A local educator with decades of experience was selected to lead special education services statewide.

Pamela Wright, the former director of Special Services, Johnson County, started her new job as state director of special education Feb. 11.

Wright’s main goal in her new full-time position is helping students with special needs excel in the classroom.

“Those of us in leadership roles need to constantly remind ourselves why we got into the education business in the first place. We should never lose sight of the students. Their well-being and their education should be at the heart of every decision we make,” Wright said.

Wright began her career in Ohio in elementary school classrooms, but began working in special education shortly afterward.

She wanted to learn more about how to help her students, who had a wide range of learning abilities, and went back to school to earn a master’s degree in learning disabilities and learning disorders.

She continued her education and eventually earned a doctorate degree, which led her to Special Services Johnson County and Surrounding Schools, where she worked for 20 years.

There, she was in charge of helping local schools provide services for students with disabilities. She and her staff made sure schools had staff for psychological services and behavioral services, and connected schools with speech pathologists, and occupational and physical therapists.

They also helped students get added instruction in reading or math so they could stay up to speed with their peers.

Wright’s work and experience led to her appointment by the governor’s office to her new post. She was suggested for the position by the state superintendent of schools after an interview process.

“I feel like it’s a really good fit for me at this stage in my career,” she said.

“I like the fact that I know a lot about special ed coming in. I’m learning much more about the state department and the government and how things work, and I’m learning new things as I’m putting my other knowledge to work.”

Wright wants to be less concerned about compliance with government rules, and more toward getting results for kids.

Right now, she and her team are looking at programs that help special education students succeed in general education classrooms.

She hopes to find ways to accommodate special education students in typical classrooms so that they are less isolated, she said.

“It’s really important that kids be educated with their peers as much as possible,” she said.

She wants to limit dropouts, suspensions and expulsions of special education students, and implement positive intervention support systems, which emphsize school rules and rewards for good behavior, instead of focusing on discipline or punishment.

And she wants schools to work with students for the transition to adult life.

Pamela Wright

Name: Pamela Wright

Home: Greenwood

Job Title: Director of Special Education, Indiana Department of Education

Experience: Former director of Special Services, Johnson County and Surrounding Schools, 1994-2014. She also worked as a special education teacher, general education teacher and school district special education director, 1975-1991

Education: Doctorate, Indiana University, educational administration, 2000; Master’s in Education: Xavier University, learning disabilities and behavior disorders, 1980; Bachelor of Arts: elementary education, Capital University (Columbus Ohio), 1974

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Anna Herkamp is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at aherkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2712.