Shawnee Mission appoints Christy Ziegler to oversee special education on interim basis

Christy Ziegler will oversee Shawnee Mission’s special education department in an interim role this fall. Photo credit Laura Gilchrist. Used under a Creative Commons license.

New Superintendent Mike Fulton has tapped Christy Ziegler, the district’s assistant superintendent of personalized learning, to serve as interim director of special education for the coming school year after an initial search for a full term leader for the department failed to produce a candidate who was a good fit for the position.

“Because the search for a new SPED director did not result in the hiring of a new director, we appointed Dr. Ziegler as the interim and will conduct a nationwide search starting late fall,” Fulton told the board.

The initial search for a new SPED director began in May after the district announced Jackie Chatman would step down from the director role to become assistant director for the coming school year and that Chatman would retire in June 2019.

Shawnee Mission’s special education programs have seen an exodus of teachers and coordinators over the past two years, and the department was the subject of an investigation by the Kansas State Department of Education this past fall. The investigation report identified a handful of areas where the district was out of compliance with legal requirements, though it rejected complaints that the district had policies in place that intentionally denied services to students in need.

A group of Shawnee Mission parents addressed the board of education in May, sharing stories of difficulties they had securing special education services for their kids and expressing concerns with reported low morale among SPED staff.

Ziegler has been with the district since 2015, when she was hired by then-superintendent Jim Hinson as assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment. She has more than 20 years of experience in public education, and has been a key leader in the development of the district’s STEM and professional training programs.