COLCHESTER — The Board of Education voted on Wednesday to hire a new Director of Special Education and to approve a separation agreement with Bacon Academy Principal Matthew Peel.
The new Director of Pupil Services and Special Education, Amy Emory, is currently Director of Special Education at Billerica Public Schools in Massachusetts. Prior to her time at Billerica, Emory spent 28 years, including 14 years as Director of Pupil Services, at Region 13 Schools in Durham and Middlefield, according to her resume.
Board Chair Alexander Oliphant told CT Examiner that out of the three candidates the district was considering for the position, Emory was the “standout.”
“She was very impressive. She is very sharp. She is a very collaborative person and I think she will do very well,” said Oliphant. “She’s a good fit for the district and she really does care about our students.”
Other board members also praised Emory as being a good choice for the district.
“I think she’s going to take care of all of the issues that we’ve had and she seems wonderful for the position,” said Board member Donna Antonacci. “She uses the words, ‘we’ a lot … because she wants to work collaboratively with the parents.”
Board member Margo Gignac also said she felt that Emory was “wonderful” and would be able to address the concerns that special education parents have brought up about being able to receive appropriate services for their children.
“[I’m] really looking forward to having her start and keep[ing] the program moving forward,” said Gignac.
Glenn McGrath, the current Interim Director of Pupil Services and Special Education, told the Board on Wednesday that a survey of special education parents asking them to list the ideal qualities for a director of special education received “a high response rate,” according to the meeting minutes. He told CT Examiner that the district received 99 total responses to the survey — 59 from parents and 40 from district administrators and special education staff.
McGrath told CT Examiner that the survey had been sent out to 400 special education parents in the district, as well as parents of special education students that are in out-of-district placements.
McGrath told the Board that the survey showed that special education parents wanted a director that was a good communicator and able to form relationships, as well as someone with a talent for “strategic planning and the ability to move the district forward,” according to the meeting minutes.
He told CT Examiner that after screening the resumes and reviewing the results of the survey, the candidates participated in two rounds of interviews. He said the first interviews focused on things like program development and laws and regulations — specialized knowledge pertinent to special education. The second round of interviews, he said, focused on “important values and issues that need to be addressed in Colchester.”
“Mrs. Emory came out clearly the lead candidate in both interviews,” said McGrath.
CT Examiner could not reach Emory for comment.
Oliphant and other board members said that the interviews for special education director were conducted by committees that included Acting Superintendent Tym McDowell, Interim Director of Pupil Services and Special Education Glenn McGrath, administrators, teachers and special education parents. McGrath told CT Examiner that a special education parent was present in both rounds of interviews for the special education director.
McDowell did not respond to an email request for comment by the time this article was published.
A special education parent who was on the committee to conduct the first round of interviews told CT Examiner that Emory had been her “second choice.” But she also praised Emory’s qualifications.
“Amy Emory has a lot of experience and seems capable of decision making and a good understanding of her legal and (I hope) ethical responsibilities to children with special needs,” said the parent.
She said that many parents of special education students had “an incredibly difficult few years accessing appropriate services for their children,” and that the families of these children were “eager for systemic change.”
The five members of the Board present at the meeting voted unanimously to hire Emory as the new director.
At the same meeting, board members also voted unanimously to authorize the superintendent to execute a separation agreement with Bacon Academy Principal Matthew Peel. Peel has been on administrative leave from the district since May 26.
Board members said they could not speak about the reasons for the separation agreement, but they said it was a “mutual agreement” between Peel and the district. CT Examiner had not received a copy of the separation agreement by the time the story was published.
Peel in a phone call with CT Examiner declined to comment on the details of the agreement, but said he was grateful for his time in Colchester.
“I appreciate the last seven years in Colchester. I had a great time. And I really appreciate all of the public support I’ve received over the last few months,” said Peel.