SECAC Overview (Barb Kupriaz)
SECAC is required by Maryland law (COMAR) for the purpose of advising the school system on special education topics. The SECAC board meeting with the Department of Special Education (DSE). It’s good to have a wide range of ages and disabilities. There is a website and Facebook page for Howard County SECAC. Would be interested in live streaming the meetings – call out for anyone tech savvy that could assist in that.
Department of Special Ed (Janine Yetter – Director of Special Ed, Dr. Terri Savage – Executive Director of Special Ed).
Last week was Inclusive Schools week. There was a committee formed to come up with activities to do during the week. Michelle Im and Ann Scholz were on the committee that composed of about 50/50 parents/staff. The schools had a great time with it. The committee will continue to meeting monthly to get more ideas.
The DSE has a full staff meeting once a month. This month they focused on the student voice. Students came to the staff meeting and talked for 30-35 minutes. There was discussion about how the different pieces work together to help students. The students gave input on what was working and what is not.
They follow the Seven Tenets of Inclusion. A child is “only as special as necessary” regarding inclusion. They think that inclusive schools is more than just for a week, it should always be the focus.
Board of Education Liaison (Vicky Cutroneo)
She was very excited to be the SECAC liaison on the board. She believes that we should judge a school system on the experience of the most vulnerable students. Her direct line at the Board of Education is 443-364-0008, her email address is email@example.com. She says nothing is too small to email her about. If she can’t solve it, she’ll find the person who can and follow up to make sure it was resolved.
Christina Delmont-Small asks that we tell them how things are going. Feel free to email them. Budget season is coming up, they want as much information as possible so they can ask the right questions of the DSE regarding their budget requests.
Policy Committee Updates
It’s only been recently that SECAC has been approached for inclusion on these committees. It’s important that the voice of special education students be heard on all policy committees.
Policy 3010 Emergency Preparedness (member not present, Lori Scott gave update)
Lisa Soto mentions that the MD Safe Schools Act was passed last year. Tom McNeal will be at the next CAC meeting.
Lori says emergency preparedness is important to all students. HB1061 was passed in 2017. It requires accommodations be in place to evacuate students with mobility and behavior needs. This would include things like a device to move students in wheelchairs down the stairs. It’s recommended that these discussions happen at IEP meetings.
Dr. Savage says the DSE is looking their guidelines and adding budget requests for professional development.
Policy 8020 – High School Reporting (Michelle Im)
Will be updated to include middle school. There were discussions about class rank and weighted grades for G/T classes. Also discussed attached the curriculum standard to the grades. They are not willing at this time to remove interim (mid-quarter) reports. There is a log of inconsistencies between schools on testing and reporting. Mention from the group that there had been a curriculum policy that was dismantled under the previous superintendent.
Policy 9020 Student Dress Code (Camille Cranson)
The National Organization of Women (NOW) recommendations were used. They had to make sure it was inclusive of all gender identities. It got very technical regarding the covering up of certain body parts. Also, some discussion about body type. Another issue is men wearing head scarves vs women. There were students on the panel. A big issue for them was equitable implementation. The final version is coming soon.
Policy 9270 Student Assault or Battery on Staff (Deb Engle)
This covers both in the school building and on the bus. There has been some rewording of the policy but not much else to report.
Policy 10000 Parent, Family and Community Involvement (Ann Scholz)
Half the committee members were parents, 4 had children with IEPs. The first few meetings were looking at inclusive language, making sure the policy is consistent with other policies. The final wording will be decided this week. The community partnership office was discussed during the meetings. This includes community partners on things like employment and transition.
Policy 10020 Use of School Facilities (Darria Wise)
There were five meetings. The basics are the who and why of usage. The language in the policy was reviewed for inclusiveness. It will go before the board in March with a public hearing in April. There were concerns about safety and internet usage. The responsibility is on the person reserving the space.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (Darria Wise)
Reports directly to the superintendent.
There have been two meetings so far. The background of the committee is that in 2016 community members brought forth 52 recommendations. Those recommendations fall into 4 categories; student voice, curriculum, professional learning and workforce diversity. Each member was asked to select two of these for inclusion in a focus group. There were around 30 people on the committee.
