News

Special-education director resigns mid-year

District appoints program specialist, school psychologist as interim co-directors

In the midst of Palo Alto Unified's efforts to reform its special-education department, the school district announced Tuesday that director is resigning mid-year, after only a year and a half on the job.

Chiara Perry, who took over the special-education department in 2015, will leave on March 17 to become the director of special education for the Campbell Union School District, she said Wednesday.

The district has named two staff members who work in special education as interim co-directors until the district finds a replacement for Perry. Alma Ellis, a relatively new special-education program coordinator, and Stephanie Sheridan, a longtime psychologist at JLS Middle School, will begin to transition into their new roles this month, the district said.

"While we are saddened by the departure of Ms. Perry, we are also grateful to her for the four years she dedicated serving PAUSD students and their families," Superintendent Max McGee said in the announcement. "Because of the expertise in the field of special education that she brought to PAUSD and her hard work improving our services, I am confident that this will be a smooth transition."

The announcement comes at a time of transition and introspection for the department, which has been working to respond to an external review that identified some "promising" practices in special education, but also serious deficiencies in the district's approach to serving students with special needs and their families.

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Perry told the Weekly her decision was driven by a desire for a better work-life balance -- Campbell Union is much closer to her south San Jose home -- and "had nothing to do with" the fact that she took over what had been an often embattled department at a challenging time.

Perry was named director in 2015 as part of a reorganization of the department. She replaced Holly Wade, who was promoted that year to chief student services officer but has remained a consistent presence at public meetings on special education.

Special-education parent-leaders were heartened at the time by the department's restructuring, but are again urging a deeper, more systemic approach to improving services and relationships with special-education families.

In a statement provided to the Weekly, Kimberly Eng Lee, chair of special-education advocacy group Community Advisory Committee (CAC), and longtime parent-advocate Christina Schmidt called Perry's departure a "loss." She showed "great promise," they said, "with a strong vision to empower all children and staff, and the ability to heal 'old wounds.'"

"We are concerned with how the district will continue the initiatives Director Perry has begun, and how PAUSD will move forward through uncharted waters to carry out the recommendations from a less than complete special education review," they said.

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"We hope that PAUSD leadership will commit to focusing on the much needed improvements in the identification process, and delivery of specific supports and early, intensive interventions in the classroom."

The parent leaders said they expect "courageous leadership" from the school board and Perry's replacement, "if PAUSD is to be successful in delivering a truly rigorous and inclusive learning environment for students in special education."

In the interim, the two interim co-directors will report directly to Wade, McGee told the Weekly. He will also meet with them monthly, or more, he said. The directors of elementary and secondary education also meet weekly with Ellis and Sheridan, respectively.

Ellis has been a program specialist for Palo Alto elementary schools since 2015, according to the district. Before that, she worked as a program specialist in the Sequoia Union High School District and Compton Unified School District for several years. She also served as an autism consultant for various companies and programs.

Sheridan has been a school psychologist in Palo Alto since 2004. Before that, she worked in the same role in the San Mateo-Foster City School District.

To cover the interim directors' existing job responsibilities, the district is making two current part-time school psychologists full-time and realigning the responsibilities of a third, according to the announcement.

The district said it plans to launch a formal, nationwide search for a permanent director in the next few weeks.

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Special-education director resigns mid-year

District appoints program specialist, school psychologist as interim co-directors

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 9:16 am

In the midst of Palo Alto Unified's efforts to reform its special-education department, the school district announced Tuesday that director is resigning mid-year, after only a year and a half on the job.

Chiara Perry, who took over the special-education department in 2015, will leave on March 17 to become the director of special education for the Campbell Union School District, she said Wednesday.

The district has named two staff members who work in special education as interim co-directors until the district finds a replacement for Perry. Alma Ellis, a relatively new special-education program coordinator, and Stephanie Sheridan, a longtime psychologist at JLS Middle School, will begin to transition into their new roles this month, the district said.

