Special Education

Memo from Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson regarding Special Education – Key ESE Staff Contacts

To:Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, Special Education Directors, Collaborative Leaders, and Leaders of Approved Special Education Schools
From:Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson
Date:September 13, 2017

As most of you know, our long-time state special education director, Marcia (Marty) Mittnacht, retired at the end of the last school year. I wanted to make sure that everyone has up-to-date information on how our special education office is now organized and who to contact if you need assistance. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston is serving as our new state special education director, in addition to his other responsibilities relating to school and district turnaround. His experience as a former superintendent, special education teacher, and special education administrator is serving him well in this role. Russell has four special education-related units reporting to him, and I encourage you to first reach out to any of the four unit directors when you have concerns or questions within their purview.
  1. Office of Special Education Planning and Policy
    Director: Teri Williams Valentine
    (tvalentine@doe.mass.edu, 781-338-6202)
    This office's work supports implementation of policy and best practices in the area of special education. Operational responsibilities include administration of the federal IDEA grants and assignment of district programmatic and financial responsibilities. The office is currently developing an electronic IEP system for use by schools and districts.

  2. Office of Public School Monitoring
    Director: Vandana (Vani) Rastogi-Kelly
    (vrastogi-kelly@doe.mass.edu, 781-338-3728)
    This office conducts the Department's Coordinated Program Reviews and Mid-cycle Reviews in local education agencies with a focus on special education and civil rights. The office is working to broaden the focus of monitoring from compliance to educational results and outcomes for students, know as Results Driven Accountability. This year, the office is developing a tiered monitoring process so that resources are directed towards schools and districts that require the most support.

  3. Office of Approved Special Education Schools
    Director: Nina Marchese
    (nmarchese@doe.mass.edu, 781-338-3711)
    This office approves and oversees the educational programs at private special education schools located in the Commonwealth (sometimes referred to as "766 schools"). The office works collaboratively with the Department of Early Education and Care (which oversees the residential component of these schools) and the Operational Services Division (which establishes tuition rates).

  4. Special Education in Institutional Settings
    Director: Mary Lou Chapman
    (mchapman@doe.mass.edu, 781-338-3305)
    This unit provides special education services to eligible children and youth residing in facilities operated by the Departments of Youth Services, Mental Health, and Public Health, and in the county houses of correction.

Although not part of our special education office, another useful contact is Dan Wiener, our administrator of inclusive assessment (dwiener@doe.mass.edu, 781-338-3625). Dan is in our Student Assessment Services office and oversees the MCAS-Alt and ACCESS assessments as well as accommodations for special needs in our regular MCAS testing program. As mentioned before, please make these directors and their staffs your first point of contact for questions or assistance. They will be able to loop in Russell or me as needed. Thank you for all you do on behalf of the Commonwealth's students, particularly those who are among our most vulnerable.

Last Updated: September 13, 2017

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

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