IRSD’s Special Education Task Force Initiative an amazing journey

The Indian River School District is committed to providing the best possible support programs and services for students with disabilities in special education.

As a board member, I was given a wonderful opportunity to serve as the chair of the Special Education Task Force this past school year. It was a unique and amazing journey that has resulted in targeted growth for our administrators, teachers, support staff and, ultimately, for students.

Dr. Heather Statler

The task force formed late in the spring of 2015 as a structured mechanism for the district to complete an evaluation of special education services. The committee was comprised of teachers, administrators and IEP coordinators.

The group was focused on identifying current challenges, developing a priority framework for the future and highlighting successful best practices.

The task force created a very unique partnership in the district between administration and the Board of Education. We embarked on a self-examination journey. As most will admit, self-examination is not an easy task. Most would say it is even more difficult with a Board member leading your group!

However, what we discovered is that through transparency, open conversations, and belief in the project, we flourished in ways that were certainly not anticipated. We all worked toward the common goal of student success in ways that made me extremely proud to be a part of the Indian River School District.

So, what did we learn in a nutshell? We learned that we have many things to be proud of in our district. We have devoted families that live in our communities, students that are eager to grow academically and teachers that want to facilitate successful outcomes for all learners.

We learned we had a host of “superstars” in our buildings when we recognized achievements through the Special Education Ambassadors program. We found a great tool to carry our message through the Special Education Week initiatives held in late February.

In addition, we refined our vision and mission statements and were able to write a Strategic Plan that will help to steer the department moving forward.

We also discovered areas that we can strengthen via our surveys to building staff, the community and our frontline special education teams. We learned ways to increase our supports to families through a series of parent focus groups. We discovered a need for more training, increased resources, and more flexible program development. Common through everything we explored, we found students always at the center of our conversations.

I am very proud of the team of individuals who devoted their energy and time to this self-evaluation process. In an age where there are many negative stories at the forefront of our daily news, I would like to pause to recognize how extremely positive this endeavor has been for me both personally and professionally. I am very proud of our special-education department and look forward to the years ahead and the work we will do as a community.

I encourage any parent or family member who would like to speak with me regarding special education services in the district to please contact me. I can be reached at

Editor’s Note: Dr. Heather Statler of Millsboro is a member of the Indian River School District board of education. She represents District 3.

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