The Oakland school district’s special education department is about to undergo some serious staffing changes. Not only is its executive director, Lisa Ryan Cole, leaving, but so are elementary school coordinator Kimberly Noble and personnel coordinator Iris Wesselmann.
To top it off, all of the coordinators’ administrative assistants have been bumped into other jobs, according to Ryan Cole. (More on bumping — a huge issue right now — later.) “There are a lot of changes, and I want to believe they are going to be positive for the kids in this district,” she said.
Ryan Cole, who has been a special education teacher and administrator in Oakland for 27 years, became head of the department in the fall of 2007, after Phyllis Harris’s departure. She said her retirement was “a really, really hard decision,” and she wouldn’t say why she ultimately chose to leave now. “It just is time to move on to a new adventure, whatever that may be,” she said.
Stacey Smith, a parent who co-chairs the local Community Advisory Committee on special education, said Ryan Cole took on some long-standing issues, such as making programs and services more consistent across the district. She said Ryan Cole also focused on building a stronger, more welcoming community for special needs students and families at each school — in part, through training for principals and general education teachers.
Smith said she hoped Ryan Cole’s successor would continue that work.
“The number one concern that I’ve heard so far is about the uncertainty of what comes next,” Smith said. “I look forward to hearing more about the transition plan.”
If you’re a special education teacher or parent, or if you just care deeply about these issues, you can sign up for e-mail alerts from the Community Advisory Committee by sending a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next CAC meeting is at 7 p.m. June 7 at Metwest High School, 14 East 10th St. (near the downtown administration building). I’ll keep you posted about Ryan Cole’s replacement — and if you hear anything, send me an e-mail at email@example.com.