minutes 2007 Dec 5

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ACTON-BOXBOROUGH SPECIAL EDUCATION PARENT ADVISORY COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE BOARD MEETING

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Meeting Minutes

I. Call to Order. The meeting was called to order by Nancy Sherburne

The meeting attendees were: Nancy Sherburne, Paul Clough, Carol Huebner, Steve Lowe,

Mike Coppolino, Matthew Kidder, Linda Longden and Srabani Banerjee.

II. Approval of Minutes. The minutes from the Nov. 7, 2007 Executive Board Meeting were

presented for approval.

Carol Huebner expressed some concern about the minutes pertaining to the interview

process for the ABA Program Director at the Integrated Preschool. She said that a parent on

the interview committee had been asked not to discuss any part of the interview process

before the selection was made. Nancy clarified that the minutes simply reflected the

parent’s perspective of that conversation as relayed to her by the parent. The parent called

Nancy to discuss whether or not a job description was confidential information related to

the interview process. Nancy felt the job description was a matter of public record as it had

clearly been publicly posted to attract applicants for the position. There was a discussion

about whether or not the job description was a confidential piece of the selection process.

Ultimately all agreed that the job description was a matter of public record and therefore ok

for the parent to share with other parents in the affected program prior to completion of the

selection process.

Nancy proposed that the minutes be modified to read: “Parent was asked not to share

information confidential to the interview process.” All attendees were comfortable with this

change to the minutes.

Mike Coppolino motioned to approve the minutes with the proposed modification. Paul

seconded the motion and the minutes were unanimously approved.

III. Organization/Business Issues

A. Parent Handbook. Nancy shared a current, partial draft of the Parent Handbook

and guessed that it was approximately a third to half complete at this juncture. At

Steve’s request she shared the names of the task force members working on the

Parent Handbook and provided preliminary estimated costs for publishing and

mailing it based on parameters discussed by the Board at our last meeting. The cost

estimates were significantly higher than any of us had anticipated.

Matthew questioned the rationale behind publishing the document since much of the

information is available from other sources like the Federation or DOE. Nancy said

it would be helpful for parents entering the SPED world who do not understand the

process, legalities, or their basic rights – as well as for those families who are in the

system and unaware of these resources. While the document does contain

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information from Federation and DOE publications as well as other sources, parents

do not receive this information from the district and therefore don’t know it exists as

a resource. Also, there will be sections of the Parent Handbook that describe the

programs and services specifically available in our school district. The PAC’s goal

is to provide a physical resource to all families of children with special needs that

pulls together important information in a single reference document.

The cost estimates Nancy provided were based on printing and distributing the

Parent Handbook in a 3-ring binder. The Board had previously recommended a

binder because the content would be ever changing as laws and district policies,

practices and programs evolve over time. However, given the costs of distributing a

binder to all families, Mike asked what the downside of having it posted on the web

would be. Nancy clarified that the PAC definitely planned on posting it and all

future updates on our website; however she felt the initial distribution should go out

in hard copy. There are some families without computer access or technology knowhow

and some who don’t like reading or referencing documents online. Mike asked

about sending a communication to all families asking if they would prefer an online

or hard copy of the document. Carol said that from her experience more families

were opting for online material. Nancy said a mailing certainly could be sent to all

families providing them a choice of hard copy or electronic document, however,

there would be some ramifications of that decision. It would need to be mailed

through Pupil Services and require a lot more administrative oversight, tallying and

coordination from Pupil Services than Nancy and Liza had discussed in the past.

When Nancy, Paul and Liza had previously discussed the distribution of the

document they had mutually envisioned the Parent Handbook as something to be

physically sent out to each family and handed to each new family entering the

school district. Nancy noted that every time you require people to take an additional

step to access information a smaller percentage of them will actually access it. If

you ask people to send a written response about how they want to receive the

information, you certainly won’t hear back from all families. If you require folks to

access the Parent Handbook electronically, some won’t go to the trouble of finding

the website and looking through the document, so it will diminish the effectiveness

of the tool from the start.

