SEPAC elections have traditionally been done in person. Over the course of a few hours, all members who wanted to participate went to town hall and cast a vote. With the current pandemic, we do not feel it is fair to ask our medically vulnerable families to do that, no matter what social distancing measures we do, so this year we will hold the vote online, to the organizers this is the most inclusive option we have.
Two board members (Valerie Frias and Senofer Mendoza) have been tasked with implementing this election, and have made every effort to make this process fair, transparent, and equitable.
By participating in this vote, you are confirming that you are an eligible SEPAC member (a current or past parent of a child within the Brookline School District on an IEP, 504, or OOD plan).
The link to vote is here.
Voting will remain open until 7pm on 6/4/2020.
Here are statements from each candidate, both running for one co-chair position:
I’m Linda Monach – mom of two gorgeous girls, wife, writer, cook, businesswoman, and advocate for children with disabilities and their families. I’ve been active in Brookline SEPAC for over 10 years and have served as SEPAC Co-Chair for six years (non-consecutively). I’m running for Co-Chair again because I believe that given the challenges we are facing in 2020-2021, we need an experienced and trusted voice to help advocate for our students. We need someone with experience at building coalitions and gaining consensus. We need someone who will listen with respect to those who have traditionally been afraid to speak and bring those voices to the table while ensuring confidentiality for all.
I have proved time and time again that I am willing and able to fight successfully when a fight is what’s needed. At the same time, I never forget the power of relationship building and mutual respect. Because of my actions, our students stopped receiving services in hallways and windowless rooms this year. Because of my advocacy, we were on the brink of getting new programs to address dyslexia across the district until the COVID closure delayed the program. Because of my relationship building, SEPAC has had a voice in every major hiring decision made in Brookline this year and on every building committee and remote learning committee.
I am proud that in this last year we have accomplished so much, strengthened communication and collaboration with the district, provided needed resources and quality information to our families and transformed the tone of our conversation to that of support and ideas rather than acrimony and accusations.
Much has been accomplished, but there is still so much work to do. I would be honored if you would vote for me and let me keep doing this important work.
SEPAC Co-Chair Election / Candidate Statement by Danna Perry
Hi everyone, It feels funny to be writing about myself this way, rather than talking face-to-face, but I want to take a moment to introduce myself. I know some of you and others, I haven’t had the chance to connect with personally yet. My name is Danna Perry. I am a single, working mom of two kids here in Brookline, both of whom are in middle school, and one of whom (my son) is on an IEP. I think it’s worth mentioning that my kids are in two different schools, which gives me a truly unique perspective that has really informed my commitment to finding ways to ensure the sharing of best practices across our buildings. Inequities exist and there is no reason we can’t harness some of them for the power of good.
We have a phenomenal opportunity in SEPAC. It’s an incredibly powerful and unusual opportunity. This state-mandated mechanism, called SEPAC, brings together, once per month, stakeholder voices to discuss pertinent issues related to our children and, at best, to effect positive change; at worst, to create a space for dialogue. There are two clear missing pieces for me: one is building based staff and, the other, is accountability. I hope some of my proposals below will begin to address these inadvertent oversights so that we can maximize SEPAC’s impact and leverage the opportunity we have.
In terms of my candidacy for Co-Chair of SEPAC, I thought it would be most helpful to share specific, action-oriented proposals that I’d propose in the context of SEPAC’s formal mission. Please note: feedback is always welcome and you can reach me by email or cell at email@example.com or 917.647.2633.
Finally, I want to thank Linda, Faith, Lisa and Carol for their hard work and continued advocacy.
With gratitude and kind regards,
Lawrence / CCS Mom
Mission #1: Advise school officials and the school committee on matters pertaining to the education,health, and safety of students with special needs. Advocate on behalf of students with special needs and their families to school officials, the school committee and the school community.
Proposed Action Items :
- First and foremost, continue to reduce barriers to entry to meetings including:
*Alternate meetings between schoolhouse buildings to include more school-based staff and encourage more caregivers to participate. This may even allow each school to present and highlight best practices.
* Possibly adjust meeting times as well and hold remote meetings as needed.
(i.e. meeting earlier in the day; possibly remote, evening meetings as well)
- Per our by-laws, the Board should meet at least twice a year for the purpose of enacting and monitoring the annual goals. At the beginning of the school year, the SEPAC Board should lead the membership into developing annual goals that we focus on throughout the year. These should be community-elected and measurable. I’d also suggest that we limit the goals to 3-4 per year. Once the goals are identified, we should create working groups to report regularly on these.
