Dr. Kathy Mentz, PACE Academic Dean
For over 30 years, Kathy Mentz has worked with students with disabilities. But her experience and inspiration came at an even younger age. Growing up, her family was friends with a family whose daughter had Down Syndrome. As a child, Kathy never realized her friend was different. Her parents encouraged friendship and positive interactions with the girl. Kathy wants the same sense of belonging and friendship for every child who experiences our special education services.
Tell us about your role as the academic dean for the PACE preschool program.
My role is to coordinate PACE efforts in educating children so they can reach their full potential. I track assessment data, meet with the psychologist to discuss upcoming assessments and what eligibility categories to consider during the assessment, place children into the various classes (PALS, Center Based, community preschool), evaluate the PACE staff through observations and walk- throughs, talk to parents and families, help with child discipline, chair case conferences, answer questions regarding PACE or other family concerns, plan staff meetings and professional development, and problem solve when needed.
Who qualifies for PACE programming?
There are 13 eligibility categories under IDEA and Article 7, children who are eligible for our program the child must be determined to meet 1 or more of those categories to receive special education services. Most of the children at PACE receive speech/language therapy services. We assess about 250 children each school year.
What is the PACE program like for a family?
My hope is that PACE is a good first learning experience for families. PACE is often the first exposure to a school environment. I want parents to be able to ask questions and keep our special education staff accountable. I hope they feel comfortable with the dedicated special education staff. We have a dedicated staff who go above and beyond, I hope parents see this and feel we put our best foot forward.
What advice would you give to a parent of a young child with disabilities?
Be patient, children grow and develop at different rates: when concerns about development arise do not look ahead 18 years, take one step/day at a time. Enjoy your child for what he/she can do. Look for the little “miracles” and celebrate them.
Outside of work, Kathy enjoys sewing, crocheting, being outside in the yard with her flowers, and learning. Her husband is the pastor at Mountain Top Community Church, who works to enhance the lives of people seeking assistance (following the principles found in Matthew 25).