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Welcome to Newhart Middle School's STEPS Program






Social Fun!

Staff Photos

Our sample daily buzz! A note I will bring home to share about my day at school.


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     Capistrano Unified School District.png
The Capistrano Unified School District’s Secondary STEPS program is designed to meet the needs of special education students in grades six through twelve (6-12) who have unique needs requiring a more functional academic program. The program focuses on the development of skills that will assist students in their post-secondary lives and careers.  Support for students in this program is provided by certificated special education teachers, itinerant staff and instructional support staff members.  This program is designed to meet the individual needs of each student according to their Individualized Education Program (IEP).

CUSD Mission Statement


CUSD’s mission, in partnership with the home and our richly diverse community, is to educate students and to assist them in realizing their full potential as responsible, productive, and contributing members of society by providing an educational environment in which students are challenged, excellence is expected, and differences are valued.


Vision Statement of the STEPS Program


Provide students with a program which will:

  • Focus on applied academics
  • Promote independent living skills
  • Foster vocational competency
  • Create opportunities for social interaction in the community
  • Assist with forming a healthy lifestyle


Small Class Structure


Classes are designed to provide specialized academic instruction to individuals with intensive needs. These small classes are located in all geographical areas of the school district. Students are integrated within the general education program to the maximum degree appropriate to their individual needs.

Related Services


These services may be required to assist a student with special needs to benefit from their education. These related services may include: transportation, speech/language therapy, psychological services, adapted physical education, physical or occupational therapy, assistive technology support, mental health services, medical services, and counseling services. The I.E.P. Team determines need for these services.


Additional Components of the STEPS Program


  • Provides applied academic curriculum and instruction
  • Highly structured curriculum that is aligned with Common Core State Standards
  • Classes utilize a variety of strategies such as: structured teaching and positive behavioral interventions
  • Provides instruction in vocational skills
  • Provides instruction in independent living/daily living skills
  • Provides Community Based Instruction (CBI) to provide application and generalization of skills learned in the classroom
  • Social and communication skills are embedded into the day
  • Provides access to programs such as the Department of Rehabilitation, Workability, and Transition Partnership Program (TPP)




Find out about your Future HS



Special Education Classroom Teachers:

Kathleen Lewis

 Kathleen Lewis is one of the STEPS teachers here at Newhart Middle School. Kathleen’s Mom used to have a special day class and she would go in to help her on her days off. Now her Mom is a Speech Pathologist in the Newport Mesa District. In 2010, Kathleen started working at the YMCA as an Inclusion Facilitator for the afterschool program at Castille Elementary. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Sociology at Cal State Long Beach and her Moderate/Severe Credential program at California State Fullerton.  She just completed her Master’s in Moderate/Severe Special Education. Kathleen student taught in a kindergarten general education class in Saddleback district and a k-1 STEPS class at RH Dana Exceptional Needs Facility. She has been teaching in the STEPS class at Newhart for over three years. Kathleen lives with her husband and cat, Princess Leia (can you tell they love Star Wars?). She enjoys hiking, singing, reading, watching movies, photography and the beach.

Carolyn Hayden

Carolyn (Carrie) Hayden has been teaching for thirteen years and has worked for Capo Unified for five years.  She obtained her bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University in New Jersey and completed her master’s in education at University of Southern California.  Carrie is an NBCT (Nationally Board Certified Teacher).  Carrie’s favorite part of being a STEPS teacher is hanging out with the kids and seeing them grow in maturity and life skills.  Carrie also loves taking and analyzing data.  Carrie has four of her own children, all under age seven and all of whom have special needs.  In her free time (what’s that?) Carrie loves cuddling her dogs and watching HGTV.


Support Staff

(Instructional Aides and Independence Facilitators):

Ms. Priya

Ms. Andrea

Ms. Annemarie

Mr. MJ
Ms. D

Ms. Angie

Ms. Clark

Ms. Subrina

Ms. Patty

Ms. Cook


Classroom Teacher Aides (Newhart students):

1st period: 

2nd period: 

3rd period: 

4th period: 

5th period: 

6th period: 


Farris Pai

Farris is our Occupational Therapist

Anjuli Nieto

Hi, I'm Coach A. I teach Adapted Physical Education at Newhart. I teach a pull out APE class several times a week where we work on cooperative games and skill technique.  I also work with the wonderful general PE teachers to help and encourage participation for students with special needs while they're in the general PE setting.

