News and Events

Barry M. Simon

A Message from the President

2014 has certainly been an exciting year. Your collaboration and hard work have helped to contribute to Oak Hill’s success. The dedication of our participants, staff, board of directors, and the generosity of our donors has enabled us to continue during difficult times and will allow us to move forward into the future. We thank you.

A New Vision

Since I became CEO, I’ve talked to as many people as possible about our vision for Oak Hill: plans to expand and transform our programs and services to meet the changing needs of the communities and people we serve. We will concentrate on two key areas: the needs of our participants and educating the community and public policy makers on the importance of our services. We will continue to build a strong infrastructure that can withstand the significant challenges upon us.

New Challenges

With the State funding for a significant portion of our services being precarious and a philosophical change occurring in the Developmental Disabilities field, Oak Hill has remained ahead of the curve.  Amidst increasing concerns about the State budget, greater demands for transparency and accountability, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Healthcare Reform) mandates, Oak Hill has consistently balanced conviction and flexibility, goals and realism, cautious management and the ability to take advantage of timely opportunities.  This balance allows us to meet immediate program needs while participating in a changing service delivery system.

Timeless Commitment

At Oak Hill, keeping focused on what really matters involves building on our foundation – our mission – and establishing and maintaining value-driven, person-centered services.  We have clear ideas about where we need to go and the talent to get there. In addition to the knowledge and experience of our staff and board, we have significant resources among the individuals whom we serve, our advocates, family members, and other community partners. We have enjoyed strong support from the State agencies who contract with us, but let there be no mistake: as we move forward, profound changes are reshaping the way we do business. 

While we will improve the quality of our services by staying true to our mission and values as the basis for all our decisions, our enthusiasm and optimism, our record of success, and the diverse talent and energy of all of you will enable us to not only adapt to change, but also thrive in it. Oak Hill’s goal has always been to set the standard and provide the highest quality care for people we serve. It was the desire of our founder in 1893, and it is that same desire today that will serve as our guide. Oak Hill is ready for a new era of excellence.

Thank you all for your support of Oak Hill!

Barry M. Simon, MA, MPA

PS: Please take a moment to read our 2014 Annual Report. I hope you will be inspired by the stories about our participants, our dedicated staff and our loyal donors.


2014 Annual Report

Download the Annual Report


December 2, 2013

Oak Hill Selects A New President

Oak Hill chairman of the board, Frank J. Szilagyi, Esq., announced today that Barry Simon has been selected by the Board of Directors as the new President of Oak Hill.  Currently the CEO of Gilead Community Services, Mr. Simon brings 25 years of leadership in human services, with 17 served as Executive Director.  “Integrity, respect, leadership by example, advancing the mission of the agency and industry are values that are central” to Mr. Simon’s work ethic. 

“I have known Barry for many years while we served on the board and public policy committee of our trade association (CCPA).  I have no doubt that Barry will bring his passion for serving people with disabilities to Oak Hill,” said outgoing President, Patrick J. Johnson, Jr.

Barry holds a Masters Degree in Health Care Administration, M.A. in Marital and Family Therapy and B.A. in Psychology, all from the University of Connecticut.  In addition to his work at Gilead, he has served as an adjunct professor at Middlesex Community College in the Sociology department. Barry has also served on a variety of nonprofit boards of directors and public policy and behavioral health committees. 

Mr. Simon will take up his office on December 2nd 2013.

Oak Hill serves children and adults with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.  Oak Hill helps people with disabilities experience rich, fulfilling lives in communities throughout Connecticut. Through education, assistive technology, programs and advocacy, they are supported at every stage of life. The organization also provides an array of services to those people who work with, live with and care for people challenged by disabilities.

It is the largest private nonprofit 501(c)(3) community provider of services for people with disabilities in Connecticut. The legal name is The Connecticut Institute for the Blind, Inc., d/b/a, Oak Hill.


June 3, 2013

Emergency Responders Bring Real Life to Learning for Oak Hill Students with Disabilities During Community Partners Day

Community Partners Day at Oak Hill for people with disabilities

Margaret Sleeper, 16, listens to New Britain 
Firefighter Richardson Masson explain how
they put out fires while her grandmother,
Barbara Francoeur, looks on during Oak Hill
School’s Community Partners Day.

As local fire, police and ambulance vehicles converged on an Oak Hill School site in New Britain last week, what may have appeared to be a crisis was actually emergency responders bringing real life to learning for students with disabilities during an Oak Hill School community partners day. 

“For our students, being able to experience activities, equipment and interact with community partners up close and personal, enhances their learning and creates the understanding that these people are here to help them,” said Oak Hill School teacher Gina Carchidi, who initiated the Community Partners Day event. “This will reduce future anxiety if they are ever in a situation that requires police, fire or an ambulance to be called.”

Outside, students met fire, police and EMT personnel, saw their vehicles and touched equipment that each uses in their area of community service. Firefighters unrolled fire hoses. Police let students sit in a patrol car. EMTs let students get in an ambulance and use a stethoscope to hear their heartbeat. 

