Meet the Director of Special Education: Jennifer Johnston
Posted: January 27, 2023 | Written By: Lauren Douglas | Category:
Director of Special Education Jennifer Johnston is an experienced educator, having spent over 25 years in a variety of roles within the special education field. Learn more about how she will contribute to the success and growth of each student at New Story Schools in Ohio.
Q: What do you like most about working in the special education field/how did you get started in the field?
In 1997 I took my first teaching job. I immediately knew that I had a passion for teaching students with disabilities, although I didn’t have any formal training at that time. My connection with one student in particular taught me how fulfilling it is to experience both major and incremental growth and development milestones together. I felt motivated to go back to school, where I earned my Master’s in Special Education with my licensure as an Intervention Specialist.
Q: What does the role of Director of Special Education entail?
My role is to ensure compliance throughout the state of Ohio and make sure that our students receive the absolute best services as outlined in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) and beyond. It is my responsibility to make sure we are always making decisions based on what is best for each student. Additionally, making sure all IEPs are compliant, completed in a timely manner, and according to Ohio Department of Education (ODE) standards.
Q: What brings you to New Story Schools?
I knew New Story Schools was the place for me when I met the school leaders and team. They are passionate leaders with ambitious and exciting goals for their schools. I had previous experience working with Dr. Blanchard, State Superintendent, so I knew coming in that we make a great team. My wheels started turning immediately upon hearing the goals and needs expressed by each school’s principal. I instantly began brainstorming ideas for how I could help them reach their goals and I know we have a great team to get us there.
Q: Where will your focus be in your first several months with New Story Schools?
My main focus is on bringing more structure to the processes and procedures within schools and ensuring the overall compliance with ODE standards. I want to empower teachers and intervention specialists and help them feel confident in their roles. Another initiative I’m working on implementing is establishing crisis intervention teams in each of the buildings.
Q: How does this role enhance the relationship between district partners and New Story Schools?
I will be bridging the gap between us and district partners by providing more formalized processes that are compliant with their standards. It’s so important to have a collaborative, respectful relationship with districts, because of our shared goal: the success of students with disabilities in Ohio.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in your first year with New Story Schools?
I want New Story Schools to be the premier placement for students with autism spectrum disorder and emotional or behavioral challenges. If a student needs additional support and isn’t succeeding in their home district, I want us to be the first stop in providing them with the skills, knowledge and abilities that set them up for success whether they are with our schools for a long or short time.
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