ARLINGTON, Va. — As part of its effort to recruit and retain special education professionals, the Georgia Department of Education is working to bolster guidance and support for new district special education directors.
At a Monday session during the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs' Leadership and Project Directors' Conference, Georgia DOE leaders spoke about how the state is preparing and supporting special education leaders.
Belinda Tiller, a program specialist at Georgia DOE, said the state's Special Education Leadership Development Academy helps provide information and guidance to directors with less than four years of experience. The SELDA program has evolved over the last 20 years and now offers new leaders access to executive coaches with backgrounds in special education, general education and administration.
Additionally, SELDA organizers coordinate with the Georgia Council of Administrators of Special Education for monthly training sessions covering budgeting, data, parent engagement, dispute resolution and more, Tiller said.
Annette Murphy had retired as a former teacher and special education director before being asked to be an executive coach for SELDA. "It was a wonderful opportunity for me to support new special ed directors," said Murphy, who called SELDA a "lifeline" for her when she was a new director.
As an executive coach, Murphy said she reaches out to new special education leaders regularly to see what their needs are. They have a wide variety of experiences and wants, and Murphy said much of her job is focused on building their capacity to be knowledgeable about and responsive to the demands of the job.
To that end, Murphy said she stays updated on evidence-based practices from the field and guidance supplied by Georgia DOE.
"Whenever I look to build supportive relationships, it's not only supportive relationships between me and the special ed directors, but I also want to help them realize the resources that are available at the DOE, the experts that are at the DOE," Murphy said.
She also helps directors who want to improve their special education programs. That starts by reviewing data and doing a needs assessment "so they can self-identify what those barriers are and real, viable solutions for those areas," Murphy said.
The work to build capacity of new special education directors is paying off in the state, Murphy said. In fiscal year 2022, more than 90% of SELDA participants continued in their special education leadership roles, she said.
"I think it is extremely beneficial, the work that we're doing, and hope that continues," she said.