Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

South Orange – Maplewood Names Reisenauer as Special Education Director

The South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education voted 8-1 Thursday to name Dr. Lauren Reisenauer as the new Executive Director of Special Services and Youth Development.

“Dr. Reisenauer’s strengths in cultivating relationships with staff and families ensure that all students’ educational and social needs are met,” said Dr. John J. Ramos, Sr., Superintendent. These are just some of the highlights of Dr. Reisenauer’s background that support this recommendation.”

“Thank you very much for the opportunity to become part of the community,” said Reisenauer during her acceptance. She expressed her commitment to work closed with SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Committee).

[See a full statement from SEPAC at the end of this article.]

Reisenauer has been hired to fill a newly-created position. Previously, the district had a Director of Special Services, a position that has been filled in an interim capacity by Dr. David Lieberman since January 2017. Last year, Supt. Dr. John Ramos announced that the district was re-opening the search for a Director of Special Services because the first “round of interviews [with candidates] did not result in a recommendation for a second interview.”

Board Member Johanna Wright was the single dissenting vote. Previous to the vote, Wright cited concerns over the vetting process. “Myself, along with other board members were not given pertinent information that should have been given to us,” she said.

Previous to joining the South Orange and Maplewood School District, Dr. Reisenauer served as the Director of Pupil Personnel Services/Special Education in the Palisades Park School District.

The new director received her B.S. in Art History from the University of West Florida, and an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas A&M. In addition, Dr. Reisenauer received a second MA from Montclair State University in Administration & Supervision and a Doctorate from St. Peters University.

Dr. Reisenauer’s additional positions in the Palisades Park District include Principal and Director of Special Education Services, Vice Principal of Pre-K Special Education – Grade 7, Supervisor of Pupil Personnel, Special Education Coordinator, Curriculum Revision Coordinator, Special Education Teacher and Scheduling Coordinator and Professional Development Committee Member.

Statement from SEPAC:

To the BOE:

I am Ann Leeb of South Orange, a member of the Executive Board of the Special Education PTO and an active member of the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC). I am reading a statement co-signed by Erin Siders, President of SEPAC, Reesa Salomon, Vice President of SEPAC and the leadership teams of SEPAC and SPED PTO.

At tonight’s BOE meeting, where critical issues will most likely be heatedly discussed and in the wake of Dr. Ramos’ announcement of his retirement plans and the recent and rapid announcement of his interim replacement, it would be very easy to overlook what appears to be the impending approval of a new Executive Director of Special Services and Youth Development. The lengthy and, at times, frustrating search for a highly experienced individual to fill this newly configured position, with its increased and diversified responsibilities, one of the 3-4 most senior administrators in the district, seems to finally be at its conclusion. Having students with IEPs and 504s managed by the same person, under one umbrella so to speak, is a reorganization that SEPAC has championed in the past, and currently, supports.

Dr. Lauren Reisenauer is being proposed for the Executive Director’s position. I personally sat on the Level I interview panel for her as did Reesa Salomon representing SEPAC. Dr. Reisenauer has the background, professionally and educationally, that meets the criteria our special education organizations asked the district to look for in candidates. If approved, we hope Dr. Reisenauer will prove to be a strong, capable leader that all constituents in the special education community can work with and trust. We welcome her to South Orange Maplewood and look forward to working with her, cooperatively and collaboratively, for the betterment of all students for many years to come.

We also hope that Dr. Reisenauer will build on the work of her direct predecessor, Mr. David Lieberman, who has guided the Special Services department as interim director since January. Mr. Lieberman has set a very high standard for clarity, communication and commitment in his six months on the job. He was a breath of fresh air and we must thank him for the knowledge of special education issues he has shared clearly with the community and the inroads he has made in restructuring the department to be more effective in its mission.

A gift Mr. Lieberman is leaving all of us is a cogent understanding of what is lacking in the Special Education Department, and our district as a whole, that must be corrected immediately, in order to meet the needs of more children and hope to retain them in district settings. Going forward, we, the leadership of SEPAC and SPED PTO, will be vigorously advocating to the BOE for the so clearly lacking resources, starting with 1. additional Board Certified Behavioral Analysts (that a district of our size has exactly one of these behavior experts is ridiculous), 2. another Special Education supervisor (two supervisors for over a 1000 students on IEPs and 504s is staffing way too thin.) and 3.a literacy coach (so teachers can be supported in best reading practices by someone other than the supervisor who then evaluates them.) These resources, and others, must be in place and capacity needs to be built before this district can even start to seriously consider returning some children from their placements out of the district.

Dr. Reisenauer will, no doubt, face major challenges in her new position. This job might very well be the second most difficult job in the district after the superintendent’s position. It is absolutely critical that the BOE be committed and responsive in

  1. supporting Dr. Reisenauer’s efforts to continue restructuring special education in the district,
  2. following through on the issuance and implementation of regulations, policies and procedures for students on 504 plans as called for by the directive it approved on September 19, 2016,
  3. breaking down barriers to inclusion in our schools, and
  4. giving our hardworking, dedicated and caring special education teachers the resources they need to educate our children, both appropriately and successfully.

Thank you for your attention.

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