Resource and Support Page

We have added a “Resource and Support Page” to post information about meetings, groups and events that are of interest to our community.

The first addition is Camp Huntington which has programs for children and young adults with Autism and related developmental and learning disabilities (6-22 years old) to enjoy the benefits of camp programs throughout the year.

Check out our new page here

Meeting Dates for 2014-2015

The SOM SEPAC and Special Education PTO will be holding joint meetings for the 2014-2015 school year.

September 30
December 3
January 20
March 24
May 19

All meetings are held at the Board Office, 525 Academy Street, Maplewood NJ at 7:30 pm.

Superintendent Focus Groups in September

The school district will be holding focus groups on September 13th to gather input for the new superintendent search.  There will be focus groups for stakeholders organized by interests.  The special needs community is included as Parents of Students with Special Needs   Special Education Parent Advisory Committee, Special Education PTO, others in the special needs community

Location: District Office—District Meeting Room 525 Academy Street, Maplewood, NJ

Date: Saturday, September 13, 2014   1:00pm – 1:45pm   New time 2:00-3:00pm

Find the flyer and the full list of focus groups including meeting times for September 13th here:  updated flyer

Superintendent Search: Focus Group RSVP, Input Needed

 The South Orange / Maplewood Board of Education

Invites you to attend a 

SEPAC/Special Education PTA

Focus Group Session on

Selection of the Superintendent

Thursday July 10, 2014
8:00pm – 9:00pm

District Meeting Room, 525 Academy Street, Maplewood
RSVP by Thursday July 3rd to Elizabeth Brinkerhoff or (973) 762-5600 x 1820


At this session, you will meet with Dr. Leroy Nunery of Hazard, Young & Attea, the search firm hired to find a new Superintendent.  Dr. Nunery is gathering stakeholder input in order to: 1) inform the Leadership profile (job description) and 2) identify prospective Superintendent candidates.

For those who are unable to attend, please provide input for the superintendent search using the online survey on the homepage of the district website  Updates on the Superintendent Search will also be posted on the district website homepage.

Please consider the following questions in preparation for this discussion:

  1. What are the strengths of the South Orange-Maplewood School District?
  2. What are the challenges and issues that the District faces now and in the future?
  3. What are the characteristics you think are necessary for the next Superintendent?


Advocacy Workshop May 5th

We are partnering with the START Project to host a workshop for our May meeting:

Family-Educator Collaboration in the IEP Process:  A Joint Training Activity for Parents and Educators
Families Can Make A Difference!

In special education, collaboration between parents and educators is essential to ensuring that the student is the central focus. During this training, parents and educators will explore techniques and strategies that enhance parent/educator collaboration in the IEP process. Tools that advance ongoing parent/educator collaboration in the IEP process will be shared.

Date: Monday, May 5th Time 7pm-9pm

Location: South Orange Maplewood School District Administration Building,
525 Academy Street, Maplewood, New Jersey. 07040

Presenter: Myriam Alizo, Parent Group Specialist, START Project  (Statewide Parent Advocacy Network)

Who should attend: Parents and educators of children who are already receiving special education services and parents and educators of children who are having difficulty in school but may have not been determined to be eligible for special education services will benefit from this training.

The START Project is a collaboration of the New Jersey Department of Education Office of Special Education (NJOSE) and Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) Funded by IDEA Part B funds

Information from SOM District on Inclusion and School Budget

The SOM School District posted two articles of interest to families with special education needs, one on the School Budget for 2014-2015 and one on Models of Inclusion.

Link to Budget Documents 2014-2015 as of April 4, 2014

Link to Models of Inclusion from South Orange Maplewood School District

The Models of Inclusion document, published in April 2014, contains the following topics:

What is inclusion?
What is an IEP?
What is “co-teaching?”
What is “in class consultation?”
Is SOMSD reducing inclusion classes?
Is anything changing in the special education services provided to students with disabilities?
Is SOMSD reducing the number of classes using co-teaching strategies?
How will general education teachers for inclusion classes be supported?
How will the effectiveness of the new approach be reported for special education students?
If the new approach is not meeting a student’s needs, what will be done to adjust their services?
Are you making adjustments to save money?
What can I do if I have questions?

