SEPAC Meeting – March 9, 2021

Call to Order

Introductions: Alison Elmer, Stephanie Greiner, Chris Carlson, Inae Hwang, Jessica Dombrosky, Lynne Bennett, Emily Butler, Julie Moscatel, Sophie Prevost, Sarah Barton, Claudia Donnet, Stephanie Trinkle, Joyce Schlenger, Kristin Burke, Brenda Mahoney

Approve minutes:

– Meeting minutes from February were approved

Officers/committee reports:

– This weekend was the Visions of Community conference by the Federation for Children with Special Needs. It was a virtual conference this year, and Sarah was able to attend. The key note speaker was Dr. Rosemary Allen. She spoke about implicit bias and what it means to be culturally competent and responsive. Sarah also attended a Beyond Basic Rights workshop on dispute resolution during the conference, presented by an Arlington parent and Special Education Lawyer. She also attended a networking lunch with other SEPAC chairs from around the area

– Basic Rights Workshop, Tuesday March 16th, from 7 to 9pm

– Website is almost finished

– Last month Inae and Jess attended a workshop by Sarah Ward from Cognitive Connections on Executive Function. She spoke about using actual images to help the student visualize what “done” looks like, rather than the usual pictures that are often used as visuals for special education and younger students.

Planning Workshops for the coming year:

– Arlington SEPAC is hosting a Basic Rights – Evaluation and Eligibility Workshop, presented by Phyllis Keenan from the Federation for Children with Special Needs. The workshop is from 7pm to 9pm on Tuesday, March 16thYou need to register via a link to get the Zoom link and password.

APS Staff reports:

– APS Staff will be meeting again next week with Lauren Bellon and Brenda Mahoney from the Whole Child group to work on developing a social-emotional learning vision for the district.

– Elise Wulff presentation was shared at the Special Education Department meeting among elementary school paraprofessionals for professional development.

– On Friday afternoon the Board of Education approved the Commissioner of Education’s request to return PK-Grade 5 to full time, in person education by April 5th. Superintendents will be meeting with Commissioner Riley to find out more details about the plan. The school district has been working on planning for an increased return, so there should be more information from Dr. Bodie in the coming weeks. Students who are in Remote Academy can remain in it until the end of the year, but the Hybrid model will be eliminated. Middle and High School students will return around 4 to 5 weeks after the elementary students return. The general education schedules will change rather than repeating the same two days.

– Dr. Bodie has to present a plan for a return to full time at the School Committee meeting on Thursday. In the beginning of the year we banked a professional development day, and it looks like this day will be used to set up during the transition to full time.

– We are continuing to look for staff to cover these increases in students, plus staff to cover the duty-free lunch periods for teachers.

– There will be a forthcoming survey from Dr. Bodie to determine the intentions of parents, especially to gauge the interest among Remote Academy families to return their students to full time. This will determine if staff will also move from Remote Academy to In-Person.

– Related services are likely to remain the same, but the learning specialist/push-in services might change when the general education schedule changes.

-Stephanie Trinkle asked where the paraprofessional job postings were. Alison said they post paraprofessional jobs on School Spring and Indeed.

– Many PTOs are coordinating with parents to help schedule vaccinations for teachers. Also, you can contact Liz Exton of the School Committee for more information.

– Brenda of The Whole Child spoke of how the safe and supportive schools vision meetings have been going. At the last meeting they spoke about having an event day, partially online and partially in person, much like Sarah Burd’s Wellness Day that was planned before the pandemic. With the coming changes of children being back in school full time, there will be much to discuss at the next meeting.

Public participation / New business / Open discussion:

– Sarah said that one of the things discussed at the working SEPAC lunch. Leslie from FCSN is collecting surveys that have been used in the past, like Acton-Boxborough’s annual survey that they’ve done for 15 years. We could present these surveys to parents in our district to find out more about their concerns and interests.

– Brenda mentioned that there are many parents in the district who aren’t sure if SEPAC is the place for them to gain more information. They want to help their child with higher needs which might not be diagnosable or fit into a specific category. Sarah mentioned that your child doesn’t need to have an IEP for you to attend meetings. Anyone who has questions about Special Education and how it runs in the district can attend meetings and learn more. Claudia mentioned that the district information or the Facebook page can be more specific that anyone with interest can attend, to be more welcoming.

– Claudia brought up that Gibbs doesn’t have three different SLC classrooms for the different programs, and that might be something to get feedback on from the survey.

– Stephanie Trinkle brought up how it’s hard to determine the differences in the goals between Arlington SEPAC and The Arlington Sped Alliance (TASA). Inae mentioned how the district can’t do some of the things we wish they could do, and suggested that TASA try legislating to make these changes possible. SEPAC is about communicating and collaborating with the district to get parents and students the information and resources they need.

– Claudia mentioned that this way of having meetings on Zoom is helpful and more convenient for attendees, and wondered if this would continue. Inae mentioned that right now we can do these meetings via Zoom because the Mass State Legislature said we can do meetings via Zoom. SEPAC is subject to Open Meeting Law, and the Legislature states when we have to be in a publicly-accessible place and resume the open meeting requirements. There might be a way to broadcast the meetings online, but this will be in addition to an in-person meeting.


– Our next monthly business meeting is on Tuesday, April 13th, from 7pm to 8pm on Zoom