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Special Education Local Plan Areas Celebrate Partners at Annual Awards Ceremonies

The San Diego County Office of Education's four Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) recently celebrated a nearly 50 individuals for their impact on inclusive education and improving outcomes for students. 

The four celebrations looked different, but all honored individuals who go above and beyond. 

“Each and every day, there are many individuals who are dedicated to meeting the needs of students with disabilities,” said Heather DiFede, executive director for the East County SELPA. “It is tough to narrow down our awardees as there are so many who are worthy. It is a great opportunity for us to reflect on their accomplishments and celebrate that hard work.”

More than 14 individuals from East County member districts were honored in an outdoor ceremony in March, while nearly 20 were recognized by the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE) at its May ceremony. See a slideshow from the event.

“This ceremony has been an honored tradition of the NCCSE SELPA for more than 20 years,” said Rebecca Nobriga, executive director. “This event was originally created to recognize special educators who showed a commitment to furthering the cause of inclusive education, and over the years, has expanded to include all educators (both general education and special education), parents, students, employers, and community partners who, through both their words and their actions, foster meaningful inclusion in education, employment, and our communities.”

The South County SELPA honored 10 individuals and used its virtual awards ceremony as opportunity to also showcase artwork from students across its member districts. The North Inland SELPA honored seven at its virtual North Inland Excellence in Special Education Awards Ceremony in May.

Highlights and a list of honorees are included below. 

North Coastal Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE)  

  • Dr. Andree Grey, Superintendent of Encinitas Union School District served as the keynote speaker, sharing poignant stories of her experience as an educator and administrator and the influence the voices of students and parents have had on shaping inclusive cultures within their school district.
  • In addition to honoring some incredibly talented educators and administrators, this year's event honored some "unsung heroes."
    • San Marcos Unified School District's Transportation Department whose commitment to building capacity to support students with physical and communication barriers has had a significant impact on ensuring these students come to school safely and with a positive start to their day.
    • Mary Cunninham, employer with the Community Resource Center Retail Store, who helps students and young adults connect to the world of work through integrated employment opportunities.
    • Supportive Students, Andrew Martinez, Nolan Ezzet, Elana Aftali, and D'hruva Bonagiri, who foster academic and social inclusion by tutoring and/or peer support to students with special education needs on their campuses.
  • Lastly, the event also serves to honor the legacy of two beloved and respected special educators: Dr. Bob Grundstrom and Dr. Lynette Robinson. Through their ongoing scholarship foundations, three students -- Keondre “Dre” Grayson (Oceanside Unified), Alyssa Ashley (Vista Unified) and Brooklyn Gold (Carlsbad Unified) -- were recognized and awarded $1,500 scholarships.
  • Additional North Coastal Consortium for Special Education Honorees are highlighted in the event program

East County SELPA 

  • Alesa Gudmundson, Alpine Union School District
  • Omar Al Mafrachi, Cajon Valley Union School District 
  • Kim And Gabe Fleming, Grossmont Union High School District 
  • Sylvia Sposato, Grossmont Union High School District
  • Margaux Merziotis, Jamul-Dulzura Union School District
  • Won Mi Kim, Brianna Broersma, Kim Brinton, Wren Edwards, Dee Dee Olivas, Lakeside Union School District 
  • Heather Lopez, La Mesa-Spring Valley School District
  • Angela Villa, Lemon Grove School District
  • Fatima Duran, Mountain Empire Unified School District 
  • Pam Mitchell, Santee School District

North Inland Special Education Region 

  • Elizabeth Sauer, Special Education Services Provider, Ramona Unified
  • Deputy Craig Rembold, Community Member, Julian Union
  • Krista Ochoa, Special Education Teacher, Escondido Union
  • Ashley Butler, General Education Teacher, Ramona Unified
  • Molly Watson, Special Education Services Provider, Ramona Unified
  • Pamela Bond, Special Education Teacher, Escondido High School District
  • Orange Glen High School (OGHS) Coffee Company, Escondido High School District

South County SELPA 

  • Jeff Kozlowski (Posthumous Recognition), Special Education Coordinator, Coronado Unified
  • Amanda Lopez, Speech Language Pathologist, Chula Vista Elementary School District
  • David Mahlow, Special Day Class Teacher, National School District
  • Esperanza Baltz, School Psychologist, South Bay Union School District
  • Dennis Hernandez, Alternative Instruction Media Technician (Assistive Technology), Sweetwater Union High School District
  • Romeo Diacosta, Special Education Technician, San Ysidro School District
  • Jessica Mattson, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher, SDCOE – HOPE
  • Celeste Garcia, School Psychologist, SDCOE – JCCS
  • Olivia Rivera, Executive Consultant, South County SELPA
  • Abdiel Ramos, DHH Instructional Aide, Davila Day School

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