SEPAC – South Orange/Maplewood

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SEPAC Statement at BOE Meeting

SEPAC Statement to the Board of Education                        January 25, 2016

 

Good evening.  I’m Jenny Lindstrom, President of SEPAC, the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee.

I first want to welcome the new members of the board and say to all of you that SEPAC looks forward to working with you on questions of District policy and practice related to students with special educational needs.

As many of you know, SEPAC has had concerns in the past about the district’s budgeting and decision making processes that have – at times –proceeded in the absence of publicly available data or informed discussion.

We commend you for asking the Dept of Special Services to share its vision and proposed 2016-17 programming at your meeting last month.  We hope that the timing of that presentation was early enough in the budget cycle to allow for thorough vetting, stakeholder input, and financial analysis.

I would also like to call out some of the elements of that presentation that resonated with us, for instance:

  • Creating more of a continuum of offerings at the elementary level – as opposed to the current offerings of mostly full inclusion on the one end and self-contained classrooms on the other end.
  • And at the secondary level, we are encouraged to hear that the District recognizes the inconsistencies of supports and is exploring adding the i-step therapy program, which seems to be effective at MMS and CHS, to SOMS
  • And that it is looking at adding back a resource room period that would enable a wide range of struggling students – at every school – to get the support they need during the school day.

We foresee that building out the continuum of offerings at the elementary schools and adding more academic and therapeutic supports at the secondary schools will enable us to meet the needs of more of our students here in district.

It is also clear that additional resources will be needed to provide consistent high quality services across all schools and grades.

Yet, without retrievable, accurate, reasonably detailed multi-year data, it will be difficult to fully assess or address cost drivers like increases in special education referrals, paraprofessional assignments, and OOD placements.

We feel that the lack of such data is a major impediment to informed decision making and responsible budgeting, and we urge you to consider adding resources in the new budget to strengthen operational functionalities between the special services department and business office.

Thank you.


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