The Department of Special Services encourages parents/guardians to contact their case manager with questions specific to their own child.  Parents/guardians are also welcome to contact Dr. Patricia Barker, Director of Special Services, at 973-762-5600 ext. 1841 or


Statement on the proposed 2014 – 2015 School District Budget

Update on meeting schedules noted here: The Maplewood and South Orange governing bodies no longer vote on the school operating budget if the increase is within the statutory cap limit. Therefore, the next meeting and action related to the school budget will be on Monday, April 28th when the Board of Education will hold a public hearing and take action to approve the tax levy to fund the 2014-15 school budget.

South Orange/Maplewood Special Education Parent Advisory Committee

SEPAC strongly opposes the proposed school budget.

We believe the cuts to special education are misguided and unfairly disadvantage children with special needs. 

We call on our elected representatives (the Board of Education, South Orange Village Trustees and Maplewood Township Committee members) to vote “no” on this budget and to require the District to propose an alternative to these cuts.


1)    The reductions disproportionately affect our most vulnerable population, the approximately 1000 children in the district with special educational needs;

2)    Reducing the number of highly trained special education professionals and services to special education students will increase the achievement gap in our district;

3)    The proposed budget and changes in service will put further strain on our general education teachers and administrators; and

4)    Slashing resources for special needs children may put the district at risk for violating federal IDEA, 504, and IEP regulations and will likely result in lawsuits for the district.

Positions slated for elimination: 6 Special Education Teaching Staff, 1 Child Study Team member, 1 Secretary, 0.5 Transportation Personnel, 1 Elementary Enrichment Teacher, 4 CHS Teaching Staff, and 2 Elementary Specials Teachers.

These cuts will mean:

  • Special Educators serving in a consultative role, limiting contact time with students to no more than 120 minutes a day.
  • Relying heavily on untrained paraprofessionals to support special needs students.
  • Children currently serviced in district being forced out of district, at a significantly increased cost to the taxpayer.
  • Dismantling of the co-teaching model, which along with the elimination and other valued services (like middle school resource rooms) puts more demands on teachers who remain.

The proposed budget cuts and the questionable rationale on which they are based perpetuate a pattern of hasty and shortsighted decisions negatively affecting students with special needs.

After spending millions in federal funding to create a co-teaching model five years ago, the District soon discovered that their approach was fiscally unsustainable and each year since has hustled at budget time to propose a new scheme – based not on best practices but on reducing services to students.  With special education services constantly shifting, the District has no data to verify what works and what doesn’t.

What parents are saying:

SEPAC has gathered reports of parent experiences within the district during the intervention, 504 and IEP process.  Concerns about poor communication, lack of transparency, access to related services (speech therapy), and inconsistencies between schools continue to grow.

We appreciate that school funding is fraught with challenges and that this is an especially difficult year.  If painful cuts are necessary, as taxpayers we want to be sure that these decisions are made with maximum transparency and ample opportunity for community discourse.

What teachers are saying:

Special education teachers, administrators, and child study team members have expressed increased concerns about the changes in programs and proposed cuts.  They believe that the District, at best, lacks a commitment to best practices and a clear vision for special education, and at worst, is in violation of the law and at risk for significant lawsuits.

For more information:

SEPAC’s statement at the March 4th BOE budget forum is available on our website (  SEPAC is working with representatives from the BOE and will continue to reach out to the school district leadership in this matter.

Visit the District website for more information on the budget and reports from the DMC consultants on ways to minimize special education services:

The calendar for adoption of the budget and public forums has not been confirmed but the district will have a public forum, as well as a town council vote during the month of April.

Please attend these meetings and make your voice heard

Budget Forum and District Budget Documents

On March 4, 2014, the district’s proposed budget for the 2014-2015 school year was presented to the Board of Education and the community.   Reductions in special education staff are again in the school budget plan and are included below.  A complete list of documents for the budget can be found on the district site here.   The information that follows was posted on the district site on March 5th:

Cheryl Schneider, Business Administrator and Board Secretary, reviewed the budget development process, highlighting the alignment of the budget to the district goals, indicating the amount needed to be reduced, where the reductions are proposed, and the tax impact of the Superintendent’s recommended budget.  Ms. Schneider also presented 5 year budget projections with a 2% operating tax levy cap.
The Board is considering all of the information presented, and will be discussing the budget in three upcoming meetings.

