A longtime special education leader has been honored by the Minnesota Administrators for Special Education (MASE). Renae Ouillette, who recently retired as executive director of student services for Lakeville Area Public Schools, is the recipient of the 2022 MASE Legacy Award. Ouillette was honored for her commitment to encouraging, developing and mentoring leaders who reflect the MASE mission. She was given the award at a statewide recognition ceremony during the 2022 MASE Fall Leadership Conference,
Ouillette has a long history of service in the field of special education. She began her career as special education coordinator in the Sherburne and Northern Wright Special Education Cooperative. In 1997, she moved to Lakeville, where she served as a special education coordinator, director of special services, and then finally as the Executive Director of Student Services. Ouillette retired in August.
“Renae is set apart by her ability to be a leader of leaders,” said Todd Travis, director of special education of the Midwest Special Education Cooperative. “She has a rare combination of immense technical skill in areas such as due process and finance while also possessing amazing interpersonal skills necessary to articulate complex ideas in a way that engages and motivates others.”
Lakeville was one of the first districts to co-locate mental health services for students, including having a therapist in the classroom for those who needed support. In addition, Ouillette also supported the Best Buddies program, an after-school club for inclusion bringing together middle and high school special education students with general education students. Ouillette developed and led a very active Special Education Advisory Council, which has established an annual celebration of Inclusive Schools Week.
Ouillette has worked with colleagues statewide, including the Special Education Finance Bootcamp, a workshop series attended by special education leaders, school finance directors and superintendents. She served as a peer monitor for the Minnesota Department of Education, Division of Compliance and Accountability, and as a member of the Minnesota State Autism Network.
In 2001 through her work with the Minnesota State Autism Network, Ouillette helped draft new autism spectrum disorder (ASD) criteria and the ASD Promising Practices Manual. She served on the Minnesota Autism Task Force (2009-2014) and was active in the Dakota County Collaborative.
Ouillette has served in several MASE leadership capacities, including chairing professional development and strategic planning committees and serving on the membership committee. She served on both the MASE and Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) boards, serving as MASA metro special education component representative. Ouillette was also a member of the MASA Executive Development Committee as a joint MASA-MASE member.
MASE is a professional association organized to promote programs and services to improve the education of children with disabilities, to foster high quality programs of professional development, and to study problems relating to serving children with disabilities and improving the leadership of administrators for special education.