Special Education Parents Sought For Advocacy Groups

File Photo

  MANCHESTER – Special education parents who may have concerns or questions regarding their child’s education are being sought in Manchester and Lakehurst.

  All school districts in New Jersey are required, by law, to “ensure that a special education parent advisory group is in place in the district to provide input to the district on issues concerning students with disabilities.”

  Parent organizations (Parent Advisory Committees) in the township and nearby Lakehurst Borough have been formed to help improve the needs and services of special education children in both districts.

  A public meeting will be held on June 17 for the Manchester School District special education community and parents are calling for a large attendance at the session.

  “We are trying to find as many families that live in the Manchester school district and have children in special education programs,” Heather Cramer said. “Our contact email is MTSDParentAdvisory@gmail.com.”

  Cramer added that she and other parents have been working with the district “all year and have made great strides in providing the basic information on what the parents need to help their children with their education.”

  “Now we need to hear directly from the parents to ensure the SEPAG (Special Education Parents Advisory Group) is prioritizing the areas to be addressed by the district in the upcoming year. This is a huge endeavor and the parents committed to this group not only want the proper changes to occur for their child but also to implement a checks and balance system to ensure the district remains compliant in the best way possible,” Cramer said.

  Cramer said that parents of special education children feel there are gaps in special education practices and with the community standing together the “needed changes will occur.”

  Carly Fredricks is serving as the Manchester Township District SEPAG chair and can be reached by e-mail at MTSDParentAdvisory@gmail.com or by calling 732-690-6399.

  An anonymous survey was created by the Manchester Township Special Education SEPAG. The purpose of the survey is to better understand the implementation of a child’s individualized education plan regardless of a child’s cohort (in school or remote) this year. Input from the survey will be shared with the district administration to help identify strategies and best practices to plan for the 2021-2022 school year.

  Cramer said “not all of the sections or choices in this survey may be directly relevant to your child, but please complete each question to the best of your ability to reflect your experiences about your child’s individualized services.”

  The objectives of the survey is to assess overall experiences related to individualized services, collect data related to direct services, programming and placement. Survey responses will be collected, reviewed and submitted to the Special Education and District Administration (SPED).

  This information will be presented to the SPED Advisory that is open to the general public at some point in the future. Cramer urged parents to join “our email list for updated information, you will receive a personal invitation once you submit the survey. The goal is to work collaboratively to identify best practices and implementation of individualized services in the future.”

  Alana Scott, serving as the Lakehurst School District SEPAG recently addressed the membership of the Lakehurst Board of Education. She asked the board to assign a board member as a liaison to the newly formed group during that meeting.

  Scott said, “I’ve been on the internet trying to get our parents to collaborate and to advise them on special education issues in the district. We are open to the public and we are trying to get (school) staff involved as well.”

  She said the group networks with other groups as well as the SEPAG in Manchester. “We are not a PTA or PTO, special education event planner but we are a group that discusses issues relevant to special education and related services.”

  “We will meet every second Wednesday of the month. Our times vary. We are trying to get parents involved. We are helping parents advocate for their children. I am an advocate. We are trying to create a resource base for all parents to go to online,” Scott added.

  Scott stressed the purpose of the group was to “to empower parents to become more effective advocates for their own children and we want ensure every special education child has an effective education. We want to support parents in finding resources be it federal, state or local government.”

  “At this time, we are seeking the Board’s assistance in having a representative at our quarterly meetings. We would like to see special education students have a voice,” Scott said adding that she had a special presentation that could be made to the Board at a later time. She can be reached via e-mail at LDSEPAG@gmail.com or by calling 848-333-4918.