* Examples might include an evaluation of our language-based learning programs
* How to improve METCO outreach and incorporate, more seamlessly, the concerns of some of
our Boston families
* The evaluation of new, District policies that disproportionately impact children with learning
differences and special needs, i.e. the new bullying policy and accommodating District
prevention plan, PSB’s Code of Conduct. Etc.
* Evaluate mechanisms to share best practices among providers and staff in our different
* Understanding the conversation around paraprofessionals in Brookline schools and how to create an environment that allows them to thrive
Mission #2: Meet regularly with Special Education Administrators and other school officials to participate in the planning, development, and evaluation of the school districts special education programs.
Proposed Action Items:
- First and foremost, the content of the regular weekly (or monthly?) meetings between Co-Chairs and the Deputy Superintendent Ngo-Miller meetings should be clearly communicated outwards. This is not a matter of integrity, but rather to allow all stakeholders to benefit from the access that co-chairs enjoy by nature of the position.
* Any child-specific issues can be discussed at the same meeting, but separately so as to protect confidentiality.
* These meetings might also include the school committee liaison to SEPAC, so as to ensure a
continuing, team-oriented approach that incorporates both the policy (SC) and implementation
(District) management aspects of PSB.
- At the onset of the school year, the SEPAC Board should work with the School Committee liaison to schedule two listening sessions to take place during the school year.
* These listening sessions should be viewed as an opportunity for dialogue and should be
scheduled at a time where school-based staff might be able to attend
* Communication with our School Committe liasion can (and should be ongoing) throughout the
year in a variety of formal and informal forums. Additional SC members would also be welcome
to attend and Open Meeting Law would apply as needed.
- The SEPAC Board should discuss with the School Committee liaison the possibility of creating a Special Education Task Force at the School Committe level (again, with limited, specific and measurable goals).
This task force may work in tandem with the working group of SEPAC members identified above.
Mission #3: Facilitate communication between families with special needs students and the Brookline Public Schools.
Proposed Action Items:
- I think expanding the role of SEPAC school-based liasions might work well here. School-based liasions offer an incredible opportunity for a window into what is actually happening in each of our buildings. Critical to two-way communication and similar to a system of checks and balances, liasions can report what is happening on the ground floor, i.e. in our buildings.
* If the SEPAC community were to develop annual, measurable goals, then liasions could be a
hugely important piece of understanding how well PSB’s policies and practices are working for
* I think there is also an opportunity to work in concert with school councils for improved
advocacy within our buildings. School Councils are the vehicle through which school-based
policy, curriculum and annual goals are developed. SEPAC liasions may be encouraged to
attend, whenever possible, school council meetings.
* SEPAC Liasions, would be assigned a SEPAC Board point-person. With support from that
person, liasions should be encouraged to hold 1-2 community building events at their school.
* Finally, and most importantly, liasions should be tasked with reporting back at SEPAC meetings on a regular basis so that we can all compare notes that will inform our ongoing discussions.
Mission #4: Provide support and information for and facilitate the sharing of information among
parents/guardians/special education surrogate parents.
Proposed Action Items:
- There are some super easy fixes here and the first of which is widely publicizing SEPAC monthly meetings, as well as agenda items, via a variety of sources including Facebook. the website, email, the Office of Student Services, and school-based PTOs. The same distribution should apply to meeting minutes as well. This is not a matter of criticizing past practice but rather, again, to continuously
improve access to information.
- Sharing of information can also happen informally through the individual community-building efforts of liasions, as well as through scheduled social gatherings for parents and caregivers or monthly coffees for COBAP. SEPAC can host a couple of these socials throughout the year.
Mission #5: Provide informational forums to parents/guardians/special education surrogate parents, students, educators, and other professionals involved with children with special needs.
Proposed Action Items:
- Explore the possibility of taping SEPAC’s monthly presenters and speakers so that information can be available to those who were unable to attend
- Vary SEPAC monthly speakers and presentations to include, for example:
* school-based staff like paraprofessionals
* staff from our specialized programs like LAHB, the TLC, Winthrop House etc.
* presentations to inform on Brookline’s budget process
* PSB’s Metco Director, Dr. Keith Lezama