New SPED Director hired for Regional School District

Members of the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) voted to appoint Ruth Grube as the Director of Student Services, replacing the Director of Special Education, Jessica Murphy. Murphy, who was the Special Education (SPED) Director for 15 years, left the district in February. In a letter to families, Murphy explained that she was resigning to pursue other career opportunities. Grube’s start date is yet to be determined. Grube will oversee services for students in the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School (CCHS) as well as the Concord Public Schools. Marielle Wintersteen is the Acting Special Education Director in the interim.

During the May 14 RSC meeting, Superintendent Laurie Hunter explained that the new position, Director of Student Services, will focus on special education but will also oversee English Language Learners, nurses and mental health providers including counselors and pyschologists. She said the school went through an extensive hiring process which included a large stakeholder group that screened resumes and interviewed candidates. They narrowed the list down to two finalists and, according to Hunter, Grube had the best fit for “culture, connection and philosophy.” Carol Yelle, the co-President of SEPAC for the region, was on the hiring committee and said that she is excited to begin working with Grube. 

Last year, the district hired the consulting firm WestEd to complete a review of SPED at the high school. The administration is currently in the process of revamping the SPED program, based, in part, on the WestEd recommendations. 

During the RSC meeting, Hunter explained that they will be bringing some programs in-house rather than sending students out of the district. The programs will include students up to the age of 22, which is required by the state.Hunter said, “We are servicing students in cohorts based on their disabilities and looking to further our in-house programming for students with extensive needs.” In order to implement the new programs, Hunter said she may need to reallocate staff and possibly use circuit breaker funds to pay for additional staff. She noted that there could be tuition savings as students who are currently placed out of the district come back in-house and she expects the new system to save money over time. 

When asked about the effort to bring more students in house, Yelle said that no matter where a student is placed, the plan will be individualized and plans will be determined based on the needs of the students. Yelle noted that, when devising an Individual Education Plan (IEP), cost cannot be a factor. The determining factor is how to meet the needs of the student. The state mandates that all special education students are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) with the least restrictive environment. Yelle added that, for students who are placed out-of-district, there is a Stay Put option, so they cannot be brought back into the district unless the parent agrees to the change. She highlighted that, in working with Hunter, the message she has consistently heard is, “We must always do right by our students.” ∆