SCBDD's Vern Riffe School introduces its Class of 2017

PORTSMOUTH, Ohio (May 15, 2017) – Heads turned as the processional song began to play, and all eyes were on the Vern Riffe School’s Class of 2017 as they made their way across the ornately decorated gymnasium.

Four students graduated this year on May 12. They were Kali Arnett, Ryan J. LeMaster, Kaylee Rose Maguire, and Abigail Christine Purtee.

“I am very proud of their accomplishments, because they have had to overcome a lot of obstacles in their lives. They are very positive, and they look forward, and with the encouragement of their families and the staff that work with them every day here at the school, they have accomplished this great achievement today,” said Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities Superintendent Julie Monroe.

Arnett is the daughter of Renee McMahon, of Wheelersburg, participates in Special Olympics cheerleading and track and field. She also was Vern Riffe School’s 2017 Prom Queen.

LeMaster is the son of Patricia Rowland of Franklin Furnace. He has participated in intramural basketball at Vern Riffe School. He enjoys crafting, puzzles, walking, the color red, and beads.

Maquire has attended Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ school programs since preschool. She has participated in Special Olympics cheerleading and track and field.

Purtee, daughter of Tom and Klaire Purtee in Portsmouth, began her educational journey with Early Intervention and The Carousel Center. She then attended Vern Riffe School and cheered for the Cardinals and Hardwood Heroes. Purtee hopes to continue her adventures in the community through STAR Adult Day Service and Scioto Residential Service’s OUR Place.

“I think this is the best kept secret in Portsmouth for people with disabled children,” said Abi Purtee’s mother, Klaire. “When Abi got sick as an infant, when we got home from the hospital there was someone waiting for us on our doorstep from the early intervention program through (Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities). She stayed with the program and went to the Carousel Center, and went to the Vern Riffe School and she’ll continue on at STAR. But I think the biggest thing was they knew what our needs were, and we didn’t know. They would step in and say ‘you need to look into this,’ and ‘you need this type of bed,’ and just things I didn’t know or think about. It made a huge difference for us.”

She said she can’t believe how far Abi has come at the Vern Riffe School, and all that the staff does for its students and families.

The day can be just as emotional for many teachers and staff. Director of School Programs Dr. Tammy Guthrie held back her tears as she thought about the journey of these students growing and learning over the years.

“We get to work more closely with our families because we have a smaller number of graduates, and that’s very meaningful,” she said. “Some of our staff members have been with these students since they were three or four years old; some soon after their birth. I think the staff feels like they’re sending off one of their own.”

But graduation is not the end of the services theses students will receive from the Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Monroe said they have programs to help individuals find community-based employment and day habilitation services.

For information about the Scioto County Board of Developmental Disabilities, visit online at, or follow on Facebook and Twitter.

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