Institute for Small and
Rural Districts
May-June Newsletter
Winner in Wakulla!
submitted by Wakulla County Schools
ESE Director, Tanya English

Gail Mathers and an Adult Education student.

District Food Service Director, Gail Mathers, has long demonstrated the understanding that students with significant cognitive disabilities have unique abilities. She reserves internships each year for students to learn the ins and outs of running the dishwasher and serving on the clean up crew. She also uses them to substitute, which is a paid position and several have graduated and become full time food service staff. 

Mrs. Mathers has also been a huge supporter of  The Legacy CafĂ© , which is a full service restaurant operated by students with disabilities and their job coaches, providing luncheon salads, gourmet potatoes and sandwiches to the community two days per week. She assists with ordering supplies and equipment and included the job coaches in Safe Serve training. 

Under her leadership, the food service team has donated money to provide meals for students who don't qualify for free or reduced meals, yet are unable to pay. They are also the first to step up to assist families who experience tragedies and natural disasters, assisting with donations of money and supplies. She has served on IEP teams and Section 504 teams to share her expertise in brainstorming ways to meet the nutritional and health needs students and is truly a team player. Her heart for students and dedication to meeting the needs of all is exemplary.

Liz Smith

Levy County's
Outstanding Behavior Specialist
submitted by Levy County Schools
Student Services and ESE Director,
Dr. Rosalind Hall

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you Mrs. Elizabeth (Liz) Kennelly-Smith, Behavior Specialist. Mrs. Kennelly- Smith has over 13 years of experience working with teachers, parents, administrators, and ESE/504/General Ed students to help bring about positive behavioral change. Liz is dedicated and results-oriented, with a passion for K-12 education, striving to improve student and school success.   She has expertise in Exceptional Student Education with varied experiences in Administrative Management, Exceptional Student Education instructional and curriculum techniques, and current educational research in the area of behavioral disorders.

Liz assists ESE and general education teachers in developing strategies to work with students with disabilities in the general education classroom. Liz also assists in the completion of functional behavioral assessments for students with disabilities and non-disabled students. She helps schools develop behavior intervention plans, and she helps to evaluate student progress on a regular basis. Success stories include students with referral rates that have dropped up to 100% and students who were deemed to be unreachable are now students of the month at their schools. 

Liz also provides trainings for teachers, parents, and other staff in identifying targeted behaviors and in procedures of proposed plans. Her main goal is to assure the delivery of appropriate public education for all students by assessing, developing, training, and monitoring programs which bring about positive behavioral change. In closing, Liz is an asset to our schools, students and community and has a heart of gold! She reaches all students and believes in them.

A leader takes people where they want to go.
A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.

  Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter

Special Olympics Comes to Levy County
submitted by Levy County Schools
Student Services and ESE Director,
Dr. Rosalind Hall

On May 6, 2016, the School Board of Levy County hosted their first Special Olympics in more than 20 years.  Dr. Rosalind Hall, Director of ESE and Student Services, and other ESE and Student Services staff, worked closely with Cherie Cain, Regional Director of Special Olympics Florida, to  organize the event, which included approximately 40 participants. Athletes from Bronson Elementary and Bronson Middle/High School participated in various dashes and metered races.  There was shotput, a softball throw and standing and running long jumps.  Because this was the first year, it was started with only 2 schools competing.
Students in the Motor Activities Training Program, known as MATP, also participated.  These events are separate from the sanctioned Special Olympics and are geared toward the more physically and cognitively challenged students.  Their events included a log roll, bowling and bat the ball.
The event was held at Williston High School and it began with the traditional parade of athletes and the torch run, which was taken around the track by the athletes. The Williston High School JROTC was instrumental in helping put up tents, tables and chairs on the day of the Olympics.  The WHS Cheerleaders opened the concession stand for everyone and it was enjoyed by many. Families and friends of the athletes came out to cheer for their loved ones.  Students from Joyce Bullock Elementary School and Williston High School took time out from class to come see the athletes compete.  Through the cooperation of the school's staff, administrators, school board member and students, everyone had a great time.   The athletes were proud of their accomplishments and awards and couldn't stop smiling!  Special Olympics Florida, along with the School Board of Levy County, hope to include all schools next year.  Let the games begin!

                  A Levy Special Olympian participates in
                                    the  shot put event



with a Directory and Profiles of Member Districts, resources,
and more

contains ESE forms, documents, and manuals currently in use in member districts

for the latest on current State legislative changes


Florida Council of Administrators of Special Education

Follow THIS LINK to the Florida CASE May 2016 Newsletter which features a tribute to retiring ISRD Director Renee Speisman.

Summer Reading

Each member district ESE administrator will soon be receiving a copy of the resources listed below.  Please contact your district ESE office for availability of the titles you want to add to your summer reading list.

Click the title to learn more from the publisher.

A Personal Farewell Message
from the ISRD Project Staff

ISRD just celebrated its 25th anniversary and the ISRD staff has been honored and humbled to address the needs of students with disabilities in Florida's small and rural districts for 13 of those years.  Together, I believe we have made a difference!  

Accomplishments over these years have been achieved through close collaboration with BEESS, other BEESS discretionary projects, and you, the member districts. The dedicated commitment of the knowledgeable and passionate ESE Directors who serve on the ISRD Advisory Committee has guided our efforts to bring you the highest quality training and professional development, the most up-to-date resources, and current legal information.

Please know how much we have appreciated the opportunity to work with you.  I will be retiring at the end of this year, as will Cindy.  Gina will become the new Regional LATS Specialist working out of Columbia County and serving 6 small and rural districts.  Beginning July 1, 2016, ISRD will be entirely housed at NEFEC and Alice Schmiges is the new Program Specialist.

Our sincere and heartfelt thanks for all the great memories!

   Renee Speisman,
       Project Director
   Gina Geiger,
       Program Specialist
   Cindy Wendt
       Project Secretary

ISRD Trainings and Meetings
May 2016 - June 2016

May 2016
10 - Community of Practice for ESE Specialists, North East Region, Gainesville
11 - Mentoring for New ESE Administrators Conference Call
12 - Community of Practice for ESE Specialists, Panhandle Region, Chipley
17 - Community of Practice for ESE Specialists, Heartland Region, Lake Placid
18 - Professional Learning Community for ESE Administrators, Conference Call

June 2016
 15-16 - ISRD Summer Institute for ESE Administrators, Bonita Springs    

Click HERE to view the full 2015-2016 calendar
About ISRD


ISRD provides training and technical assistance for district and school-based administrators to support positive outcomes for students with disabilities across a network of 41 small and rural Florida school districts.


ISRD's 41 Member Districts
Baker, Bradford, Calhoun, Columbia, DeSoto, Dixie, Flagler, Florida Virtual School, FAMU Lab School, FAU Lab School, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, FSU Lab School, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Glades, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake Wales Charter Schools, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Monroe, Nassau, Okeechobee, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, UF Lab School, Union, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington.
Contact Information

Institute for Small and Rural Districts

Ft. Clarke Middle School

9301 NW 23 Avenue

Gainesville, FL 32606



Renee Speisman, Director