Beloved Educational Leader Deb Singley Retires After 43 Years, Committed Extended Career to Shaping Camelot Therapeutic Day School of the Quad Cities
Many educators lead successful careers marked with scholarly achievements and defining moments that shape students’ minds over generations. There are a few occasions in which the end of an educator’s journey leads to a new opportunity to make an even more significant difference for an entire community.
When looking back on 43 years as an educator, Deb Singley is proud to have been part of a rewarding final chapter to an already satisfying career.
“I initially retired from education in 2014, but then I heard that Camelot Education was planning to bring a therapeutic day school to the Quad Cities,” said Singley, who recently retired after serving as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at Camelot Therapeutic Day School of the Quad Cities. “I knew the community needed such a school, so when I was given a chance to lead the effort, I could not pass up the opportunity.”
Six years later, Singley can look back satisfied with the successful journey. On June 3, 2020, students, families, and staff surprised Deb at the school with a car parade to congratulate her and thank her for everything she has done to build Camelot of The Quad Cities to where it is today.
Quad Cities started as a small day school serving six students from the area. Over the last six years, it has grown to a capacity that serves up to 100 children with exceptional needs thanks in part to Singley’s tireless effort and incredible enthusiasm. Quad Cities provides academic and therapeutic services for children, adolescents and young adults ages 3 to 21 with extraordinary needs including emotional and behavioral disabilities, specific learning disabilities, autism, and other health impairments.
Singley credits the support of her colleagues at Camelot stating, “If you can dream it, there is a way that Camelot can make it work.”
Camelot Deputy Superintendent Theresa Mortl Smith feels lucky to have found Deb six years ago.
“We met at just the right time,” said Smith. “In 2014 we were looking to expand and support children with exceptional needs in the Quad Cities area. Camelot was hosting its first autism-focused conference, and we invited Deb to attend. I wanted to get to know her informally before moving on to the prospect of campus leadership for the Quad Cities.
The pair bonded instantly about their shared purpose of establishing a therapeutic day school for children in the area.
“We ended up spending hours together that first day,” said Smith. “I knew then that Deb was the right person to expand our footprint into the Quad Cities. She had such a deep knowledge base about children and schools. She wanted to make sure that children with disabilities in her area had the option to go to a therapeutic school if they needed it. It was evident that it was genuinely important to her to create more opportunities for children.”
The journey has been more than rewarding.
Singley began in 2014 in an old building. She immediately helped renovate the school building through partnerships with organizations she knew in her community to build a thriving, caring environment for kids.
“Together we turned the building into a beautiful, warm, engaging space, ready for the 2014 school year, said Smith. “This program was the first therapeutic day school to serve families in both Illinois and Iowa. When Deb cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony, Camelot of the Quad Cities was off to a wonderful start.”
Singley first helped educate her community about what the school offered.
“My purpose in the early days was to get the word out,” Singley says. “A lot of people in the community did not know who and what we were. It was a new concept for the community. My goal was to train and onboard the staff and ensure they understood the model. We were the first school in the area with an emphasis on therapy, academics, and behavior.”
The program grew because Singley formed successful partnerships with organizations and individuals in the community that she had worked with over her career. This effort helped the school incorporate many unique resources, such as pet therapy, horse therapy, play therapy, music therapy, and a successful program for children with autism utilizing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.
Singley has loved working with Camelot Education. She believes in the organization’s mission and purpose of partnering with public school districts to provide additional academic, behavioral, and therapeutic supports to vulnerable students, enabling them to engage in school and achieve success in academics and life.
Part of the reward for Singley is creating a fun atmosphere for students and staff alike. Whenever Camelot would do campus challenges, her campus would win – whether it was “crazy hat day” or “workout Wednesday.”
She knows the value of teamwork, recognizing that the school could not have thrived without strong team members and the support of her supervisors and peers across the state of Illinois.
The entire Camelot Education network has benefited from having Singley on the team.
“Our entire team – all of the campus leaders, all of the therapeutic day schools – are going to miss her professional and personal presence,” said Smith. “I have learned so much from her in terms of work ethic, grace, caring, and giving back. All along the way she worked very hard to do the right thing to make the world better. We are happy that she will be able to spend time with her new grandbaby and excited for her to kickstart this new phase of her life.”
Singley’s work and dedication will continue to inspire many for years to come. Because of her, hundreds of children in the Quad Cities region have been and will continue to realize their full potential.