Exceptional Programs Office

"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." --Harriet Tubman


For immediate release

 Media Contact: Judy Robinson


(505) 469-5496

 Jan. 11, 2022

Special ed ombud seeks volunteers in every district

 Position established by 2021 legislation to help families navigate program

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s new ombudsman for special education is seeking volunteers from all 89 school districts in the state to make sure every student needing special education services has an ally to help navigate the system.

 “One person cannot do this for the entire state,” said Michelle Tregembo, who was hired in June to run the one-person Office for Special Education Ombud as a division of the New Mexico Developmental Disorders Council. “We would love to have a volunteer ombud in every New Mexico school district so we could serve as the coordinating and training hub.”

 The office, which officially opened last month, and the council were established by legislation passed in the 2021 regular session. It was a priority bill of the governor’s. Previously, special education students and families relied on a network of advocacy organizations to help them request services, negotiate individual educational plans and raise concerns on behalf of a special needs child.

 “This is a huge step forward to better serving our students with special needs,” Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus said. “While the ombud’s office is not housed within the Public Education Department, we consider her work part of our mission and will do everything we can to promote and support it. For starters, we are encouraging districts and special education directors to get involved and help recruit volunteers for this program.”

 The council plans to recruit regional directors, hire more staff and train volunteers with a goal of having an advocate in each district, said Alice Liu McCoy, director of the New Mexico Developmental Disorders Council.

 “We're developing a very rigorous training certification program,” McCoy said.

 The only requirement to volunteer is a desire to help special needs students and their families and a flexible schedule in order to attend Individualized Education Plan meetings during the day as needed.

 “It could be anyone. It could be a parent. It could be a retired teacher. It might also be younger people who are interested in getting into education,” said Tregembo, a former vice principal of Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque with 25 years of experience in special education. 

 In 2020, students with disabilities made up 15% of state graduates and they had the lowest graduation rate of any group at 66.4%.

 The special education ombud serves as an independent advocate and watchdog for public school students and provides comprehensive support for families navigating the special education system. Duties include ensuring that students and parents receive complete and accurate information about the student’s rights, adequate services to meet the student’s needs and timely responses when they raise questions or express concerns. 

 Already, Tregembo is working with almost two dozen families, but she expects that number to grow quickly as word spreads, making it impossible for one person alone to represent every special education student in the state. 

 Students with disabilities were one of five student groups identified in a 2018 ruling in the Martinez-Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit on education equity.  The court ruled that New Mexico was failing its obligation to provide adequate education to these student groups, which also included Native American students, English learners, highly mobile students and those who are economically disadvantaged. 

 Nearly 300 special education teaching positions statewide remained vacant at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, along with 280 vacancies for special education assistants, according to an analysis by New Mexico State University in September. That represents 28% of all teacher vacancies this fall.


The New Mexico Public Education Department partners with educators, communities and families to ensure that all students are healthy, secure in their identity and holistically prepared for college, career and life. Currently, the NMPED serves more than 317,000 students in 187 districts and charter schools. Find an abundance of resources for administrators, educators, families and students at New Mexico Public Education Department or follow the NMPED on Facebook and Twitter.

 Judy Robinson | Deputy Communications Director

300 Don Gaspar Ave. | Santa Fe, NM 87501

c: (505)469-5496| HelpDesk: (505) 827-5800

Check us out here: NM PED News & Media


Parent and Child Rights

SPED Student Transfer of Records

For all requests regarding record transfers, either to or from AMSD, please contact Patricia Garrett at (505) 334-3695 ext. 1066. You may fax the records directly to (505) 599-4388 attention Patricia. A preferable method of request would be by e-mail, you can send e-mail requests to epcordky@aztecschools.com

Policies and Procedures for the Provision of Special Education Services for Students with Disabilities and Gifted Students

Exceptional Programs Department

The Aztec Municipal School District believes in "Building a Foundation for Success" for all students.  The Exceptional Programs Department is committed to providing a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) for all students. Our program consists of Certified Educational Diagnosticians (CED), Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Occupational Therapists (OT), Licensed Master Social Workers (LMSW), Autism Specialist, Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), Audiologist and support staff.  The implementation of educational services includes special education teachers, general education teachers, preschool teachers, other service providers and most importantly, the parents, who are committed to working diligently to implement the IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) for our students.

Educational Diagnostician

A Certified Educational Diagnostician (CED) understands and applies knowledge of the purpose, philosophy and legal foundations of evaluation and special education.  A CED:              

 •    understands state and federal regulations relevant to special education;               

•    models theories and philosophies that provide the basis for special education evaluations;              

 •    uses assessment and evaluation information to plan individualized programs;             

  •    makes instructional recommendations that result in appropriate services for individuals with              exceptionalities, including those from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds;              

•    interprets and uses assessment and evaluation data for targeted instruction and on-going review;              

•    assists in identifying realistic expectations for educationally relevant behavior (e.g., vocational, functional, academic, social) in various settings; and              

•    makes recommendations for classroom modifications and instructional strategies that will enhance a child's ability to access and benefit from the educational experience;  

Speech and Language Therapy

A Certified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) screens, evaluates and provides speech-language therapy for students who have a speech or language impairment such as stuttering, impaired articulation, language impairment or voice impairment that adversely affects a child's educational performance.

Services include:

            •    Resource/pullout services (completed in the speech therapy room)

            •    Inclusion/integrated services (completed in the classroom)

            •    Consultation (providing the student's teachers and parents with strategies and activities to assist the student)

            •    Monitoring (observing the student in various settings outside the therapy room)

Our goal is to have each student communicating to his/her highest potential, increasing their ability to adequately function and complete required academic tasks, in the ultimate least restrictive environment, which is the regular education classroom.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a treatment that deals with fine and gross motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, and sensory-processing deficits, thus focusing on helping students achieve their independence in all areas of their lives'.  OT can offer children with various needs that are positive as well as fun activities to improve their cognitive, physical, and gross motor skills to enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.

Because a child's main job is playing and learning, an occupational therapist  (OT) can evaluate a child's skills for play activities, school performance, and activities of daily living to compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for that age group; in addition to dealing with an individual's physical well being, an OT addresses psychological, social, and environmental factors that may hinder an individual's functioning in different ways.  This unique approach makes occupational therapy a vital part of health care for some children.

An OT can address to meet children's needs by working on fine motor skills so that they can grasp and release toys and develop good handwriting skills, they can also address hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, such as hitting a target, batting a ball, or copying from a dry erase board or a blackboard.

Social Work

Social work is a specialized service that utilizes various social resources, social systems and human capacity to bring about change in human behavior, emotional responses and social conditions.  A social worker in New México must be licensed by the regulation and licensing department through the New México Board of Social Work Examiners by passing the ASWB (Association of Social Work Board) examination as well as a Cultural Exam.  There are three levels of licensure for a social worker in New México to include Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW).

Social workers, depending on their level and licensure, can provide a wide range of services to include, but not limited to, assessment, treatment planning, implementation and evaluation, case management, information and referral, counseling, supervision, consultation, education, research, advocacy, community organization and development, implementation and administration of policies, programs and activities.

Social workers must renew their licensure annually or biannually by accumulating fifteen credit hours of training per year that have been approved by the Social Work Board

Developmentally Delayed (DD) Preschool and Child Find

The Developmentally Delayed (DD) Preschool is a special education program designed to teach children who have a developmental delay or a disability.  Three and four year-old children who qualify for the DD Preschool benefit from a literacy rich, play-based curriculum provided by licensed, highly qualified teachers and ancillary staff.  The DD Preschool program also has a peer role-model program which provides the DD students with the opportunity to interact with typically developing peers when space is available.

Children from birth to four years are screened in the areas of speech language, cognition, motor, sensory, nutrition, social adaptive skills, and vision hearing.  However, if parents are concerned or have any questions regarding the development of their child, they are encouraged to call the Exceptional Programs Department at (505) 334-3695 ext. 1063.

Gifted Services

"Gifted and talented students" means a child or youth who performs at or shows the potential for performing at a remarkably higher level of accomplishment when compared to other children of the same age, experience, or environment. Students will also exhibit high performance capability in an intellectual, creative, or artistic area, possess an unusual capacity for leadership, and/or excel in a specific academic field.

Students who participate in services designed for gifted students will demonstrate skills in self-directed learning, thinking, research, and communication as evidenced by the development of innovative products and performances that reflect individuality and creativity that are advanced in relation to students of similar age, experience or environment.  High school graduates who have participated in services for gifted students will have completed assignments of professional quality as part of their programs services.

Transition Services

One of the primary purposes of IDEA-B Entitlement is to ensure that children with exceptionalities are prepared for employment and independent living.  At age fourteen (or sooner, if appropriate), IEPs become future-directed in which team discussion and decision-making must focus on designing and implementing an educational program and experience that prepares students for transition to post high school adult life.  These transition-planning activities are a required component of an IEP for students fourteen and up.  For students that will reach the age of fourteen during the school year, a transition planning for secondary coursework must be included in the IEP for that school year.  Incorporating transition into the IEP includes early identification of planning and goal setting for the student to begin setting a course of study

Medicaid School Based Services

The Aztec Municipal School District delivers a broad range of educational, social and medical services that are needed to ensure a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to children and youth that have disabilities.  Under the auspices of the Medicaid in the Schools Based Services (MSBS) program, Aztec Schools offer key health and health related services that are designed to integrate and maintain active learning of Medicaid-eligible children and youth with special educational and healthcare needs.  In New México the MSBS includes a number of direct services including physical, occupational, audiological, speech language therapies, social services, transportation and nursing services.

School Health Coordinator

The School Health Coordinator leads the health services team to implement protocols and procedures that improve the health and wellbeing of our students and staff. The School Health Coordinator oversees the development of the wellness policy and coordinates the School Health Advisory Committee. The School Health Coordinator partners with several outside agencies to collaborate in an effort to help bring health improvement opportunities and programs to our school community. The School Health Coordinator provides health related trainings to students and staff that include CPR, Stop the Bleed and Narcan.

Mental Health Coordinator

The Mental Health Coordinator works with both the counselors and social workers in district to develop coordinated programming to increase awareness of and foster the mental health of Aztec students and staff. The mental health coordinator provides consultation in support to parents, students and staff with regard to behavior (Functional Analysis of Behavior & Behavior Intervention Plans), coordinates Sandy Hook Programming (Suicide Prevention & Safety and Threat Assessments), and is District's Certified Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinical Specialist. The Mental Health Coordinator also works closely with our Transition classrooms to implement best practice for addressing emotional and behavioral issues and work towards improved outcomes for students.

Teacher of the Visually Impaired

The Teacher of the Visually Impaired works in cooperation with the classroom teacher, administration, aides and parents to insure the unique learning needs of the visually impaired student are met


The district audiologist is responsible for students who have either hearing loss or hearing difficulties. The audiologist consults with the classroom teacher, parents and administration to help formulate the best plan for student success. The audiologist may provide one on one or group sessions with the students that are in need of services.  The audiologist with work with all sound amplification devices, such as, hearing aids, sound fields and FM systems, that will enhance the learning environment for students in need of these services.  The audiologist is able to conduct Central Auditory Processing evaluations.