The desire to make a difference in the lives of children with unique needs was what originally brought me to the field of education. I loved being in the classroom and the seeing the light in a child’s eyes when he or she understood an idea for the first time. It was through teaching special education that my work became my passion. As a special education teacher I had the opportunity to create my school’s first program for students with behavior and emotional needs. Prior to that time, identified students had been sent to other sites. We created a program staffed by a multi-disciplinary team that met the needs of a wide range of student in regular education classrooms by consulting and collaborating with regular education teachers and offering many student support services to boost their ability to function in a typical high school environment.
I loved my work and I was a teacher who vowed never to leave the classroom until the fateful day when the superintendent called me at home and asked me to consider a leadership position. My first experience as an administrator came when I served as the interim Director of Special Education during a medical leave of the regular director. It was there that I learned through leadership, we impact the lives of many students by working together to create supportive programs and structures. Serving as a Director of Special Education also taught me the importance of teaming with parents so that they are essential partners in our work rather than outside observers.
Over the years, I was offered and took a variety of roles with in education including Dean, Assistant Principal, Associate Superintendent and finally Superintendent. In each of these positions, the districts were small and I was able to work very closely with our special education leadership and teaching staff to ensure that our programs reflected the growing body of research regarding best practice for serving students with special needs. In my most recent district, we commissioned a study of our entire program and worked to change our services to a more inclusive delivery model. We also added wellness centers that benefitted all students but were also to be an intervention for special education students when appropriate.
Given my background and passion for special education, I was elected and served as the chair for the Marin County (California) Special Education cooperative from 2011-2015. This was the governing body for our shared special education programs within the county. In this role, I worked very closely with the Director to develop policies, fiscal allocation plans, programs and procedures to efficiently and effectively operated programs for a variety of K-12 students.