The Marysville School District held a virtual community forum on March 4 to talk with the two final applicants for the district’s executive director of special education and student services.
A director of special education is responsible for making sure students with special needs are adequately supported, directing teaching and support staff that deal with those students, and overseeing special education budgets and grants.
“This forum is meant to give our community members to meet our top two candidates who have applied for our Executive Director of Special Education and Student Services,” said Tracy Souza, executive director of human resources for the district. “Our community forum will be the last opportunity to meet and hear from the candidates."
The two candidates were Trish Campbell and Becca Anderson, both of whom run special education departments in other Washington state school districts.
Campbell is the parent of five children, two of whom have had ‘504 plans,’ which are formal plans given to parents of children with disabilities about how the school will support them.
“The 504 for one of my daughters, she would tell you, saved her educational career and probably her life,” said Campbell.
At her school she created better processes to connect with parents of children with disabilities who had trouble navigating the system.
“We saw a need for parents who are struggling with the IEP process, maybe they didn’t understand it, had a different cultural program, or didn’t understand how the school system could support their children,” she said.
Campbell said her work is largely about helping to change processes to support students.
When her school saw students of color being disproportionately disciplined, she said she worked to change that environment.
“We put together systems and trainings for our leaders and educators so they could improve practices in our schools,” said Campbell. “For everyone we worked with, we saw an improvement in that data."
Anderson, the other candidate, said she has been working since 2004 in the Kennewick School District in special education.
In 2018 she was hired as the district director for special education, but now hopes to move closer to family with the Marysville School District position.
Anderson said she has reshaped many of the programs to help the students at the district.
“We have restructured our behavior program,” she said. “Previously they would attend half-day and then go back to their neighborhood school … that wasn’t working to meet their needs."
The COVID-19 pandemic has required a lot of work to try to meet the needs of all students as well, she said.
“We worked really hard to develop remote [special ed.] services for our students,” said Anderson, which was especially important as many parents did not want their students returning to school as early as possible.
“We had about 200 families who weren’t ready to send their kids back to school for many reasons,” she said.
Anderson said that maintaining relationships with families is one of the most important parts of the job.
“We’ve worked hard to develop relationships with families, even after a due process hearing, collaborating to making sure our students are successful,” she said.
The district hopes to hire their next director for special education soon.