Alexa Posny Interview - Part I

My interview with Dr. Alexa Posny, the new Assistant Secretary of Education for OSERS ( the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services) last week covered a lot of ground. This is the first of a series of occasional posts concerning the interview over the next few weeks. "JG" indicates that I am speaking. "AP" indicates that Secretary Posny is speaking.

Today's post concerns who should be the next Director of OSEP, the Office of Special Education Programs and when will we have somebody in that job.

JG: In terms of your old job, the director of OSEP, do we know when that job is likely to be filled?

AP: Well, it's going to depend. You know, I've been here all of four weeks. So, there's a part of me saying, I need to get the lay of the land.

JG: Right.

AP: And knowing that I was in that position, what I need to do is spend time to figure out what we need because I look at what may be my strengths and talents and maybe some areas that I may not have as much. So what do we need to basically compliment because we don't need the exact same thing. So, it's a matter of just taking a look at it. What can we use?

JG: And you've anticipated my next question. What would you be looking for? What do you - - again, you're new, but you've done that job before - - so, what are some of the kinds of qualities in a person you'd like to see, you think or maybe what you want out of the person doing that job?

AP: Well, it's probably easier to speak about the qualities of the person. The person has to be a little bit crazy. (laughing) And, you know, just knowing what the job is. And I say that with all the greatest humor and the greatest respect for everyone else, but it's coming at it - - it's looking for someone who, in my mind, is knowledgeable because I really think that makes a difference because you're dealing with a lot of different disability areas, as you're very familiar with, and you know, a child with autism is very different from a child who is learning disabled, which is very different from being deaf or hard of hearing and/or visually impaired. So, it's having some background in that because we deal with all of it. But there's another part too. I'm also looking for someone is dedicated to making sure that every child succeeds, regardless and that we're in an educational system and how can we make this system the best there is for every single child. You know, so there's that dedication and commitment that is paramount. But then I'm also looking for some other qualities too. You know, for me, it's that relentless focus and what is that focus of the person and how can we go after it when we know it's the best thing for kids. Another one is just keeping in mind - - well, basically being open minded because, you know, again, we're talking to a lot of different people. The other thing that I look for and whenever I've hired people to work with me is I said, I am not looking for a yes person. That is not what I need. I need people who are going to push back. To say, well, have you thought about this or what do you think about this or can give me some different ways because then we'll only do that much better and we'll think about it ahead of time. So, it may not be as specific, but it's those kinds of characteristics and qualities that I think really make a big difference and there's a big difference between what a person brings with him or her, in terms of those kinds of qualities, because knowledge can also be learned. So, does somebody have to be extremely knowledgeable? No, no because that kind of information can be learned. We all did it.

JG: That's true.

AP: Yeah, and every time the law changes, we have to do it again.

JG: That's true:

AP: Yes, and IDEA reauthorization is going to be coming up.

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