minutes 2007 Nov 7

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ACTON-BOXBOROUGH SPECIAL EDUCATION PARENT ADVISORY COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE BOARD MEETING

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Meeting Minutes

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

The meeting attendees were: Nancy Sherburne, Paul Clough, Steve Lowe, Xuan Kong,

Mike Coppolino, Matthew Kidder and Srabani Banerjee.

Nancy provided an updated contact list with email addresses for all board members.

II. Approval of Minutes. The minutes from the Oct 3, 2007 Executive Board Meeting were

presented for approval.

Mike Coppolino had a question about the completion of IEE (Independent Education

Evaluation) forms. Nancy provided some history on the topic. As PAC Chair Steve Lowe

conducted a parent survey in 2005, which showed inconsistent completion of IEE forms

from one family to the next. In addition, some families received incompletely filled out

standardized evaluation forms from the school district. By working closely with Liza over

the last year and a half the PAC was successful at getting the school district to document its

current practice re: IEE forms. The current practice has been shared with district parents.

However, there continues to be a difference in opinion between the PAC and the district on

whether the current practice meets the intent of governing regulations. Acton and Acton-

Boxborough school districts place restrictions on what types of questions staff can answer

on standardized IEE forms. Only those questions related to observable behaviors are

currently completed. Based on an informal survey of multiple PAC chairs and SPED

advocates in neighboring districts, the PAC learned that Acton and Acton-Boxborough

appear to be the only districts where parents have difficulty getting IEE forms fully

completed.

Following this discussion Steve Lowe motioned to approve the minutes. Paul seconded the

motion and the minutes were approved unanimously.

III. Organization/Business Issues

A. MassPAC training. Nancy shared information on a PAC training session that she

had attended offered by MassPAC. One of the items that came up in the training

workshop was that PAC board meetings need to be open to the public. There was

discussion on posting the agenda on the mailing list and website. Mike Coppolino

asked if the board meeting could be skipped during months when presentations are

scheduled. Nancy said sometimes they are cancelled when they fall close to a PAC

presentation, but usually there are pressing items that need to be addressed.

Action Item: Nancy to publicize board meeting dates and agenda for future

meetings.

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B. Recap of 2nd Annual Parent Workshop. Matthew Kidder reported that there were

about 140 parents who attended the Annual Parent Workshop and that Pupil

Services received a lot of positive feedback from attendees. The question was asked

if 140 people registered for the event or if that number actually attended. Paul

overheard presenters saying that only a portion of those who’d signed up for their

workshops seemed to be in attendance. Paul shared that he had provided an

overview of the SPED PAC at the opening of the workshop and that Francesca

Ricciardi had introduced the Parents of Children with Challenges support group.

Matthew said he was impressed with the number and caliber of the speakers.

Paul felt that the absence of a keynote speaker might have dampened attendance. He

wondered if workshops should be held during weekends or evenings to allow

working parents to participate. Matthew felt that weekends might be an issue in

terms of staff availability. Nancy also mentioned that Liza had sponsored a safety

presentation last spring on a Saturday and that parent attendance was very low for

that event. Nancy commented that 4-5 people had signed up for the PAC mailing list

at the annual workshop.

C. 501c3 process. Steve provided Paul with a contact of someone who has gone

through the 501c3 process recently. Paul has looked at the material from the state

and federal governments. It appears the PAC is not required to apply for 501c3

status as long as the organization’s earnings are under $5000/year. However, the

PAC may still want to apply so that people can donate money to the PAC and write

off those donations. Nancy said that the PAC has a TIN and a bank account with

Middlesex Savings. Paul will continue to research the 501c3 application process.

Action Item: Paul Clough will register the PAC as a non-profit with the state as this

is required whether or not the organization has funds. This registration involves a

small annual fee ($25-$35) to maintain non-profit status with the state.

There was a question about how other PACs get funded. Nancy said most school

districts fund their PACs in one of three ways: 1) as a line item in the district’s

budget, 2) PTOs from each school in the district allocate a certain dollar amount to

the PAC annually (typically around $500 per school) or 3) a combination of one of

the above plus PAC fundraising. Nancy thought it made a lot of sense to approach

the individual PTOs and request annual funding, since special education students

make up approximately 20% of the student population and parents of special

education students already contribute to school fundraising efforts. Steve suggested

that the PAC come up with a proposed budget for what the organization would do

with any funding it received.

D. Social Event/Fundraiser at Discovery Museum. The PAC is in discussion with

the Acton Discovery/Science Museum about sponsoring a social event for families

probably next fall. The Science Museum has sponsored events in the past for the

Minuteman Arc and one of the district schools. This will be discussed further in

upcoming meetings as more is known.

