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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #24-01
January 5, 2024
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Appoints Special Education Local Plan Area Director Dr. Rachel Heenan as New Director of Special Education Division

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced that he has appointed Dr. Rachel Heenan as the new director of the Special Education Division at the California Department of Education (CDE). The Special Education Division provides information and resources to serve the unique needs of individuals with disabilities so that each person will meet or exceed high standards of achievement in academic and non-academic skills. Dr. Heenan will support the CDE's efforts to aid schools and engage families and educators in ways that ensure the unique needs of students with disabilities are met.

"Dr. Heenan's wealth of experience and dedication aligns perfectly with our mission to ensure every student meets or exceeds high standards of achievement, regardless of the challenges,” Thurmond said. “Her leadership will be instrumental in advancing our commitment to inclusive and equitable education for all, ensuring that every student has the opportunity to thrive. I look forward to the positive impact Dr. Heenan will make as we continue our mission to provide quality education for every child in California."

Dr. Heenan has worked in special education for two decades. She began her career in Massachusetts, working in the field of deafness as an instructional aide, a speech and language specialist, and a school counselor. After relocating to California, Dr. Heenan served as a social worker for a foster family agency serving Deaf/hard-of-hearing children and families.

Along with her extensive local experience, Dr. Heenan has also served in various education leadership roles as assistant principal, early intervention service coordinator, and special education administrator. Prior to joining the CDE, Dr. Heenan was the director of special education and the Special Education Local Plan Area director for the Long Beach Unified School District, the fourth-largest district in the state. As the CDE special education director, her work will continue to focus on serving the underserved, addressing disparities in our educational system, breaking down barriers, and creating a more equitable learning environment that benefits all students.

Dr. Heenan holds a doctorate from the University of Southern California in educational leadership, a master’s degree from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and a bachelor’s degree from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Friday, January 5, 2024
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