Behind the Scenes with the Director of Student Support Services
A typical day at work is always atypical for Director of Student Support Services Sherrie Moses. For 15 years, she has overseen a department that provides special education services to Queensbury students who have a mental, physical or emotional impairment that affects their educational performance.
“With our population, I never know if my plans are going to be the plan for the day or if I’m going to be called out to help deal with a behavior problem,” said Moses, who joined Queensbury Union Free School District in 2000. “I enjoy the variability from day to day. There’s just such a breadth of what we need to do.”
As the department director, one consistent part of her routine is conducting pre-observation meetings, classroom observations and yearly evaluations with special education teachers and teaching assistants, speech language therapists and school psychologists. (She also conducts unannounced observations of other teaching staff to help the district fulfill its Annual Professional Performance Review plan.) After an observation, there are discussions with staff about what worked well, what could be improved, any student behavior concerns and goals for the future.
“We’re making sure our students are being given the curriculum they need in order to be a success and to move ahead in their educational career. It also lets us know if there are things we need to do or professional development we need to give our staff so we can support and lift them up, and make it possible for them to educate students in the best way possible,” she said.
Moses is very proud of the staff members she oversees, especially after the success story of a recent Queensbury High School graduate who first began his school career in a self-contained kindergarten classroom of all special education students.
“We were able to have the student grow enough so that in sixth- through eighth-grade he was in general education classrooms with a consultant teacher. The middle school was very challenging for him, but by high school, he had learned to break off from damaging environments and relationships that he felt were not positive. He was able to really turn it around,” she said. “I really believe when he started to disengage that our staff were able to say, ‘We’re not going to let you disengage. We’re here for you. We’re going to work for you. We’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do to make you successful.’”
Moses believes that is the primary role of Student Support Services: to ensure special education students receive the support and develop the skills necessary to be successful in the general education setting.
With that goal in mind, she spends a large part of her workday capturing, verifying and analyzing data related to students who receive support services, take alternate assessments and have individualized education plans. The data sets, which must be reported to the state, influence federal funding for local support services as well as the special education program itself. Each IEP has goals attached to it, so part of her work includes progress monitoring in the achievement of those goals.
Meetings between the on-campus Behavioral Health Center @ Parsons and special education staff are also on her weekly calendar.
“We are seeing an increase in the population of students who have mental health issues. So we talk about the children on our caseload and make sure we are providing coordinated activities and services for our students,” said Moses, who has delivered regional presentations on the partnership.
“I truly believe that every student gives us the best that they have when they come to school every day. They’re trying hard,” she said.