Special Education Staff Newsletter

March 2022

Dear Team,


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 our staff and families who continue to work together to meet the needs of our students.


With gratitude,


Nereida Gutierrez

Director, Special Education

Congratulations to our Golden Apple Winners!

Please Welcome our New Staff:


  • Elizabeth Smith, IBI, Madison Middle School
  • Theresa Minkoff - Speech Pathologist, Cal Ave
  • Jennifer Salesky, Ed Specialist, Vista Adult Transition Center
  • Breanna Messara, Ed Specialist, Foothill Oak/Monte Vista
  • Elizabeth (Beth) Blackstock, Occupational Therapist (replacement for Amy Sakaue, start date 4/4/22) VUSD OT/PT Assignments 2021-22

Congratulations to our Special Education VUSD STARS

The Vista STARS program is for Selfless, Talented, and Reliable Staff members who go above and beyond. Please help us celebrate our most recent STARS.

Thank you to our Special Education ERMHS Social Workers

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

On March 9, 2022 the Special Education Department hosted professional development sessions for 54 certificated psychologists, speech pathologists, adaptive PE teachers and 198 classified staff (instructional assistants and bus drivers). Our education specialists participated in various professional development sessions provided by the Educational Excellence and Innovation Department and site based performance framework planning throughout the district.


A special thank you to our school psychologists who helped lead the district-wide Trauma Informed Practices professional development on March 9, 2022.

March Professional Development

NCCSE Certificated Spring Professional Development


Upcoming Certificated Office Hours (3:30pm - 4:30pm via Zoom)

April 7, 2022 April 7, Office Hours Zoom Link

May 5, 2022 May 5, Office Hours Zoom Link


CPI Recertification (Nonviolent Crisis Prevention Intervention Training) - Sat., April 9, 2022 @ Grapevine Elementary (8:30am - 3:00pm). Priority is for those who have expired CPI within 30 days or are expiring in the next 30 days. (Limit is 20 people). Any questions? Please contact Jean Potter: jeanpotter@vistausd.org

CPI Recertification Sign Up - April 9, 2022


Classified PD:

Thank you to everyone who attended and to the DBST for sharing their expertise.

3/16/22 -Minimum Day(6-8)-via zoom(1:15pm - 2pm)

3/17/22 -Minimum Day(6-8) - via zoom(1:15pm - 2pm)


3/22/22 - Independent Work Stations, Picture Exchange Systems, and Visual Supports (4pm - 6pm in person @ Major General Murray High School). Cal Ave teachers will be presenting on a variety of strategies to use in the classroom. Please sign up in your Vector account.


2021-22 Special Ed PD Plan

NCCSE Student Scholarship Information for High School Seniors:

Do you know of a high school senior who would be a good candidate for these scholarships?


Please note that the scholarship submission period for new applications for 2022-2023 is open until March 31, 2022.


  1. The Dr. Lynnette Robinson Scholarship for Inclusive Education - For high school seniors who want to pursue a career in special education or a related field. $1500 for up to 4 years.
  2. The Bob Grundstrom Memorial Scholarship Information - For high school seniors who receive special education services. $1500 one time award.

Extended School Year

ESY Dates: June 21, 2022 - July 15, 2022

ESY applications are being sent home to families next week. Please make sure that all services for ESY are updated for your eligible students. This includes SAI and any related services the IEP team has determined to be appropriate.


ESY Applications:

Please click on each application for more information regarding Extended School Year - Special Education (ESY) and Summer Work.


Certificated ESY Application: https://forms.gle/2ERmhTP82sz8ZGQW7

Classified ESY and Summer Work Applications: https://forms.gle/qjbM7p9k84HmdAd69

Certificated & Classified Job Postings:

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Staff Resources

SpEd Guidelines Shared Drive (for Certificated Staff)

Additional Resources

Mental Health:

At least 5.2 million children have lost a parent or caretaker to Covid-19, study estimates:

Covid Article

Survivors of Suicide Loss


English Language Learners:

CDC English Learners with Disabilities Services & Resources

EL SWD | Imperial County Office of Education

Click here for upcoming training opportunities: Statewide Training Opportunities

Goalbook Toolkit for Secondary:

We have the opportunity to partner with Goalbook Toolkit to improve student outcomes through the use of our Learning Recovery Grant funds. Goalbook is an online solution that helps to build teacher capacity to develop higher-quality IEPs and implement them with more effective specially designed instruction.


Please use the link to the Goalbook Toolkit 1 Pager and Video to get an overview. Our goal is to begin to provide our team with access and training this year so that we can fully implement it at the start of the 2022-2023 school year. Expect an email from our data technician, Yvonne Fortin on the week of March 21, 2022 with your Goalbook Toolkit login information. Our team is also working on providing an overview PD session on April 20th.

Special Education Department

Nereida Gutierrez, Director, Special Education, nereidagutierrez@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 I, 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