The purpose of the Ocean City SEPAG is to keep lines of communication open between parents/families and the Ocean City School District with a focus on special education.
The Ocean City Special Education Parent Advisory Committee was organized in 2013 by then new Director of Special Education Matt Carey. At the first organizational meeting, Marya, a parent leader, volunteered to be the president of the first SEPAC in the district. Marya held the position of president until 2018. Under her leadership, the OC SEPAC (now SEPAG) held numerous informational meetings on various topics important to parents, including Basic Rights in Special Education, the IEP, Community/Recreation Programs, Dyslexia, Transition Planning, Nutrition/Dietary Needs, and Augmentative/Alternative Communication. The group also held several social and support meetings for its members, many of which Marya hosted in her own home.
In 2015, the SEPAG leaders coordinated the Ocean City School District’s first Fitness Fun Day, a free inclusive community event that includes fun outdoor activities and food. It was so successful that it has become an annual tradition. In addition, the SEPAG played an integral part in establishing a Best Buddies Program at the Ocean City High School that was featured by Classroom Close-up, NJ which highlights innovative projects in New Jersey public schools.
In October 2019, now under the leadership of its new president Jodee Wagner, the OC SEPAG held a reorganization meeting to discuss the year ahead and set goals and priorities. One of the goals this year is to have more parents, families, teachers, and community involvement to share ideas, insights, and information. To this end, the OC SEPAG is working to raise awareness about the group in the schools and community: The group leaders attended and spoke at an OC PTA meeting and participated in the IEP/504 Workshop at the College Planning Conference at the Ocean City High School. At both events it was apparent that the SEPAG could be useful to a lot of parents, families, and students in the community.
In addition, this year the OC SEPAG provided input toward the development of an At-a-Glance directory of the special education personnel in the district that will allow families to have quick access to contact information for related services staff. The group will also have the SEPAG flyer available at each of the schools in the district to be shared with parents/families at the IEP and 504 Plan meetings.
The SEPAG has built a collaborative partnership with the OC PTA. The latter has provided several grants over the past few years to enhance special education programs and has organized fun, inclusive events for the students.
The OC SEPAG hosted a social/support meeting for its members in January as a way to engage parents/families, network, socialize, and enjoy a night out!
The OC SEPAG provides updates and shares information with their members on various district-wide initiatives, such as encouraging the use of American Sign Language (ASL) in Ocean City schools. The Ocean City School District is providing free workshops for teachers and staff throughout the year to promote utilization of ASL in the classrooms and throughout the schools. The use of sign language can be a great supplemental tool in teaching all students and is especially helpful for those students who are hearing-impaired, non-verbal, and/or delayed in speech. The use and instruction of sign language also promotes inclusion awareness throughout the school community!
Most recently, the OC SEPAG and the special education department collaborated on creating a Forum on Dyslexia that consisted of parents, teachers, reading specialists, and related services staff discussing strategies, interventions and supports the school district is implementing to meet the needs of all students, especially those struggling to learn to read and/or receiving special education services. The OC SEPAG invited other parent groups in Cape May County to join them as well.
As usual, the OC SEPAG parent representatives attended the Cape May County Quarterly Special Education Parent Leadership Roundtablehosted by the START-Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities Project on March 1, 2019. They were joined by over 30 parent leaders, educators, directors of special education, and community partners from across the county to learn about and exchange ideas around what works to enhance and sustain family engagement in schools to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. As the result, the OC SEPAG committed to hosting a county-wideNurtured Heart Approach training for all interested families and educators.
If you have questions about the OC SEPAG, contact Jodee Wagner, SEPAG President.