April 24, 2009
Dear Patrons and Colleagues:
Earlier this week I was reading an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and was impressed by a quote from Martha Kanter, who is President Obama’s nominee to be the under secretary in the U.S. Department of Education. Ms. Kanter, who is presentlythe chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in California, described her educational philosophy by stating: “I see it very simply. Educate the top 100 percent.” (Chronicle of Higher Education, April 17, 2009, p. 1). This philosophy is consistent with my own, particularly in light of our responsibility to educate students with disabilities.
Fortunately, we have been able to hire an outstanding team of administrators to lead the Canyons School District’s Department of Special Education. Although I’ve briefly introduced this group in recent weeks, I’d like to shed more light on their qualifications. Our Director of Special Education is Dr. Kathryn McCarrie, who most recently was the Director of Special Education in the Granite School District. Dr. McCarrie has broad experience as an educator, having worked for thirty years as a special education teacher, school psychologist, principal, and district office administrator. In addition, she is a deeply compassionate person who loves children and who knows how to use research and innovative approaches to help children achieve. Dr. McCarrie earned her B.S. in Sociology from the University of Utah, her M.S. in Special Education in Adams
State College, and her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Utah.
Robin Collett is our Associate Director of Special Education, and will work closely with Dr. McCarrie to direct and coordinate services for students with disabilities across the district. Robin also comes to the Canyons School District from the Granite School District, where she worked for over 20 years as a special education teacher, assistant principal, and Associate Director of Special Education Support Services. Robin also has tremendous vision, creativity, and skill, and will be a critical part of our efforts to improve services not only to students and parents, but also to principals, teachers, and staff. Robin earned her B.S. in Sociology, her M.Ed. in Special Education, and her administrative certification, all from the University of Utah. In 2002, Robin was the recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of Utah’s Department of Special Education.
Terri Mitchell is the Canyons School District’s Coordinator of Preschool and Early Childhood services for students with disabilities. Most recently an Early Childhood Specialist with the Utah Personnel Development Center, Terri also has experience as a special education teacher and as the Coordinator of the Early Childhood Assessment Center in the Alpine School District. Terri’s enthusiasm, energy, and sound credentials will be a great asset to us as we work to provide first-rate preschool programs and early childhood services to students with disabilities from ages 3 to 8. Terri earned her B.S. in Special Education from Brigham Young University, her Early Childhood Special Education endorsement from Utah State University, and her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the University of Utah.
We’re also pleased to have Denise Haycock working as the Administrative Assistant in the Special Education Department. Denise worked seven years as an Administrative Assistant at the Jordan Child Development Center, which is Jordan District’s special education preschool program. She knows well special education procedures and deeply cares for children receiving services and their families.
This dynamic team has already held a couple of public meetings for parents of students with disabilities, one at Jordan High School and one at Cottonwood Heights Elementary School, to introduce themselves and answer questions about special education services in the new district. However, because not all parents have been able to attend these meetings, I thought it might be helpful to address some of the questions we have been most frequently asked.
Q. Will the Canyons School District offer a full continuum of special education services and placements?
A. YES. As required by federal law, the Canyons School District will provide a continuum of alternative
placements to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities. This continuum will include
“instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in
hospitals and institutions” as well as “supplementary services (such as a resource room or itinerant
instruction) to be provided in conjunction with regular classroom placement.” 34 C.F.R. § 300.115(b).
Recognizing that the least restrictive environment for some children does require a self-contained or
specialized setting, we will continue to operate the Jordan Valley School and other self-contained
placements. At the same time, we are fully committed to ensuring that “to the maximum extent ap-
propriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care
facilities, are educated with children who are nondisabled,” and that students with disabilities have ac-
cess to the general curriculum. 34 C.F.R. § 300.114(2).
Q. Will the Canyons School District and the Jordan School District share any special education programs
A. YES. We are in the process of finalizing interlocal agreements that will allow Canyons School District
special education students access to programs at the South Valley School, and Jordan School District
special education students access to programs at the Jordan Resource Center.
Q. Where will cluster units and other specialized placements be located?
A. For the 2009-2010 school year, we plan to continue with the status quo. That is, we do not plan to
move any of the preschools, cluster units, or other specialized programs located at schools to differ-
ent locations. However, location of these programs in the long term may change. The Board of Edu-
cation has charged a 45-member Enrollment Management & Capital Facilities Task Force with the re-
sponsibility of studying issues related to building capacity, condition, and location, and of making rec-
ommendations to the board by the fall of 2009, and the outcome of this process may affect the loca-
tion of special education programs as we develop plans for school boundaries and the use of facilities
in the future.
Q. Will we have integrated preschool programs?
A. YES. We will continue to have integrated preschool programs in which students with disabilities are
educated with children who are nondisabled.
Q. Will guidance services continue in the same manner as the Jordan School District?
A. YES. However, all Canyons School District “guidance specialists” are highly qualified school psycholo-
gists, and their titles and responsibilities will reflect their specialized education and skills.
Q. What is the commitment of Canyons School District to students with autism?
A. We have a strong commitment to the academic, behavioral, social, and communicative progress of
students with autism. Among the instructional and support services we will offer, as appropriate on
an individualized basis, are social skills development, specialized communication programs, ongoing
professional development for teachers and assistants, and dedicated support from District staff.
Q. Will curriculum be aligned and research based?
A. YES. The Department of Special Education, together with the District’s Office of Evidence-Based
Curriculum & Learning, under the direction of Dr. Ginger Rhode, Deputy Superintendent for Student
Achievement, who is a highly respected special education expert in her own right, will be taking an
inventory of all special education and general education curricula in Canyons School District schools,
to ensure that all curricula and instructional strategies are research-based and designed to produce
effective learning outcomes. Once this inventory is complete, District leaders will work with teachers
and principals to implement appropriate changes. Our highest priority is to improve achievement
outcomes for all students, and we intend to courageously confront any curricular programs or in-
structional strategies that may not be working.
Q. How will the Canyons School District keep parents of students with disabilities informed and en-
A. We plan to utilize a number of strategies to promote active engagement and partnerships with par-
ents. First, we plan to form a standing parent advisory group that will meet regularly with district ad-
ministrators and staff to discuss concerns, issues, and ideas. Second, we plan to actively use the dis-
trict’s Web site to disseminate information to parents and staff. Third, we plan to be visible partici-
pants in events that give students with disabilities an opportunity to shine, such as Special Olympics.
Fourth, I plan to host a series of invitation-only lunches in my office for selected students with disabili-
ties and their parents so I can get to know the students and their families in a personal and meaningful
way, and recognize their accomplishments. Fifth, we plan to involve parents in helping us create
unique partnerships with Utah institutions of higher education to place many more students with dis-
abilities on a clear path to postsecondary education and meaningful, gainful employment. We have
many more ideas and will share them with you as we develop them more fully in the coming months.
In conclusion, I want to be very clear that the education of students with disabilities will be one of the top
priorities of my administration. I also want to be clear that our special education leadership shares my pas-
sion for holding all students to, and helping them achieve, high expectations. Finally, and most importantly, I
want to be clear that we genuinely love students with disabilities—and that is why we are so excited to work
with them in the Canyons School District.
— Dr. Dave Doty