It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. In Robbinsville’s case, it was the mother of the creation of its SEPAG.
Covid-19 has been difficult for everyone, particularly special education students who had to transition to virtual learning. So, in the summer of 2020, during the height of the pandemic, a group of parents in Robbinsville decided to create a SEPAG to ensure the district’s most vulnerable learners were receiving the services they needed. Creating and organizing a SEPAG is challenging even in the best of times, and the emotions of dealing with the pandemic didn’t make things any easier. But with an emphasis on collaboration with administration and consistent communication with parents, the Robbinsville SEPAG has steadily increased membership, created forums for parents to educate themselves on topics that assist their children, and created a well-respected forum to provide administration with benchmark data and requests that have resulted in numerous additions to much needed staffing and programming.
One of the key administrative collaborators has been Superintendent Brian Betze, who joined the district in July 2020. Mr. Betze, along with Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Tew and Director of Student Services Rajneet Goomer, have been consistent attendees and contributors at SEPAG meetings. Their willingness to work with the SEPAG and listen to the concerns of parents has been vital to the group’s success to this point. Some of the highlights that have resulted from this collaboration include the additions of full-time Board-Certified Behavior Analyst for the district, a Supervisor of Literacy and Interventions, and a transition coordinator. In addition, several members of the Robbinsville Board of Education attend each of our formal meetings as well as multiple other community platform events, and they have named a specific Chair on the Board that is responsible for overseeing Special Education in the district and directly partnering with SEPAG.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Robbinsville SEPAG’s development, however, has been an emphasis on communication and planning, which has been spearheaded by the SEPAG’s chair, Loni Jakub. The group’s communications feature a weekly newsletter and planning document that parents can easily access. The document is constantly updated with community-outreach events, meeting topics and minutes, and future speakers.
In addition, our outreach commitment has resulted in partnerships with local and national businesses that include the following in-kind donations: SEPAG printed promotional materials and giveaways used to increase group awareness at community day events, over 150 book donations on disabilities awareness to Robbinsville schools, and job sampling opportunities for our most vulnerable students transitioning into adulthood.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the passionate group of parents and caregivers that Robbinsville is lucky enough to have. The SEPAG encourages the expression of many points of view and along with the strong commitment from our community, we believe the SEPAG will continue to flourish in the coming years. The town of Robbinsville is in Mercer County and almost directly in the center of New Jersey. The school district is composed of about 3,000 students.
Robbinsville SEPAG Steering Team
Chair – Loni Jakub
Vice Chair – Kevin Greczek
Secretary – Cathleen Palace
Outreach Coordinator – Jennifer Manna
Kathleen Nitti, Beth Hoffman, Sarah Reggimenti, Renee Dutcher, Lisa Yanucil, and Kristin Robinson