Dinneen to retire; board appoints replacement

After 42 years in the special education field, and the past 25 as the Fayetteville-Manlius School District Assistant Superintendent for Special Services, Lisa Dinneen is planning to retire. 

Dinneen’s last day will be June 30. Prior to joining F-M, she spent 17 years with the West Genesee Central School District as a special education teacher and then as its first director of special education.

We will miss the incredible leadership that Lisa has provided over the years, including but not limited to, her collaborative ground-breaking work on the Visual Immersion System with Dr. Howard Shane of Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital,” F-M Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “The cutting-edge project, forged from a partnership between a public school and a major research university, has been a recent topic of numerous educational journal articles, professional conference presentations and, most recently, as a chapter in a textbook that will be used throughout the nation and world. I am confident that Lisa’s work on this initiative will be part of her enduring legacy at F-M.”

On March 22, the F-M Board of Education approved hiring Amy Evans as the district’s next assistant superintendent for special services. Evans, who will begin July 1, has served six years as director of special education programs for the Syracuse City School District. 

Amy stood out among a strong pool of candidates and brings a wealth of experience in special education that ranges from the elementary to the secondary grades,” Tice said. “This breadth and depth of experience, including her service as a building principal and central office administrator, impressed all of the different F-M stakeholder representatives during a series of four separate interviews over the course of the past month. Her engaging personality and commitment to the children will serve her well in her new assignment.”

Evans has experience as a special education teacher, a vice principal, a building principal and assistant director of special education. She earned both her master’s degree in special education with a concentration in learning disabilities and a certificate of advanced study in educational leadership from Syracuse University. She has three children and lives in Cicero.

“I am thrilled to become part of the F-M team and contribute to the district’s reputation of academic excellence,” Evans said. “This new role allows me the opportunity to administer and contribute to programming that I am passionate about for our students. I am looking forward to getting to know the staff, students and community and working collaboratively to promote student success.”

Leaving a legacy

Dinneen was instrumental in bringing new therapies and strategies to the district to support its most vulnerable students. Under her leadership, both middle schools adopted integrated co-teaching, which means that a general education teacher and a special education teacher jointly provide instruction to a class that includes students with and without disabilities. This practice allows the teachers to meet the diverse learning needs of all students in a classroom.

She secured partnerships with researchers from such institutions as Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Northeastern University to introduce research-based, cutting-edge instructional methodologies and strategies to teach students diagnosed with autism and moderate to severe communication disorders.

Dinneen and the district’s special education staff worked closely with Howard Shane, a Harvard Medical School associate professor and director of the Center of Communication Enhancement at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, to bring Visual Immersion System to the district’s elementary level. 

Visual Immersion System uses visual supports—such as videos, photographs and pictures, along with technology such as iPads—to enhance and expand the language and communication skills of students with autism.

At the high school level, she led the development of a 15:1 program that provides special education students access to general education in order to achieve a local diploma in addition to a comprehensive work study component. 

Dinneen has worked with F-M staff to institutionalize an inclusive philosophy so that all students with either disabilities or limited English abilities are genuinely and naturally included in the district’s general education program to the maximum degree appropriate.

“With the advent of more advanced, comprehensive assessments and evaluation tools over the years, children have been identified with disabilities at an earlier age,” Dinneen said. “Consequently, with early intervention services many students have progressed to such a degree that they have learned to compensate for their disabilities and have gone on to achieve a high school diploma and attend or graduate from post secondary institutions.” 

In addition, new advances in computer and assistive technology have enhanced learning for students with disabilities and helped break down the barriers of learning and allowed these students to achieve greater success in their skills and abilities, she said. 

Dinneen said she has enjoyed working with dedicated F-M faculty, staff and administrators who are passionate about education and willing to implement evidence-based practices/programs intentionally and with fidelity for the betterment of students. 

As she looks to the future, she said she will be guided by two Italian quotes:

“Lascia che la vita ti sorprenda…..Il meglio deve ancora venire,” which mean “Let life surprise you……The best is yet to come.”