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Evergreen administrator honored for work in special education

by HILARY MATHESON
Daily Inter Lake | August 2, 2022 12:00 AM

Evergreen School District Director of Special Services Mary Meehan has been named the 2022 “Outstanding Administrator of Special Education,” by the Montana Council of Administrators for Special Education.

The 2022-23 school year marks Meehan’s 13th year with Evergreen School District. In addition to special education programming, Meehan oversees the Flathead Crossroads Program, which is a specialized academic and behavior intervention school housed at Evergreen and is open to eligible students across the valley. She is also contracted to provide special services for Helena Flats School. About 1,000 students and 200 staff members across the valley are served by Meehan, according to Evergreen School District Superintendent Laurie Barron, who nominated her.

“An award like this is not for the work that you’ve personally done,” Meehan said. “It’s for the work of the people you supervise, the organization you work for, the commitment of the individuals to continue to do the work even in the face of failure.”

Barron described Meehan as a dedicated employee whom staff and parents seek support from in finding success for students when other avenues have not worked.

“She is personally and professionally invested in helping to improve outcomes for students, no matter the circumstances, no matter the effort it takes. Whether she is conducting a difficult IEP (individualized education plan) meeting, delivering clean laundry (that she did at her home on her own time) to a family experiencing homelessness, or celebrating a student at a promotion ceremony, she always cares,” Barron wrote in her letter nominating Meehan.

Barron also noted the additional time Meehan puts in to meet student needs giving an example of working one-on-one with a student until nearly 5 p.m. Barron also highlighted Meehan’s involvement in the district’s strategic focus to create an inclusive learning environment for students with disabilities, which started at Evergreen Junior High in 2013 and now extends through kindergarten.

“Through very intentional implementation of co-teach practices, including professional development, we have made it the norm to provide true least restrictive learning environments for our students, including providing generalized opportunities for all students in special education, even those in our specialized special education programs,” Barron wrote.

Meehan believes achievement, which looks different for everyone, comes with increased participation and expanded access to services. Barron said Meehan has helped lead efforts to provide teachers with training in intentional planning and scheduling for students with IEP’s; monitoring student progress consistently; providing intervention support in addition to, not in place of, regular content instruction; and providing direct resources to mental health and behavioral support to keep students in class. Barron also noted Meehan’s willingness to present at conferences and host school administrators who visit to learn about the district’s best practices and experiences in seeing academic growth among students with disabilities.

Meehan earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and psychology from Carroll College in 1984. She obtained advanced degrees in school psychology from the University of Montana in 1990 and 2000. She completed her special education supervisor endorsement from Montana State University.

Meehan started her career working with people with disabilities in various roles as a classroom aide, a school and hospital habilitation aide, a live-in group home parent, a sheltered workshop service provider, a teacher, a school psychologist, a special education director and a preschool coordinator.

“My work has always been in special education, all of those roles have been working with and supporting individuals with learning challenges be successful in community settings and educational settings,” Meehan said.

“I think that I was raised and always believed that all people have a place at the table and that includes a plan within the context of our communities and our educational environment,” Meehan added of why she got into special education.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 406-758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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