minutes 2007 Oct 3

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ACTON-BOXBOROUGH SPECIAL EDUCATION PARENT ADVISORY COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE BOARD MEETING

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Meeting Minutes

I. Call to Order. The meeting was called to order by Nancy Sherburne who noted that PAC

Secretary, Srabani Banerjee, wasn’t present. She asked that someone assume the role of

secretary for the meeting. Paul Clough offered to record the minutes to the best of his

ability.

Nancy welcomed the meeting attendees and suggested that they introduce themselves. The

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

Kong, Liza Huber, Lynn Mulrooney, Julie Towell, Matthew Kidder, Carol Huebner, and

Mary Emmons.

II. Approval of Minutes. The minutes from the June 27, 2007 and August 6, 2007 Executive

Board Meetings were presented for approval.

With respect to item IV. A. of the June 27, 2007 minutes, Liza Huber didn’t recall stating

that the topic of grading for SPED students was too complex an issue for a presentation,

and she clarified for the record that she would be happy to address the issue as a

presentation topic in the future if the PAC so desired.

After the discussion, a motion was made to approve the minutes for both meetings. The

motion was seconded and it was then unanimously voted to approve both sets of minutes.

III. Organization/Business Issues

A. Posting of PAC Minutes. Nancy introduced the suggestion that the PAC begin the

practice of posting the minutes of its meetings on-line, stating that other PACs post

their minutes. A brief discussion followed, during which it was emphasized that it

was typical that there be a one month delay in the posting of approved minutes.

Liza stated that the Board needed to make sure that the minutes were approved prior

to posting.

Action Item: Upon motion made and seconded, the Board then voted to approve

the practice of posting its approved minutes on-line.

B. Update on 2nd Annual Parent Workshop. Julie Towell and Liza Huber presented

an overview of the Workshop to be held on November 2, 2007, including the

format, presentation topics and speakers. They stated that they expected great

improvement over last year’s attendance. After some discussion, it was then decided

that the PAC should provide a brief overview of its functions at the start of the

Workshop. Liza suggested that Paul or Nancy contact Francesca Ricciardi to see if

she could also speak for a few minutes about the parent support group that she and

Lynn Armstrong run. Paul Clough said that he’d also inquire about the possibility of

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getting Massachusetts Special Olympics to provide informational materials for

dissemination at the Workshop.

C. Status of PAC presentations/meetings for the year. Nancy stated that she had

coordinated PAC presentations with Francesca’s parent support group and Pupil

Services. While dates and times weren’t firm yet, she was in the process of

scheduling the following presentations for the PAC:

1. October: Financial and Estate Planning for Children with Special Needs by

MetLife;

2. December: Social Skills Development by Bruce Sabian, Director of Academy

MetroWest

3. January: Yelling Doesn’t Work by the Federation for Children with Special

Needs.

In addition, Nancy mentioned that Francesca and Lynn’s group had speakers

coming on the following topics: Bullying 101 for Parents, Learning Disabilities, and

Dealing with Children’s Anxiety. Liza mentioned that Pupil Services is also trying

to book Mel Levine for the spring and bring in other speakers as professional

development for educators.

D. Pupil Services Survey Results. Liza presented a summary of the Pupil Services

survey issued over the summer. She stated that she viewed the survey as a litmus

test designed during the first year of her administration. She added that she believed

the categories and types of questions were representative of various national and

Massachusetts surveys she had collected. She noted that in the future the district

may choose to issue a more detailed survey. In addition, she offered to mail out a

separate survey for the PAC if so desired.

Liza said that the results of the Pupil Services survey would be published in the

September On Team newsletter. She acknowledged that the survey data is subject to

scrutiny, but she concluded from the data that parents feel confident in the direction

in which Pupil Services is moving. She thought that parents would ask Pupil

Services to work harder to strengthen the partnership between parents and

educators, to understand students’ needs, and to respond to the diversity of needs.

She found the survey data more positive than expected but cited the ongoing need to

build a partnership with parents.

She continued by saying that she felt high class sizes were a significant part of the

special education dilemma, and raised the question as to what resources and

supports Pupil Services could provide to assist educators. She clarified that survey

questions that received a 10% or higher negative response were used to formulate

Pupil Services’ goals and objectives for the coming year. Steve Lowe noted that

10% of 900-1000 families is still 90-100 families who are reporting a negative

experience; 5% is approximately 50 families. Even 5% represents a large number of

district families. He observed that if 100 regular education families voiced concerns

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about something going on in the school district, he suspected the administration

would sit up and take notice pretty quickly. Steve also suggested that it would be

useful to know what proportion of survey respondents’ children get direct services

as well as their child’s category of disability. He pointed out that a lot of children

probably receive a small amount of service. Nancy Sherburne also mentioned that it

would be interesting to see a break out of survey responses by grade. Liza agreed

that it might be interesting to look at this kind of data breakout and said that Pupil

Services had captured all of this information/demographic data in their database, so

could perform a more detailed data analysis.

Kelly Clough asked if there were any systemic issues identified in the survey

results, and Liza cited the need to increase consultation time between special

educators and regular educators. Kelly suggested that the district needs to place

more emphasis on professional development. Liza replied that she is bringing those

kinds of issues forward to district Cabinet meetings. Mary Emmons added that as an

example they are bringing in a consultant this year to talk with regular educators

about Asperger’s Syndrome. Kelly also commented on the need to support/educate

classroom teachers and aides on the meaning and implementation of an inclusion

model. Liza suggested that a PAC topic should be to find ways to bring in more

training for educators. Kelly described an effective Lowell program involving a

coaching and modeling model. Lynn Mulrooney shared that she felt the

consultation time in this district is impressive in comparison to other districts she

has worked in.

