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Teacher teaches student how to sow the plant.

About Lavelle

The mission and purpose of the Lavelle School for the Blind is to provide students who are visually impaired and/or have additional disabilities with the skills and training necessary for them to reach their fullest potential in life.  The School offers a full range of individualized special education services, support, and resources to allow students to maximum their independence. We place an emphasis on functional academics, independence in life skills, and development of a positive self-image, ensuring students are prepared to participate in all aspects of community life. We educate the whole child through a combination of developmental and functional strategies with a support system of staff and parents.

Located in Bronx, New York, the Lavelle School for the Blind is an educational facility committed to teaching and training students with visual impairments and additional disabilities. Founded in 1904, Lavelle School for the Blind was originally a Catholic institution. In 1942, Lavelle became one of several state-funded schools for the blind and deaf, supported by the New York State Education Department.

As a private, state approved and supported institution, Lavelle School for the Blind educates approximately 130-150 enrolled students annually from all five New York City boroughs as well as surrounding school districts outside of New York City. Students may enroll as early as age three and can continue until age 21.

The School offers three unique educational programs based on the needs of the students. The Preschool and Early Childhood Program is for students with disabilities ages 3-7. The Life Skills Program is for students with visual impairments and moderate to severe cognitive disabilities ages 6-21. The R.E.A.C.H. Program is for students with visual impairments and mild to moderate cognitive disabilities ages 6-21.

In all of our programs, students benefit from the experience and expertise of staff who focus on helping students develop and grow to the best of their ability. All classroom teachers hold a certification in special education, teacher of the visually impaired, and/or early childhood, depending on the educational program. These certified teachers along with qualified therapists collaborate on planning and implementing effective, individualized educational programs. Talented and dedicated teacher aides and teacher assistants work closely with the classroom teachers to embed student goals into the curriculum and throughout the school day.

Teacher teaches student how to sow the plant.



Margaret Coffey opens a school for blind Catholic children in her NYC apartment, where she both educates and houses the children. She was blind herself.


Monsignor Lavelle, Vicar General of New York, requests that the Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt accept the mission of administering the school. Then known as the Catholic Institute for the Blind, the school soon moves to its current location at 3830 Paulding Avenue, Bronx, New York.


The School is renamed in honor of Monsignor Lavelle.


The New York State Education Department (NYSED) recognizes Lavelle School for the Blind and 10 other specialized schools for the blind and deaf. The schools are designated as 4201 schools and receive direct financial support from NYSED.


Lavelle School closes its residential component and begins daily transportation for students from home to school.


In response to the critical need for special education services, Lavelle School refocuses on those who are blind with additional disabilities.


The 4410 preschool (ages 3-4) for children with disabilities opens at Lavelle School.


Direct funding from the NYSED is changed to a per pupil charge paid for by local school districts. NYSED reimburses districts for the cost.


Lavelle School hosts first talent show and art exhibition to showcase student accomplishments to parents and community.


Lavelle students and staff come from all over the world and reflect the glorious diversity of New York City. Our staff empowers this diversity by teaching students to respect each other’s differences. This not only includes differences in race, gender, religion and national origin, but also various disabilities. We pride ourselves on having a diverse team that recognizes the uniqueness of our students.


Lavelle students and staff come from all over the world and reflect the glorious diversity of New York City. Our staff empowers this diversity by teaching students to respect each other’s differences. This not only includes differences in race, gender, religion and national origin, but also various disabilities. We pride ourselves on having a diverse team that recognizes the uniqueness of our students.

Our staff and students come from a variety of countries including:

Our staff and students come from a variety of countries including:

  • The United States
  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Jordan
  • The Philippines
  • Puerto Rico
  • Barbados
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Ghana
  • Antigua
  • India
  • Dominican Republic
  • Jamaica
  • Trinidad
  • China
  • El Salvador
  • St. Kitts
  • Bolivia
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Korea
  • Haiti
  • Cuba
  • Yemen
  • Bangladesh
  • Morocco
  • Pakistan
  • Egypt

Faculty & Staff

Dr. Rebecca Renshaw, Executive Director

Dr. Renshaw received both her Ph.D. and Masters of Education from the University of Pittsburgh’s Vision Studies program and is a certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Orientation and Mobility Specialist. She received a fellowship for her doctoral work from the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment.   Dr. Renshaw also holds a Masters of Studies in Law degree with a major in disability law from the University of Pittsburgh’s Barco Law School. Additionally, she completed an Executive Certificate in Non Profit Leadership at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business.