Susan Butler:

I am the Assistive Technology Itinerant Teacher who provides Assistive Technology (AT), assessment, support  and training for students who require Assistive Technology to access the school campus and instruction.   In general.--The term `assistive technology device' means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.


Through assessment, when a student is determined to require a specific Assistive Technology Device and the recommendation is agreed upon, training for student, staff and parent will begin.  Some examples of Assistive Technologies include:  

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Switches Picture taken from:

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1.      How does the Bus drop off and pick up go? If your child takes the bus, they will be dropped off in front of the school by the sidewalk ramp. Your child will be greeted by one of our Independence Facilitators (IF’s) and brought to the STEPS classes when all buses have arrived. At the end of the day, our STEPS IF’s escort students to the busses. If your child is independent in this transition, he/she will come and go to the buses independently.

2.      Where do I drop off and pick up my child? Parents can drop off and pick up in front of the STEPS classrooms. IF’s and/or teachers will be waiting outside the STEPS classrooms at 8:30am. When the first bell rings at 8:42, everyone will head inside. If you arrive later than this to drop off your child, please go to the office and check in. Someone will come to the office to pick up your child. At the end of the day, you can pick up your child from the same spot. Please come promptly at 3:25pm

3.    Are classroom IFs (Independence Facilitators) qualified in the variety of AAC devices students use in STEPS classrooms? Yes, IFs are qualified and experienced in a variety of AAC devices for students.  Dependent on student needs, all staff is and will be trained accordingly. Newhart staff work closely with district personnel and all IEP members to make sure student needs are met accordingly including training staff regarding the use of AAC devices. E.g. If an aide is unfamiliar with a device, the school team will be sure to provide training and consult with Speech Pathologist, Assistive Technology Personnel, etc.

4.    Do STEPS 6th and 7th graders take their lunch with the 8th graders? Dependent on each student’s schedule, students who are in the STEPS program have lunch during the time of 8th grade lunch; however, each individual student’s needs are met accordingly. The STEPS program scheduling in regards to which lunch time may vary from year to year. 

5.    Are the IFs out during break and lunch for students in the STEPS program?  During lunch, campus supervisors and administrators are on the field and lunch areas for all kids. IF support during break and lunch is provided with the STEPS Program and if a student’s IEP specifies, that level of support during lunch.

6.     Do STEPS students get lockers? Yes, if they need a locker, one can be provided

7.     When STEPS students go to PE and Elective does an IF go with them?  IF support is provided if a student’s IEP specifies that level of support. Students in the STEPS program often go in a small group with IF support.

8.     Are students in SAI Mod/STEPS on a diploma or certificate track? Current Middle School Courses are not counted as part of a diploma or certificate track; however, if a student remains on a Modified course schedule throughout High School, this is currently a certificate track.

9.     What is a STEPS TA? A STEPS TA is an 8th grade teacher’s assistant. Many 8th grade students are interested in helping and building friendship with the students in the STEPS program. There are usually two students in each period and they are so important to the students in the STEPS program!

10.    How do class schedules work? This depends on what is in each students IEP.  Some students may have a general education PE and an elective. Some students may also be going to different STEPS teachers for their academics. You will get your child’s schedule from the guidance counselor during registration, but some periods might be different in our program. Please ask if you would like to know more about your child’s schedule. Services (OT, PT, APE, Speech) will be scheduled and start within the first two weeks of school.

11.    What is CBI? A CBI stands for Community based instruction. This is where the students in the STEPS program learn about purchasing, crossing the street safely, asking for help and more. This could mean that your child will walk down to Ralph’s to get something off a  list, or that your child will be taking a walk around the Newhart Campus. We usually go every other week.


Non-Discrimination Statement

The Capistrano Unified School District prohibits discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying in all district activities, programs, and employment based upon actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, ethnicity, color, religion, ancestry, nationality, national origin, ethnic group identification, sex, sexual orientation, marital or parental status, pregnancy, age, physical or mental disability or on the basis of a person’s association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. Reference: AR 1312.3, BP 1312.3 and BP 5183.

Rich Montgomery, Executive Director, Human Resource Services/Compliance
33122 Valle Road, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 234-9200

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