School corporation hires special education director

GREENFIELD — A new special education director for Greenfield-Central schools was hired Monday, marking a significant step forward in the school corporation’s plan to withdraw from its partnership with Hancock Madison Shelby Educational Services.

David Walker was voted in unanimously by the school board for the brand-new position designed to help the school corporation develop its own programs for students with physical and emotional disabilities.

“I hope he brings a wealth of experience that can help us,” said Superintendent Harold Olin. “I hope he can be that rock we need there in that position.”

The school board agreed in December to withdraw from the cooperative, citing a desire to have more oversight in staffing decisions and programs, which currently must be approved by the co-op’s board.

Walker, who is an assistant director for special education services in Plymouth, has a background in working with programs for children with emotional disabilities. He told the board he is excited to begin work.

Walker’s first day is April 6; his salary will be $95,000.

The school board also agreed on an official withdrawal date of July 1. Olin said it’s been a busy month of transition with interviewing director candidates and meeting with special education employees to give them some idea of what might happen to their jobs.

Teachers, occupational therapists, physical therapists and nurses make up a total of 55 Greenfield employees of the co-op.

“Most of those positions need to be filled, not all of them,” Olin said.

He is in the process of evaluating the needs of the school district. Most, he said, likely still will be employed, either by Greenfield-Central or by the co-op.

The co-op is based in Greenfield and provides staff, training and other support services for more than 3,200 special education students from six area school corporations.

Greenfield-Central is the largest of the districts it serves, with about 960 special education students. About 30 students from other districts also attend special education programming at Greenfield-Central through the interlocal agreement.

Karen Niemeier, director of the co-op, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Olin said there are still several unknown variables affecting the transition to the corporation’s own special education services, based on the number of students to be served and the types of services necessary.

Job openings will be posted on the school’s website — there’s currently a posting for an assistant director of special education — and principals will be tapped to help with the interview process after spring break. Olin said he is also looking into working with Hancock Regional Hospital to fill certain positions such as those of the occupational or physical therapists.

Walker said after the meeting that he is excited about the opportunity to advance his career and help Greenfield-Central form a new, in-house program for special education teachers and students. He plans to work closely with administrators starting next month on how to move forward.

“I know it’s going to take a lot of organization, and I know it’s going to take a lot of cooperation with everyone,” Walker said. “We’re going to just sit down with everyone and really just strategize. There’s a lot of big changes, and change is often uncomfortable, so I want as many people involved as possible.”