WEST ORANGE, NJ - The mood was upbeat, the participants engaged, and the attitude cooperative as the West Orange Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) met to develop its bylaws.
The first meeting of the newly-formed Advisory council was held on September 26 at Central Office and brought together parents, administrators and educators in the West Orange School District selected by Support Services Director Connie Salimbeno to fulfill New Jersey Administrative Code 6A14-1.2: “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.
The meeting began with a report from Ms. Salimbeno regarding the dismissal of the complaint leveled against the West Orange School District by Renay Zamloot, Sue Freivald and Alex DeRonde (Co-presidents of PASSE). The New Jersey Office of Special Education Programs determined that the West Orange School District was "accordingly determined to have been generally compliant with the special education regulations" and, in fact, had gone above and beyond what was required to ensure that paperwork and schedule changes were addressed for Special education students in the seventh and eighth grades at Liberty and Roosevelt Middle Schools. The Board of Education, in a unanimous 4-0 vote, approved the LMS and RMS Schedules on June 26, 2013.
Salimbeno commended the Child Study Teams, the staffs at Liberty and Roosevelt, and the Support Services Department for the amount of output, meetings and schedules revisions for the approximately 175 students in Special Education in LMS and RMS. As of the date of the complaint's dismissal, scheduling for two students still required resolution.
After the report on the complaint dismissal, the newly formed council sat down to discuss the formation of by-laws. The discussion took up the remainder of the meeting. The group plans to meet again in January to finalize the bylaws.
Discussion ensued on the SEPAC website. Salimbeno said that the district would work with them to link their website to the district's Support Services site. Participants discussed what kind of content they would like to see on the site, which included parent resources and information.
The group plans an Open Meeting to introduce itself to the community in early March 2014.
Tonight's participants included a broad spectrum of staff, administrators and parents.
Staff and Administrators included: Joanne Pollara, Principal of Pleasantdale; Marie DeMaio, Principal of Washington; Michelle Thompson, Principal of Gregory; Supervisors Kristen Gogerty and Dawn Ribeiro; teachers Linda Palazzolo, Theresa Garrison, Lisa Rodino, and Kim Murphy-Fields; and parents Mary Anne Lynne, Ellen Gillio, Isabel Novoa, Candy Myrick (who also works with the townships Footsteps program), and Alyse Lillis. Absent were Stacey Forte and Paula Lipkin.
Connie Salimbeno and Interim Superintendent James O'Neill were also present.