Bollinger embraces 1st year and future challenges with NW BOCES |

Bollinger embraces 1st year and future challenges with NW BOCES

Ben Ingersoll

Amy Bollinger is settling into her position as executive director of the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Bollinger, who took the position in July, is the head of NW BOCES, which manages special education services in Steamboat Springs and five other districts.

— Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services Executive Director Amy Bollinger describes her latest career move in special education administration as both similar and extremely different to anything she's done in the past.

For years, she worked in Indiana as a special services director for a deconstructed cooperative, serving one district with 300 special needs students. Before that, she worked as an assistant special education director with a 12-district cooperative — much like BOCES — managing similar situations to what she does today.

But NW BOCES has presented a whole new set of challenges in Bollinger's first school year after starting on July 1. Bollinger replaced long-time Executive Director Jane Toothaker, who retired last summer.

"I feel like I'm still learning," Bollinger said. "But it is very similar in the fact that providing administration and support for special ed services is kind of the same."

It's been a busy eight months for Bollinger and NW BOCES.

While Bollinger was gearing up to expand NW BOCES' administrative staff, the cooperative's largest district — Steamboat Springs — applied to withdraw and become its own administrative unit.

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The potential move meant possible drastic changes for NW BOCES, which faced significant financial setbacks if the Colorado Department of Education approved Steamboat’s request. In December, Bollinger estimated NW BOCES would have to cut about half its staff if Steamboat withdrew.

CDE denied the district's request, but Steamboat said it isn't closing the door on reapplying to withdraw before the 2015-16 year.

With just a few months remaining in Bollinger's inaugural year, she recognizes the challenges she and NW BOCES have faced and worked to overcome. They are the same challenges she anticipates in the future, as well.

"I'm super excited," Bollinger said about future years with NW BOCES. "But at the same time, I'm telling everybody that if I thought this year was difficult, next year is going to be even more."

She talks a lot about her visions for NW BOCES' future, most of which revolve around further restructuring the cooperative's resources to work more closely with the six districts it manages and staffs.

Everything is a bit different, she admits. But a lot of the challenges are much of the same, and the adjustment period from the jump from Indiana to Steamboat is ongoing — but a fun adjustment, at that.

"I'm getting to learn the culture of the communities a bit more," she said. "But I could not say I'm extremely comfortable just yet in knowing it all."

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

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