1/22/13 Meeting Notes

SEPAC MEETING for South Orange Maplewood School District

Tuesday January 22, 2013            7:30pm – 9:00pm

District Meeting Room 525 Academy Street

Maplewood NJ 07040

The meeting opened with introductions and reminders about the purpose of the special education parent advisory committee, which is to provide input to the district on issues concerning students with disabilities, and background on this group’s formation in the 2011-12 school year.

Group members who are serving on an ‘inclusion committee’ with teachers, administrators, and paid consultants from the District Management Council, provided an update on that committee’s progress and shared draft objectives for inclusion that will guide ongoing planning in this area.   It was noted that Objective 1 refers to the District’s desire to increase achievement and college and career readiness of students with mild to moderate disabilities.  This raised questions about vocational opportunities for those students that might not go to college directly after high school.  Those with knowledge of these opportunities stated that it is increasingly difficult to find placements because there are fewer of them (e.g. Essex and Union County Tech Schools) and because special ed students compete for entry with higher achieving/general ed. Students.

Participants then shared some experiences and concerns for group discussion.  One parent described some assistive technology that is helping her son, which other parents may want to explore.  These tools include software called inspiration, ginger, and lexia, and a lifescribe ‘pulse pen.’  Other potential resources cited by the group were wati.org, www.fctd.info, and Bergen County AT.

The discussion then turned to issues with special education services and procedures that the group would like to see addressed.  In sum, these were: inconsistencies across the District in the referral, intervention, evaluation, and IEP processes; difficult transitions to kindergarten, middle school, high school; lack of awareness of the full complement of special educational programs and offerings; and confusion around terminology, processes, rights, and roles (of teachers, parents, child study team members, building and District administrators). 

Regarding the SEPAC itself, there are concerns about how to conduct outreach and increase parent participation; identify parents willing and able to serve in leadership roles; and coordinate efforts with the Special Education Parent Teacher Organization.  In addition, some group members would like there to be a mechanism for ongoing dialogue among parents, e.g. via email or an online forum.

The group agreed that the next (and final) 2012-13 meeting of the SEPAC should entail an audience with District administrators.  Lynne Crawford, a member of the school board who was in attendance at this meeting, volunteered to reach out to Dr. Barker to confirm her availability for the scheduled March 11th meeting.  If SEPAC cannot present to Dr. Barker or other appropriate District representatives on that date, the meeting will be rescheduled.

Jenny Lindstrom volunteered to circulate notes from this meeting and a March 11 meeting announcement (when date is confirmed) to those who have signed up for the SEPAC e-mailing list (provided by Sharon Huetz), to provide a flyer to Dr. Barker’s office to be mailed to all families of classified students (including those in out-of-district placements) and included in the ‘digital backpack’ District-wide email, and to members of the PTA Presidents’ Council for distribution by every school’s PTA.  Other members offered to help with writing and outreach to help get the word out, including at the upcoming Feb. 7 Special Ed. PTO meeting.

Items for the March 11th agenda are:  Final review and ratification of the SEPAC Bylaws, identification of volunteers for key leadership roles, and recommendations to the District to make readily available (e.g. on its web site and in direct communications with families):

  • descriptions of the special education process
  • a glossary of terms and how they are used in our District
  • a menu of school year and summertime special education offerings
  • an organizational chart that describes the roles of those involved in referrals, interventions, evaluations, and child study teams, and reporting lines
  • contact information and links to resources that help families understand their rights and access additional support.

In addition, the group will suggest that the District explore partnering with vocational schools and/or ways vocational opportunities can be offered within the district.