NW BOCES to split special ed director into 2 positions next year

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— It’s been a project Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services Executive Director Amy Bollinger has had her eyes on since she took over the regional organization in mid-summer of last year, and on Wednesday, the plan finally came to fruition.

NW BOCES manages and staffs six rural school districts' special education programs across a vast geographical area, and it has been doing so with just one special education director splitting time between Steamboat, Hayden, South Routt, North Park, East Grand and West Grand school districts.

But at the most recent NW BOCES board meeting, board members approved Bollinger’s request to split the current one-director role into two separate assistant directors of special education to alleviate the stretched-too-thin issue.

“I want for us to be collaborative,” Bollinger said about her team’s relationship with the six districts’ special education programs. “I’m really wanting to provide a lot of the special services support to both the buildings’ principals and the special ed teachers, and actually know the kids and what their needs are. I’m really hoping this addresses that.”

The positions will be contracted under a flexible schedule to facilitate all the schools. The Routt County assistant director will be based in Steamboat, Hayden and South Routt. The Grand and Jackson County assistant director will provide services for East Grand, West Grand and North Park.

Bollinger said when the two assistant directors are hired, she will assume an expanded role as executive director as well as special education coordinator. NW BOCES’ current special education director Robin Tschider is retiring at the end of the year.

Bollinger's vision is that the three positions — her new role included — will work as a team, which is an aspect she said has been missing since she took over July 1.

“We had a lot of discussion about how it should be split,” Bollinger said. “I don’t see them working in isolation of each other or in isolation of me. I see the three of us working together.”

The Steamboat Springs School District took issue with the efficiency of operating its special education program under NW BOCES and applied to become its own special education administrative unit in September 2013.

The Colorado Department of Education denied Steamboat's request, and the local district decided against appealing the decision, instead opting to leave the door open to possibly reapply for withdrawal this coming September.

Had CDE approved Steamboat’s request, the district stood to save around $125,000 a year, but CDE cited significant financial shortfalls the other districts would suffer as a result of Steamboat's withdrawal from the regional system. Bollinger said that even through Steamboat’s withdrawal application process, NW BOCES worked toward the split assistant director roles.

“With all of the six districts we work with, that just has not been possible for that one person to do,” Bollinger said. “That was a concern.”

During the Wednesday NW BOCES board meeting, a preliminary budget was approved, which will be finalized in May. The majority of the budget, Bollinger said, is dedicated to specialized staff.

Bollinger said three NW BOCES staffers are either retiring or resigning at the end of the school year and won’t be replaced, paving the way to fund the new assistant director positions.

The two assistant directors will take on the roles of those outgoing staff members, which include assistive tech and transition coordinator.

Bollinger expects to have the new job openings posted by Tuesday with a March 28 application deadline. Interviews will take place April 10 and 11, and the assistant directors will officially begin July 1.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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