Colchester Schools Survey Parents, Open Search for Special Ed Director


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COLCHESTER — The school district has begun accepting applications for a new Director of Pupil Services and Special Education and will be soliciting parent and staff feedback regarding the special education department, according to interim superintendent Thomas McDowell. 

At a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, McDowell said that the district had created a survey for special education parents and staff in the special education department, as well as administrators, asking what qualifications and attributes they wanted to see in the district’s new Director of Pupil Services. McDowell said the survey had been distributed on June 7.

The survey asks parents to choose which attributes are the most important for a potential director of special education and pupil services. The list of options includes communication skills, holding students and staff accountable, working collaboratively, creating functioning systems and using data to set goals, among others.

The survey also asks parents to identify characteristics (i.e. persistence, respect, transparency. innovation) most important to them in a special education director, and to list the “most significant and important issue you would like the director to address.” 

According to McDowell, results from that survey would be used to inform a second survey of parents regarding special education services in the district. He said that Glenn McGrath, the district’s interim director of pupil services, and Elisa Fabiszak, assistant director of pupil services, would be working with special education parents to develop the survey. 

In an emergency meeting of the board on April 15, the board members said they planned to meet to have a more “robust conversation” about parent concerns after they receive the results of the survey. 

The board made the decision to develop the survey in response to complaints from multiple parents in the district that the district was failing to provide the proper education for children with special needs. The complaints were largely supported by an independent review of the district’s special education department, which highlighted the district’s high teacher turnover in the special education department, large number of parent complaints and a lack of data around special education student outcomes. 

The district’s former Director of Pupil Services and Special Education, Kathleen Perry, voluntarily resigned in March. 

McDowell said the district had shared all the applications for director of special education services with McGrath and Fabiszak, and that they would begin conducting initial interviews this week. The interview team includes McGrath, Fabiszak, a special education parent, Jack Jackter Special Services Speech Pathologist Nikki Greathouse, Colchester Elementary Principal Judy O’Meara, and two special education teachers, Brianne Vess and Knikka Wetzel. 

CT Examiner reached out to a number of parents who offered a mixture responses – two said that they had not received the survey. Both parents have children with special needs who had formerly received services through the district, but who transitioned their children out of the special education program after struggling to get the necessary services for their child.  

A third parent told CT Examiner that while she received the survey and filled it out, she felt it would have been better to have something either mailed or sent home from the school rather than emailed, to ensure that everyone received it.  

The district did not respond to a question from CT Examiner about how many parents had responded to the survey, although McDowell said it had been sent out to all special education parents

McDowell said at the board of education meeting that a second round of interviews were scheduled to take place the week of June 20.

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.