Sulaver’s Travels: Director of Special Education Retires


Photo courtesy of Perla Pasallo

As a teacher, assistant principal and special education director, Kathy Sulaver recalls the graduation of one of her students as her proudest and most emotional moment throughout her years at MVLA.

“[My proudest moment] was watching one of my students walk across the stage at graduation when he never thought he would make it,” Sulaver said. “After the ceremony, he sought me out and thanked me for believing in him and not giving up on him. His parents’ words to me were, ‘Thank you for saving our son.’”

Years later, Sulaver found the same student as a Mountain View policeman.

“He stayed in contact for a few years after he graduated, and then we lost contact until one day I was driving home from work and was pulled over by a Mountain View policeman,” Sulaver said. “I couldn’t figure out why. When the cop took off his glasses, and smiled at me, I realized who he was. He achieved his career goal and thanked me again for believing in him.”

After her endless contributions to MVLA district, Kathy Sulaver made the decision to retire. Despite Sulaver’s passion and the changes she implemented throughout her 35 years at MVLA, she believes that retirement is her next step.

“[A teacher once] said, ‘You know, you’re going to absolutely know when the time is right,’ and I did,” Sulaver said. “Everything kind of just fell into place and the timing was right. It’s time for someone new to come in with fresh new ideas, someone who will take the department the next steps forward.”

As part of her early retirement, Sulaver will spend her next three years working 25 days per year at the special education department. For the future, she hopes to become an educational consultant and advocate for students with disabilities, but for now, Sulaver looks forward to her retirement time.

“Initially, I will be taking time to ‘smell the roses’ and look forward to a new chapter in life’s journey,” Sulaver said. “I have been privileged to work in… a district with strong core values, focused goals, data driven decision making [that] never loses sight about what is best for kids, and an extremely bright, talented and dedicated staff. I wish my colleagues the best.”

Sulaver’s role as director comprised of implementing protocols, acting as a liaison between the special education and local and statewide education departments and staying updated on the current legislation regarding the delivery of services to special education students.

“There is a long list of job responsibilities which are quite daunting. However overall the

director of special education oversees and drives the programs and services provided by the district,” Sulaver said. “The director acts as a ‘troubleshooter’ and plays a role in supporting administrators, teachers, parents and students with any issues relating to special education.”

Sulaver began her work in Los Altos in 1981 as a special education teacher. Twelve years later, she was appointed assistant principal and worked in that position for eight years. However, she missed the classroom environment and working directly with students.

“As an [assistant principal] you typically get a lot of the problem kinds of things,” Sulaver said. “I had guidance and counseling as one of my responsibilities and it was great, but… my passion was really being around kids, having kids come in, working with kids, listening to their stories and trying to make a difference. I missed the energy of that. In fact, when I was first asked to move to the district, I hesitated.”

Sulaver requested to go back to being a special education teacher and was appointed department coordinator. Eleven years later, she was asked by the Superintendent to take the position of Director of Special Education.

Sulaver has personally focused on changing the stigma of special education throughout her career.

“The continuum for special [education] is huge, and it’s always been a word that had bothered me personally, because we have kids that are absolutely brilliant that might learn a little bit differently,” Sulaver said. “When you look at that broad spectrum I think that’s kind of reconciling how to move forward, meeting all those diverse needs.”

Her colleagues are reluctant to see her go, as her passion and work ethic allowed her to flourish in her job.

“It has been my pleasure to know Kathy since the 1990s when my children went here,” MVLA Board President Phil Faillace said. “Kathy was one of the most empathetic [and] caring people I have ever seen. [She] was off the charts. I think the world of Kathy, and I’m going to miss her terribly. But she’s earned her retirement so I can’t begrudge her that.”