minutes 2011 Sept 13

I. Call to Order – Nancy Sherburne called the meeting to order at 7:38 pm. The
following Board members attended the meeting: Bill Guthlein, Nancy
Sherburne, Caroline Jarvis, Cynthia Overman, and Valerie Ryan. Two other
PAC members were in attendance, as was Pupil Services liaison, Julie Towell
and School Committee members Mike Coppolino and Paul Murphy.
II. Approval of June Minutes
The minutes were reviewed and a motion was made to approve. That motion
was seconded and the minutes were unanimously approved.
III. Organizational/Business Issues
A. Treasurer’s Report – Nancy pointed out that all monies are now handled by
the Friends of the AB SpEd PAC (Friends) organization and that the report
and updates regarding 501 (c) (3) status will be covered in the Friends
business meeting following this SpEd PAC meeting.
B. School Committee Update – Mike Coppolino updated the group on the
most recent School Committee meeting.
1. Regionalization – A Regional School District Study
Committee is being formed to discuss the pros and cons of
regionalizing Boxborough’s Blanchard Memorial
Elementary School. The committee will be made up of 3
members from Acton and 3 members from Boxborough.
Representing each town will be a current school committee
member, a current or previous finance committee member
and a community resident (preferably a parent of a current
student). It was noted that Boxborough is also exploring
other options (with the town of Harvard, for example).
2. Preliminary MCAS Data – Bill reported that McCarthy
Towne School did not make AYP for English but the R.J.
Grey Junior High – which is on Corrective Action status –
did make AYP. A discussion took place regarding the
value of the intensive focus on comprehensive goals to
address the problem at the Junior High. Mike pointed out
that Bill and Nancy’s efforts to bring the issue to the
forefront for the School Committee made a big impact.
Julie stated that the final results for each school would be
available to both parents and administration this Friday.Page 2 of 4
3. State Changes Regarding Teacher Evaluation Criteria – No
new information was available regarding the new criteria.
4. Summer Programming – Julie stated that Pupil Services
continues to support the goal of moving to an integrated
model for SpEd summer programming. However the goal
has proved more complicated than initially thought. Two
issues are as follows:
a. The Department of Education has stated that
providing a summer camp experience for special
education students is not a legal mandate
b. Resistance from Community Education – primarily
due to concerns regarding the extent of extra staff
that would be needed.
A discussion took place regarding what might help – Mike
suggested examining models where integrated programs
have been successful. Val and Caroline suggested
Shrewsbury’s summer program and Caroline mentioned
she would e-mail a copy of the program outline to Julie
immediately following the meeting. Additional comments
were made to reinforce the importance of continuing
pursuit of the goal. Caroline pointed out that not all
students need academics over the summer, for many the
needs are coaching and peer modeling of social skills;
Nancy pointed out that the recent survey results included
dissatisfaction regarding lack of progress in this area
despite the emphasis placed on it in the 2010 forum
discussions between special education parents and Pupil
Services. Nancy also pointed out that Community
Education is a part of the school district and so is legally
obligated to make their program accessible to all. Julie
stated that she and Liza will set-up a meeting to further
discuss how to pursue the goal.
IV. Parent Handbook Status – Nancy announced that the first draft of the
handbook is now complete and that it is currently being reviewed by Pupil
Services. Julie provided the feedback that Liza is very impressed with it.
Mike inquired about print vs. electronic distribution. Nancy replied that the
first release would be electronic with a few hard copies in key locations – each
school and the Pupil Services office, for example.
V. PAC Survey Status and Draft Report Feedback – Bill updated the group on
the first data cut from the 2011 PAC survey. Bill noted that there were 105
respondents and that, in general, there appears to be an increase in overall
satisfaction since the PAC’s 2008 survey with most notable improvements in
IEP process and communication with parents. In addition, the gap between
parents of autism spectrum students and parents of specific learning disability Page 3 of 4
(SLD) students appears to have narrowed. There were areas, however, in
which dissatisfaction remained the same or worsened since the 2008 survey.
Examples include special education assessments, confidence level in sharing
concerns about services without negative repercussions and in one bullying
question. In terms of assessments parents commented that there were large
discrepancies between feedback given by special education staff and feedback
from regular education staff. In terms of confidence in discussing services
with special education staff, the number of parents fearing negative
repercussions was approximately 25% of total respondents, a number
discussed as too high. Additionally, concerns remained regarding bullying
with approximately 15% of respondents answering that their child did not feel
safe at school.
Concerns regarding bullying were discussed. One concern was that district
principals reported no incidents of bullying since the implementation of the
district wide anti-bullying policy. Two parents present noted that they had
recently reported bullying to the principal and counselor of their children’s
school (both at the same school). One parent suggested that school staff may
need increased training on how to handle incidents of bullying that includes
information regarding special education children as it was noted that schools
were still attempting to bring bully and victim together to “talk it out” despite
obvious power differentials (sometimes in the form of social savvy, for
example). It was also noted that reports of bullying should increase not
decrease after implementation of anti-bullying policies due to increased
overall awareness. In terms of potential steps in the right direction, Julie
mentioned upcoming staff training regarding defining bullying from a legal
perspective and a parent noted the “Everyone’s Different” curriculum for 1
graders presented at her child’s school’s open house.
Mike Coppolino noted the group’s comments and will bring them to the
attention of the school committee and/or Dr. Mills.
VI. PAC Priorities for the 2011-2012 School year – Nancy reviewed the following
priorities for the upcoming year:
1. Analysis of Survey Results
2. MCAS Analysis
3. Redesign of the PAC website (including building a list of
resources vetted by the local special education community)
4. Increase Parent Outreach
One PAC member present mentioned a willingness to be part of a PR
effort. The same PAC member noted that she had visited other area PAC
websites and been pleased with features such as blogging among members
in those communities. The PAC member’s offer to become involved in
the group’s PR effort was enthusiastically embraced. Nancy also
mentioned that Karl – the PAC’s website manager – is looking at new
software and that it includes blogging capability.
Nancy then called for ideas regarding speakers. In addition, Julie asked
for comments regarding the district’s fall 2010 special education Page 4 of 4
workshop. Julie stated that some of the feedback she had already received
indicated that the workshop would be better attended if it were held in the
spring and during the evening. The group gave the input that spring was
likely a better time but that the overall format would have to change if the
workshop were held during the evening.
VII. Additional Business –
Paul Murphy brought up a discussion regarding the upgrade of the lower
fields. He centered the discussion on ideas for how the benefit of putting the
money into the upgrade can be extended beyond students involved in sports to
include those who may not use the fields. Paul explored the idea of allotting
a certain portion to adaptive sports for children with special needs. It was
agreed that this would be a great way to fund special education programs and
that there was a real need in Acton. Paul will introduce the idea to the School
VIII. Adjournment – A motion was made to adjourn the meeting, that motion was
seconded and unanimously approved. The meeting was adjourned at 9:10 pm.
Next Meeting – AB SpEd PAC Board Meeting Wednesday, October 12, 2011 at 7:30
pm in the R.J. Grey Junior High Library.
Respectfully submitted by Valerie Ryan, Secretary

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