Federal education official to speak at 17th annual transition conference

AUBURN – John H. Hager, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, will be the keynote speaker at the 17th annual Alabama Transition Conference, hosted by Auburn University’s Transition Leadership Institute March 12-14 at the Marriott Grand National.

AU’s Transition Leadership Institute is part of the College of Education’s Department of Rehabilitation and Special Education and helps teenagers with disabilities throughout Alabama successfully move from their teen years to adulthood by overcoming the challenges associated with the transitional period that follows high school.

Hager, who will speak about the importance of transition programs, oversees the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, which provides support to parents and individuals, school districts and states in three main areas: special education, vocational rehabilitation and research.

As the assistant secretary, Hager serves as the principal advisor to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings on departmental matters related to special education and rehabilitative services.

Prior to his appointment with the Department of Education, Hager served as the lieutenant governor and homeland security director of Virginia. He received national recognition as chair of Virginia’s Disability Commission and has held leadership positions in many civic, charitable and service organizations. A graduate of Purdue University and Harvard University, Hager served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves. A lifelong athlete, he has competed in many wheelchair races since his bout with polio several years ago.

Hager will be joined by Bill East, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and Carl Suter, executive director of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, at the conference’s opening session Tuesday, March 13, at 8:30 a.m. Preconference workshops begin March 12 and the conference concludes March 14 at noon.

The annual Transition Conference provides a forum for statewide and national collaboration among special education and rehabilitation practitioners, job coaches, transition counselors, families, students and agency representatives.

Last month, Gov. Bob Riley signed a proclamation naming March 2007 as Transition Awareness Month for Individuals with Disabilities. Of the more than 740,000 students in Alabama’s public schools, students with disabilities make up an estimated 12 percent. The percentage of students with disabilities exiting high school, from 1999-2006, with either a graduation certificate, occupational diploma or regular diploma increased from 72 percent to 92 percent.

For more information, visit www.auburn.edu/rse/institute.

(Contributed by Colleen Trent.)

Contact: Diane Glanzer (334) 844-2105, (glanzd@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)