Danville Express

Newsfront - July 6, 2007

Special ed gets a new liaison and directors

Added position will provide a link between parents and district

by Jordan M. Doronila

Trustees named two new directors and a liaison for special education for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.

The school board appointed Todd Gary as the new special needs liaison; Linda Rowely Thom as director of Elementary Special Education; and Karen Heilbronner as director of secondary special education.

Thom and Heilbronner will begin their positions in July, and Gary will begin in the fall.

"I am thrilled we were able to hire three very qualified and dedicated people who are very familiar with our education community," said Superintendent Rob Kessler. "Linda, Karen and Todd share a commitment to meeting the needs of students, staff and parents through collaboration and clear communication."

The district made the appointments after an extensive search, which involved months of planning with parents, school officials, staff and experts. All three appointees were involved for eight months in redesigning the district's special education program.

The special needs liaison is a newly created position focused on making connections between staff members and parents of students with special needs. Gary will provide support and training for both parents and staff, as well as welcome new families to special education.

"I want to help our special needs community," said Gary. "I fully understand the difficulties and conflicts inherent in this challenging world of special needs, and I am very excited about this opportunity to help others navigate this process, and to help our children succeed."

Gary is a local attorney with 15 years of experience in mediation and conflict resolution. For the past two years, he has volunteered extensively in the district to improve special education in a variety of capacities. He is a parent of a child with special needs.

Thom will oversee all services and budgets for students in the infant, preschool and K-5 special education programs, including transitioning to middle school.

"I feel very fortunate to be part of this amazing community of learners," said Thom. "As a staff, we are extremely committed to serving our students with special needs and their parents in the best way possible."

Thom is an infant/pre-school program specialist, and has extensive experience with staff development and parent education. She guided the process that led to the district becoming its own Special Education Local Planning Agency (SELPA), said district spokesman Terry Koehne.

Heilbronner will be responsible for services and budgets for students in middle, high school and transition special education programs, including staff supervision and evaluation.

"I am excited about the direction of this department and how we will continue to improve upon the services we provide for students and the support we provide for parents and employees," Heilbronner said. "Through our redesign process, we are implementing a structure that has clear roles and responsibilities, with effective communication at the core."

Heilbronner previously served as the Assistant Director of Special Programs for the district. She is a former elementary and middle school teacher and middle school administrator. She served as the district liaison to the PTA Special Needs Committee.


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