John Archer School graduate Casey Reitz has spent her entire Harford County Public Schools education at John Archer, having been there since age 3, and she has become in that time, a “terrific ambassador for our school,” according to principal Randy Geyer.
“Casey is sort of the queen of the school,” Geyer said during John Archer’s 47th annual commencement, held May 31 at the school in Bel Air.
John Archer, which is across Thomas Run Road from Harford Community College, serves students with special needs between the ages of 3 and 21. Reitz, 21, of Bel Air South, was one of nine members of John Archer’s Class of 2019 honored during the commencement.
Geyer spoke about each graduate, their personalities and the skills they have learned during their time at John Archer. He also addressed the graduates’ families and thanked them for their support.
“We have a wonderful group of graduates here today,” the principal said.
The graduates also heard remarks from senior class representative Brianna Davis, elected officials such as Board of Education member Rachel Gauthier, state Del. Steven Johnson and state Sen. Robert Cassilly, plus assistant principal Kimberly Marine.
David Bycoffe, president of the John Archer PTA, presented a gift of a class ring to each graduate. Bycoffe said later that rings are “part of the senior experience” and similar to what other high school graduates receive.
“It’s an opportunity for our students to experience that,” he said.
Susan Reitz said her daughter, Casey, has been at John Archer since age 3. She went through HCPS’ infants and toddlers program, and staffers there recommended she enroll Casey at John Archer as she got older.
“The school is amazing,” Reitz said during a post-commencement reception. “The staff and teachers, I can’t say enough about their ability to teach these kids; they’ve been absolutely amazing.”
Reitz said her family is preparing to move to Delaware, where Casey will perform volunteer work in the community “so that she stays busy.”
She described graduation as bittersweet, because she is happy her daughter is moving on but is also “sad, because this has been such a huge community and family all these years.”
Casey’s father, David Reitz, said his family did not think Casey would do as well in a traditional school setting. She has Angleman Syndrome, which Reitz said is “pretty rare.”
He said Casey has limited speech, as well as delays in her coordination and cognitive abilities. He noted that she has been able to be in a class with a regular teacher at John Archer, while she would have to leave class for special instruction at a traditional school.
Casey has improved her speaking abilities, become very social, done multiple activities such as field trips and learned vocational skills at John Archer, her father said.
“She can get out in the community and work and do things and she likes it — she loves it,” Reitz said. “She’s like any other person; she wants to feel important and do things.”