Written by Dr. Kelly Kapitz
Marathon County Children with Disabilities Education Board recently celebrated their 60th anniversary. Coming a long way from 4 staff members and 63 students in 1958, today the Disabilities Board provides education and support to over 430 students in 6 rural schools and is home to 102 employees.
Beginning in 1958, the Board had one mission:
“We believe that ALL handicapped children in the county have a right to educational opportunities . . . and that the board has been created to provide such opportunities . . . within its power to do so.”
— Board minutes (1958)
This mission remains true today.
In 1958, we primarily provided services to students in homes or at centralized sites. Students were bussed to various locations for their education, which consisted mostly of instruction in life skills. Only students who were classified as “mentally retarded” were served. In contrast, there are now 13 disability categories, and most students in the Marathon County Special Education (MCSE) consortium receive their education right in their neighborhood schools.
Over the decades, the face of special education has substantially changed. This video commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Marathon County Children with Disabilities Education Board features Dr. Eric Hartwig (MCSE Director from 1987 to 2016) — as well as former and current MCSE educators, such as Cheryl Adams and Tiphany Schmidt. It beautifully illustrates the various ways special education has evolved in our community.
Due to changes in legislation, research, and attitudes, students with disabilities now have opportunities equal to their nondisabled peers and receive individualized instruction geared to their unique needs. Today, all students also have opportunities to receive a high-quality education in inclusive classroom environments.
The Disabilities Board has provided transition services for over 20 years. They’ve also pioneered mental health screening for all students and opened the first day-treatment center. The Board continues to chart new territory with innovative practices using assistive technology (AT) and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, as well as continuing to support students — and their families — as they transition to a life beyond the school’s doors.
I’m so proud to join in celebrating 60 years of providing special education services to students throughout Marathon County.
Kelly Kapitz, PhD
Director | Marathon County Special Education
Dr. Kelly Kapitz is the Director of Special Education for the Marathon County Special Education Department. She has 30 years of experience as both a school psychologist and director of special education and pupil services. Currently the Special Education Department supports 6 school districts, 428 students, and 104 staff. Kelly’s entire career has been in the services of Wisconsin rural schools. Her passion is supporting all students in acquiring a high-quality educational experience. Kelly and her husband have three children and enjoy tending their apple orchard and traveling. Email Dr. Kelly Kapitz.
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