February 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! 
NEW TOOL for Your Leadership Toolbox
Quick Guide to “Engaging the School District During a Change in Administration

When a school or school district’s administration changes, parent leaders need to take several steps before, during, and after any new leadership comes on board. This Quick Guide offers helpful tips and strategies for a smoother transition. 

The SEPAG Survey

Special Education Parent Advisory Groups, or SEPAGs, are skilled in creating partnerships to tackle special education issues. This know-how comes from personal experiences of SEPAG members and how they invite diverse viewpoints, suggest strategies, and use best practices.

Your answers to this survey will help create a collection of success stories and practices. These stories will highlight the accomplishments of SEPAGs in New Jersey, and some of them will even be shared in future issues of our newsletter. Thank you in advance for your participation!

Link to The SEPAG Survey in English and La encuesta del SEPAG   in Spanish.
National Parent Leadership Month Celebration
Two outstanding parent leaders were nominated by the START-EPSD Project for the Parent Leadership Awards at the Parents, Inc. Annual Parent Leadership Recognition Event.

April M. Maxwell-Henley was nominated by START's Michele Tyler for the "2019 Jolly K Award" for her exemplary parent leadership and contribution to the Willingboro School District Special Education Parent Advisory.

Israel Montesinos was nominated by START's Stefanie Babits for the "Parent Recognition Award" for his leadership role on the Middlesex County Against Bullying group.

Congratulations to all!
Parent Leaders on a Mission
Israel (Izzy) Montesinos began his parent advocacy journey in October 2017 when he connected with the Middlesex County Council for Young Children (MCCYC). He saw issues that were affecting his children and his community and wanted to be a voice of change.

During his time with MCCYC, he connected with the SPAN START-EPSD team, learned more about parental rights in special education, and engaged local organizations to advocate for his children and others in the community.

As Izzy became more involved in addressing bullying issues in his community, he was invited to be a special guest at the Bullying Parent Café hosted by the Alianza Latina del Condado de Passaic (see Parent Group Highlights below). Izzy shared his family’s story with the parents and in return, left feeling inspired to launch Alianza Latina del Condado de Middlesex. This group meets the third Thursday of every month at the Harmony Family Success Center in New Brunswick.

Not only will Izzy grow his group in Middlesex County, he will also complete two SPAN trainings this year: "SPAN Resource Parent" and "Special Education Volunteer Advocate (SEVA)."
Izzy’s passion and drive to give back to his community while being a role model for his five children is truly an example of the type of parent leaders we love to highlight at SPAN.
As a wife, Lupus warrior, and mother of three children, one of which has special needs, April is very involved in her children’s school and their community.

Living in a district that is identified as targeted and comprehensive from the NJ Department of Education, April has shown that parent involvement can make a difference. 

Although April works an overnight shift for the State of NJ, she volunteers consistently in the school district as a substitute teacher in the classroom or wherever she is needed. She is president of the Memorial Middle School PTA, secretary for the Burlington County Council PTA, and is very active in other various groups in the district, including the Willingboro School District Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG). April has a great relationship with many of the parents and faculty in her district. 

April received her Master’s degree in Public Service Leadership and Bachelor’s of Arts from Thomas Edison State College, all while raising her three children. She is always ready to help other families as a SEPAG member and a Special Education Volunteer Advocate through the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network. 

April exemplifies the type of parent and community involvement that the Jolly K
Award represents.
Parent Group Highlights:
Alianza Latina del Condado de Passaic
The Alianza Latina del Condado de Passaic (ALCP) is a strong, committed group of parents that came together because of their shared vision to improve their communities. The group’s journey began in March 2018 with the START Project workshop “Overrepresentation of Students of Color in Special Education and Disciplinary Actions.” Through tough discussions and heartfelt confessions, many expressed concerns for their communities. It was because of this information sharing that the group decided to take action .
The parents engaged in various activities facilitated by the Parent Group Specialist, who guided the group through the principles of shared decision making . From the selection of the group’s name, through the creation of shared vision and mission statements, to the development of the group’s brochure , everyone was an equal partner . Everyone provided input and shared responsibilities . Everyone played a role in the group’s decision making and outcomes. This process has strengthened the group and ensured collaboration . The Alianza Latina del Condado de Passaic is gaining momentum with their shared vision for an inclusive and diverse community.

For more information about the group and to attend their meetings, please see the ALCP brochure .
Want to learn more about shared decision making? Contact START-EPSD Project and learn about Processes and Tools Groups Use 
Parent Group Listings
Special Education Parent Advisory Groups (SEPAGs) are required for all school districts in New Jersey. The purpose of these groups is to provide opportunities for parents and community members to offer input to their districts on critical issues related to students with disabilities.

Check the Parent Group listing to connect with the parent group in your area. If your district does not have a group and you need help with starting one or you need help with running an existing group, please contact a Parent Group Specialist in your county.

View and download the SEPAG Guide in English.
View and download the 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