SEPAC Meeting Minutes – January 11, 2022

Call to Order

Introductions: Alison Elmer, Inae Hwang, Sarah Barton, Jess Dombrosky, Lynne Bennett, Eop Brecht, Vitalija Ellis, and Stephanie Trinkle attended.

Approve minutes:

– Meeting minutes from December 2021 were approved.

Officers/committee reports:

– Inae and Sarah met with other SEPAC members in other towns, over messenger, to figure out ways that we can grow. We are considering holding a parent/caregiver only listening session to have people share their thoughts and concerns with us.

– The following month we’re thinking of hosting state representative Sean Garballey to hear our report of the parent/caregiver Special Education concerns that can be advocated for at the State level..

– Sarah, Inae, and Jess are putting together a survey for parents that Superintendent Homan can send out with her monthly email.

– Our website has continued to be updated with all our announcements and meetings.

Planning Workshops for the coming year:

– On Wednesday January 19th, Sara Gannon will be holding a workshop on the science of reading called “Demystifying Dyslexia”. The workshop is being hosted on Crafting Minds’ professional Zoom link

– For future meetings, we might want to host Deb Perry, the Director of ELA, and maybe a reading coach and reading specialist, so they can come in and talk about some of the curriculum and interventions. Also, maybe a building principal to round out the discussion. We are looking to do this

APS Staff reports:

– Not much to report since we last met, since we had the winter vacation and then came back to the COVID-related disruptions to the schedule. The additional measures that the district has put in place are helping us to ride this latest wave. The email that went out on Friday discussed revisions to the quarantine and isolation protocols, noting that an additional rapid antigen test is required to be negative after Day 5 before a student can return to school. If you have a test on Day 6 that is positive, you will have to wait another 5 days. If you wait until you’re fairly sure symptoms have resolved, you’ll have a better chance at testing negative and returning on subsequent days.

– Alison asked about budget items we would like to see. Inae mentioned that she’d like to see more planning time between General Education staff and parents. Sarah added that she’d like to see more planning time around transitions (pk to elementary, elementary to Gibbs, Gibbs to Ottoson, Ottoson to HS) for students in Special Education. Jess and Inae mentioned that they’d like to see a bit more specificity when receiving emails from Easy IEP

– Stephanie suggested having more planning and collaboration time between paraprofessionals and Special Educators so that instruction can be better differentiated and delivered.

Alison said that the bulk of funding comes from Chapter 70 funding, and that the portion of that funding that’s allocated to Special Ed is not favorable, because it uses the old foundation calculation that has not been updated to reflect rising costs. The town allocation is favorable to Special Education and recognizes the variability/fluctuation to sped spending that can be driven by out of district tuitions. The percent increase for funding for general education is 3% per year, where the percent increase for Special Education is around 7%. That increase is set to phase out, and some would like to see this happen sooner rather than later. Our spending for out-of-district placements has gone down, but we have seen that spending has increased for in-district expenses as a corollary. Alison said they are recommending that these extra funds are allocated to support Special Education workload/caseload demands.

– Alison said that departments and schools voiced what their priorities were, and now they have the job of whittling everything down. The number of special education social workers at Gibbs (1) and Ottoson (2) will need to be increased due to workload. If the number of learning communities are increased, you’ll need to increase staffing, such as an additional Special Educator at Ottoson.

– If we are to move toward heterogeneous instruction, we may need to add more special ed staff at the high school.

– Next year, under the MAICEI (MA Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative) grant, students in the 18+ program can audit classes at Middlesex (Community College?), but not take them for credit. These students can get travel training, and have an “ed coach” go along to support them. There would be some tuition and transportation costs.

– Alison proposed using the American Recovery Plan funds to add Inclusion Specialists to consult with teams and give recommendations.

– A full time Team Chair at Hardy is proposed and a 0.5 time Team Chair at Menotomy Preschool so Joyce can devote her time to the other parts of her Sped Coordinator/Principal job.

– If we get the position/funding in the budget, OTs have proposed developing a 6 week program for K-1st grade, related to Response to Intervention (RTI), with pre-assessment, a 6 to 8 week program, and then a post-assessment to identify children who still need intervention.

– Inae suggested that while we’re trying to add more staff to have better equilibrium, we could look to hire folks with disabilities in our schools, because representation matters. Alison agreed that with diversity, equity and inclusion, we often think about ethnic, racial, or linguistic and gender identity or sexuality among educators, but that disability isn’t often discussed.

Public participation / New business / Open discussion:

– We should get the Crafting Minds flyer out to all the schools, APS social media, and perhaps to TASA. It’s a lot of information that people are really looking for at this point.

– Alison suggested that Dr. Eric Von Hahn from the Tufts Floating Children’s Hospital is a Neuropsychologist who might be able to do a Neuropsych workshop.

– Inae said that it isn’t clear if we are still held to Open Meeting laws. Alison suggested we continue to follow Open Meeting laws until we get more clarification.

Announcements:

– Next Wednesday, January 19th, at 7:30pm we are hosting Sara Gannon of Crafting Minds, who is presenting on reading science in “Demystifying Dyslexia.”

Adjourn

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Author: ArlingtonSEPAC

Please bear with us as we develop our new website. Our goal for this blog is to inform you about upcoming events so that you may fully participate in Arlington SEPAC, a parent-led volunteer organization.

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