SEPAC Meeting Minutes – December 14, 2021

Call to Order

Introductions – Inae Hwang, Sarah Barton, Jessica Dombrosky, Sara Burd, Tracy Perneta, Brie Stanley, Katrina Bernstein-Lewicke, Dan Callahan, Lynne Bennett, Claire Johnson, Cheryl Miller, Kristin Burke, Joyce Schlenger, Alison Elmer, Michele Phelan, Mme Fabienne Pierre-Maxwell, Ashley Lorentz, Laura Howson, Lauren B, Dee Dee Crema, and Vanya Kojuharova attended.

Approve Minutes – Meeting Minutes from October and November were approved.

Officer/Committee Reports

– Inae has sent out an email to Dr. O’Leary about holding a presentation on Understanding Your Neuropsych Evaluation Report this week, and hasn’t heard back yet.

– Sarah heard back from Sarah Gannon from Crafting Minds (Dr. Orkin’s consulting group), and she will be doing a presentation on January 19th, from 7 to 8:30pm, on the Science of Reading. Thank you very much to the district, who added the presentation on to their consulting budget.

– Sarah attended a presentation on restraint and seclusion, and wants to link to the district’s policy on these items:

– DESE is currently in the process of making their Special Education indicator targets for MCAS/ Graduation Rates, Drop-Out rates. There are different links for each indicator, and she is posting links to surveys that parents can take to give their input.

– In January 6th from 5 to 6pm, Russell Johnson from the Federation for Children with Special Needs is doing a question and answer session on special education in Massachusetts

Workshop Planning

Nothing new to report

APS Staff Reports

– If you tune in on Thursday night to the School Committee, you’ll hear the first round of budget priorities for the year. Right now we are compiling all our requests, which always exceeds what is funded, and in January these things will be narrowed down. We will be discussing the priorities chosen for Special Education at our January meeting.

– Progress reports will be coming out in December, so be on the lookout.

Presentation by Sara Burd, Director of Social Emotional Learning

– She is a parent of a 2nd grader in the district. To begin, she wanted to share with us something used often in Arlington, which is called the Mood Meter. It’s similar to the Zones of Regulation. (The x axis is Pleasantness, and the y axis is Energy, and each axis goes from 5 to 5. There are four quadrants, where upper left is red, upper right is yellow, bottom left is blue, and bottom right is green. The goal is to recognize where you are personally at any given time. That way you can choose an activity to match it or guide you to where you want to be.) We all got a chance to plot our mood and energy. This tool comes from a social emotional program for the secondary level called Ruler, and it helps students check in and evaluate their mood. It also puts a vocabulary to how they’re feeling, so that they can start evaluating their emotional state in a constructive, non-judgmental manner.

– She pointed out that there is a time or place for all of these quadrants, and they are valid. These emotions are a sign that these are things you are passionate about, and it is important to advocate for yourself or those around you. The time and place that you express these emotions is also important, and she discussed how students discuss to move to a different quadrant if you aren’t at the place you want to be in a given situation.

– Mme Pierre Maxwell said that the students at Gibbs have had an orientation to the Mood Meter, and that they are going to have another refresher with it in January.

-Inae asked how this is utilized with high schoolers, where students often resist getting in touch with their emotions, for various reasons. They have been discussing with high schoolers how to reflect scientifically about how they’re feeling. It’s discussed how students who are more in touch with their emotional state are more powerful, more in control.

– The district has been conducting mental health screenings over the past year and a half. There was a very high number of students who reported that levels of anxiety and strong emotions were inhibiting their school performance. Anyone who had an elevated score was referred to Trails to Wellness advisory/supports.

– Cheryl Miller asked how this works with kids with alexithymia (not being able to know what they are feeling)? Questioning about feelings can make these kids feel alienated and like there’s something wrong with them. The same goes for kids with somatic complaints (“I feel like I’m going to throw up”). Sara says that part of their work is educating students in what feelings look like, with a program called “Second Step”. They have body scan images, with a heat map, to show where one might feel what happens in the human body during different emotional states.

– Stephanie asked if the Second Step curriculum is used in the gen education classroom at all elementary schools. Sara said that all elementary schools were in the process of implementing two lessons from the curriculum, on emotions and empathy.

– Sarah asked if students, such as a fourth grader with autism, would be matched to lessons at their social-emotional level, if they aren’t at the fourth grade general ed level. Sara said that they are working on hand-picking more units from the curriculum, and looking at what specifically the student needs, to help the students who have specific social emotional deficits catch up. (This is for students in general education, and students with IEPs will have additional supports and instruction)

– Second Step website:

– District’s SEL website:

– Bullying Prevention Resources:

– If you have more questions, please contact Sara Burd at

– Stephanie asked where the support is for students who are engaging in bullying behavior with Special Education students. Sara said that each building has their own supports, such as buddy benches, or students looking out for classmates who are out there on their own. There are problem-solver roles, where they look around for anyone who might be having trouble and offer support. Sara also mentioned some buildings utilize PBIS, which describes clear expectations for behavior during unstructured times, such as recess, lunch, arrival, dismissal, and hallways.

Public Participation / New business/ Open discussion


– We will have a social hour tonight at 7:30pm, using the same Zoom link

– Next meeting is January 11th from 7:30 to 8:30pm, at the SEPAC Zoom link.

– On Wednesday, January 19th we are hosting Sarah Gannon from Crafting Minds, from 7 to 8:30pm at the same Zoom link.



12/14/21 Zoom Meeting Agenda



In accordance with the provisions of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 30A Section 20, notice is hereby given for the following meeting of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council,

Tuesday, December 14th, 9:00am

Join the Arlington SEPAC Recurring Zoom Meeting:


  1. Call to Order
  2. Approve minutes
  3. Officer/Committee reports
  4. Planning workshops for the coming year
  5. APS Staff Reports
    • Presentation by Sara Burd, Director of Social Emotional Learning
  6. Public participation / New business / Open discussion
  7. Adjourn

Arlington Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) is a parent group that acts as a resource for parents and advises the district regarding meeting the needs of students with special needs.  We provide support and networking opportunities for parents and guardians of children with special educational needs, offer workshops and guest speakers to help parents become better informed about special education issues. We meet regularly with school officials to participate in the planning, development and evaluation of special education programs in town.

We hope you will join us!