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Shawnee Mission Superintendent: Personalized Learning Could Fix Special Education Issues

Courtesy Shawnee Mission School District

The Shawnee Mission School District is still searching for someone to lead its beleaguered special education department.

The district came under fire last year after the Kansas Department of Education found some students with special needs weren’t getting all federally required services. Students who are gifted also qualify for special education in Kansas.

SMSD Superintendent Michael Fulton sent an email to parents earlier this week announcing Assistant Superintendent Christy Ziegler would be taking over the special education department on an interim basis.

“That person that’s going to go into that director’s spot, that assistant superintendent is going to do a great job working with parents, students and staff in helping to effectively meet the needs of all of our special education students,” Fulton said Wednesday on KCUR’s Up To Date program.

The former director of special education, Jackie Chatman, is transitioning into an assistant role. Chatman was hired by the former superintendent, Jim Hinson, who left the district in 2o17.

Fulton is in his first month on the job. He previously oversaw the Pattonville, Missouri, School District.

In addition to overseeing the special education department while the district conducts a nationwide search, Assistant Superintendent Ziegler has been tasked with developing more personalized learning opportunities for Shawnee Mission students.

Fulton considers personalized learning – instruction that’s tailored to an individual child’s needs – the district’s future.

“Let’s say I’m a sixth grader, and I’m interested in a couple of different career options. Maybe I want to be a brain surgeon. Maybe I want to be a professional baseball player. Maybe I’m also interested in plumbing,” Fulton said. “What we need to do with students is to allow them to explore those interests in ways that they understand what those jobs entail.”

Then it’s a matter of making sure students have the academic background they need to pursue a career after high school.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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