August 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
Inclusion Training Series
Free Two-Part Training Series
Participants will apply the knowledge they acquire in this hands-on training. They will learn to create more inclusive opportunities in schools and communities for  ALL  children.

Part 1 : Learn how planning for MEANINGFUL Inclusion can make a difference. Let's make a plan to include.

Part 2 : Learn how Strength-Based IEPs and SMART Goals can help support students with disabilities.

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

Part 1: September 10, 6:30-8:00 PM
Part 2: September 24, 6:30-8:00 PM

Hamilton Public Library
1 Justice Samuel A Alito Way
Hamilton Township, NJ


Part 1: September 23, 6:30-8:00 PM
Part 2: September 30, 6:30-8:00 PM

Clifton Public Library
292 Piaget Avenue
Clifton, NJ

This Inclusion Training Series piloted in August with workshops taking place in Millville, Cumberland County. Parents and professionals from Southern NJ counties reflected on their views about Inclusion, discussed barriers to Inclusion and offered solutions to enhancing Inclusive practices for families, communities, and schools. In addition, participants engaged in planning a vision for a meaningful, Inclusive life for their children and learned how to develop strength-based IEPs and SMART goals to help support students with disabilities.

What did these participants say were the best features of this training?

"Parent/professional/advocate interaction"
"Informative and helpful!"
NEW TOOL for Your Leadership Toolbox
Quick Guide "What is the Process for
Staring a SEPAG?"
It takes time, effort, and patience to build an effective Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG). A well-structured process when starting a parent group boosts positive parent input and effective partnerships.

Download the Quick Guide "What is the Process for Starting a SEPAG?" in English and Spanish.

*Download them ALL:

" What are the Results of an Effective SEPAG? " in English and Spanish.
Parent Group Highlights
Cinnaminson Township Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG)
Cinnaminson Township, which is a small school district in Burlington County, had a well-established SEPAG in the past but as children graduated, parent leaders moved on.  The parents currently in the district wanted an advisory group that addressed system-level challenges affecting students with disabilities and their families —in other words, a Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG).

In 2017, parents reached out to the START-Engaging Parents of Students with Disabilities (START-EPSD) Project at SPAN Parent Advocacy Network to request assistance in forming a SEPAG. Over the last two years, the Parent Group Specialist from the START-EPSD project has worked with the group of parent leaders to begin a SEPAG by building their capacity through workshops and team building activities , and by providing opportunities to network with parent leaders from other SEPAGs.

As a result, the Cinnaminson SEPAG has established ground rules for their meetings, agreed on a mission and vision statement , and created and distributed a parent survey to all families of the district. In addition, SEPAG leaders discussed, prioritized, and addressed systemic issues concerning special education. Because of this dialog, the district added a SEPAG link to the parent tab on the Cinnaminson Township Public School website. They also created outreach materials, increased parent involvement, and collaborated with the Child Study Team to present a training focused on parental rights in the IEP process.

All of the parents and the new Child Study Team Director, Darlene Llewellyn, play a vital role in the success of the SEPAG. They work together to bridge communication between families, schools, and the community to ensure students with special needs reach their fullest potential.

For more information, you can email the Cinnaminson SEPAG at

Also, please visit and “like” the Cinnaminson SEPAG Facebook page where you can view meeting minutes, complete the parent survey (if you are a Cinnaminson resident), and hear about upcoming events.  
Union Special Education Parent
Advisory Group (SEPAG)
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.

For more information, please visit the Union SEPAG web page and Union SEPAG Facebook Page
Short Survey: "How Could SEPAGs Build Diverse Family Engagement?"
Please help us identify effective and creative strategies, techniques, or tips to increasing culturally responsive practices when it comes to engaging culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families on SEPAGs.

* For the purpose of this survey, the following definition of culturally and linguistically diverse families is used: Culturally and linguistically diverse families are families who come from a home environment where a language other than English is spoken and whose cultural, ethnic, social values, and background may differ from the mainstream culture.  

Link to t he CLD SEPAG Survey in English and  Encuesta SEPAG-DCL   in Spanish.
2019 Archived Webinars
"Inclusion: What Parents Can Do!"
Webinar Recording
On June 19, 2019, the START-EPSD Project presented the "Inclusion: What Parents Can Do!" webinar. In this one-hour webinar, the audience learned about the benefits of inclusion for ALL students. The participants had the opportunity to hear from family members self-advocates as they shared their experiences with inclusion.

Watch the webinar recording and check out the Inclusion resources

Remember   #InclusionMeansAll 

For additional information, please contact Brenda Figueroa, Inclusion Programs Coordinator, at
"New Jersey Tiered System of Supports"
Webinar Recording
"New Jersey Tiered System of Supports" Lunchtime webinar aired on June 27, 2019. The webinar discussed why it is important that parents understand what New Jersey Tiered System of Supports (NJTSS) is, how they can get involved in the NJTSS process, and what effective strategies parents can use at home.

For additional information, please contact Monique Dujue Wilson, NJTSS Programs Coordinator, at or (201) 932-6585.
"Let's Read Together!
Tips to make story time fun and frequent!"
Webinar Recording
The webinar “Let’s Read Together! Tips to make story time fun and frequent!” was held on August 14, 2019. We discussed behaviors and actions that parents can engage in at home to support their children becoming successful and motivated readers. Parents learned about the skills that build good readers, and we gave them tips so that they could calmly address some of the more challenging story time behaviors. 

Access the webinar recording, handouts, and Literacy Resource Collection

For additional information, please contact Debbie Esposito, Literacy Programs Coordinator, at or (201) 873-6473.
Let's Read Together!
NJEA Teacher convention weekend is a time for teachers to sharpen their skills and stay current in their subject areas. Well, guess what? As our children’s’ first teachers, we parents need to sharpen our skills too!

This child-friendly, interactive workshop will give you the chance to stay up to date on ways to build vocabulary and reading skills at home. You are invited to bring your children to this half-day workshop, where together you will both:

  • Practice reading together in a way that honors your child’s age and stage
  • Learn ways to make your time together even more enjoyable
  • Learn to make shared reading time a two-way conversation
  • Create crafts and play games that build vocabulary and print awareness

Choose one of three locations:

Thursday, November 7th

Time: 10am-1pm

Learning Resource Center-Central
200 River View Plaza
Trenton, NJ

Friday, November 8th

Time: 10am-1pm

Clifton Allwood Branch Library
44 Lyall Rd
Clifton, NJ 07012 

Saturday, November 9th

Time: 10am-1pm

Pleasantville Library
33 Martin Luther King Ave
Pleasantville, NJ 08232
Facebook LIVE Event:
"SEPAG - School District's Best Kept Secret"
SEPAGs Bring Parents to the Table
Debra Jennings, executive co-director of SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, speaks informally about the New Jersey's SEPAG Guide and the development of the National Advocacy in Action guidebook in a Facebook LIVE event.

New Jersey Administrative Code states:  
Each board of education shall 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.  6A:14-1.2(h)

Parent and district leaders can learn how to develop and manage an effective SEPAG in the downloadable NJ's  SEPAG Guide in English . and SEPAG Guide in Spanish.

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