Nevada Union employee dies in kayaking incident |

Nevada Union employee dies in kayaking incident

Sean Manchester with his wife and children.

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Sean Manchester, 42, the director of special education and director of pupil services for the Nevada Joint Union High School District, died in a kayaking incident Sunday, according to Ashley Fucci, senior legal office assistant with the coroner’s division of the Nevada County Sheriff’s office.

Manchester was kayaking on the South Yuba River off Bridgeport, said Fucci. The cause of death is under investigation.

Nevada Union High School Principal Kelly Rhoden wrote in a message to the community that she was deeply saddened and shocked.

“Mr. Manchester’s spirit and passion for serving was uplifting,” she wrote. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, two young children, and family and friends.”

Manchester was the director of special education for over five years and director of pupil services for less than six months, said Brett McFadden, superintendent of the district. McFadden said Manchester had a way of making things happen.

“Sean was a guy that always made the impossible seem possible,” he said. “He was so student-focused and he had this sort of infectious spirit.”

Due to his energy and determination, the superintendent said, he expanded Manchester’s special education role, giving him more responsibility. This, despite the fact that Manchester had been in special education for 10 years.

“Sean never did anything less than 100 percent, usually nothing less than 150 percent,” said McFadden.

For 10 years before Manchester took the role of director for special education, the department felt like a rudder without a ship, said Eli Gallup, associate superintendent and Special Education Local Planning Area director for the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. That changed when Manchester showed up.

“He was able to get much of his vision accomplished,” said Gallup, adding that the former director was able to create more nursing facilities even when the budget didn’t allow for it.

“He is an amazing champion for students with disabilities,” he said.


Friends and colleagues echoed a similar refrain about Manchester: he consistently helped others.

“He was one of those education leaders that you always felt better after you talked to him,” said McFadden.

“‘You’re doing the right thing,’ the superintendent remembers Manchester assuring him on more than one occasion. ‘We believe in you. We have your back.’”

Manchester’s support reached horizontally across departments and vertically to people well below him.

“He wanted to reach all the way to the student level even though he had 90 staff members under him,” said Gallup. McFadden agreed.

“From principals to teachers to custodians, people were crying (on Monday),” said McFadden of individuals around the district. “Sean didn’t care about titles.”

Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay said Manchester’s passions stretched from his work to outdoor activities to his family.

“I remember when he was so excited about being a father,” he said. “He would always have a smile on his face.”

Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at

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