A Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG) gives parents the opportunity to provide direct input to their school district about policies, programs, practices, and services that have an impact on students with disabilities and their families. An effective SEPAG can increase the proactive involvement of families by inviting input that can be used to shape local special education policy.
In Spring 2017, a group of parents from Union Public Schools met to begin creating such a group. A Parent Group Specialist from SPAN came and did a workshop for parents and staff on how to run an effective SEPAG . By August, the Union SEPAG was up and ready to go. The executive board is comprised of five parents: Elsie Mackey and Carla Vicari (Co-Chairs), Suehay Monge, Chastity Santana and Kara West.
Since launching, the Union SEPAG has been instrumental in providing workshops to the community on such topics as Restraint and Seclusion, Parent Rights in Special Education, and IEP Bootcamp. The advocacy tools and education provided have helped parents and guardians become more knowledgeable, manage their child’s disability, and understand they are the key piece to their children’s success . Additionally, meeting regularly has created a stronger community . The Union SEPAG and the BOE have built a dynamic relationship of collaboration and communication to help create a road map of success for children and families with disabilities. This has placed SEPAG in the community as a key participant in discussions and activities that addresses systemic issues .
When asked about what has contributed to their success, the team said that their success lies in communicating and working clearly and effectively , not only as a team, but with parents/guardians, Special Education Administration, the Superintendent, and Assistant Superintendents. They believe in creating change , and each of them represents various perspectives of raising children with disabilities: diabetes, autism, anxiety, and ADHD, to name a few. Their children range from Pre-K to High School so they feel they are able to connect with all.