Full Release in American Sign Language

DES MOINES — The Iowa Department of Education today announced Christopher Kaftan as the next superintendent for Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Iowa School for the Deaf. He is replacing John Cool, who is retiring after 34 years of service to Iowa School for the Deaf and 12 years of service to Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, most recently as interim superintendent.

Kaftan brings over two decades of experience as a director of student services, director of curriculum and instruction, principal and teacher. He is currently the student services director at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, Mass., where he supports nearly 200 deaf and hard of hearing students in grades K-12.

“Encouraged by Superintendent Kaftan’s leadership and support, we continue our collective work to ensure every student who is blind, visually impaired, deafblind, deaf or hard of hearing experiences a world class education that inspires them and prepares them for bright futures,” said Iowa Department of Education Director McKenzie Snow. “We thank each member of the IESBVI and ISD community who participated in the search process for their critical role in this important decision.”

The Department formed an 11-member search committee including parents, faculty, staff, alumni and organizations like the Iowa Association of the Deaf to equally represent ISD and IESBVI. The Department conducted three public listening sessions last fall and two IESBVI and ISD listening sessions in January to draft the superintendent leadership profile. The search committee then conducted a nationwide search supported by Innivee Strategies, a nationally recognized search firm. Finalists recommended by the search committee participated in a public candidate forum, including an input survey, and met with ISD and IESBVI students, staff and leadership. 

"Christopher Kaftan demonstrated a genuine commitment to supporting the Blind and Visually Impaired community throughout the search process. As a member of the ISD/IESBVI search committee, I am excited to welcome him as the next Superintendent and look forward to collaborating with him to support the needs of Blind and Visually Impaired students throughout Iowa." said Michael Hoenig, Blind representative. 

Originally from New York, Kaftan taught students with visual impairments and coordinated services with school districts to ensure blind and visually impaired students’ needs were met inside and outside the classroom. Additionally, he has more than two decades of experience in deaf education.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming Christopher Kaftan to Council Bluffs,” said Susan MacDonald, search committee member representing the Iowa Association of the Deaf. “During the interview, he clearly showed the deaf and hard of hearing community his commitment and passion for deaf education and the future of our community’s children.” 

Kaftan holds a bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education and a master’s degree in deaf education from Gallaudet University. He has also earned a graduate certificate in special education administration from Johns Hopkins University.

“I look forward to working with Mr. Kaftan as he joins the Iowa School for the Deaf and Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired team as superintendent,” said Deborah Elder, Chief Operating Officer at Iowa Department of Education. “Mr. Kaftan brings a strong commitment to serving every student, both on campus and statewide. His experience in providing a high-quality program with a dual focus on state academic standards and the expanded core curriculum will enhance ISD/IESBVI’s focus on meeting each student’s individual needs.”

Kaftan’s start date is July 1. He will travel across Iowa to support IESBVI students, families, educators and staff, and will serve ISD at the Council Bluffs campus.