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E. Process for resolving differences (when PAC and Pupil Services are unable to

reach joint resolution). One possibility suggested had been that perhaps a School

Committee member could act as a neutral 3rd party to help mediate legitimate

differences. Mike Coppolino said he was willing to assume the role of an

independent 3rd party mediator if Liza was OK with this.

Matthew wanted to know if this specific issue was part of Nancy’s presentation to

the school committee and Nancy said that it was not.

The issue of the IEE forms came up again and Matthew said that the available data

did not suggest that there was an issue. The PAC disagrees with this based on

information from families that the PAC has heard from this past year. A survey was

done 2 years ago and a significant number of the families who responded had issues

with the way the forms were being completed. Also, several outside professionals

have shared the same experience with PAC leadership. The issue was tabled until

Liza was present to participate in the discussion.

Action Item: Matthew to take Mike’s proposal back to Liza as a proposed process

for resolving differences when the PAC and Pupil Services have tried in good faith

to resolve their differences independently.

F. Parent Handbook. Nancy said the Parent Handbook should be complete by the end

of this year. However, there will be significant costs associated with reproducing

and mailing the handbook to all families in the school district who have children

with special needs (~ 980 families). She said the PAC doesn’t have the funds to

accomplish publication and distribution. She expects the document may end up

being 60 pages – 30 double-sided. Liza had offered to put a small amount of money

towards the effort ($500 or so), but said she could not offer more than that. Nancy

said it will likely cost several thousand dollars to do considering both reproduction

and mailing costs. Mike said the PAC shouldn’t worry about the funds – that it’s the

district’s responsibility to find the money – that the funds should come out of the

district’s budget somewhere.

Action Item: Nancy to estimate approximate size of finished document and get

estimates for printing and mailing costs.

Mike and Xuan will take information forward to the School Committee during the

budget process. Steve suggested having a 3-ring binder for easy future updates since

this is a living document based on regulations that change and district programs and

practices that change year to year. All agreed that would be the best course of action

from a document maintenance standpoint. Mike thought bulk purchase of small

notebooks wouldn’t be too pricey.

G. Topics for next board meeting

• Form for PAC’s non-profit registration with the state

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• Update on Parent Handbook – Nancy can at least share the TOC.

• Put together a survey on specific issues of interest to the PAC for distribution later

this year.

• Transition Task Force report – Francesca is finalizing the recommendations now.

IV. Open Issues

Lack of full-time director of ABA services at Integrated Preschool – Mike asked for

some background on this open issue. Nancy shared that many families in the Integrated

Preschool feel the ABA Program Director position needs to be a full-time position. The

current configuration has the Program Director teaching in the classroom half-time and

directing the program half-time. While parents are pleased with the individual who was

hired over the summer they don’t see how it is possible for one person to perform the both

job descriptions effectively. For example, it is not possible for the Director to observe any

of the students in classrooms other than her own while she is teaching, nor can she conduct

clinics or parent meetings during that time. Consequently, parents feel the director doesn’t

have sufficient time to perform all the duties on her plate. In addition, they also feel they

were misled by the district during the hiring process for this individual.

Background: There used to be a full-time program director at the Integrated Preschool. The

position was reduced to a half-time role last year against parents voiced concerns. Things

did not go well. Families were concerned that they were not receiving clinics required by

their IEPs, nor was staff getting the training or oversight necessary to maintain the quality

of the program. Parents met and wrote a letter to Liza Huber voicing their concerns. They

met with Liza and Carol and understood the district to be in agreement that a full-time

director would be hired. They waited patiently all last year. When a parent showed up to

participate on the interview committee to fill this position she was informed that the job

description would be a half-time director/half-time teaching position. The parent was asked

not to share this information with other parents in the Integrated Preschool. Following the

interview process the parents wrote a second letter to the school district voicing their

continued concerns about the health/quality of the ABA program. This topic was tabled

until Liza could be present for further discussion.

V. New Issues

Concerns about outside specialists’ recommendations not being accepted/

incorporated into IEPs: Some families have expressed concern this year that the

recommendations from outside evaluators don’t seem to be given equal weight and are not

getting incorporated into IEPs as appropriate. While the school is not obligated to accept

every recommendation made, some families feel that private evaluators’ test results are not

being given adequate consideration.

Steve suggested that there might be a need to educate families about their rights. Nancy felt

that the particular families she had spoken with were well aware of their rights.

VI. Adjournment: Meeting was adjourned

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