Second Annual ExceptiCON Doubles Attendance and Excitement

ExceptiCON 24

Cobb's Special Education teachers gathered once again at McEachern High School for the second ExceptiCON conference and training. This year's attendance was well over 400, nearly doubling last year's inaugural event. Classrooms, hallways, and areas immediately outside the Freshman Center were filled with eager-to-learn special educators from all over the District.

ExceptiCON is about showing special educators how much they are appreciated for supporting Cobb students with disabilities. The term ExceptiCON is a combination of the words "exceptional" and "conference." In short, it is an exceptional conference designed for exceptional people.


George Morgan, Cobb's Director of Special Education, noted that Brenda Carter, Cobb's Assistant Superintendent of Support and Specialized Services, conceived the event a few years back. He also mentioned that it wouldn't have been possible without strong top-level support from Chief Academic Officer Catherine Mallanda and planning and logistical support from Melissa Lummis, Supervisor of Specialized Teaching and Assistive Technology.

Mr. Morgan pointed out how critical it is for educators to have choices and diversity in their professional development. ExceptiCON meets that need with a huge selection of sessions geared toward special educators of all kinds and experience levels.

Offering more than 30 different classes throughout the day, ExceptiCON had something for everyone. Sessions included curriculum-focused information on math and art integration, advanced handwriting, specialized writing, and reading comprehension, as well as important classes on compliance, screeners, dyslexia, IEPs, legal, neurodiversity, sensory integration, and even Microsoft 365 tips and tricks.


"They want a range of choices, from policy and instruction to building relationships and collaborating with teammates," Mr. Morgan said about this year's impressive slate of classes. "This gives our special education leaders who usually teach in schools an opportunity to be all in the same space for one day and learning and working together."

The single-day event began with a keynote address on Passion and Purpose by Fair Oaks Elementary Principal Cathie Seibert. Principal Seibert discussed the importance of using the right tools and tactics for every student and having the right energy level at the right time. She concluded her talk by giving much appreciation and encouragement for each and every educator in the room, recognizing their high level of devotion to their craft.

The conference theme was Aim High, which was appropriate considering the truly unique job of special educators. 

"They must customize their instruction for each student and create Individualized Education Plans to help every student reach goals and grow," said Dr. Mallanda. "The incredible dedication of our special educators was made clear from today's attendance!"


Ms. Carter agreed wholeheartedly. "This strong turnout highlights the remarkable commitment of our special educators. This year's ExceptiCON was a huge success!"

"The number of smiles, hugs, tweets, and pictures taken made us feel we hit the mark. Our educators, McEachern staff, presenters, support staff, leadership, and everyone involved are truly exceptional. We received a tremendous amount of positive feedback," Ms. Lummis said gratefully.


Some of that positive feedback came from Hightower Trail Middle School Principal Dr. Hannah Polk and Smyrna Elementary Interrelated Resource teacher Maria Answer.

"It was such a JOY to walk into McEachern’s theater Friday morning and see hundreds of special education teachers excited to spend a day learning and growing through professional development," Dr. Polk said with a smile.

Tired but enthused and encouraged, the hundreds of attendees were brimming with ideas by the end of the day. They said their last goodbyes to new and old friends and made their way to the parking lot, already planning how they would put into practice all they had learned.

"It was truly an amazing learning opportunity and a chance to see some familiar faces. I feel lucky to be part of such an awesome community, and I can't wait for the next ExceptiCON!" Ms. Answer exclaimed, looking ahead with anticipation to next year's conference.

"This is a big thing, and it's going to get even bigger next year," promised Mr. Morgan about the third annual ExceptiCON.