Steve thought some of the costs could be lowered by sending the document to

families 3-hole punched without a binder. Paul agreed that he thought it was

important to distribute the Parent Handbook in paper form to each family. Nancy

asked whether grant money was available to cover some of the cost. She shared that

Sandy Daigneault had used DOE grant money to create and distribute a Boxborough

Special Education Handbook this year. Steve suggested that other scenarios could

reduce costs, for example, the document could be distributed to each school and

parents could pick them up or they could be sent home in children’s backpacks to

reduce mailing costs. Steve also pointed out that there were regular education

documents like school handbooks and directories that were distributed to families

yearly. Nancy said she felt the district had an obligation to get the information into

families’ hands. What they do with it after that is up to them. She also felt there was

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an issue of parity here given that parent handbooks and directories are routinely

distributed in hard copy form to families. Paul asked if the school committee could

provide a fixed amount of money they could contribute to the printing and

distribution of the handbook. Nancy said Liza had said she had a small amount of

money, perhaps $500 or so to contribute to the effort.

Mike asked for a revised printing and distribution cost estimate that he could take

forward to the school committee to discuss. Steve suggested the draft should include

an estimate/analysis of the time spent by the handbook task force to give the school

committee an idea of how much effort had gone into the creation of the document at

no cost to the school district. Mike asked for Pupil Services’ reaction to the

handbook. Matthew thought there was value to a collaborative effort, but had

questions about whether this would meet parent needs or reduce parent calls to Pupil

Services. Nancy thought the information contained in the handbook would reduce

the number of calls Pupil Services receives by better informing parents about the

process and available resources. The handbook will define commonly used terms

and acronyms and provide a description of the special education process as well as

identify programs and services available in the district. Nancy reiterated that the

development of the AB Special Education Parent Handbook has been coordinated

with Liza from day one, that a Pupil Services’ staff member was on the task force,

and that Liza had expressed nothing but support for the effort up to this point.

Steve suggested that we send out a cover letter with the Parent Handbook

suggesting that families place it in a 3-ring binder along with all other relevant

documentation – child’s IEP, latest evaluations, forms, etc., to create an

organizational tool which parents could bring with them to team meetings. He

thought this would help families be better informed and organized, which might

lead to more efficient meetings. Carol suggested that parents be polled in an “On

Team” newsletter to see how they wanted to receive the document. Nancy thought

that without seeing the actual document or knowing what was in it, many families

simply might not respond to the poll. Also Paul said that when parents were

surveyed 2 years ago, a Special Education Parent Handbook was parents’ top

priority for the PAC to create, so clearly there is parental interest in the document. It

was also a top priority 3 years prior to that when the PAC established its goals for

the year, which indicates an ongoing need and interest for this document in the

district. It was decided to table any decisions regarding distribution until Liza’s

current thoughts on the matter were shared with the Board. Matthew was asked to

take the issue back to Liza for feedback.

B. Resolving differences. Matthew said that Liza questioned whether Mike was the

appropriate person to be a third party mediator between the PAC and Pupil Services

given his role on the school committee. She told Matthew she’d talk with Bill Ryan

about this. Steve thought that it would be an appropriate role for Mike since the

PAC serves the School Committee and district at large. Paul asked about how PACs

operate in other districts. He said that in his experience, PACs often deal directly

with the director of special education and his/her staff. Nancy mentioned a new

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Federal DOE document called “Engaging Parents in the Special Education Process”

that she received a copy of at the PAC training session she attended. This document

talks in more detail about the PAC role and encourages districts to create teams

comprised of parents and staff. Steve thought that one of the reasons the school

committee had been brought into PAC meetings was to help move dialogue forward

between parents and staff. Nancy said that Suzanne Gervais, the president of

MassPAC, had suggested that PACs should be involved with school staff to

evaluate district programming, help develop budgets and create a district Special

Education improvement plan. PAC involvement varies by district, but there is a

definite need for collaboration. The Board will wait to hear from Liza regarding her

conversation with Bill Ryan on this topic.

C. Non-profit organization status. Paul updated the Board on his investigation

regarding what documents need to be filed with the state and federal government. It

appears that the PAC just needs to file a form with the state annually since we do

not receive funds in excess of $5000/year. Nancy suggested that we really ought to

try to get this form filed by the end of December. Paul agreed to pursue it.

D. Topics for next Board Meeting

• Transition Task Force – The task force has finalized its recommendations

and Nancy will invite Francesca and the other task force members to attend

our next meeting and present their recommendations to the Board.

• Parent Handbook – Revised estimate of printing and distribution costs

• Finalize discussion around process for resolution of differences – other

issues will remain open until the board can decide on a process for

resolution.

IV. Adjournment: Paul motioned to adjourn the meeting, which was seconded by Steve.

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