state of New Jersey. It also gives the children an opportunity to mingle with each other, as well as to show that the families and the school district work together to promote some success. It also helps with community instruction and recreation for them."

Carla Nappo, a teacher of learning disabled kindergarten pupils at the Griebling School, said the Howell Mania programs have "a lot to do with the socialization of the kids. They get together, they're with other classes and people they haven't seen before, and they're dealing with adults they don't know. That social interaction is really important. It's really a good thing for them to come and be involved in this kind of situation."

Carrie Meyer, a parent and third-year Howell Mania participant, said, "It's a more mature time for them. It's their chance to feel responsible and show they can go out like the big kids and participate in older activities without their parents having to be there."

According to Michael Burgos, assistant principal of the Griebling School and supervisor for pupil services, the week-long extracurricular event costs the school district very little.

"Most of the cost is covered through fundraising done by the Special Education Parent Advisory Council organization. In addition, a lot of organizations and businesses in Howell contribute, if not monetarily then through donations like goods, food and trophies," Burgos said.

Howell Lanes, Route 9, has been contributing its venue for the Howell Mania events for about seven years, according to Jack Jackson, Howell Lanes desk person.

"Howell Lanes donates the time and the bowling lanes so the children can participate in these activities and further their way of life," he said. "Neil Feingold (Howell Lanes owner) is very conscious of the youth in this community and he is very receptive to helping the community in any way he can."

A Howell Mania Track and Field Day was held at the Griebling School on May 15 and a Howell Mania Preschool Fun Day was held at the school on May 22.

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