New special ed director takes over July 1

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

The incoming Portales special education director has a background in special education and said she plans to continue the current service and work with the gifted program.

Jacqueline “Jackie” Burns, now Brown Early Childhood Center’s principal, is scheduled to officially take the place of current Director of Special Student Services Terry Warnica starting July 1.

However, Burns is already spending time working with Warnica, who is retiring.

Burns said her mission is to continue to provide services to special education students and their families in the same professional manner that Warnica and her staff have.

“I would like to strengthen the gifted program,” she also said.

Burns’ job will involve making sure both advanced children and those who need extra help get the educational opportunities they need.

Since Burns is more familiar with elementary special education, she has a personal goal of learning about secondary special education, including the transition of students from school to the working world.

As for the district’s special education staff members, she said they are excellent.

“They basically know what to do, so I’m going to be relying on their knowledge and expertise as well,” Burns said.

The educator said Warnica and some state agencies would also be resources during her transition.

Burns said she loved working with the employees, students and parents at Brown for the past 11 years.

“But I saw this as an opportunity for me to grow professionally and serve in a different capacity for this district,” she said of her new job.

Burns said she aims to work as special student services director for at least five years, one or two to feel comfortable and several more, she said.

Superintendent Randy Fowler said Burns was chosen for the position because she had worked in the district for 20 years as a special education teacher and principal at Brown. She also has a master’s in special education.

“So she has a lot of experience that will help her in that position,” Fowler said.

Burns has all the necessary qualifications to succeed as director, he said.