RSD Team Spotlight: IEP Specialist Team

This Team Member Spotlight features the District’s IEP Specialist Team!
Students who are enrolled in Special Education services must have an Individualized Education Plan. An IEP is more than just a written legal document (or “plan”). It lays out the program of special education instruction, supports and services kids need to make progress and thrive in school.

Case managers (special education teachers) at each school manage average case loads ranging from 6-11 students (those with very high needs) up to 35-40, depending on the student’s needs. In the past, these case managers were responsible for the entire IEP process. This includes referral, evaluation, eligibility then even writing the IEP. The district started to review how long it took these case managers to write IEPs for students with learning disabilities and when they were doing the work. Case managers were often spending time outside of work hours or time during the day that would be student contact time completing paperwork and writing IEPs.

The District’s Student Services Department assembled a team of people from across the district, including administrators and teachers, to address the problem. This team visited Medford School District who had created a model for IEP specialists to assist special education teachers in their district. The team also created ideas and developed strategies to provide support to case managers and increase student contact time rather than paperwork. Out of these strategies was the recommendation to create two elementary and two secondary specialists and the role of two support specialists. The District hired experienced Special Education Teachers who are versed in the District’s process and were interested in doing the job. The IEP Specialist Team was created and started in the 2018-2019 school year. These IEP specialists work with all of the case managers in the district to write IEPs, support the IEP process and assist our team of Special Education teachers in every school. They help facilitate the IEP process and ensure that all of the documentation and required paperwork for the IEP process is managed.

The District’s IEP Specialist Team includes:

  • Chris Boegelsack, Secondary IEP Specialist
  • Katie Puppo, Secondary IEP Specialist
  • Erin Wolfe, Elementary IEP Specialist
  • Katie Vernon, Elementary IEP Specialist
  • Dawn Skeen, Secondary IEP Support Specialist
  • Sandy Stevens, Elementary IEP Support Specialist

The model is new for the District so the Student Services Department has maintained open communication with staff and schools to ensure that the program best serves our teachers and students. Last year, the District surveyed staff and introduced changes that were recommended by staff members. Overall, the new program is bringing positive change and relieving teachers to spend more time with students and less time doing paperwork.

Some of the comments from the survey included:

“This has really helped me to focus on instructional planning and progress monitoring which I think has helped me more effectively help students progress. I also can focus better on providing valuable information during IEPs.”

“Love the new system, I have more time after school to help students.”

“As a case manager, there is so much less time spent on paperwork that it has freed me to more deeply connect to student needs. This comes through in the IEP meeting.”

Please read below to learn about each IEP Specialist Team member!

 

Chris Boegelsack

I have been with RSD for 21 years as a Special Education Teacher.  I started at Evergreen Elementary where I was hired as a Life Skills/ERC Teacher. I then moved to Redmond High School as a Life Skills teacher and stayed there for 10 years. After that, I moved to Obsidian Middle School as the Life Skills teacher for 10 years before I applied for the IEP Specialist position.

What I enjoy about this position is that I am able to work and support a much larger group of students/families and professionals. Originally, I did not want to work in education. Both of my parents were teachers in the Redmond School District, and I had no plans to follow in their footsteps. However, I always had a love of learning and sharing my learning with others, and around my senior year in high school it seemed a very logical choice to pursue education as a career.

 
I grew up going through the Redmond Schools and when I had the opportunity to return as a teacher, I jumped at the chance. Redmond has always been my home and I have loved working in this community. Every member of my family works for the district in one capacity or another.

When I’m not completing paperwork or having team meetings I enjoy spending time playing video games, hobby beekeeping and spending time with my family.

 

Katie Puppo

This is my third year working for RSD. Before this role, I worked as an ERC Teacher at Elton Gregory for one year. I LOVE PAPERWORK! It’s a lot to balance with so many different people, but I love putting together a puzzle and creating systems. Being behind the scenes and helping keep everything organized is so enjoyable for me.

My mom worked as an EA in my middle school from the time I was in 7th grade, so I would always hear about her day and the students she was supporting. After I graduated college, I had no idea what I wanted to with my degree. My mom suggested that I apply for an Educational Assistant position while I figured it out. I was an EA in a Social Communication program working with students with Autism and loved every day of it. I worked closely with the teacher and found out more about the paperwork behind the role and decided I wanted to go back to school and become a Special Education Teacher. 

I may be biased, but I absolutely love this IEP Specialist model. I know one of the major reasons for Special Education teachers leaving the field is because they are buried in paperwork and that’s not why they wanted to become a teacher. I happen to be one who loves the paperwork piece and am so grateful to work in a district that found a way to relieve that piece from the teachers so they can focus on the students. 

When I’m not writing IEPs, you can find me spending time with my husband, son, and two dogs. 🙂 We’ve been enjoying getting to know Central Oregon!

 

Katie Vernon

I started working for the Redmond School District at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. Before taking the role of IEP Specialist, I was a Special Education Teacher at M.A. Lynch Elementary. 

This role has given me the opportunity to work with multiple amazing, talented education teams throughout the district. I get the privilege of seeing, first hand, the hard work and dedication of these teams and how they support all students in our district.
 
