HARVARD -- Superintendent of Schools Thomas Jefferson, Ed.D., wanted public input before hiring the new special education director, so he held individual public hearings for the final candidates.

"This isn't an interview, although it may feel like it," he said during the May 8 public hearing. "This is more of a 'get to know you' session."

"I always knew I wanted to be an educator, even when I was a young child," said candidate Pamela DeGregorio. "I found it was really my niche."

DeGregorio has been involved with special education since 1983 in the classroom and in administration. She became an apprentice to the director of student services for the Greenfield public schools before taking over the role in July 2006.

"I found that I wanted to have a leadership role," said DeGregorio. "During my apprenticeship, I realized I didn't have enough power to change what I wanted to change in the department."

When asked what one of the biggest challenges she's had to face has been, DeGregorio said, "Realizing you can never finish everything you want to finish. You have to be careful you don't take on more than you can finish."

A major tool in special education is learning what the disabilities are and educating the teachers as well as the parents, she said.

"I feel that when you are dealing with intelligent people you can have intelligent conversations," said DeGregorio. "There has to be communication with both the teachers and the parents."

When asked what she would do about teachers that aren't open and receptive to adjusting their curricula for the needs of special education students, DeGregorio said she feels going through the proper chain of command is extremely important.

"I can be very forceful," she said. "I'm not intimidated easily. I try and talk to the teacher, but if I need to go around the back door (to the principal or superintendent), I can do that also. I'm a strong woman, but I'm known as being very fair and honest."

Having a measuring tool in place to track progress is an important part of special education, she said.

"If you have measurable progress in place it makes it so much easier," she said.

When asked to give an example of a program she implemented in her school district to help students that felt isolated, DeGregorio said, "I ran a survey with teachers of those students who were considered outsiders. Then I ran an assertiveness course for those students to help integrate themselves more in a social sense."

DeGregorio is certified in administration of special education, as a teacher of children with moderate special needs, an elementary education teacher and a principal.