Sequim works for better high school transitions

The special education department at Sequim High School is participating in a new transitions program to help special education students. Participating educators are, from left, Karen Huber, special education math; Molly McAleer, special education; Wendy Turner, transitions specialist; Barbara Cooper, life skills teacher; Louise Chitwood, life skills teacher; Steve Brown, language arts teacher; and David Updike, school psychologist. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash
A new post-graduation transitions program for Sequim High School students could put them one step ahead at graduation.

The high school’s special education program, Seattle University’s Center for Change and educators in Belleview, Othello and Spokane are working together on the Transition Systemic Framework Pilot Project to brainstorm ways to better help students with learning disabilities stay on their career paths after graduation.

“Our push is to prevent them from graduating and spending time on their parents’ couches,” said Wendy Turner, transitions specialist for Sequim.

The project serves 90 Sequim students with individualized education plans, IEPs. Students ages 16-21 have IEPs if they have an ailment or condition that makes it difficult for them to learn at full capacity. These might be learning disabilities, behavioral and/or health issues.

“Transitions drive all secondary IEPs. It’s more than a career path, it’s a life path,” said Shelley Langston, special services director.
Planning for the future
The group met in November for an online audio slideshow of new ideas and techniques for post-graduation transitions. Turner said they will meet again in February.

Between now and the end of the school year, Turner and others will gather data for the Center for Change to compile and present for other schools to use in their transitions programs.

They will contact all 2008 leavers or graduates with IEPs to see if they are on track with their career goals.

“Last year all our data that we received said that graduated kids were on their post-school plans,” said Langston.

Partnering with Center for Change allows Sequim teachers to receive the newest and most pertinent information on transitions.

“We are happily putting our transitions out there for future schools to use us as an example,” Langston said.

Why Sequim?
Turner said Sequim was chosen for the pilot project because of past successful transitions.

“There’s been more of a push for kids to have a transition plan,” she said.

“The hardest part is implementing these plans.”

Students are given the choice of what they want to do after graduation but sometimes the goals are lofty, so counselors encourage them to choose realistically.

Karen Huber, special education math teacher, said the pilot program will help her and others identify needs that aren’t being met and help provide for those needs.

“What we’re learning right now is what we need to improve,” Turner said.

“This will help us become more educated on what the state is pushing for transitions.”

Reach Matthew Nash at

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