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Dr. Jason Conaway, left, is joined by Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Superintendent Kim Halterman at a recent Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education Conference. Conaway, the director of special education for AHPS, received the statewide Mary Lou Wall Award in recognition of his first three years of leading a school division’s special education services. (AHPS Photo)

AHPS Special Education Director Receives Statewide Honor

Low Moor, VA (June 3, 2024) - Dr. Jason Conaway, director of special education for Alleghany Highlands Public Schools, has received the statewide Mary Lou Wall Award from the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE).  

Conaway received the award at the VCASE Spring Conference on May 21 in Portsmouth.

The Mary Lou Wall Award recognizes an administrator for the first three years of leading a school division’s special education services. The award was established in honor of Wall, a former Council of Special Education (CASE) executive director and Virginia special education leader.

“We are thrilled Dr. Conaway was recognized for his hard work on behalf of our community,” said Kim Halterman and Melinda Snead-Johnson, leaders of AHPS.  “We understand that the selection committee was impressed with Dr. Conaway’s efforts to help students through the school consolidation process.”

Conaway joined the former Alleghany County Public Schools in July 2021 and became AHPS’ special education director on July 1, 2022, when Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center merged. 

Before coming to the Highlands, Conaway was a West Virginia Department of Education coordinator in the Office of Federal Programs. His duties included statewide oversight for programs serving students with autism, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) indicators, mental health services, and behavior modification. During his career in education, he has taught special education, served as a middle school assistant principal, worked as a school psychologist, and worked as an interim special education director.

Conaway received his Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Fairmont State University, a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Marshall University, a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Concord University, and an Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology from Marshall University. In 2019, he completed his Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership at Liberty University.

He enjoys attending professional development events, learning how he can help students with behavior needs and autism, and improving the mental health of all students. 

“I am honored and humbled to receive the Mary Lou Wall Award and to work for such a great school division,” he said. “We have the best teachers and school personnel in Virginia and the country. Our staff cares about students and helping them achieve their dreams. This award recognized the hard work of all staff in putting the learning of all students first.” 

AHPS strives to provide opportunities for students with special needs, and Conaway provides leadership for special education instruction. The school division maintains an active local Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), and school board member John Littleton serves on the Virginia Special Education Advisory Committee.  The state committee is selectively composed and does not include a representative from each Virginia school division.  

In recent years, the school division has acquired a Practical Assessment and Exploration System (PAES) lab and continued its work-based learning programs tailored to students with disabilities. Earlier in his career, Conaway had significant experience in the use of a PAES lab. The division also offers other programs aimed at helping students transition to the workforce, military, and college.  Work-based learning opportunities are offered to all AHPS students, and students with disabilities may receive additional support depending on their needs.

“In addition to these opportunities to support youth with disabilities transitioning into the community, we are also excited for Mountain Gateway Community College’s relatively new Inclusive Learning Enabled Action Program (ILEAP),” said Halterman and Snead-Johnson. “ILEAP provides another educational opportunity for people with disabilities in our community.”  

AHPS now offers early childhood special education programs conveniently located in each elementary school zone. The school division has also continued to coordinate with the Alleghany Highlands Early Learning Partnership (AHELP), a local group promoting preschoolers' success. This work supports the early identification of students needing more assistance to be ready for school.  School division staff have attended events like the developmental disabilities services fair sponsored by the Alleghany Highlands Community Services Board this spring.  

To attract teachers in special education, AHPS offers a pay supplement. Conaway also provides and coordinates a robust new teacher mentoring program specific to special education.  

Individuals needing more information about special education services can contact their local school or the AHPS central office at (540) 863-1800.

The Alleghany Highlands Public Schools Division was created on July 1, 2022, through the merger of Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center. The school division is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. 

AHPS news and updates are regularly posted on Facebook at AHPublicSchools, and the division website www.ahps.k12.va.us.


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