Special Education


IMG_3737 coffee cave.jpgWelcome to Special Education

Buchanan High School is very fortunate to have a wide range of educational opportunities for our Special Education population.  Everyone is different and we all learn in different settings.  What Buchanan does is offer different programs that best match the needs of our students.  Programs range from having teachers that just consult or check in on students to Special Day Classes where the students are in the same classroom with the same teacher the entire day.  Each program is designed with the highest level of rigor possible for the students in that program, challenging them to learn at these high levels and expectations. Another wonderful thing about the Buchanan student population is the culture of embracing those around that might be a little different.

Students in the Special Education population have case managers that work individually with the students and develop Individual Educational Plans that is custom designed for each student.  Educational goals are set, some behavior goals could be set, it's really about what the student needs.  Students are identified through a variety of observations, assessments, and conversations with teachers, parents, the student (that comprise the IEP team).

Our students compete in Special Olympics competitions.  They perform in our schoolwide talent show titled "Harmony" with our Leadership students.  And we have a new sports competitive team for the CUSD titled "Clovis United".  These teams will compete against our sister schools in both soccer and basketball.  This new event is being launched this year with the anticipation of it growing to a larger scale.

Our Functional Life Skills students run a small business titled "Coffee Cave".  These students under the supervision of Melissa Dewey take orders and make specialty coffee drinks.  They run the register and at times deliver the drinks to teachers on the Buchanan Campus. Students learn how to greet customers and other required skills that will help them secure employment once they leave Buchanan.  This small business is a win win for all!

Who are our Special Education Teachers?

Stephanie Braz - stephaniebraz@cusd.com         website

Stephanie attended Fresno State University where she obtained her B.A. degrees in Sign Language Interpreting and Deaf Education as well as her Education Specialist credential.  She attended Chapman University where she obtained my Multiple Subject Teaching credential.  Stephanie believes that all students can learn, each in their own way.  She truly enjoys seeing students have their “AHA” moment and their enthusiasm for education ignite. 

Rich Contreras -richcontreras@cusd.com       website

!  Rich graduated from a small high school in northern California and then attended UCLA and the University of Phoenix  where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration.   After working in the private sector for many years he went back to school and received two teaching credentials and a Masters in Special Education.  Rich decided to go into teaching because he has a desire to work with children and believes that all children can learn given the proper environment.  This is his third year teaching at Buchanan High School.  He is married and has 3 wonderful children.  He have lived in the Fresno/Clovis area for the last 17 years and before that he lived in Los Angeles.

Melissa Dewey - melissadewey@cusd.com      website

This is Melissa's eleventh year teaching the Functional Life Skills program at Buchanan High School.  She teaches Life Skills Math for grades 9-12, as well as Occupational Guidance.  Melissa has taught in Clovis Unified for fifteen years.  Prior to Buchanan, she was a Resource Specialist at Reyburn Intermediate for four years.  She graduated from California State University Fresno with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Studies and a Master of Arts degree in Special Education.  She has a Level II Mild to Moderate Education Specialist Instruction Credential.  Teaching is her passion!  

Shelley Franco - shelleyfranco@cusd.com      website

Shelley is one of the founding educators who helped develop Buchanan as we know it today.   She was Head Counselor back then.  That was 25 years ago.  Buchanan Education Center, or so we called it back then, began at the Alta Sierra Site.  We were at Alta for two years before we moved over to the Buchanan campus.   When Buchanan opened the Amphitheatre was nothing but dirt.  We were not having any picnics to say the least. It didn't take long, however, and things got back to normal, and Buchanan had its first set of graduates who graduated in 1995. 

Today she is a Resource Specialist.  She decided to go back to teaching after having her second child.  She has been in Special Education for 16 years now. Shelley enjoys the students and is hopeful that she makes a difference in the lives of her students.  Many students have their different struggles.  It is her job to make school accessible to all students despite their challenges.

On a personal note -  Shelley has been married for 24 years to a wonderful husband, Chris.  She has four children, Kate, who lives in San Francisco and Nick, who lives in Fresno.   Matt is a working man and Josie who is a freshman at Clovis Community College.  Shelley considers herself to be very blessed to have great kids.

Karen Hume - karenhume@cusd.com     website

Welcome to Buchannan!  Karen has is in her 17th year of teaching, her first year at BHS.  She teaches RSP Learning Center, and support in the classroom in English, Biology, and Health/Geography.  She has a BA from Fresno State and a MA from Fresno Pacific.

Karen has two active children- Isabella, a Sophomore here at BHS and Leyton, a 5th grader at St. Anthony’s.  When she is not teaching, she's off with her children backpacking, snow skiing, or hanging out at one of our nearby lakes.

Her teaching philosophy.  Use and choose words wisely, she shares this with her students on a daily basis.  Do your best, without question.  Live your life with respect, treating everyone in your life with value and gratitude.  Karen believes she owes this to all students, as well as the staff and community, to bring consistency, diligence, and warmth to her job in the hope that she can ultimately inspire and encourage such traits in others.

