Loretta, Jessica and Kim stand together and pose for a photo wearing Christmas sweaters.

Meeting the Needs of All Students: A Spotlight on the Special Education Department

The Special Education Department here at Visions is comprised of a diverse group of staff. From case managers to speech therapists to school psychologists, this incredible team works to provide services to our special education students and their families. Led by Jessica Lauder, Director of Special Education, Loretta Holder, Special Education Manager for the Home School Academy, and Kim Patalingjug, Special Education Manager for the Independent Study and University Prep Academies, this department serves our most unique and dynamic population of students.

“I have the honor of supporting [the] amazing special education teachers, related service providers, support personnel and families throughout the IEP (Individualized Education Program) process and all special education activities,” shares Loretta. “In addition, I work together with our amazing admin team to design and implement processes to enhance our special education program.”

Overseen by Jessica, the department relies on strong leadership to guide them through the many aspects of working for such a unique department. As the organization continues to grow in service to our families, so does the capacity of our team to support our special education students.

“I provide leadership to the Special Education Department and support an outstanding group of educators,” explains Jessica. “Some of my department roles include compliance and legal oversight, policy development, budget and resource allocation and program development. Within the broader organization of Visions, I work collaboratively with various departments to ensure we are meeting the needs of all students.”

Multi-Faceted and Student-Centered

The Special Education Department is greatly involved in the academic and social success of its students. From mild/moderate to moderate/severe students, this group is equipped to handle a wide variety of student needs, learning styles and individual goals.

“Special education encompasses a wide range of learning differences, each requiring unique teaching methodologies and supports,” explains Jessica. “Every student has the support of a multidisciplinary team, who work together to develop an Individualized Education Program that is tailored to each student’s specific needs, ensuring a student-centered approach. That being said, it is not just our students who are unique. The special education teachers here at Visions have a level of passion for their students that is unprecedented. They truly go above and beyond for their students.”

“I think the most important thought I can share is that special education is hard work. It can truly be grueling at times because there is a lot of work in making sure we are doing the right thing in supporting our students, meeting legal requirements, dealing with emotional situations, and the list goes on. That being said, I can always say it is the most rewarding work I have ever done! I love what I do and am grateful for the opportunity to support our fabulous department, families and students at Visions!” says Loretta.

Continuous Collaboration

Although special education can be nuanced, the team works closely with other departments to ensure they’re providing the best support possible for our students. Without the collaborative nature of the department, we would not be able to provide the level of service that we do to our special education families.

“With every student requiring the support of a multidisciplinary team, collaboration is always a central theme in the work of special education. Special education teachers are constantly working with other team members throughout the Visions organization, including their general education colleagues and a wide variety of service providers, including speech therapists, occupational therapists and psychologists. By working together, they can both problem-solve unique situations for our students and align supports to provide a greater impact to the student and families,” says Jessica.

In addition to the collaborative work of IEP teams, the success of the department also relies heavily on working with all partners here at Visions, including Enrollment, Ordering Services, Internal Data & System Services, Counseling, EL and more.

“One thing I have learned in my short time here at Visions is that it is the right people, working together throughout the organization, that make our school a unique and successful place to work and learn,” says Jessica.

“Our team embodies the1% better every day motto by always showing up to support one another throughout our department and organization,” adds Loretta. “In addition, our team is always looking for ways to better support students and families. Our team is open minded, flexible and ready to take on new challenges. It is an absolute joy to see how every member in our special education department is always willing to support and go the extra mile.”

Kim, the self-proclaimed “newbie” of the group, has quickly learned that this group of staff truly do share the same goal.

“I’ve learned that these amazing educators, vice principals, principals, office staff, managers and directors are all striving for the same goal – to support kids in any way possible.”

A Few of Their Favorite Things

“The amazing team that we have in our Special Education Department and all the incredible families and students that I am honored to serve and support.” – Loretta H.

“The staff, the families and the students. I’m proud to support the incredible work of the staff and enjoy watching the students and families benefit.” – Kim P.

“My favorite part of working in the Special Education Department is the collaborative environment. The special education team here at Visions is an amazing group of professionals who deeply care about the success of their students. Being able to support this team in their work is very fulfilling, as I know they make a difference in the lives of students every day.” – Jessica L.