Inside activity tables had information on each service area with activities designed for students with differing abilities. Some students practiced “Stop, Drop and Roll” at the fire activity station, while others did a matching game with picture symbols. Students also made their own police badges and identified “Safe vs. Not-safe” choices, such as riding a bike with or without a helmet.

The thematic learning program also had an indoor multi-sensory weather station with snowmaking, a heat lamp and tornado machine for students to experience different types of weather. An art learning and cooking station reinforced the other programs with thematic snacks, including edible fire trucks and rainbow cookies participants decorated themselves. Students from Oak Hill classes across Connecticut were invited to participate.

“You can describe something all you want, but there’s no learning like experiential learning,” said Melanie Turek, director of Oak Hill Secondary School. “Our students learn better and more easily using blended instruction that incorporates math, reading and independent living skills. Learning isn’t just within the four walls of our school; Oak Hill School Secondary students spend 30 to 50 percent of their time learning in the community.” 

Oak Hill School is a year-round private school licensed by the State Department of Education, which serves children with multiple disabilities. Oak Hill’s inclusive education model embeds its classrooms into public school districts. Today, more than 100 children are enrolled in 11 Oak Hill classrooms in Bristol, Plainville, New Britain, New Hartford and Southington school districts. Oak Hill student referrals currently come from more than 50 school districts across Connecticut.

Founded in 1893 as a school for blind children, Oak Hill is now the largest private nonprofit provider of services for people with disabilities in Connecticut. For more information, visit


May 13, 2013

Oak Hill President Patrick J. Johnson Jr. has announced his retirement, effective at the end
of August

After 45 years of managing human services in Connecticut, according to Board Chairman Frank J. Szilagyi, Esq. He became the sixth president of Oak Hill in its 120-year history in 2003. Oak Hill is the state’s largest private nonprofit provider of services for people with disabilities and has over 100 sites in 58 towns throughout Connecticut. Johnson had previously served as Director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Hartford.

“Oak Hill’s success has and will always depend on its people,” said Chairman Szilagyi. “Patrick Johnson has truly been a leader for all seasons, and we have all benefited from his boundless energy, passion, and compassion in advocating for people with disabilities. He gave Oak Hill a unique blend of professionalism with a personal touch.”

Under Johnson’s leadership, Oak Hill fixed its course on the ultimate goal of setting the standard in providing the highest quality residential and day supports, as well as education and lifelong learning opportunities to enhance independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. Johnson’s ability to adapt Oak Hill’s offerings to meet changing needs has been credited with keeping the organization strong while safeguarding its capacity to provide quality programs, services and education to its participants.

Today, Oak Hill offers the only approved private school model in the state where the classrooms of children with disabilities are integrated onsite into public school systems and local communities. Oak Hill students currently come from 51 school districts. The New England Assistive Technology (NEAT) Center at Oak Hill stays on the cutting edge to provide new assistive technology, advanced equipment and training to help mainstream children and adults into the community and boost their independence. Oak Hill provides residential care for 400 children and adults throughout the state, as well as day programs for people with intellectual disabilities, supportive employment, a center for relationships and sexuality education, and Birth-to-Three programs. In addition, in-home supports, community companion and autism services are expanding.

“All of this is part of Oak Hill today, because Pat Johnson and his Oak Hill colleagues have believed it is possible for people with disabilities and their families to fulfill their dreams,” Szilagyi said.


January 30, 2013 – Oak Hill Joins Rally to Save Connecticut’s Safety Net

Governor Dannel Malloy addresses the crowd as social service workers chant: “Save Our Safety Net”

Oak Hill employees joined more than 700 supporters and beneficiaries of nonprofit social services in Connecticut in the “Protect the Safety Net” rally outside the Capitol at the end of January. Chilly temperatures with a steady drizzle didn’t dampen the crowd’s determination to share its message as social service advocates chanted “SOS, Save our Safety Net.”

Previous budget rescissions and recent modifications have put enormous pressure on the ability of nonprofits to provide quality programs and services. In a show of unity, the nonprofit community shared our message and stories with government officials during the rally and then later in individual meetings with state representatives. 

Connecticut relies on private nonprofits like Oak Hill to provide the bulk of state-sponsored social services. Only about 6 percent of this year's $20.5 billion state budget is divided among hundreds of community-based nonprofits that serve abused children, the mentally ill, people with developmental disabilities, those suffering from addiction, prison inmates and others.

Read the Full Story


October 5, 2012 – Hooker Brewery Works With Oak Hill

Oak Hill enriches lives by enhancing independence and quality of life for people with disabilities including visual impairments. They've teamed up with Thomas Hooker Brewery in Bloomfield to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Moments from 2012 Inspirations: A Celebration of Excellence Dinner


A celebration of excellence, achievements, and an evening of 'Inspirations'

Oak Hill would like to thank all of our participants, attendees and partners for their outstanding dedication to improving the quality of life for those with disabilities.

