Students attending schools in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District may see a new face around campus: special-education director Kristen Hardy.
After former director Frances English found a new job closer to home, the district hired Hardy and assistant special-education director Beverly Tom over the summer.
Hardy, who has more than 30 years of experience in the field, previously worked for the Jefferson Union High School District in Daly City.
As she settles into her new role, Hardy said she has been active throughout the district, speaking with parent advocates, visiting classrooms and meeting with other special-education directors in the county.
Hardy said she was initially attracted to the district for a variety of reasons, including for its reputation as one of the top-performing school districts in the country.
However, she was most impressed with the dedication of teachers to all of their students.
“How a school district serves its most fragile students is a reflection of how it serves all students. I could see that MVLA was doing an outstanding job,” Hardy said. “This is the most dedicated group of educators I’ve ever worked with. Every teacher and staff member is totally devoted to the success of each and every student.”
Hardy hopes to further improve the special-education program.
While it aims to help those who need support with study skills or have high-functioning autism or other challenges, one of Hardy’s goals is to develop additional mental health resources.
She noted that schools in the Bay Area in particular are increasingly experiencing high rates of mental illness due to rigorous academic work, social media and pressure, as Hardy characterizes it, to “do it all.” Through the special-education program, she wants to teach students how to cope, because leading a healthy and balanced life is “a paramount priority.”
“We have super-bright students who have intense mental health needs,” she said. “It is staggering and often heartbreaking. The support we aim to provide can impact them now and into their adulthood. … We are striving to help students understand that life is a marathon, not a sprint, to learn resilience and grit, and not to overpressure themselves.”
While working as special-education director is a demanding job, Hardy said she finds it gratifying. After being introduced to the field in college, she liked it so much that she changed career paths.
Thirty years later, her passion for the job remain strong.
“I get to watch (students) discover their confidence to achieve their goals. To embrace them, that is a thrill,” she said. “I genuinely love supporting families and helping students become independent, thriving young adults who are ready to enter the next phase of their lives, whether that is college or a career.”