Kim Chevalier | Courtesy JCPS

Jefferson County Public Schools has named its first special education chief, fulfilling a key portion of the district’s corrective action plan with the state.

Kim Chevalier, currently the Walton-Verona Independent Schools Assistant Superintendent, will head the district’s exceptional child education efforts. She begins on May 6, according to a JCPS release.

“This is an incredible opportunity to support the JCPS team in their transformational approach to helping all students be successful, independent adults,“ Chevalier said in the release. “It has always been my passion to help children, and my job is to provide equitable education for all students. Together, we can make a difference.”

In the Northern Kentucky district, Chevalier also served as director of special education. She created “innovative” ways to ensure special needs students were transition ready upon graduation, the release said. She also served in a similar role in neighboring Fort Thomas Independent.

JCPS was required to create a cabinet-level position as part of its corrective action plan with the state. In the role, Chevalier will lead efforts to ensure compliance with state and federal special education law.

The top spot wasn’t easy to fill. Initially, JCPS was expected to name someone to the role by the beginning of 2019. After an unsuccessful national search, the deadline was extended to March.

In a February report, the state said JCPS continues to be in violation of special education law despite continued efforts from the district. The district said it will continue working with the state, and named special education one of its nine budget priorities for the 2019-20 school year.

Wednesday, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio is expected to update the state board of education on the district’s progress on the corrective plan. Since a takeover-avoiding settlement in August, JCPS has completed around a quarter of what the state has asked of it, according to meeting documents.

Hours before Chevalier’s naming, JCPS announced the state department of education praised “a clear culture shift” in the district in a diagnostic review separate from the corrective plan.

“This is a positive sign that we are heading in the right direction and further displays we are making significant improvements,” Pollio said in the release.

The review found “caring, supportive and compassionate learning environments that are leading to increased student achievement” in some of the district’s lowest-performing schools. Two of those schools’ leaders — Shelby and Johnsontown Road — “do not have the capacity to lead,” the state said.

State education officials cannot remove principals. Only Pollio can do that. JCPS is reviewing the recommendations to make personnel decisions later.