Patricia Gilcrest-Frazier Award

The annual award recognizes the outstanding service and leadership in the role of a local district public school special education director.

Nominations of deserving candidates are solicited and received by the local district Board of Directors representative. The candidate of the award must be an approved Director of Special Education and must be employed (or function) as such in the LEA; demonstrate qualities of service, leadership, vision, and collaboration; is a leader who has implemented innovative programming which contributes to the field of special education. Including in the decision are qualities regarding organizational involvement, volunteerism and years of service. This prestigious award is presented annually at the June MAASE meeting.

Nomination Form


2019 Patricia Gilcrest-Frazier Award Winner

Jennifer Taiariol

Director of Student Services at Livonia Public Schools

This annual award recognizes the outstanding service and leadership in the role of a local district special education director. The candidate of this award must be an approved Director of Special Education, and must be employed or function as such in a local district. The candidate must have a track record of implementing innovative programming which contributes to the field of special education. Criteria for this award also includes organizational involvement, volunteerism, and years of service.

The candidate for the Patricia Gilcrest-Frazier award must demonstrate qualities in five domains, which are service, leadership, vision, collaboration, and lifelong learning. I will now describe this year’s winner in each of these five domains.

The 2019 presentation delivered by Abby Cypher:

It is bitter sweet standing before you today honoring Patricia Gilcrest-Frazier. I am forever grateful to have been a MAASE member and colleague of Patricia’s during her time here with us on earth. Having lived and then worked in Genesee County it is hard to put into words the positive impact she had on her, and our, community. As the director in a large local school district myself, I often think of Patricia and the work she was able to accomplish in Flint. I know it is thoughts these, and inspiring people like Patricia, that keep us going, burning the midnight oil this time of year, and working towards the same positive outcomes for kids that she worked towards.

This annual award recognizes the outstanding service and leadership in the role of a local special education director. Nominations of deserving candidates are solicited and received by the local district Board of Directors representative. Trish Lopucki is currently serving in this role and I am honored to be here today, presenting this award on her behalf.

The candidate of the award must be an approved Director of Special Education and must be employed (or function) as such in the LEA; demonstrate qualities of service, leadership, vision and collaboration; is a leader who has implemented innovative programming which contributes to the field of special education. Included in the decision are qualities regarding organizational involvement, volunteerism and years of service.

They say that change is the only constant in life. Today this quote could not ring truer for many reasons. I mean raise your hand if you have dealt with some type of change this year, either personally or professionally?

We have had a long standing tradition of the LEA Board rep delivering this speech to the membership on behalf of a very surprised MAASE member. Instead, I am here today delivering this speech to someone in the audience who is aware of their upcoming award. Life can be funny that way, that in order to be in the right place at the right time we make the best decisions we can with the information we have. I trust that we have all been here. Today we are simply honored that this person is here to receive the award, and will instead deliver the following speech, written by the nominee’s colleagues, to an audience waiting to be surprised.

Today’s award recipient is known for always doing what is in the best of interest of students. Eileen, a parent, shared that this Director talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to supporting and advocating for students.

The recipient attended Western Michigan for their undergraduate degree in Psychology and Sociology. They went on to earn a Master’s at Western in ABA, and a Master’s at Wayne State in School and Community psychology. In 2010, he or she graduated from Wayne State with a Ph.D. in Education Psychology. They then went on to earn their full Approval for Director and Supervisor of Special Education from Grand Valley State in 2013. He or she, has had articles published in both the Journal of School Violence and the Journal of Early Adolescence. They presented at the MASP conferences on multiple occasions as well. He or she, has also been an adjunct professor at both Western and Wayne State.

He or she is a proud member of NASP, MASP, MAASE, CEC, and their County Association of Administrators of Special Education. They are also a two-time award winner of the County Parent Advisory Committee Award.

SHE has worked in her current district since 2003 in multiple capacities. She has been a school psychologist, program specialist, coordinator of student services, and became the director of special education in 2015. She always leads with her heart and builds those around her to become leaders. One colleague stated that, “She saw potential in me that I didn’t even know was there.”

When asking staff it is clear that they all feel she advocates for children, supports staff tirelessly, has a vision for the district, and is one of the most brilliant people you will ever meet. Colleagues shared the following:

  • She is a fierce advocate for students. She uses facts and data to provide students with services that will support their learning.

  • She makes me want to work harder, and to be my personal best. Her standards are high, but she holds herself to this same standard. She has worked tirelessly to make sure that the needs of our student services department are integrated with the needs of the district as a whole. She wants to make sure that our students and staff have a place at the table, and she is an energetic proponent of doing what’s best for kids. In her tenure as our director, she has fostered a remarkable transformation of our programs, with a renewed focus on LRE. She is a phenomenal visionary, and I am proud to be her colleague and her friend!

  • She has been a terrific mentor to me when I have faced challenges. She has been very supportive of programs and initiatives that positively influence our unique populations and has modeled how to advocate for our special education students. I feel privileged to be working with an intelligent, empathetic leader who cares and listens to her colleagues, employees, families and students.

  • She demonstrates uncommonly quick and astute assessment and decisiveness. She also possesses humility and a sharp sense of humor, especially seeing through nonsensical things in an effort to do what makes sense.

  • She expects the best from staff and, even though it can be a tough conversation with our superintendent, she supports staff efforts even by pursuing staffing increases, as long as she has the evidence that the staff performs at the highest standards.

  • Her leadership extends well beyond our district as she regularly encourages and often inspires efforts among her colleagues in the county to share, cooperate and jointly develop inter-organizational solutions to shared needs and interests.

It is my distinct pleasure to announce the 2019 Patricia Gilcrest-Frazier award recipient, Dr. Jennifer Taiariol from Livonia Public Schools. 

Past Patricia Gilcrest-Frazier Award Winners

2018 Marci Moloney
2017 Deborah Koepke
2015 Dan Heitzman
2014 Wayne Abbott
2013 Sue Pearson
2012 Dr. Michele Harmala
2009 Patricia Gilcrest-Frazier
2006 Donna Tinberg
2004 Anthony Thaxton, Ph.D.
2003 Cynthia Smith, Ph.D.