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Exceptional Student Services Unit Overview

This unit supports personnel serving students with exceptional educational needs. Technical assistance and programming support are available for students who have disabilities, are gifted and talented, and/or who are culturally or linguistically diverse. This unit administers both the state's Exceptional Children’s Educational Act (ECEA) and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for children with disabilities. Services and programming for Early Intervention (Preschool) and Colorado’s Facility Schools are also housed in this unit.

The Exceptional Student Services Unit is comprised of three offices:  Office of Special Education, Office of Facility Schools and the Office of Gifted Education. 

ESSU Consultant Responsibility List 


Office of Special Education

Office of Gifted Education

Office of Facility Schools



Address: 1560 Broadway, Denver CO 80202
Room Number(s): 1100

Unit Supervisor: Dr. Paul Foster, Executive Director
Administrative Lead: Suzy Shotts
Lead Email Address:
Lead Phone Number: 303-866-6124

Visit Office's Home Page

Office Responsibilities

Unit Vision

After high school, students are fully engaged in college/vocation, career, family and community.  A comprehensive system of supports exists that wraps around educators, leaders and families of Colorado in order to meet the needs of each and every student.


Unit Mission


… the Exceptional Student Services Unit (ESSU) and its partners including, but not limited to: the Colorado Department of Education units and offices, State Directors’ Leadership Team (SDLT) and Directors of Special Education,  Gifted Education Directors, Colorado Special Education Advisory Committee (CSEAC), Gifted Education State Advisory Committee, PEAK Parent Center, advocacy organizations, and advisory groups …

build the capacity

… “the process of developing and strengthening the skills, instincts, abilities, processes and resources that organizations need to survive, adapt, and thrive in the fast-changing world” [Wikipedia] …

of leaders, educators,

… those who prepare teachers and leadership personnel, district and building level administrators including superintendents and principals, directors of special programs, teachers and teacher leaders, specialized service personnel, para-educators, and others who serve students in Colorado’s education systems …

and families

… parents, siblings, other relatives, and those designated as providers, caretakers, or surrogate parents for students in Colorado …

to improve outcomes

… enhance and expand the immediate, intermediate, and long-term instructional, societal, and life effects achieved through education …

for every student.

... each individual student, without exception.


Major Projects

Teams/Major Projects

Unit responsibilities include providing professional development, technical assistance and customer service to districts, schools, boards and external stakeholders, and parents concerning special education, gifted and talented education, early intervention (preschool) and facility schools' programs and services.

  • The Access Learning and Literacy (ALL) team is committed to building supportive learning environments and ensuring effective instruction for ALL students with disabilities.  For additional information on eligibility of students with disabilities, accessible assessments, core content and specially designed instruction, accommodations, assistive technology, Colorado Academic Standards/Extended Evidence Outcomes, mental and physical health supports, the Achievement and Literacy Grants and literacy expertise specific to students with disabilities, please contact Tanni Anthony
  • Approved Facility Schools focus their team efforts to improve educational outcomes of students in facility placements including residential, day treatment, and hospital programs approved to provide educational services.  For additional information, please contact Judy Stirman
  • Dispute Resolution provides parents and administrative units with information, guidance and training on IDEA Dispute Resolution Procedures. For more information, please call 303-866-6694 and ask to speak to someone from the Dispute Resolution Team
  • Fiscal and Operation Services is responsible for all financial aspects of the Unit, including the use of federal funds, and approval of Administrative Units' and State Operated Programs' federal application narratives and performance reports.  All general operations for the Unit are also the responsibility of this team.  For additional information, please contact Kim Boylan
  • Gifted Education provides identification guidelines, instructional strategies and curriculum for gifted and talented students thorughout the state through direct service, regional networks, and higher education. For more information, please contact Jacquelin Medina
  • Preschool Special Education and Child Find provides technical assistance to early childhood personnel and programs serving preschool aged (3-5) children with disabilities. Contact Heidi McCaslin
  • Results Driven Accountability encompasses the analyses of performance data, data collections for state and federal reporting, implementation of the IEP Interchange for the Data Pipeline, monitoring the implementation of the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and family-school partnering to ensure family engagement in the education of students with disabilities.  For questions regarding Results Driven Accountability, contact Toby King
  • Secondary Transition is the team who provides training and technical assistance to educators, parents and community agencies in the process of preparing students, ages 15 – 21, for adult life after they leave high school and also serves as a bridge between school programs and the opportunities of adult life, including higher education or training, employment, independent living and community participation. For more information, please call 303-866-6106 and ask to speak to someone from the Secondary Transition Team. For more information, please contact Fran Herbert
  • Statewide Professional Learning Initiatives Team is responsible for developing and providing professional learning options to Administrative Units, districts, and educators throughout Colorado.  The Team oversees the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP), the State Identified Measurable Result (SiMR)Project, the CEEDAR Project, the Directors of Special Education Mentor Project, and a number of literacy initiatives.  We maintain effective relationships with Institutions of Higher Education and support efforts in leadership and educator preparation.  For additional information or to discuss a professional learning opportunity, please contact Faye Gibson



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Colorado Dept. of Education
201 East Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
Phone: 303-866-6600
Fax: 303-830-0793
Contact CDE

CDE Hours
Mon - Fri 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
See also: Licensing Hours

Educator Licensing 

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