One of the suggestions was to restart the Disability Awareness Program. Also, some professional learning.
The committee will meet once a month through the end of the school year. Unsure of what will happen at the end of the year.
Kevin Gilbert, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, has been involved. There is a lot of diversity, different cultures, students, in the group. Dr. Savage says that one of the DSE’s resource teachers is on the committee. Some concern by SECAC members that there should be a special ed parent in each of the four focus groups. Darria will talk to the committee chair at the next meeting about that.
Special Education Advisory Committee (Heidi Abdelhady, Deb Engle)
Reports directly to the superintendent.
There will be four meetings, two have already occurred. There were about 50/50 parents/staff. Most of the members were found through outreach by the DSE.
They are looking at recommendations for equity within special education. They looked at the MSDE Parent Survey. Only 8% of parents and 11% of preschool parents completed the survey. They are also looking at the IEP Team Meeting survey card to be given out after IEP meetings for quick feedback on how it went. There is a good variety of parents with students of different disabilities. The IEP process is the goal of this group. They will meet again in February and May. Heidi would like feedback from us: Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We need to tell schools to make sure parents fill it out. The numbers for filling it out are very low. It comes out in early spring. Some questions about the results and how they can be communicated to parents. The DSE is working on ideas to increase participation. Email Ann Scholz if you did not receive a survey last year.
Operating Budget Review Committee (OBRC) (Deb Engle)
The OBRC was reinstituted a few years ago. It’s a yearlong commitment. They are currently working on the FY20 budget. This committee advises the Board of Education. There are 17 appointed seats. 7 are appointed by one BOE member each and the rest are from community groups such as CAC, SECAC, the various school system unions, etc.… It meets once a week for 75 minutes.
The Operating Budget runs the school system. It is approximately $900 million dollars. 85% of that is staff and mostly union contracts. The committee reports to the BOE once a month. The issues the budge has currently are deferred building maintenance and the teacher health fund (raided the past few years and now has a deficit). A 1% increase for teacher pay is $20 million.
The budget drops on Dec 18th. The first public hearing is on January 15th. The DSE priorities are instructional supports and training. The DSE also gets money from grants. For example, the recent behavior training came from a federal grant.
Christian Delmont-Small says SECAC should be specific about the budget.
Lisa Soto says that CAC has someone shadowing their current OBRC rep. This would be a good idea for SECAC. Please let us know if you are interested in this.
Legislation Update (Lori Scott)
The Kirwan commission is a state commission on education. It has 25 people on it. It was created in 2016 after legislation was passed. They are looking at what are adequate services for all students. They are looking at other countries as well. House Bill 1415 is a special education study to look at special education funding.
Until that research is completed, the status is adding $564 million dollars to the education budget. It will be distributed among all the counties in Maryland. SECAC members are encouraged to email their state delegates and senators.
Special Education State Advisory Committee (SESAC) (Wendy Balda)
This is the state version of SECAC. It meets quarterly and is an open meeting. There are 2 co-chairs and 3 vice chairs. The last meeting SESAC met with all the SECACs in the state for the first time in 3 years. They will form committees from each SECAC to research and make recommendations. There will be some surveys sent out.
They discussed increased participation of the MDSE survey. The results of it go right to Dr. Savage and the DSE. They would like to find a way to share those results with the community.
The main focus is curriculum, instruction and assessment.
SECAC Parent Support Group (Wendy Balda, Darria Wise)
The next meeting will be in January. Some ideas for the meetings are to have speakers, meet at a restaurant, providing child care.
The next SECAC meeting will be January 14th, moved from January 28th. There will be special education advocates available for 15-minute consultants on specific IEP topics. Please email email@example.com with your specific IEP topic for a slot. At the end of the meeting the DSE will be there to hear from the advocates about the types of things discussed during the consultations.
The February meeting will have a panel of advocates to speak.
Gene Ryan is doing something called Secret Sleigh. It’s for kids with disabilities that make it difficult to visit a public Santa Claus. He will come out to the home of the child as Santa and do a visit there. This is something that’s done in other areas as well. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if your child would want this service.
Beth is looking for people to form a committee to help update the SECAC by-laws. Please email email@example.com if you are interested.