"While we are saddened by the departure of Ms. Perry, we are also grateful to her for the four years she dedicated serving PAUSD students and their families," Superintendent Max McGee said in the announcement. "Because of the expertise in the field of special education that she brought to PAUSD and her hard work improving our services, I am confident that this will be a smooth transition."

The announcement comes at a time of transition and introspection for the department, which has been working to respond to an external review that identified some "promising" practices in special education, but also serious deficiencies in the district's approach to serving students with special needs and their families.

Perry told the Weekly her decision was driven by a desire for a better work-life balance -- Campbell Union is much closer to her south San Jose home -- and "had nothing to do with" the fact that she took over what had been an often embattled department at a challenging time.

Perry was named director in 2015 as part of a reorganization of the department. She replaced Holly Wade, who was promoted that year to chief student services officer but has remained a consistent presence at public meetings on special education.

Special-education parent-leaders were heartened at the time by the department's restructuring, but are again urging a deeper, more systemic approach to improving services and relationships with special-education families.

In a statement provided to the Weekly, Kimberly Eng Lee, chair of special-education advocacy group Community Advisory Committee (CAC), and longtime parent-advocate Christina Schmidt called Perry's departure a "loss." She showed "great promise," they said, "with a strong vision to empower all children and staff, and the ability to heal 'old wounds.'"

"We are concerned with how the district will continue the initiatives Director Perry has begun, and how PAUSD will move forward through uncharted waters to carry out the recommendations from a less than complete special education review," they said.

"We hope that PAUSD leadership will commit to focusing on the much needed improvements in the identification process, and delivery of specific supports and early, intensive interventions in the classroom."

The parent leaders said they expect "courageous leadership" from the school board and Perry's replacement, "if PAUSD is to be successful in delivering a truly rigorous and inclusive learning environment for students in special education."

In the interim, the two interim co-directors will report directly to Wade, McGee told the Weekly. He will also meet with them monthly, or more, he said. The directors of elementary and secondary education also meet weekly with Ellis and Sheridan, respectively.

Ellis has been a program specialist for Palo Alto elementary schools since 2015, according to the district. Before that, she worked as a program specialist in the Sequoia Union High School District and Compton Unified School District for several years. She also served as an autism consultant for various companies and programs.

Sheridan has been a school psychologist in Palo Alto since 2004. Before that, she worked in the same role in the San Mateo-Foster City School District.

To cover the interim directors' existing job responsibilities, the district is making two current part-time school psychologists full-time and realigning the responsibilities of a third, according to the announcement.

The district said it plans to launch a formal, nationwide search for a permanent director in the next few weeks.

Comments

systematic
College Terrace
on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:41 am
systematic, College Terrace
on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:41 am
30 people like this

PAUSD SpEd does have a systematic approach to providing needed services: it the services are inexpensive or the parents have the backing of a lawyer, the services are generally provided; otherwise the child is SOL.


Sickened
Greene Middle School
on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:54 am
Sickened, Greene Middle School
on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:54 am
22 people like this

What Dystematic says is the absolute truth!

I even offered to pay for my son to stay with a certain math teacher to work with him an extra year-- he was on the verge of a breakthrough in that subject-- and was told "absolutelyNO, this simply isn't done". Even though it was in his best interest.

Jordan released him from Specisl Ed entirely. He was not ready, and of course, his grades dropped drastically in 8th
grade.


john_alderman
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 11:43 am
john_alderman, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 1, 2017 at 11:43 am
23 people like this

It is public education, not private concierge education. There are fixed and limited dollars, teachers, time for everyone to share.


Sarah1000
Los Altos
on Feb 1, 2017 at 1:11 pm
Sarah1000, Los Altos
on Feb 1, 2017 at 1:11 pm
27 people like this

@john_alderman Actually, school districts receive special education funding to provide the services that are necessary for children who have challenges to participate in public education.


