• District welcomes Jen Butterworth as new director of special education

    jbJen Butterworth has many passions, which include her family, Pittsburgh sports, traveling abroad and education – specifically special education. In fact, the district’s new special education director said she can’t think of any other career she’d rather be in.

    “I never really wanted to do anything else,” she said. “If that wasn’t an option, I don’t know what else I’d be doing. This is it for me.”

    She found inspiration to pursue a career in special education because of her mother who was a special ed teacher and a close cousin with Downs syndrome who she “loved spending time with.”

    “I think it was sometime in high school where I realized I wanted to work with people with disabilities,” Butterworth said. “I never thought about anything else and had a lot of great experiences working with all types of programs – emotional support, life skills. I’m really fortunate.”

    The longtime educator has been in the business for 28 years working at school districts and intermediate units. She graduated in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in special education from Penn State, where she also received a master’s degree in educational administration. She also received her superintendent letter of eligibility and principal certificate from California University of Pennsylvania.

    After graduation, Butterworth started at Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District and, after teaching for a couple years, transferred to Central Intermediate Unit 10 where she spent a majority of her career as a teacher, educational consultant, special education supervisor and director of special education. She also worked at Intermediate Unit 17 in Williamsport as its director of student services that allowed her to get broader experiences. She comes to Bellefonte Area School District from Westmont Hilltop School District in Johnstown, where she was the director of student services for the last two years.

    While she’s new to the district, it’s a place Butterworth said she’s very familiar with, as she was a longtime consultant with schools within BASD. Now, she hopes to work closely with fellow new administrator Jamie Smith, special education liaison, to establish positive relationships with faculty, staff and families they serve. The two were unanimously approved by the Bellefonte Area school board in the spring.

    “We want to understand how Bellefonte does things, and get to know teachers and the programs we offer,” Butterworth said. “We want to have a good relationship with them, and get to know parents and continue to build those relationships. I want them to trust our department.”

    And with a unique school year ahead with the COVID-19 pandemic, Butterworth is reassuring families that they will constantly have the best interest in mind for students.

    “One of the first things we asked families is what their concerns are,” Butterworth said. “Sometimes education isn’t always their No. 1 concern. I want families to know we’ll be flexible to meet their needs and work with their concerns. Now, more than ever, we’re being creative to work on the best solutions and programming for the child.”

    Butterworth and her husband have four grown children and two grandchildren who they enjoy spending time with. She also said she is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan, going to as many Pirates and Steelers games as possible. She also aims to travel to Ireland to visit family and explore the culture – she has been there once before about 10 years ago. Butterworth is also active in her church’s music program by singing in the choir, and playing the bells and piano.

    *By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD