Tulare City School District Office

Special Education and Psychological Services

The TCSD Educational Services Department is committed to serving and empowering staff, students, and families to meet the needs of the whole child.

Special Education


What is special education?


The California Education Code (section 56031) defines special education as:

  • Specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of individuals with exceptional needs, whose educational needs cannot be met with modification of the general instruction program; and
  • Related services that help individuals with special needs to benefit from specially designed instruction. Special education is an integral part of the total public education system. Other features of special education are: 
    • Provided in a way that promotes maximum interaction between students with and without disabilities in a manner, which is appropriate to the needs of both;
    • Services are no cost to parents;
    • It provides a full range of program options to meet the educational and service requirements of individuals with exceptional needs in the least restrictive environment (LRE). The LRE is generally the setting that is most similar to those attended by general education students. 


What do special education services look like?

Each student who receives special education services has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) based on their unique needs. The IEP team develops goals based on a student’s educational functioning and determines the appropriate services and placement. These services may include specialized academic instruction, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.  


Who is eligible for special education services?

A student, between ages three and twenty-two, having one or more of the 13 federally defined disabling conditions that adversely affect his or her educational performance, may be eligible to receive special education services. Conditions include autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, hearing impairment (hard of hearing), intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, health impairment, serious emotional disturbance, specific learning disability, speech and language impairment, traumatic brain injury, and visual impairment.

Not all students who are struggling will require special education services. We may also meet student needs through the Response to Intervention (RTI) program. The RTI program provides interventions for struggling learners at increasing levels of intensity within the general education setting.    

For additional information about special education, Response to Intervention, and other related services, please contact your school principal

Psychological Services

School Counselors
Each middle school in the Tulare City School District has a school counselor five days a week. Under the direction of the middle school principals, the school counselors provide the following:

  • educational, career, and behavioral counseling to individuals and small groups of students in a school setting; 
  • assist students in understanding and seeking solutions to academic, social, emotional problems and issues; 
  • serve as a resource pertaining to student behavior management strategies, welfare, and attendance problems and concerns; 
  • consult and train teachers, parents, and staff regarding needs of middle school students; 
  • refer parents and their children with problems to special programs, specialists, and outside agencies; 
  • participate and facilitate in the intervention team process; 
  • and to do other related functions as required.  

If you need assistance from a school counselor, please contact your child’s school. 


Social Worker 
Tulare City School District has two licensed social workers on staff. Under the supervision of the Director of Psychological Services, the social worker will:

  • assist students with personal and psychological issues that affect school performance, behavior and socialization;  
  • conduct individual, small group, classroom or school-wide sessions; 
  • serve as an advocate with all community populations utilizing skills that respect issues of  cultural, ethnic diversity, and equity for every student and family; 
  • provides specialized consultative services to families, school staff, community agencies, and other professionals, which allows students to reach their highest educational, developmental and social potential.

If you need assistance from the district social worker, please contact your child’s school. 


School Psychologists
Tulare City School District has ten school psychologists on staff, who are itinerant employees assigned to multiple schools. School psychologists work with students to:

  • provide counseling, instruction, and mentoring for those struggling with social, emotional, and behavioral problems;
  • increase achievement by assessing barriers to learning and determining the best instructional strategies to improve learning;
  • promote wellness and resilience by reinforcing communication and social skills, problem solving, anger management, self-regulation, self-determination, and optimism;
  • enhance understanding and acceptance of diverse cultures and backgrounds.

See Parent Resources for additional information


Special Friends Program
The Special Friends program is designed to help at-risk grade K-3 students adjust within the school setting. The Special Friends staff member provides a welcoming environment for one-to-one non-directive play sessions in which students can express their feelings and ideas through creative play. The Special Friends program offers at-risk students the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills to reduce school adjustment problems.

Special Education Contacts

Michelle Zavaleta
Director II Psychological Services/Special Education
[email protected] 
(559) 685-7240

Kristen Evans
District Secretary, Special Education
[email protected] 

(559) 685-7235

Alyssa Baker
Special Education Coordinator
Shanda Vaccaro
Special Education Coordinator