Liza Huber stated that Pupil Services had partnered closely with the AB SpEd PAC

this past year and thought we had developed an effective partnership. Nancy

Sherburne acknowledged that the two organizations had worked well together on a

number of issues. However, she referenced the PAC Co-chairs’ letter to Liza, which

documented the PAC’s response to Liza’s draft survey analysis and requested that

Pupil Services provide a more balanced and contextual representation of survey

feedback particularly in regards to the AB SpEd PAC. Nancy mentioned the

difficulty of being able to tease out meaningful conclusions based on the broad,

compound nature of some survey questions. She said that the PAC felt it had been

portrayed in an inappropriately negative light by the survey analysis. She also

mentioned that she thought the survey was a real missed opportunity for Pupil

Services to demonstrate its support of the PAC. With respect to the survey

development process, Nancy stated that the PAC would have appreciated being

more involved on the front end. Some disagreement followed concerning what

meaningful opportunities the PAC had during that process. Nancy made the point

that the AB SpEd PAC did not feel partnered with on either the front or back end of

the survey process, as Pupil Services did not incorporate any of the PAC’s

comments or stated concerns in the On Team survey summary that was distributed

to both the School Committee and all 923 special education families in the school

district. Steve Lowe and Kelly Clough concurred that the PAC didn’t come across

very positively in the On Team newsletter.

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Xuan Kong offered the observation that he didn’t feel the PAC should be

discouraged by the survey data and encouraged the PAC to do its own survey.

Nancy explained that parents had been inundated by recent, lengthy surveys – the

DOE sent out a parent survey last spring that was followed up by Pupil Services’

survey in May (this was why the PAC had requested to share survey space with Liza

in May). If the PAC mailed out a 3rd survey on the heels of these two surveys, we

would anticipate a very low response rate due to survey burnout. Liza reiterated that

the survey interpretations and conclusions are subject to scrutiny and said that she is

not discouraged, that an extraordinary amount was accomplished by the PAC this

past year, and that the PAC had been resurrected in a positive light. Again, she said

that Pupil Services was working hard to link its efforts with the PAC’s. Liza offered

to help the PAC by reaching out to families with separate mailings or surveys.

Nancy observed that while the PAC appreciated her 1-time mailing offer what the

PAC really needed was a way to be in touch on a regular basis with all 923 families

of special needs children in the district so that the PAC could begin to build a

relationship with those families. Liza observed that not all families want to be

hooked in to Pupil Services or the SpEd PAC by email for privacy or other personal

reasons. All agreed those wishes should be respected. However, Xuan suggested

that it would make sense for the PAC to have some space in Pupil Services’

monthly On Team newsletter so the organization could reach all families just like

PTOs have space in each school newsletter to communicate with all school parents.

He mentioned that this would solve the PAC’s inability to communicate directly

with families and demonstrate Pupil Services partnership with the PAC. Liza made

an alternative suggestion that instead the PAC could include information in each of

the individual schools’ monthly newsletters. Nancy mentioned how helpful it would

be to the PAC to share space in Pupil Services’ newsletter or include a separate

PAC newsletter in the On Team mailing. There was brief discussion about what

types of articles or announcements might be appropriate to include in such a

newsletter.

E. Task Force Update. Nancy provided an update on the status of the Handbook and

Transition task forces. The Transition Task Force is currently finalizing its

recommendations and the Parent Handbook Task Force will probably need the

remainder of this year to complete its task.

F. Continued Concerns re: Completion of IEE Forms. Liza responded that the data

doesn’t support a problem with this issue, and she offered to address individuals’

needs on a case-by-case basis. Nancy acknowledged Liza’s offer and shared that

she had previously contacted each family that had continuing concerns per Liza’s

request. Those families had indicated that they were already in direct

communication with Liza and/or other Pupil Services staff. Nancy refocused the

conversation on the more general issue of process (not specifically the IEE issue).

She stated that she’d like to see the PAC and Pupil Services establish a mutually

agreeable process for resolving differences when the PAC and Pupil Services are

not able to come to resolution on their own. Nancy pointed out that there will

inevitably be times when the two organizations disagree on an issue – that’s only

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natural and to be expected. Recognizing that reality, there will probably be

occasions when the PAC officers believe it is their elected duty to take an issue

forward to the wider school district. The question is how to do that in a nonadversarial

manner. The PAC would like to work with Pupil Services to develop a

mutually agreeable process that respects the role of both organizations. Using the

context of the role of the PAC defined in the DOE Regulations, Steve Lowe posed

the question – what do we do in those situations of impasse? Some suggestions were

offered, like meeting with a school committee member as mediator or looking to

other communities to see how they handle this type of situation. Xuan suggested

that as a member of the Executive Board Mike Coppolino may be a good person to

help bridge those differences. Kelly then commented that we had a difficult

conversation tonight and that we should think about these issues further. She asked

that we be respectful of each other’s roles and remain open-minded as we continue

to discuss issues and work to reach compromises because we’re all working for the

best interests of the children.

IV. Adjournment. Due to the lateness of the hour a motion was made to table the conversation

and all remaining agenda items until the next meeting on Nov. 7th at 7:00 PM. The motion

was seconded and it was then unanimously voted to adjourn the meeting.

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