Longtime Davis resident Shelton Yip has been recognized by the Association of California School Administrators as the state’s Special Education Administrator of the Year.
For the past five years, Yip has been director of the Napa County Special Education Local Plan Area, working with the Napa County Office of Education and several school districts in that county.
Yip grew up in Stockton, a famously diverse community, in a family with a Chinese American background. But the extended family also included “aunties and uncles who were Latino, African-American, Filipino and Japanese,” he said. “We weren’t really poor, we were rich culturally.”
After graduating from Stockton’s Lincoln High, Yip enrolled at UC Davis in 1970, majoring in art and Asian American studies. He was involved in an oral history project documenting the lives of elderly Filipino farm workers known as Manongs, some of whom continued to do field work into their 80s.
“Sometimes people would ask them ‘Why do you still work?’ and they would say ‘If I stop working, I die,’ ” Yip recalled.
After wrapping up his studies at UCD, Yip took a teaching job in the Dixon school district. He went on to serve as a counselor and an administrator as well — a total of 27 years in the district. Then he went to the Sacramento City Unified School District as assistant superintendent for special education, and then to Napa as special education director.
In a statement announcing the ACSA award, Barbara Nemko, Napa County superintendent of schools, praised Yip’s “extraordinary ability to conceptualize and explain the complexity of special education law, as well as his exemplary personal and political skills.”
Yip told The Enterprise that he concentrated on special education in part because “these are some of our most vulnerable students. It’s a civil rights issue in terms of their education. We want to ensure they have access to an appropriate education.
“From the very beginning, that’s why I ended up in special education and alternative education. We have too many ‘throwaway kids’ who deserve more than that.’”
Yip noted that special education students can receive services from birth to age 22, and their needs cover “a huge range. … We have some students who are confined to a gurney and need health care in order to access their education, and students who have severe behavioral issues. Others need speech or language services.
“It’s not an easy field, and the teachers that we have in special education are a special breed, to say the least.”
In the past few years, Yip also has become an elected official. He ran unopposed for a seat on the Yolo County Board of Education in 2012 and is currently that board’s vice president. Assuming that the long-standing custom is observed, he is in line to serve as board president next year.
“The role of the County Board of Education is changing, with the state’s new funding formula,” Yip said.
In addition to the board’s role of fiscal oversight of local school districts, the County Board of Education now also has duties to review “the academic health of districts (through their Local Control Accountability Plan), a higher profile role than in the past.”
Yip is also a familiar figure on athletic fields in Davis. He was active for a number of years in AYSO soccer locally, and he served as a soccer coach at Davis High from 1985 to 1995, working with the girls junior varsity and varsity teams.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.