Previously, Dr. Renshaw was the Education Director at the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, where she also worked as a Center Director, and as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, and Orientation and Mobility Specialist.  She also previously worked as Director of Education for the Leader Dogs for the Blind.  She currently serves as Past-President of the Pennsylvania-Delaware chapter of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.  She has presented at numerous professional conferences and served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and Salus University.

Diane Tucker, Principal

“The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge, but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create people who are capable of doing new things.”

Diane Tucker is the Principal at Lavelle School for the Blind. She has been with the school for over thirty years, previously as a teacher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dominican College and a master’s in special education from College of New Rochelle. She is also School Administrator/Supervisor certified and Teacher of Visually Impaired Children certified.

Diane is inspired by the diverse students and staff who are drawn to Lavelle. In her three decades at the school, she has seen hundreds of students overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. She believes the greatest gifts she can give students are the ability to communicate and reach their maximum level of independence.

Deni Fraser, Assistant Principal

“We should all be life learners.”

Deni Fraser is the Assistant Principal at Lavelle School for the Blind. He has worked at Lavelle for over 12 years, first as a job coach and a school counselor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education from Atlantic Union College, a master’s in education, school counseling and rehabilitation counseling, as well as an administrative certification as school building leader from CUNY-Hunter College.

Deni was inspired to work with the disabled community from a young age. His mother, who was legally blind, was a foster mother to over 35 children throughout his childhood, many of whom had special needs. He is proud of Lavelle’s unique “one-stop- shop” approach to students with multiple disabilities, and is passionate about teaching academics as well as social and interpersonal skills. In his work, Deni integrates the belief that all students deserve to be taught in an emotionally and physically safe environment where their diverse needs and multicultural backgrounds are valued.

Faculty & Staff

CPI Team

The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) facilitates the welfare, safety and security of everyone involved in a crisis situation. The program provides members with the skills needed to effectively respond to anxious, hostile or violent behavior while balancing the responsibilities of care. CPI members are trained and certified to use specialized techniques that promote safety, de-escalating situations by being supportive and directive, creating a therapeutic rapport, and providing non-violent physical intervention if needed. Once the involved student(s) respond in a positive manner, they are able to return to their classroom or scheduled activity.

CPI Members

  • Kim Perlongo, Teacher
  • Deni Fraser, Assistant Principal
  • Shari-Gaye Rennick, Teacher Aide
  • Terissa Joseph, Teacher Aide
  • Allison Fisher, Clinical Supervisor OT/PT Department
  • Christine Rivera, Teacher Aide
  • Brigida Liriano, Social Worker
  • Awilda Bravo, Social Worker
  • Adonys Espinal, Teacher Aide
  • Shamela Patrick, Teacher Aide
  • Denise Mendez, School Nurse
  • Joshua Gomez, Teacher Aide


Lavelle School for the Blind occupies an entire New York City block. The handsome brick exterior is accompanied by lush trees and a community garden tended by students. The campus offers an array of special facilities and equipment that cater to each student’s needs. Receiving instruction in our specialized facilities enables students to better perform in academic classes and helps them reach a higher level of independence. Amenities include:

  • Classrooms equipped with the accommodations and modifications students need
  • Physical and occupational therapy gym
  • Fully-equipped student kitchen to learn daily living skills
  • Student-operated school store to practice vocational skills
  • Computer and technology room
  • Sensory room
  • Cafeteria
  • Outdoor playground
  • Art room, Music room, and Gymnasium
Boy in a slider


Special Ed Quality Assurance Review

Middle States accreditation

Parents Testimonials

“The program is amazing. Teachers and staff are patient with my daughter and adamant about achieving her goals and providing all that is needed.”

“My son’s teachers are great. All three of them have made themselves available whenever I need them. They provide daily insight into his school day and make notes of his achievements, which I am very happy with. Their job is not an easy one, but they do it with pride, and it makes me proud.”

“I am extremely happy with the education programs and services they provide to my child, and I cannot wait for more achievements to come. It’s been great for my son and for me, as I am very involved. I see this program helping my son become stronger in his personal caretaking skills and being able to express himself more. He has gained so much independence.”

“My daughter’s teacher is extraordinary. She is supportive and always keeps my daughter involved. She is great in communicating with me and is very attentive to my child’s needs. It is teachers like her that make Lavelle School for the Blind such a great school.”

“We frequently receive invitations from the school’s transition coordinator and social worker to attend workshops at the school and different facilities. It helps us learn and educate ourselves about services and the possibilities for our kids.”