"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)

Special Education


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, 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.



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.


Special Education Department
Vista Unified School District
1234 Arcadia Avenue
Vista, CA 92084
Phone: 760-726-2170
Fax: 760-630-7719


Department Contact List:
Nereida Gutierrez
ext: 92902
Steffanie Rupp
ext: 92903
Supervisor - Elementary/Middle Schools

ext: 92905

Tracy Zachry
Supervisor - Elementary/Middle Schools
ext: 92909
Katherine Abraham
Supervisor - High 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
 Office Staff
Jean Potter
Administrative Secretary
ext: 92902
Debra Harris
Staff Data Technician
ext: 92908
Yvonne Fortin
Staff Data Technician
ext: 92910
Alejandra Hoffmann
SPED Interpreter/Translator
ext: 92911
Leticia Robles
SPED Interpreter/Translator
ext: 92150