Initially, out of high school, I was on the path to become a journalist. I was a pre-journalism major at the University of Oregon, and I ended up taking a couple classes to meet undergrad requirements. These courses were taught by amazing researchers and educators in the field of Elementary Education and I decided to change my major. 

I think that the educators in the Redmond School district, particularly in the area of Special Education are risk takers; they are very willing to try new things and do whatever they can to support all students. These teachers are the hardest working professionals I know – I have so much respect for their day to day dedication to students in the Redmond community. It’s a great professional community to be a part of. 

I’m a native Bendite and love living in Central Oregon. I have two boys ages 10 and 7. Needless to say, I spend a lot of my free time running back and forth between sports practices and games. Our family is very active and loves to camp, hike and spend weekends at the Oregon Coast.

Erin Wolfe

I have been employed by the District since 2006 and have been working with students with special needs for the past 19 years. I could not envision myself doing anything else! 

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a teacher. I have always loved working with children, however, during an amazing internship experience at the Relief Nursery in Cottage Grove, OR (during my senior year at U of O) I knew that I was meant to advocate for kids who weren’t necessarily able to advocate for themselves. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Community Services through U of O and went on to finish my Master’s in Education through Western Oregon. I have worked as a Life Skills Teacher for Bend LaPine School District at Three Rivers Elementary, an ABA Teacher for High Desert ESD and ERC Teacher for Redmond School District. 

I whole-heartedly believe that as educators it is our responsibility to meet our students where they are so that they are able to access their education to the best of their abilities. I have had the opportunity to work alongside some of the most amazing educators during my time in Redmond School District who have the same philosophy and know that our teachers give their ALL each and every day.

After teaching for 17 years I was excited for the opportunity to be part of our RSD Special Education Redesign. I have always been interested in special education law and compliance and although it sounds a little crazy, I have also always really enjoyed the paperwork component of special education. I like to think outside of the box and collaborate with colleagues to create systems and processes to support our students. As an IEP Specialist I have the opportunity to help teams ensure our students have the supports and accommodations they need to access their education every day. Being able to support special education teachers so that they have more time to work with kids and less time worrying about paperwork is also very rewarding. 

My husband, Chris, and I have two kids who have attended school in Redmond. Our son, Cory, is a freshman at RHS this year and our daughter, Karsen is a 5th grader at Sage. I have been fortunate to teach at Tumalo, Vern Patrick, Obsidian, and Sage during my time at RSD.  I feel truly blessed to be a parent and educator within our district and am grateful that my kids have had a pretty awesome experience so far.

Sandy Stevens

I started working for Redmond School District in September of 2005 working at Evergreen Elementary as an ERC Instructional Assistant until Evergreen closed its doors in 2010. I then moved with the team to Sage Elementary when it opened and worked there as an ERC IA and Records Manager. I joined the IEP Team at the District office last fall.

I am one of ‘those’ that actually likes paperwork – crazy I know. 🙂 And I love it when I can help in any way. So to be able to help the IEP Specialists and teachers in the buildings by taking some of the paperwork and scheduling off of their plates is the best of both of those worlds.

I spent years volunteering in my daughter’s classrooms and loved helping out the teachers and getting to be part of the classrooms. It just felt like a natural fit to work in education and I loved working with all the students.  

Community is a perfect word to describe Redmond schools. Every building I have been a part of, either through volunteering as my daughters went from K-12, or from working at Evergreen and Sage and now the District Office, has been an amazing community and family. That is a special feeling both as parent and employee of the district.

When not working I LOVE spending time with my family and LOVE to be outdoors hiking and skiing. My husband, Dirk, and I are empty nesters (except for the spoiled fur baby, our Silver Lab, Sage)  We have one daughter out of college, living and working in Portland and one daughter finishing her senior year at Oregon State, so getting time with them is precious.  

Combine both of these things – skiing or hiking with my family – and I am in heaven!

Dawn Skeen

I started working for Redmond School District as an Instructional Assistant in 2001 at Obsidian Middle School. In 2002, I moved to Redmond High School (RHS) where Chris Boegelsack, Nancy Pickert, and I developed the Community Access Program. We were able to maintain the program for eight years. I then became the Special Education Records Manager at RHS in 2012. I am now in my second year as an IEP Support Specialist for the secondary schools.

I enjoy the people that I work with the most. I have made some great and lasting relationships here. I also like reviewing paperwork for details and keeping up with the busy work that happens behind the scenes. 

After the birth of my son, Noah, I worked part time at a childcare facility. I loved being around children of all ages and decided working in education would be a perfect fit for me.

You never really know what goes on behind the scenes until you experience it first hand. I would also like to say that the culture in this district is extremely positive and I am very grateful to work with such an amazing team. 

My son and I love to go hunting for treasures (I LOVE old stuff!) and I also enjoy going to concerts whenever I get a chance. Exploring outdoors is one of my favorite things to do (next to shopping, of course!).

 
Thank you Chris, Katie, Erin, Katie, Sandy and Dawn for your dedication to our students and for your work to support teachers in RSD!
 
 
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