Special Education

Special education is specially designed instruction based on the needs of an individual student. As required by law, School District 197 provides a free, appropriate public education to about 900 students with disabilities from birth through age 21 who attend both public and private schools. A team develops, implements and reviews each student’s individual program.

The following range of services are provided depending on a student’s individual needs:

  • Students with disabilities functioning in the regular education program with the assistance of special education supportive services such as: consultation with the classroom teacher, monitoring progress, modification of the curriculum, or direct teaching within the regular classroom.
  • Students with disabilities functioning in the regular education program but needing services outside the regular classroom.
  • Students with disabilities whose primary placement is in a special education program with some mainstreaming in regular education.
  • Students who, due to the intensity of their needs, are placed in specialized programs in locations other than their home school.


Sara Lein, Director of Special Education
[K-12+ Special Education Programming]
651-403-7019 | sara.lein@isd197.org

Laurie Hume, Assistant Director of Early Learning Programs
[Early Childhood Special Education, birth to 6]
651-403-8352 | laurie.hume@isd197.org

Rachel Johnston, Special Education Coordinator
[504, Non-Public, Branch Out Transition Program, and Out of District Placement]
651-403-7017 | rachel.johnston@isd197.org

Jennifer Miller,
Special Education Coordinator
[Academic/Instruction Consultant, Due Process Monitoring, Testing Accommodations]
651-403-8064 | jennifer.miller@isd197.org


Our mission as School District 197 special educators is to improve the lives of children and youth with exceptional and unique needs.


  • We believe all the students belong to our community and all staff have a role in preparing them to be functioning members of our community.
  • We believe all students can learn and deserve to have their educational needs met.
  • We believe that all students will become lifelong learners and functional members of the community.
  • We believe students will be active participants and responsible for understanding their disabilities in order to advocate for themselves.
  • We believe in the protection of the rights of our students and their families.
  • We believe curriculum content needs to provide a full spectrum of options for all students in the least restrictive environment. Curriculum will be individualized, functional, and appropriate. It will address all academic, functional, social, emotional, sensory, health, communication, motor and transition areas.
  • We believe programs that serve students with disabilities need to be a team venture between students, parents, educators and community. Services will revolve around the student’s strengths and needs and be delivered in a culturally sensitive manner. Service will create a smooth transition throughout the student's educational career and into their adult lives.
  • We believe that students will be provided services in models that focus on individual strengths and needs and not solely on the basis of disability categories.
  • We believe staff development is a continuous process available for all stakeholders (school staff, school board, administrators, paraprofessionals. Teachers, bus drivers, parents, community, day care and agency staff). Staff development will be designed to enhance the ability of all staff to address the wide range of student strengths and needs. Staff development must include:
    • Ongoing collegial support
    • Discussion of professional practice
    • A formal mentorship program
    • Access to training opportunities
  • We believe parents are primary educators and an integral part of the team.
  • We believe there should be support for parents as they deal with children with unique needs.
  • We believe in data driven outcomes as a way of monitoring and documenting student change and service quality.
  • We believe in the process of special education evaluation, eligibility determination, and the development of a written individual education plan.


  • Promote independence in order to become lifelong learners and functional members of the community. 
  • Provide a continuous process of staff development available for all stakeholders.
  • Provide a full spectrum of research-based curriculum and service options utilizing a team process. 
  • Use data-driven outcomes to document continuous student progress.
  • Develop an ongoing systematic process for review of student files according to Minnesota Special Education Due Process Standards.