Tahlequah Public Schools has new district level leadership in the Special Education Department for the 2023-2024 school year.  The retirement of previous Executive Director of Special Services, Susan VanZant, prompted the change, which brought in two very familiar faces within TPS.  Nikki Molly, Family and Community Engagement Director, has added the title and responsibilities of Special Education Director to her duties.  She is joined by long-time special education teacher, Melissa Dotson, in the new roll as Special Education Coordinator.  These ladies are working together to bring fresh perspectives and ideas to build upon the already successful special education department in our district.  They are brining innovative strategies, implementing evidence-based practices, and creating a positive and inclusive learning environment for students with disabilities.  They have set a goal of enhancing collaboration between educators, parents, and the community to ensure the best outcomes for students.  The Tahlequah Public Schools Special Education Parent Committee has been created for this purpose and has had several productive meetings this school year.

            Tahlequah Public Schools offers special education services to qualifying students with special learning needs.  Services are provided and designed to meet the individual needs of the student as written in their individualized educational program and are available for eligible children, ages 3-21.  If you have questions or need more information, please contact your child’s school counselor, or contact Nikki Molloy or Melissa Dotson at 918-458-4100.

            TPS provides additional services for eligible students with special needs under the categories of Developmental Delays, Intellectual Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Autism, Other Health Impairments, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech-Language Impairment, Emotional Disturbances, Deaf-Blindness, Traumatic Brain Injury, Hearing Impairment, Orthopedic Impairments, and Visual Impairment.  We currently serve 763 students eligible for special education services compared to 752 students served last school year.  TPS employs 34 certified special education teachers, 8 speech language pathologists, 1 School Psychologist, and 37 special care para-educators to meet the needs of these students.  We also provide occupational therapy and physical therapy services through a contract with an outside agency.  All of these dedicated professionals work tirelessly to provide individualized instruction, accommodations, and resources to help students with disabilities reach their full potential. 

            Tahlequah Public Schools Special Services Department recognizes the need to promote inclusivity in our community, foster a sense of belonging to all individuals regardless of disability, and help students develop important life skills.  It is our goal to empower students and families to become active members of our community and lead fulfilling lives.  Special education truly makes a difference in the lives of students and society as a whole.

            Written by: Melissa Dotson, SPED Coordinator