October 7, 2013
Dear Brian, Pat, and Members of the Board of Education,
It is our pleasure to introduce ourselves as members of the newly formed Executive Committee of the South Orange/Maplewood Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC.) As some of you know, SEPAC held a series of formation meetings in 2012-13, during which we explored best practices from other districts, invited broad community input, and established our bylaws and guiding principles.
Last week, we reconvened to establish SEPAC’s 2013-14 agenda. During our research last year, we found that districts with the most engaged and effective SEPACs, were those in which parents, staff, and board came together as a working group, brought to bear their best thinking and resources, and kept the focus on big-picture issues to benefit all students. We are writing to share with you our goals for this school year and to invite representatives of the board of education and the district administration to join us at each meeting . We have four scheduled meetings this year: October 22, January 9, March 4, and May 5, each to be held at 7pm in the district board room.
The overall goal of a SEPAC is to strengthen the relationship between a school district and the parents of students with special needs, and to advocate for those students as well as to seek and offer suggestions in the area of special needs. We are grateful that Dr. Barker was able to come to our final meeting of the school year in the spring and share updates with us on the district policies and practice. In light of what we heard, and in response to our own discussions and experiences, we have agreed to focus on the following areas for this school year:
- Strengthened communications between parents, schools, administration and board (including a review of district/school web sites and the Guide to Special Education handbook);
- Better understanding of policies and practice in the area of school personnel (i.e. the role of the Child Study Team, the caseworker, the principal and the special education teacher);
- A review of district goals and the development of a District goal that specifically addresses students with special needs; and
- Ongoing education and advocacy in the areas of state and federal policies on special education.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with representatives from the board, the administration, and specifically the department of special services in the near future to discuss these goals further. If possible, we would also like to establish opportunities for regular meetings and find ways to institutionalize the role of SEPAC in the District.
Thank you, and we look forward to working more closely with you all in the coming months.
Jane Bleasdale, President
Jenny Lindstrom, Vice President