Special Services Department

Special Education Department Overview

The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District is responsible for providing special education services to all resident students who qualify for such supports. These services are coordinated by the district’s Special Services Department, which encompasses the district’s Committees for Special Education at the preschool, elementary and secondary levels. The Special Services Department also oversees the district’s health (nurses), counseling and mental health (social workers and school psychologists) services for all resident students.


2024 Community Transitions newsletter now available
Check out the 2024 Community Transitions newsletter that has been updated to highlight post-graduate programs and resources as well as a multitude of local and regional programs and supports for students with disabilities and their families. [Follow this link to view the digital newsletter.]

Information Video from BOCES


Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–11 p.m.  |  Saturday–Sunday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.
For immediate crisis services: 518.292.5499

  • Telephone support for children, families, and adults experiencing emotional and/or behavioral crisis and for professionals working with these individuals.
  • Assessment of current functioning, symptoms, and sources of stress contributing to crisis.
  • Assistance with connecting to ongoing services and supports.
  • Determination whether a mobile response is necessary and appropriate.
    In-person crisis assessment and intervention for individuals experiencing emotional and/or behavioral crisis anywhere in the community.
  • Assessment includes evaluation of current functioning, factors contributing to crisis, access to supports, and risk and safety issues.
  • Intervention includes developing strategies for de-escalation, using individual and family strengths and supports, identifying of coping skills and determining whether the individual can maintain safely in the community or requires a higher level of care.
  • Facilitating hospitalization with report provided to emergency staff in the hospital. Please note, however, that inpatient admission is always at the discretion of the hospital.
  • Serving Albany (children only), Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington counties.

For general information: 518.952.9032

Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE)

Committee on Preschool Special Education Chairperson
Erin Serritella  |  Phone: 518-399-9141, ext.85010

The district’s Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) is responsible for ensuring that parents are aware of the opportunities available for evaluation of children 3-5 years old who are suspected of having a disability, and for services to preschool children with disabilities. The committee consists of representatives from preschool special education agencies, county administrators, parents and district staff. All recommendations for services are made to the Board of Education. If you have concerns about your child’s development, or would like more information, please call the Special Services Department.

Committee on Special Education (CSE)

Committee on Special Education (K-12) Chairperson
Darcy Passarelli  |  Phone: 518-399-9141, ext. 84150

The Committee on Special Education (CSE) is sanctioned and regulated by New York State. It acts as a multi-disciplinary team to evaluate the management, academic, physical and social needs of the referred child and determines if there is an educational disability. The CSE must then decide on an appropriate program or placement for the student and the need for related services (i.e. occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, counseling, etc.) if necessary.

Understanding Special Services

IEP Plan vs. 504 Plan

A 504 Plan and an IEP are both intended to protect a student with a disability to ensure that they are learning in the least restrictive environment. A 504 Plan and an IEP have unique differences. They’re each covered by different laws and work in different ways. But the end goal is the same: to help students be successful in school.

A 504 plan is a blueprint for how the school will provide supports and remove barriers for a student with a disability, so the student has equal access to the general education curriculum. Some kids with learning and attention issues don’t need special education or individualized instruction. But they might still need supports or services at school. Depending on their challenges, they may be able to get that help through a 504 plan. These plans prevent discrimination and protect the rights of kids with disabilities in school. They’re covered under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which is a civil rights law. These plans aren’t part of special education, so they don’t provide individualized instruction, like IEPs do. The main purpose of the 504 plan is to give kids with disabilities access to the same education their classmates are getting.

If a 504 plan is not helping your child or your child has more significant needs than it may be time to consider an Individual Education Plan (IEP). An IEP Provides individualized special education and related services to meet the unique needs of the child. In developing the IEP, the committee considers evaluations, student strengths, concerns of the parent and, where appropriate, student performance on state and district assessments. An IEP documents the following: present level of performance; how the student’s disability impacts his/her participation in the general curriculum; classification of the disability; annual goals; recommended programs and services; whether or not the student will participate in state or alternate assessments; a list of any alternative accommodations; a list of any assistive technology devices; and transitional goals at the appropriate time.

Extended School Year Overview

Extended School Year Principal (Grs. K-12): Darcy Passarelli  |  Phone: 518-399-9141, ext. 84150

The Committee on Special Education (CSE) must determine whether a student requires extended school year special education services in order to prevent substantial regression. Substantial regression would be indicated by a student’s inability to maintain developmental levels due to a loss of skill, set of skill competencies or knowledge during the months of July and August. In accordance with section 200.6(k) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, students must be considered for twelve-month special services and/or programs to prevent substantial regression if they are students:

  • whose management needs are determined to be highly intensive and require a high degree of individualized attention and intervention and who are placed in special classes;
  • with severe multiple disabilities, whose programs consist primarily of habilitation and treatment and are placed in special classes;
  • who are recommended for home and/or hospital instruction whose special education needs are determined to be highly intensive and require a high degree of individualized attention and intervention or who have severe multiple disabilities and require primarily habilitation and treatment;
  • whose needs are so severe that they can be met only in a seven-day residential program; or
  • receiving other special education services who, because of their disabilities, exhibit the need for twelve-month special service and/or program provided in a structured learning environment of up to 12 months duration in order to prevent substantial regression.

Graduation Requirements

All students should seek to earn a Regents or Advanced Regents diploma, but students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) are also eligible to receive a Local Diploma if they earn a grade of 55% or higher on five NY State Regents exams (English, Global Studies, US History, Integrated Algebra and one science exam), OR if they successfully complete the NYS competency safety net option. Students should see their special education teachers or counselor for detailed information regarding this option.

A student who completes a five-unit sequence in Career & Technical Education, art or music may earn an Advanced Regents Diploma and be exempt from the world language requirement. Career & Technical Education includes courses in business education, family & consumer sciences and technology education.

Family Supports Through OPWDD

The New York State Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) provides families with a variety of services like respite, family reimbursement, recreation, counseling, training and support. For more information,  visit the OPWDD website.

Publications and Links for Special Education Parents & Students

Special Education Continuum of Services – Produced by the Burnt Hills Ballston-Lake Central School District.

Parent Guide to Special Education – A Parent’s Guide to Special Education provides information for parents, guardians and other family members about laws, regulations and policies affecting special education programs and services. Spanish translation also available at this site.

Parent Network of the Capital Region – Website that provides parents with knowledge, skills, resources and support to effectively advocate for their children and to facilitate productive relationships between parents and school districts for the benefit of students with disabilities.

IDEA 2004 Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 information.

Information for Parents of Preschool Students with Disabilities AGES 3-5 Website with information for parents of preschool children suspected of having a disability.

Procedural Safeguards Notice Website that describes the rights of a parent with a child with a disability

Parts 200 and 201 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Website with information on the responsibilities of school districts and provides definitions as related to services for students with disabilities.

Safety Net Options Available to Students with Disabilities to Graduate with a Local Diploma

Videos for Parents of Children with Significant Cognitive Disabilities

These four videos for parents of children with significant cognitive disabilities provide ideas for supporting the learning of reading and math at home: