"Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs, whose educational needs cannot be met with modification of the general instruction program..."

- California Education Code(section 56031)


Our Special Education Staff has identified four key commitments that will ensure this mission is fulfilled:

  1. Responsiveness - timely communication with students, parents, and staff
  2. Guidance - program implementation in accordance with federal and state laws
  3. Support - to create stimulating learning environments
  4. Resolution - to ensure a free and appropriate public education for all students


The Vista Unified School District Special Education Department offers a continuum of specialized services to meet the unique and individualized needs of each student. Comprising the largest program of the North County Consortium of Special Education (NCCSE), Vista Unified prides itself on the commitment to locating, identifying and serving over 3000 children with special needs from ages 3-22. We are committed to supporting each student's access to differentiated core instruction in the least restrictive environment, while aligning each IEP (Individualized Education Program) to the Common Core State Standards. Our program spans the spectrum from full integration in the general education environment with accommodations, to separate special education programs addressing more significant needs. The dedicated professionals working to support classroom teachers in achieving these goals include: school psychologists, speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, adaptive physical education specialists, behavior interventionists, visual impairment specialists, resource teachers, DHH Itinerants, counselors, social workers and instructional assistants.

It is important to note that special education is a service provided to students with exceptional needs. Special education is not a location or specific classroom. Special education is intended to provide a full range of services in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): the instructional setting that is most similar to the instructional setting attended by general education students.

The LRE requires that students with disabilities are to be educated to the maximum extent possible with children who are not disabled. The Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) 34 C.F.R. Section 300.114 to 300.117 provide specific federal requirements related to LRE.

Mission Statement

Our Special Education Staff is committed to providing specialized academic and behavioral support and services to students with exceptional needs in order to fully engage them in high quality learning environments that challenge and prepare them to be well-rounded, active members of a global society.


Department Address:
Vista Unified School district
1234 Arcadia Avenue
Vista, CA 92084
Attn: Special Education Department

Department Phone#:
760.726.2170 ext: 92900

Department Fax#:

Office Hours:

Monday through Friday
8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Department Contact List:

Jana Hegg
Interim Executive Director
ext: 92902

Leslie Taylor

ext: 92903

Jean Potter

Administrative Secretary
ext: 92902

Steffanie Rupp

Supervisor - Elementary Schools
ext: 92905

Tracy Zachry

Supervisor - Elementary Schools
ext: 92909

Katherine Abraham

Supervisor - Secondary Schools
ext: 92904

Chris Altona
Principal - Vista Adult Transition Center
ext: 83002

Rachel Schmidt
Principal - California Avenue School
ext: 84002

Jennifer Gruman
Supervisor- Cal Ave/Non Public Schools
ext: 84026

Debra Harris

Staff Data Technician
ext: 92908

Yvonne Fortin

Staff Data Technician
ext: 92910