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Michigan Administrator Tapped to Oversee Federal Special Education Programs

Laurie VanderPloeg, a special education administrator from the Grand Rapids, Mich., area, has been chosen to lead the federal office of special education programs, the Department of Education announced Thursday.

VanderPloeg, currently the director of special education for the Kent ISD, brings broad experience in special education to the position. Kent ISD is one of Michigan's 57 regional educational service agencies, and provides administrative and educational services to more than 300 schools and more than 14,500 students with disabilities in western Michigan.Laurie-VanderPloeg-300.jpg

As a part of its work, the Kent ISD runs special education centers that provide services too costly for any one local district to provide. (ISD stands for "intermediate school district," meaning an entity that operates between the local district and the state department of education.) Kent ISD also provides teacher training and technical assistance to the districts and private schools in its region. 

VanderPloeg is currently president of the board of directors of the Council for Exceptional Children, an organization representing special education professionals. She was also a former president of the Council of Administrators of Special Education. And, her ties to western Michigan are deep, just like those of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. A graduate of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, VanderPloeg was a middle and high school special education teacher for 15 years in western Michigan school districts before entering administration.

The announcement from the Education Department said that VanderPloeg will lead the department starting next month.

Since the Trump administration came into office, the office of special education programs, or OSEP, has been overseen by a career staff member. OSEP, as well as the Rehabilitative Services Administration, is one of the programs overseen by Johnny Collett, the assistant secretary for the office of special education and rehabilitative services. 

The department said that one of VanderPloeg's priorities will be focusing on special education teacher shortages and helping states recruit and retain more professionals.

Photo courtesy of the Council for Exceptional Children

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