Advising the School Committee/Annual Reports
Massachusetts regulations state that the SEPAC should “advise the School Committee on matters that pertain to the education and safety of students with disabilities”. Building a relationship with the School Committee is very important. The SEPAC should develop a plan to attend School Committee meetings and/or assign a liaison to follow their activities. A School Committee Member can also serve as a liaison to the SEPAC and attend their meetings.
There are a number of ways of connecting the School Committee to the SEPAC. DESE recommends that SEPACs develop procedures that result in at least an annual written status report to the School Committee. Plan to make a presentation to the School Committee at least once a year to talk about what the SEPAC has been doing and what issues have come up that need their attention. There are a number of ways of finding out what’s going on in your district in order to help create the presentation:
Volunteers Reporting to the SEPAC
SEPACs can create volunteer roles where parents from each district school or parent group can act as liaisons to the SEPAC and inform the SEPAC about what is going on in their individual school. Reach out to the special education parent/guardian community and ask how they would like to be involved. Find a structure that fits your SEPAC’s needs the best.
Special Education Assessment Surveys
An assessment survey is one tool which will capture what is currently happening in the district, where the shortcomings are, and suggestions for improvement. Developing a survey is difficult and the SEPAC should work with the special education department to develop a survey which will be fair and comprehensive. The goal is to get feedback on the system as a whole. SEPACs also need to know what the primary concerns are among families of students with disabilities, as it will shape their actions, programs, workshops and support efforts. SEPACs can use a variety of methods to conduct a parents’ needs assessment: online or paper surveys, focus groups or discussion roundtables. Information gathered by surveys can be used to fulfill the SEPAC’s regulatory responsibility – to participate in the planning, development and evaluation of the district’s special education programs.
Advise the Advisory Council Meeting
Some SEPACs hold a special meeting to discuss issues that could become part of the larger SEPAC advisory agenda. The goal is to improve special education in the district by hearing from parents/guardians and discussing issues. The purpose of the event is to learn from other parents/guardians about what is working and what needs improvement in the district. It is an opportunity for parent/guardian voices to be heard in an organized and productive way.