The 2014-2015 budget proposes a total expenditure of $119,765,545 and was developed to support the district goals set by the Board of Education. These goals are set annually and are designed to help the district continue to build momentum in enhancing student learning, strengthening teaching, engaging parents as partners, operating more efficiently, and doing more with less.

The guiding principle of the budget development is the alignment of the budget to district goals and strategy, and reining in spending on major cost drivers, as specified in District Goal Four. More information is available in the PowerPoint Presentation from the March 4, 2014, Board meeting.

Positions slated for elimination include:

  • 1 Child Study Team member
  • 1 Secretary
  • 0.5 Transportation Personnel
  • 1 Elementary Enrichment Teacher
  • 5 CHS Teaching Staff
  • 2 Elementary Specials Teachers
  • 2 Special Education Resource Room Staff
  • 6 Special Education Teaching Staff

Local Tax Impact
The budget proposes a total expenditure of $119,765,545, with a total school tax levy for the operating budget of $106,563,115 and $3,999,551for the debt service budget. This represents an increase over last year in the school tax levy of $2,201,202, or 2.03% in percentage terms. Of that, 2% is attributable to increases in the operating budget, with the remaining .03% slated to cover the increase in annual debt service.

Community Input on the Budget
The Board of Education welcomes and encourages community input on the budget throughout the process. In addition to discussions at monthly Board of Education meetings, a special Community Forum is scheduled for 7:30pm on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 in the District Meeting Room at 525 Academy Street in Maplewood, NJ.   The Board invites community input into the budget discussion at the Forum and other key Board meetings. Feedback can also be sent to Board members 
2014-2015 Budget Calendar

Mon., Mar 11 Community Forum on the 2014-2015 Budget
Mon. Mar. 17 BOE Meeting. BOE considers/adopts preliminary budget to submit to Essex County Superintendent for approval to advertise
Mon. Apr. 28 BOE Meeting. Public Hearing/Action to Levy 2014-2015 school tax

Meeting Notes 1-9-2014

SEPAC MEETING for South Orange Maplewood School District
Thursday January 9, 2014 7:00-9:00pm
District Meeting Room 525 Academy Street
Maplewood NJ 07040

Prior to the official start of the meeting, from 7-7:30, new parents introduced themselves, networked with other parents, and sought peer suggestions about how to proceed with advocating on behalf of their individual children.

At 7:30, SEPAC President Jane Bleasdale opened the meeting, introduced members of the District staff and Board of Education (BOE) who were in attendance, and introduced the guest speaker, Dr. Lydia E. Furnari, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum/Instruction, who presented an abbreviated version of a presentation she gave to the BOE in October regarding Common Core Curriculum Standards (CCCS) and the process and impact of their adoption by the South Orange /Maplewood School District.  (The full slide presentation is appended below.)

After her talk, Dr. Furnari fielded questions from parents about how CCCS affects the way teachers differentiate instruction and provide supports for students with varying special needs.

The meeting concluded with a brief review by SEPAC Board members of 2013-14 priorities, especially strengthening communications between District faculty and staff and parents, and progress to date.  For instance, one outcome of a recent meeting with the Director of Special Services was the scheduling of an Inclusion Committee meeting (including parent representatives) to hear the District Management Council’s recommendations.  This meeting was set for January 21st but was canceled due to weather.  It is now on the calendar for March 3.

Meeting Announcement – New Date



NEW DATE Wednesday March 5th

Tuesday March 4th  7:30 – 9:00pm
District Meeting Room
525 Academy St. Maplewood
Please join us for a special town hall meeting of the South Orange/Maplewood SEPAC

 Come and meet your school liaison parent.

Share your experiences this year.  Let us know what is going well and what your concerns are.  Please remember that we are parent volunteers; we cannot answer for the District.  Rather, we will do our best to advocate with you on behalf of all students with special educational needs.

Who should attend?  Families of students…

  • in all grades, in all schools and in out-of-district placements;
  • who have Individualized Education Plans;
  • who have 504 plans; and/or
  • who are at any stage of the referral and intervention process.

Save the date: May 5th for our next meeting:    Parent Advocacy Workshop