On August 20, 2020 a group of parent members of the Bridgeton Public Schools Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG) gathered for a social distanced in-person SEPAG meeting to discuss the district’s re-opening plans and to meet a new Superintendent, Dr. Keith Miles.
At this meeting, parents of children and youth receiving special education and related services represented a diverse spectrum of grade levels, special education programs and services, as well as cultural and linguistic diversity of the community. Dr. Eniola Ajayi, Director of Special Education and Student Support Services, members of the Child Study Team, District Compliance Specialist, and an interpreter also joined the SEPAG meeting to facilitate the discussion, answer questions, and receive input from parents on the needs of students and their experiences with special education in remote learning. Parents had the opportunity to meet and network with other parents as well as with Tatsiana DaGrosa, a Parent Groups Specialist on the START-Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities in Schools (START-EPSD) Project at SPAN. It was a first SEPAG meeting where parents and district staff met face-to-face since COVID-19 shut down the schools in March.
The Bridgeton SEPAG was initiated six years ago by Dr. Eniola Ajayi who became a new Director of Special Education in 2014. Dr. Ajayi attended the “Starting and Running an Effective SEPAG” training presented by SPAN Parent Advocacy Network and connected with Tatsiana DaGrosa, a Parent Groups Specialist, for assistance with forming a group. Dr. Ajayi expressed deepest desire to build positive relationships with families of students with special needs and involve them in improving special education services from the outset of her tenure in the district.
Over the years, in addition to holding regular meetings, Dr. Ajayi and parent members of the Bridgeton SEPAG have participated in multiple family engagement and parent leadership development activities organized by the START-EPSD Project. These activities included county-wide special education parent leadership roundtables, SPAN workshops and webinars, and input sessions to develop the SEPAG Guide. The Bridgeton SEPAG also hosted several workshops for parents and professionals presented by the START-EPSD Project and in collaboration with other community-based organizations to empower culturally and linguistically diverse families to learn about special education rights of children and disabilities and their parents, to facilitate family involvement in literacy development, and advocate for all-inclusive programs for students with disabilities.
Some of the initiatives the Bridgeton School District implemented based on the SEPAG input:
- Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Platform to teach the five competencies and three academic skills to our students. This platform helps with progress monitoring of students’ skills in SEL and supports parents in implementing the SEL at home.
- Created an opportunity for our parents to attend evening meetings with the school staff where Literacy Skills are reinforced with the parents.
- Partnered with the Technology Department to provide tech support for parents on how to use computers so that they can help their child at home during virtual classes.
- Built a partnership with the parents in Bridgeton Public Schools by listening to their input to better support students with disabilities and ensure that parents are an integral part of the district’s comprehensive support system. Our motto is “It Takes a Whole Village to Raise a Child.”
The New Jersey Department of Education selected Bridgeton School District to participate in the Indicator #8: Parent Involvement Cohort this year to determine how schools are supporting parent involvement in their child’s education program. The Bridgeton SEPAG would like to remind all parents of children receiving special education and related services in the district to please respond to the Indicator #8: Parent Involvement Survey to provide your input.
The Bridgeton SEPAG meets every other month and assists in planning and disseminating information on programs and services to the school community. The SEPAG meetings have different focus and format, including Parents-Only meetings, Meet and Greet with Child Study Team members, educational workshops, etc. Next SEPAG meeting is scheduled on November 19, 2020.
To learn more and to join the Bridgeton SEPAG, please contact Dr. Ajayi at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (856) 455-8030 x2023 or visit the Bridgeton SEPAG webpage at Bridgeton Public Schools Special Education and Student Support.