Inspirations Awards:

In Appreciation, John A. Coccomo, Sr. Foundation

Employee of the Year, Brian Alff

Volutneer of the Year, Helen Roth

Special Recognition, Beecher Lajoie, Principal at Thalberg Elementary School

Oak Hill Student of the Year, Rory Eifes (Elementary)

Oak Hill Student of the Year, Eliza Pechar (High School)

Oak Hill School Parents of the Year, Margaret Pechar and Mary Tinetti

Partners in Mission Award, Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration

Above and Beyond Award, Dominic Casablanca, MD

Corporate Philanthropy Award, Hancock Pharmacy & Surgical 

Media Ambassador of the Year, Brad Davis, WDRC

Donor of the Year Award, The Harriau Family

Oak Hill Parent of the Year, Linda Gray Watson

Oak Hill Participant of the Year, Kenneth Carangelo

Ambassador of the Year, Lois Nitch





iPads Give Children A Voice

Born with cognitive and physical disabilities, Angelica attends the Oak Hill School where students have access to the latest technology to enhance their learning and quality of life.  She does not have the coordination to maneuver a computer mouse, but when her teacher, put an iPad in front of her, she did something she had never done before.  She reached for it and held on tight.  “I’ve never seen her so engaged before.  She is able to hold it herself.  Because of her limited vision, she needs objects up close to see,” said Leslie Abrahams, Oak Hill School teacher. 

Dale Reeves, licensed Speech Language Pathologist at Oak Hill likes its versatility.  “All children respond to the iPad and in different ways.  Children that typically do not reach out and respond to other things, respond to this device.  It’s accessible, has a gentle touch screen, and has a lot of applications.  Students can use it to improve communication, math and reading skills.  Along with leisure skills which help children entertain themselves.” said Mrs. Reeves.    

With the text to speech application, it can give a child a voice.  Mrs. Reeves said, “For Angelica, she can convey her wants and needs; interact with her classmates, teachers, family members and medical providers.  That’s very important for her and others who are non-verbal or may be difficult to understand.” 

The iPad is also, generally, less expensive than computers and other devices specifically designed to help people with disabilities speak, read, or write.  Mrs. Reeves uses a variety of applications with her students and one is called, Proloquo2Go, which allows a student to touch an icon that prompts the device to speak things like, ‘I need to go to the bathroom,’ and Math Magic which helps students practice arithmetic.

Mrs. Reeves said, “Right now, we have an iPad in every classroom, but my wish is for each student to have an iPad.  There is so much available technology now.  It’s much more affordable and a great learning tool for children with disabilities.”    

If you would like to provide an iPad to help an Oak Hill student succeed, you may make a donation online at anytime by visiting, and click DONATE NOW


Frank Szilagyi appointed new board chair

Mr. Frank J. Szilagyi, Esq. was appointed  chairman of Oak Hill's Board of Directors; he began his term in November 2011.  Szilagyi is a trial lawyer with more than 20 years of experience; has been a partner of the firm since 2000 and currently serves as the Managing Partner of Szilagyi & Daly in Hartford.  Mr. Szilagyi resides in West Hartford.    


Bonnie Ohlendorf appointed to board of Oak Hill Foundation

In photo, left to right: Erich and Bonnie Ohlendorf

Ms. Bonnie Ohlendorf has more than 30 years finance and charitable management service experience with Bank of America; most recently in its Philanthropic Management Group.  Ms. Ohlendorf has served on Oak Hill's selection committee for the John A. Coccomo Foundation which awards outstanding students who are visually impaired or blind with college scholarships.  Ohlendorf has said, 'Oak Hill is her favorite charity,' and was recognized in 2010, as Oak Hill's Donor of the Year. Ms. Ohlendorf resides in Cromwell. 


Governor and Hartford Mayor Tour NEAT Center at Oak Hill

In August, Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Mayor Pedro Segarra toured the NEAT Center at Oak Hill located in the Blue Hills section of Hartford.  The Governor’s “Job Tour” was coordinated by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. 

Both men were greeted by Oak Hill staff and board members, along with other invited guests including Terrence W. Macy, PhD, Commissioner for the Department of Developmental Services.  During their hour long tour, they met several individuals with disabilities served by NEAT where each demonstrated assistive technology that has helped them to succeed at work.


NEAT Expands to Groton 

The NEAT Center at Oak Hill expands with a new location in Groton; with two other locations in Hartford and Stratford, and   Wishing to better serves the needs of people with disabilities in New London County, Bruce Stovall, Vice President, Oak Hill Centers and Kathryn Green, Executive Director, Lighthouse Voc-Ed Center formed a collaboration and opened the satellite office in August.   NEAT – Groton is located at 744 Long Hill Road; for more information, call (860) 445-7626, or email:


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For more information, please call the development and communications department at (860) 242-2274, (860) 286-3113 TTY or email us at