May 2019 Issue
SPAN Parent Leadership E-News
Dear Parent Leaders,

Our newsletter is designed to support individuals who passionately represent the needs and perspectives of all parents. Parent leaders become role models for parent engagement, advocating not only on behalf of their own children, but for ALL children! 

~ START-Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities in Schools (START-EPSD) Project Team
Upcoming Webinar
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
12 NOON - 1 PM
Join us for a lunchtime webinar where we will:
  • Discuss what parents need to know about Inclusion
  • Discuss the benefits to ALL students
  • Share resources and information about our upcoming hands-on 2 part Inclusion workshop series

To register online:

To register by phone or for more information:
Call (973) 642-8100 ext. 123 or

2019 SPAN Parent Leadership and Advocacy Conference
"Your Leadership Compass:
Appreciating Diverse Work Styles"
Leadership is about working well with your team. This principle was the focus of a highly interactive session "Your Leadership Compass: Appreciating Diverse Work Styles" presented by Stefanie Babits and Tatsiana DaGrosa, Parent Group Specialists on the START-Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities Project at the 2019 SPAN Parent Leadership and Advocacy Conference.

Through hands-on activities and interactions, session participants explored four primary work styles, discovered why they work the way they do, as well as identified skills and strengths they would like to enhance. Leadership Compass is an excellent self-refection tool for imp roving team accountability because it challenges people to consider the way in which their style plays out on a team or a group and helps balance the team or fit a situation.

Here are some of the comments shared by session attendees:
“Wonderful! Learned so much.”
“Great session!”
“This has been a great workshop! Will definitely use every skill I learned to help create and strengthen my network.”

To discover your work style, take the Leadership Compass Self-Assessment
"It's Never Too Early: Starting Families on Their Leadership Path"
Every New Jersey county has established a County Council for Young Children (CCYC) that is charged with strengthening collaboration between parents, families, and community stakeholders to positively impact the health, education, and well-being of children from pregnancy/birth to age 8.

Debbie Esposito and Monique Dujue Wilson, Parent Group Specialists and former CCYC Regional Coordinators, along with a panel of parents from the CCYCs facilitated a session "It's Never Too Early: Starting Families on Their Leadership Path." Family leaders shared their experiences as members of the council and provided strategies for session participants to get involved in their communities and create change.

The session participants shared the following comments:
“The workshop gave me confidence that I can be a leader even though I am very shy and timid.”
“Wonderful presentation. Encouraged to do MORE!!”

NEW TOOL for Your Leadership Toolbox
Quick Guide "What are the Results of an Effective SEPAG?"
Effective Special Education Parent Advisory Groups (SEPAGs) offer chance to give feedback to district leadership. They can turn needs of students into direct strategies for change. The results can benefit many students, their families, and the school system.

Download the Quick Guide "What are the Results of an Effective SEPAG?" in English and Spanish.

START-Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities is a partnership between the New Jersey Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (NJOSEP) and SPAN Parent Advocacy Network. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the Department of Education. No official endorsement by NJOSEP of any product, commodity, service or enterprise mentioned on this newsletter is intended or should be inferred.  
Parent Group Highlights:
Ocean City Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG)
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 SEPA G ) 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 Roundtable hosted 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-wide Nurtured Heart Approach training for all interested families and educators.

If you have questions about the OC SEPAG, c ontact  Jodee Wagner, SEPAG President
First Results of the SEPAG Survey are IN!
"What are the main qualities of your SEPAG that make families want to be involved? "
"The SEPAG meetings are held during evenings and after work"

" Outreach to others"

"We accomplish things at the meetings"

" Organization ! No one likes their time wasted:
  • Schedules for the year are posted in September
  • Meetings are only one hour long, from 7-8 pm
  • Interesting topics
  • Free food and babysitting"

"SEPAG in our district is run efficiently . It's leaders are strong and extremely knowledgeable "

"We welcome all !" " Transparency and support "

"It is not a gripe session "
"What would you like to say to your fellow
SEPAG members?"
"I would like to say that you have to be the change you want to see "
" Thank you! "

" We've worked hard to be independent of the school and not an organization run by them. We know the school is not allowed to give us contact information, so it was difficult to build a database of parents . However, after 9 years, we have 250 members in our group. We seek emails at Back To School Night, Challenger Events and word-of-mouth"

" I appreciate each of you , for sacrificing your time for our meetings. We can always use MORE community/SEPAC involvement . But we at least have a dedicated few"
" It's all up to us! "
To share your ideas, thoughts, and to suggest strategies for starting and developing SEPAGs, please take the SEPAG Survey. Your answers to this survey will help create a collection of success stories and best practices to highlight the accomplishments of SEPAGs in New Jersey.

Link to  The SEPAG Survey in English and  La encuesta del SEPAG   in Spanish.
Join us on Thursday, June 27th
NOON -1 PM to discuss:

New Jersey Tiered System of Supports (NJTSS)

Learn what Parents need to know.

For more information, contact START-EPSD Project -
SPAN Parent Advocacy Network - Our Vision  is that all families will have the resources and support they need to ensure that their children become fully participating and contributing members of our communities and society.  Our Mission i s to empower and support families and inform and involve professionals interested in the healthy development and education of children and youth. Our foremost commitment is to children and families with the greatest need due to disability or special health/mental health needs; poverty; discrimination based on race, sex, language, immigrant or homeless status; involvement in the foster care, child welfare, or juvenile justice systems; geographic location; or other special circumstances.  Our Motto is, "Empowered Parents: Educated, Engaged, Effective!"
SPAN Parent Advocacy Network | 35 Halsey Street, Newark, NJ | 1-800-654-SPAN