Steve Kidd - stephenkidd@cusd.com          website

Steve graduated from Clovis West High in 1987 and then attended Fresno City and Fresno State.  Steve and his son conquer the world together. Their current goal is to visit every NFL stadium and watch the Philadelphia Eagles dominate!!!! (Seattle your next)  This past summer the family truckster made it to Hawaii, Disneyland, and Avila Beach...When he's not teaching or coaching you can find him playing guitar somewhere.  For the 2016-2017 school year he is teaching Accessing the Community, Health, and Everyday Life Skills for the Vocational Program as well as RSP support in Math 1, Economics / Govt., Health, and Geography.   Steve runs the Guitar Club as the faculty director as well as the JV girls and boys golf coach.  This is his 20th year teaching at Buchanan.  Prior to that he taught for three years at Tarpey and one year at Garfield. 

Lonnie Nash - lonnienash@cusd.com           website

Lonnie grew up in San Luis Obispo, attended Cuesta Community College, and graduated with a BA in History and received a Master’s degree in Special Education at Fresno State in 2000. He's been an educator for 22 years and is going on his 20th year at Buchanan.

He spent eight seasons as an assistant wrestling coach at Buchanan and two years as an assistant freshman football coach. He is currently the tournament director for Buchanan’s Zinkin Classic wrestling tournament.

Lonnie enjoys getting to know his students and helping them succeed. Lonnie can’t think of a better place to teach than Buchanan High School. Go Bears!

Melinda Pate - melindapate@cusd.com      website

Heather Piccolo - heatherpiccolo@cusd.com       website

This is Heather's 4th year at Buchanan. She is a Clovis native and have lived here all her life. She went to Clovis schools throughout her school years (Liberty, Valley Oak, Kastner, and Clovis West.) Heather received her BA at Fresno State in Liberal studies with a minor in Children in the Arts. At Fresno State she was a Cheerleader for two years and on the Dance team for one year. From there she went to Fresno Pacific where she earned her Mild/ Moderate Special Education teaching Credential. Heather also has an Autism Authorization. She also enjoys coaching pep here at Buchanan.  

Heather grew up around Break the Barriers and she might have been your gymnastics coach or dance teacher at one time. In her free time she likes to go camping and run. She has a new little baby girl named Aurora and a 5 year old boy, Cayden who started kindergarten this year. Her husband, Mr. Piccolo is a 4th grade teacher at Century. 

Sarah Santini -sarahsantini@cusd.com               website

Sarah Santini; is Puerto Rican and Italian. She's also bilingual. Sarah was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up speaking English and Spanish. She believes her first language was Spanish as she was in Spanish classes until 3rd grade. Sarah moved to California when she was 9, due to her and 2 other siblings being adopted by their oldest sister. Prior to living in California, she lived in the projects with a foster family and 2 of her siblings. When she was 6 years old she was hit by a car, (that is why it is very important to look both ways before crossing the street!) followed by sleeping in a coma for 3 months. This was a defining moment in her life as she had to learn to walk and talk again. Having gone through these major setbacks as a kid, she feel extremely lucky and blessed to be where she is now. Her life quote: “ Laughter is the best medicine unless you’re really sick, then call 911” (not sure who wrote that, she saw it in a doctor’s office once).

Sarah attended Chowchilla High School and participated in the Drama Club, Hispanic (Just Try) Club, and Girl Power Club, followed by graduating from California State University, Fresno with a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal studies and a credential in Special Education. She knew that she wanted to be a teacher when she was in the 8th grade. She realized that she wanted to work with students who have learning disabilities when she was in high school and was inspired by her nephew who has autism.

Sarah is a Vocational Education Teacher and an RSP Case Manager at Buchanan High School. She teaches Vocational English 9/10, Customer Service 11/12, and Personal & Career Transitions. Sarah has worked at Buchanan High School for five years (including this year). She also worked at Washington Union High School as an SDC Teacher and RSP Case Manager for 1 year.

Working in the Vocational Education Program is truly a blessing and passion of hers. Being able to work with our youth and help shape their lives in becoming responsible and knowledgeable adults really is so much fun for her. Sarah states that she could not imagine working in any other department!

Matt Tobin - matttobin@cusd.com           website

Matt graduated from Fresno Christian High School in 2001 and attended Fresno State for one year before transferring to Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia Canada. He graduated with his BA in Human Kinetics in 2006 and returned home to Fresno to be closer to his family. He began working as an instructional assistant in 2006 and that is when he decided that he wanted to be a special education teacher. Matt currently hold a Master of Science in Special Education, a Level 1 Education Specialist Instruction Credential in moderate/severe disabilities and is finishing his professional clear credential. He has worked with students with special needs for ten years now and absolutely loves it! He is married to his beautiful wife Jackie and together they have three boys (Jackson, Phillip, and Noah). Matt loves being a part of Bear Nation!