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Head Of Special Education In Norwalk To Leave School District

Lynn Toper
Lynn Toper Photo Credit: CREC

NORWALK, Conn. — Lynn Toper, chief of specialized learning and student services, has resigned from her position at Norwalk Public Schools for personal reasons, the district announced Wednesday on Facebook.

Toper began the job only five months ago.

"Dr. Toper has been on a partial leave of absence since October following an unexpected family illness," said a post on the school district's Facebook page. "With that leave of absence scheduled to end in mid-December, Dr. Toper has elected to resign in order to support a family emergency."

Her last day in Norwalk will be Friday, Dec. 23.

“We’re disappointed that Dr. Toper was unable to fulfill her commitment to Norwalk,” said Superintendent Steven Adamowski, “However, we are appreciative of her contributions over the past six months.”

While a search is underway to select a new leader, the Specialized Learning and Student Services Department will be led by two special education administrators, Joseph Russo and Stacey Heiligenthaler, Adamowski said in the post.

A longtime Norwalk Public Schools administrator, Russo is currently assistant director of special education for the district.

Heiligenthaler, who joined Norwalk in November 2015, has served in special education leadership positions in Darien and several large California school districts, and will serve as an interim assistant director during this transition period.

Adamowski said both Russo and Heiligenthaler will work closely with him and members of the Senior Management Team to ensure that progress continues to move forward on improving special education in the district.

As part of the District’s Strategic Operating Plan, work on implementing recommendations from the 2015 CREC Special Education Review will continue to be a priority, he said. The Special Education Parent Advisory Council that was selected in October will also remain in place under the department’s interim leadership.

A search for a new Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Services will begin immediately. The search will be conducted at no cost to the school district by Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the firm that conducted the previous search for this role.

"We wish Dr. Toper and her family all the best for the future," the statement said.

Toper's appointment was confirmed May 17 by the Norwalk Board of Education. She had previously been principal of CREC Discovery Academy, a PreK-5 STEM magnet elementary school in the greater Hartford area; principal of Jumoke Academy Charter School; and a special education consultant for the Connecticut Department of Education.

The special education programs in Norwalk have seen a number of problems in recent years, according to The Hour . Toper had said most of the problems stemmed from a lack of efficient systems in the special education programs, The Hour said.

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