LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - A therapeutic space at Lufkin High School, dedicated to the late son of the district’s former superintendent, is providing students with special needs with sensory input to help calm and focus them during the school year.
Jo-Jo’s Sensory Room is named in memory of Joseph “Jo-Jo” Goffney II, son of former Lufkin ISD superintendent Dr. LaTonya Goffney. Joseph died in March 2019.
“Everyone who knew us knew that [Joseph] Jr. was an integral part of our family. For 20 years, my husband and I took care of him, but we had the help of school districts.
“Lufkin was where our most wonderful memories were."
In lieu of flowers, Dr. Goffney requested that friends, family, and coworkers donate to the Lufkin Education Foundation. The foundation, in turn, entrusted the donated funds to Lufkin High School to create a special project to serve students like Joseph.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity to not only honor Joseph’s memory, but we also really wanted to use the funds that were given to create a space here at Lufkin High School where students like Joseph, with similar challenges, barriers, would be able to use,” said Dana Bickley, assistant principal of LHS.
Jo-Jo’s Sensory Room contains items for students with mental and learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, and any student who needs a safe, quiet room to calm themselves.
Strands of glowing neon rope hang from the ceiling. A multi-colored lamp sits on a table and projects brightly on to the walls of the dimly-lit room. Instrumental music plays softly in the background. Each element plays a role in helping students “reset” emotionally and mentally before tackling the rest of their day, Bickly explained.
“We have many students, probably about 15, who rotate through on a regular rotation,” she said. “But then we have other students, who may be in mainstream classes, who have different sensory deficits who come in when needed.
“The goal is to be able to have those sensory deficits met, or maybe to relax.... to back refocused and recharged.”
“What I love about public education is that we truly educate all,” Goffney added. “They get to learn and grow in an environment where they get to be their very best selves.”
Jo-Jo’s Sensory Room is the first of its kind at Lufkin High School. It serves its purpose every school day by helping students deal with the overwhelming feelings like anger, stress. anxiety.
But it also helps a mother through the overwhelming feeling of loss.
“It made death not feel so final,” Goffney said. “Because his memory continues to live on through the love and the support of the community, and the gift that room is going to be to other students who had similar challenges to him just means a great deal."