District 200 has a new executive director of special education. The D200 school board recently voted to approve the hiring of Shalema Francois-Blue to replace Gwen Walker-Qualls, who is retiring after 14 years working in the district. The district announced Francois-Blue’s hiring, which is effective July 1, in a statement released Feb. 7.  

“Mrs. Francois-Blue has served diverse learners in public education for more than 20 years, dedicating her career to empowering and supporting educators, families, and communities to bring out the true gifts of every student,” the statement explains. 

Before coming to Oak Park and River Forest High School, Francois-Blue was a director of special education in Lake County, where 16 percent of the district’s 3,500 pre-K through 12th grade students receive some form of special education services. That percentage is similar to the 17 percent of students receiving special education services at OPRF. 

Francois-Blue started her education career in Minneapolis Public Schools. She’s also served as special services supervisor at Evanston/Skokie School District 65.

“Shalema’s passion for special education really stood out,” said D200 Supt. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams explained in the statement. “She is absolutely committed to not just her students but also her staff being heard and treated fairly. We have some great things happening in special education, and I really look forward to seeing her build on those.”  

A former resident of Oak Park, Francois-Blue has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in special education from Minnesota State University. 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Francois-Blue lives in Oak Park, but she is no longer a resident here. This article has since been updated. WJ regrets the error. 

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