Hmmmm
Greene Middle School
on Feb 1, 2017 at 2:04 pm
Hmmmm, Greene Middle School
on Feb 1, 2017 at 2:04 pm
12 people like this

Sounds to me like she got a better offer in a less-crowded district!

Probably cheaper rent or a shorter commute, too.


Two steps backwards
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 2:17 pm
Two steps backwards, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 2:17 pm
8 people like this

It's too bad, Perry seemed a good egg in a basket of too many bad apples. [Portion removed.] This is a step backwards. We do not need people to drag us back into the morass.


Suspicious
Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 9:07 pm
Suspicious, Barron Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 9:07 pm
13 people like this

I do not believe it. Nobody leaves in the middle of the school year, something went really wrong, and they are hiding it. Perhaps is related to the bullying of the special ed. student at Jordan if not something worst.


Robert Smith
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 1, 2017 at 9:53 pm
Robert Smith, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 1, 2017 at 9:53 pm
5 people like this

I would guess that anyone at Churchill who has options will be thinking about them pretty seriously.

Cutting back on staff is one of the few things that they can do to balance the budget, and it will not be pleasant.


Two steps backwards
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 9:24 am
Two steps backwards, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 9:24 am
5 people like this

[Post removed.]


@Two steps
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:24 am
@Two steps, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:24 am
12 people like this

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

The elementary teachers possibly feel more of the need to be superficially warm, due to the ages of the younger students, while still maintaining a conditioned, legalistic and antagonistic stance towards students and their families. [Portion removed.] Once a child and his/her family encounters dishonesty in PAUSD, and sense the pervasive dishonesty operating in the background as a collusion between teachers and administrators and counselors, there is virtually no room for trust anymore. [Portion removed.]


Two steps backwards
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 6:51 pm
Two steps backwards, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 6:51 pm
6 people like this

@@Two Steps,
Unfortunately I did not see your whole post before it was deleted. Your sentence rings very true: "Once a child and his/her family encounters dishonesty in PAUSD, and sense the pervasive dishonesty operating in the background as a collusion between teachers and administrators and counselors, there is virtually no room for trust anymore." There was a recent article about soe ial ed in which another parent spoke critically about that collusion.

I think the district should not reward that kind of behavior in its employees. I wonder if Perry left to get away from it, too.


a parent
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2017 at 5:31 pm
a parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2017 at 5:31 pm
2 people like this

I wonder what happened- I suspect some big screwup or being forced out. My impression of Chiara Perry was that she seemed completely out of her depth, and just towing the party line; interesting that Holly Wade does not seem to have backed her up.

Or perhaps she got sick of Wade's policies of non-help for special ed families, and frequent use of legal assistance in browbeating families, and left.


Parent of a child with special need
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 2, 2017 at 12:15 am
Parent of a child with special need , Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 2, 2017 at 12:15 am
Like this comment

I am sorry to see Chiara Perry leaving. She is supportive of families with children with special needs. I am afraid that like the previous post "@a parent" suggested that "perhaps she got sick of Wade's policies of non-help for special ed families, and frequent use of legal assistance in browbeating families, and left."

By the time I post on this forum, we already learned that Holly Wade is leaving the school district. Let's hope we find an excellent special ed director like our beloved Carol Zepecki. Carol is the best of all special ed directors I have experienced in Palo Alto over the last 20 years.


Mom
Greene Middle School
on Jun 2, 2017 at 10:33 am
Mom, Greene Middle School
on Jun 2, 2017 at 10:33 am
3 people like this

Katie Kinnaman's (Ms. Cinnamon, according to students) departure is welcome. She was merely a figurehead; unproductive is an understatement.

McGee announced this morning the name of our new principal from the Campbell District Office, Dr. Valerie Royaltey-Quandt.


Campbell IEP Mom
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2017 at 10:57 am
Campbell IEP Mom, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 2, 2017 at 10:57 am
Like this comment

[Post removed.]


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