Jim Toohey<br/ >2019 Exceptional Service Award Recipient

Jim Toohey
2019 Exceptional Service Award Recipient

Coordinator of Vocational Services
The Bay School
Santa Cruz, Calif.

Jim joined The Bay School team in 2008 as an Instructor, was promoted to Senior Instructor in 2010, and stepped into his current position in 2015. In this role, Jim leads our Employment and Community Inclusion Program where he supports our adolescent and young adult students in gaining opportunities to engage in paid, competitive work or obtaining valuable service learning and volunteer experiences in integrated community settings. Jim carefully assesses each student’s strengths, interests, and needs and uses that information to match the individual to a vocational setting that provides opportunities for maximum independence while also promoting growth in new areas.

He builds community relationships with countless business owners and nonprofit agencies which, in most cases, have never before hired an individual with a disability and a job coach. Jim strategically looks for businesses with a unique need to be filled. With Jim’s leadership and the highly skilled instruction from our 1:1 instructors, our students have become some of the most reliable and productive employees of these businesses. Thanks to Jim’s community outreach efforts and thoughtful program planning, we have students currently working at more than 20 different community job sites.

Jim takes on many extra responsibilities to support our students’ growth and social opportunities such as arranging an annual on-site jazz concert and coordinating the transportation schedule of school vans so students can travel to work and have access to community resources. He also helps provide 1:1 instruction to students at job sites during times of staff shortages.

Jim is a highly skilled professional and dedicated employee. He has played an integral role in the lives of the students and families we serve, and we offer our highest recommendations for him to receive an Exceptional Service Award.

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 19% of individuals with disabilities are employed. For individuals who are more severely impacted by autism, these rates of employment are significantly lower. This data has fueled Jim Toohey, our Coordinator of Vocational Services, to find meaningful employment and training opportunities for our students—students who, before attending The Bay School, had often been isolated and unable to participate in community activities because their challenging behavior made it too dangerous for themselves or others.

One TBS parent writes, “Jim has been instrumental in Liviu's growth into the work world. Jim found appropriate placements for LIviu and then supported Liviu in those placements until Liviu was independent. Jim held fast to the belief that Liviu could learn at least 'one more thing' and he taught Liviu one more thing until Liviu had all the skills (both hard and soft) necessary to maintain a job. Under Jim's tutelage, Liviu not only developed these work skills but his confidence and self-esteem grew by leaps and bounds as well. Because of Jim, Liviu loves working and will be an employee for the rest of his life. How amazing is that? To literally change the trajectory of a child's life from unemployable to employable to employed!”

Another TBS parent writes, “I am thankful for Jim in always looking out for the kids’ best interest in their vocational/volunteer programs. I have found that he places Elijah in appropriate settings and always checks with me first regarding what Elijah will be doing and where he will be. He is always diligent with his communication with me and has a solid grasp on how Elijah is doing in his volunteer position. His IEP reports are also very thorough and informative. Lastly, I love that Jim always has a smile on his face and greets me even as we pass by in the hall or parking lot. We are blessed to have Jim overseeing the vocational program.”

And another, “Jim has been a second father figure in introducing Daniel, and I am sure the other students from the Bay School, to the community. He has done wonderful job in finding places to provide opportunities for Daniel to extend his education beyond the school. He is always ready and willing to help anyway he can and he has accommodated us all the time, much higher than our expectations. Congratulations to you all for such a professional group of angels.”

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