SEPAC Meeting – October 13, 2020

Call to Order

Introductions – Alison Elmer, Dr. MacNeal, Chris Carlson, Joyce Schlenger, Kristin Burke, Sophie Prevost (Dallin/Hardy/Brackett/Pierce), and Stephanie Greiner attended. Liz Exton from the School Committee (SEPAC liaison) also attended.

Minutes from March approved pending editing after distribution over email

Officers/Committee Reports –

– The abrupt removal of students from buildings in March interrupted workshops we had planned for the end of last year. We are still currently working on getting the planned workshop from ASPIRE @ MGH.

– We also did not officially hold elections for SEPAC officers/board members at the end of last year due to the pandemic. Next month we will put up nominations, so if you would like to be considered for a board position, please send a notice to Jessica Dombrosky, SEPAC secretary ( or Inae Hwang (

Current positions are Chair/Co-Chair, Secretary, Member at Large, Graphic Design/Web Design/Development

Planning Workshops for the Coming Year –

– Mass Rehab Commission (MRC) Transition Services (October 28th, 7pm). Please email Jess Dombrosky if you wish to be added to our email list and receive notifications of upcoming workshops.

– In the last few years, SEPAC has co-hosted a parent information workshop with Mass Rehab Commission. Mass Rehab Commission helps with training, resume help, other services for students ages 14+ as they get ready to transition to college or career.

– SEPAC also hosts an annual Basic Rights workshop, from the Federation for Children With Special Needs.

– Elise Wulff from MGH ASPIRE was supposed to do a workshop on disclosure last spring. She has been doing a lot of Zoom seminars recently and feels comfortable doing Zoom for the previously planned workshop, for free. She is wondering if we want to change the topic to one that is more relevant now. (ASPIRE caters to children and adults with high cognitive autism/related disabilities)

– Carla Leone has previously done Mindfulness workshops with us, and might be willing to run another mindfulness workshop for families/possibly also students

– A caregivers guide to remote learning by Sharee Eavens, from a social-emotional agency up in Wilmington, MA

APS Staff Reports –

– We are entering into week 4 and you’ve been receiving updates from Dr. Bodie. COVID testing has resumed for our teachers, and it’s a proactive step to help keep our staff and students safe, and our schools open. The 4th and 5th grade at Stratton are currently remote due to a singular teacher there testing positive. Another staff member at Peirce also tested positive but it was determined that they didn’t have close contacts so no cohorts needed to be in quarantine.

– The IEP notifications you received over the summer were in relation to how the IEP services would be implemented differently due to the pandemic (Special Education Learning Plan (SELP)). The next memo you should receive will be related to compensatory services due to the shut down last spring. Students were still entitled to a free and appropriate public education. It needs to be assessed whether or not the student with an IEP made effective progress, and whether or not they require general education level recovery supports or whether they require additional compensatory services to make effective progress. Another consideration is whether or not new services need to be added to the IEP to address NEW disability related needs that may have developed during the closure (ie: services related to anxiety related to online learning)

– FAQ on DESE website explains in clear terms the things that parents would need to consider and discuss with their Team at IEP meetings.

Public Participation/New Business –

– Outreach difficulties – Special Education voluntary listserv no longer works, so our outreach to parents is limited. You can opt in privately to the private gmail SEPAC list. We are looking for ways to increase our ability to reach the district as a whole.

In the past, there was an Arlington SEPAC Facebook page, and it was open for comment. The page became a toxic place due to the commenting and the School Committee said that it needed to be shut down. Since SEPAC is an advisory committee to the School Committee, instead of a 501c3, we can’t have our own page without School Committee approval. Having our own public presence on Facebook would make it easier for people to find us.

– Website is almost ready to be posted, hopefully by the end of October, and that would be another way to reach people.

– Liz asked if there was a way to recreate the email list on the new School Messenger. Alison said that it would still be an opt-in list. Inae reported that IT stated that coming up with a mailing list short of emailing everyone wasn’t feasible. Currently, School Messenger doesn’t differentiate between students with IEPs and students without IEPs, nor is it an opt-in tool.

– Alison suggested we can distribute a survey to parents so they can opt into an email list if they are interested in joining. Inae said that we still have real barriers to reaching people in district since distribution of information from principals and administrators depends on the building.

– Krasimira (Peirce parent) Elementary School PTOs put together their own directory, and parents fill in those forms with their directory information. They can add a question for opting into the SEPAC mailing list and then send information of all who opt in our way.

– Janet asked about whether other parents were also having challenges with asynchronous Wednesdays, and whether the district had any plans for addressing this. Inae mentioned that Wednesdays have been challenging for many, including general education students. Alison mentioned that she could reach out to her child’s Special Ed liaison to problem solve for specific accommodations/strategies for Wednesdays.

– Lauren Bellon – wanted to follow up on two letters written to APS from TASA posing questions for the Supt. Search Committee, regarding executive functioning and language learning challenges. Also, how can meeting minutes be distributed after they’ve been approved. Inae answered that after meeting minutes have been approved, they are sent to Karen Fitzgerald to be posted. She also said that the questions from the TASA letters are on her mind as she crafts questions to ask the candidates. They only get 60 to 90 minutes with each candidate, and each candidate must get through multiple rounds of expertise to clear the hurdle of the first round of interviews. The initial number of questions is around 15, and they are limited in the scope of questions they are able to cover in that time. Questions are drafted as a group/committee. There will be more opportunities for more specific input at a later time this year.

– Lauren also wonders what the forum/avenue is for parents who aren’t having satisfactory responses from the staff in their building, and whether they should be going to SEPAC before bringing up issues before the School Committee. SEPAC has no power, we are merely an informing body. We try to work collaboratively with Alison and her department, but we are an advising body with budgetary constraints.

– Stewart asked whether there was a School Committee member who was a liason/helped run the SEPAC. Inae said while there is a liason, SEPAC is run by volunteers, not the School Committee.

– Sarah mentioned that there are Special Education communication and organizational charts on the district Special Education website (on the left hand column of the website).


Organization Chart:

Click to access specialedorganizationchart.pdf

Communication Ladder:

Click to access specialedcommunicationladder.pdf

Announcements –

– Our next meeting is on Tuesday, November 10th, at 9am via Zoom. The link will be the same as the one from tonight.

– We are still looking for folks to join us, so if you want to get involved, let us know.