Calais Foundation remembers Charlotte Leitner, begins new program
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Calais Foundation remembers Charlotte Leitner, begins new program

David Leitner gives his mother Charlotte Leitner the Calais Foundation Making a Difference award at the foundation’s gala. (Courtesy Calais)
David Leitner gives his mother Charlotte Leitner the Calais Foundation Making a Difference award at the foundation’s gala. (Courtesy Calais)

Charlotte Leitner died recently at the age of 95. She grew up in Morristown, went to Hunter College, and lived in Chester Township and Morristown. She and her husband, Lionel, co-founded the Calais School. Charlotte was a long-time member of the Morristown Jewish Center and was actively involved in Hadassah and Women’s American ORT fundraising. ORT provides employment training to people with special needs. The Leitners also supported the United Jewish Appeal and the Rabbinical College of America.

In his remarks at the Calais School graduation ceremony this year, David Leitner, Calais’ executive director, acknowledged and thanked his mother, who made such a difference in the lives of so many special needs students in New Jersey.

In 2019, the Calais Foundation honored Ms. Leitner with the Making a Difference Award at its gala. Mrs. Leitner “was inspired by her experience in the public school system to start a school dedicated to meeting the individual challenges of children with special needs.”

Fifty-five years ago, “special education was frequently little more than a room in the basement of the back of a school for kids who were ‘different,’” Mr. Leitner said. “These students did not frequently receive accurate diagnosis or services and many if not most fell between the cracks.”

His mother was a school psychologist who recognized the need for better services and education for New Jersey’s special needs students, Mr. Leitner said. “Private schools such as Calais have the distinct honor of being the pioneers, leaders and innovators in this educational and therapeutic space,” he added. Charlotte Leitner’s legacy will continue at the Calais School as it continues its mission to “nurture and empower at risk students and young adults with multiple learning disabilities to become gainfully employed and socially engaged and its vision to be the premier institution for higher functioning students and young adults with multiple learning disabilities that prepares them for productive and independent lives.”

Calais expands its offerings with a new Calais Adult Transition Program for 18- to 30-year-old students mood disorders, anxiety, depression and autistic spectrum, the support they need to succeed. The program is accepting enrollment for the fall. It will offer a highly personalized and holistic approach in a range of areas including academic and career support as well as therapeutic counseling in a planned environment. For more email Cheryl Porter-Avino at Cheryl.porter-avino@thecalaisschool.org or go to thecalaisschool.org.

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