Special Education Family Newsletter

March 2022

Dear Families,

It’s almost spring and we have many reasons to celebrate as we move into the last few months of the school year. Two of our special education staff members were honored with the Golden Apple Award, which recognizes our employees for their hard work and dedication to our students. Three other members received recognition for their outstanding work with our students. Additionally, I’d like to recognize our special education social workers for their commitment, dedication and continuous support to our students. Their commitment to our students is very much appreciated. I am grateful to all of our staff and our families who work together to meet the needs of our students.

With gratitude,

Nereida Gutierrez

Director, Special Education

Congratulations to Our Golden Apple Winners

Congratulations to our Special Education VUSD STARS

The STARS program is for Selfless, Talented, and Reliable Staff members who go above and beyond. Our STARS are nominated by their colleagues for their outstanding work. Please help us celebrate our most recent STARS.

Thank you to our Special Education Social Workers

Please help us recognize our Educationally Related Mental Health Social Workers who work tirelessly to support our students. We are so appreciative for their expertise and quick response time to help our students in need.

Welcome to Our New Hires

Elizabeth Smith, Instructional Assistant, Madison Middle School

Edna Sanchez, Instructional Assistant, Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts

Theresa Minkoff - Speech Pathologist, California Avenue

Jennifer Salesky, Education Specialist, Vista Adult Transition Center

Breanna Ormondo, Education Specialist, Foothill Oak/Monte Vista

Special Education Community Liaison - Araceli Sanchez

Special Education Community Liaison - Doris Cruz

Special Education Community Liaisons

Exciting News Regarding a Vista USD Student

Josselyn Reyes Lopez, a Vista Unified School District 1st grader from Maryland Elementary School, won the Southern California Regional Braille Challenge! She was the Apprentice Winner out of ALL the students in Southern California from her age group (grades 1-2)!

Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind held in January through March each year for students who are blind or visually impaired. Braille Institute developed Braille Challenge to motivate students to practice and hone their braille literacy skills, which are essential to academic and employment success. Any blind or visually impaired student in first through twelfth grades who can read and write braille is eligible to participate in the Braille Challenge. Contestants are divided into five categories and tested on fundamental braille skills such as:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Spelling
  • Speed and Accuracy
  • Proofreading
  • Charts and Graphs

Regional contests are proctored by volunteer Teachers of the Visually Impaired and scored locally by volunteer transcribers, based on national guidelines.


Transitional Kindergarten (TK)/Kindergarten Transitions:

It’s that time of year to begin planning for TK/Kindergarten transition meetings. If you have a child who will be transitioning to TK or Kindergarten your child’s case manager will be reaching out to you in the next month to schedule a transition meeting with the elementary school staff. Transition meetings will be scheduled on Fridays beginning the end of April through the end of May .

If you have any questions, please reach out to your child’s case manager. Here is the Powerpoint from our Parent Informational Meetings in February: TK/Kinder Transition Parent Training

Upcoming VUSD Parent Training Opportunities:

April 12, 2022 - Strength Based IEPs (5:30pm - 6:30pm in person at the Vista Innovation Center) Parent Training Sign Up - April 12, 2022

May 17, 2022 - Parents as Partners in the IEP Process (5:30pm - 6:30pm in person at the Vista Innovation Center) Parent Training Sign Up - May 17, 2022

Additional Parent Resources and Training Opportunities:

The North County Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE) has several training opportunities for parents. Here is a list of available webinars: NCCSE Website

California Autism Professional Training and Information Network, (CAPTAIN )

Please click here for resources: CAPTAIN Website

  • North Coastal Consortium for Special Education SELPA is proud to partner with the California Autism Professional Training and Information Network, (CAPTAIN ) by promoting the use of evidence- based practices for students with Autism.
  • CAPTAIN is part of the California Department of Education Statewide System of Support in collaboration with Marin County SELPA

Community Advisory Committee Meeting:

CAC Meeting Agenda (English and Spanish)

Next Meeting: Wed., April 20, 2022

  • A Community Advisory Committee (CAC) is made up of parents, educators, and community members who are involved in special education. The CAC of the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE) provides meetings and special events throughout the year and advises the superintendents of the 14 school districts about special education services. Each meeting includes information on a special education topic, resources for families, and opportunities to meet with other parents to exchange resources, information, and ideas. Whether you are a student who qualifies for special education services, a parent or family member of a student, or a district teacher or staff person, we can help!

Parent Resources

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Interested in working in VUSD?

Vista Unified continues to look for dependable people that are excited about working with our students. Vista has a need for both permanent and substitute employees! We can get you working immediately! Come work with a district that is making a difference in the lives of children!

For more information, click below:

Instructional Assistant II - LH/CH/SP

Instructional Assistant - Behavior Intervention

Special Education Assistant IV - SH/PH

Special Education Department

Nereida Gutierrez, Director, Special Education, specialeducationdept@vistausd.org

Steffanie Rupp, Coordinator, Special Education, steffanierupp@vistausd.org

Chris Altona, Principal, Vista Adult Transition, chrisaltona@vistausd.org

Rachel Schmidt, Principal, California Avenue School, rachelschmidt@vistausd.org

Katherine Abraham, Program Supervisor, katherineabraham@vistausd.org

Tracy Zachry, Program Supervisor, tracyzachry@vistausd.org

Jennifer Gruman, Program Supervisor, jennifergruman@vistausd.org

Kursten Carlson, Program Supervisor, kurstencarlson@vistausd.org

Jean Potter, Administrative Secretary, Special Education, jeanpotter@vistausd.org

Araceli Sanchez, Community Liaison, Special Education, aracelisanchezmart@vistausd.org

Doris Cruz, Community Liaison, Special Education, doriscruz@vistausd.org

Special Education Department: specialeducationdept@vistausd.org