Editor’s note: this update from Dr. Laura Morana of the Dept. of Special Services (aka Special Education) was included in the first (September 2019) edition of the new South Orange-Maplewood School District Monthly Newsletter, established by Supt. Dr. Ronald Taylor to keep parents, caregivers and the community up to date on important news and information from the school district. As Dr. Taylor states in the newsletter: “We’re striving for clear, useful, transparent communications with you in all spheres, and we genuinely welcome your feedback.”
Special Services Update
Dr. Laura Morana, Interim Assistant Superintendent Special Services
WHO ARE WE? The Department of Special Services is committed to improving results for children and youth with disabilities from birth through age 21. In providing leadership, we collaborate with, and promote collaboration among, staff in the district as well as members of the community at large.
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL YEAR: It’s a new school year, with new teachers, new expectations, and even, for some of our students, a new school! We have a few tips for parents/guardians that we hope will contribute to a successful year.
· Create a binder with all of your special services documentation in chronological order: educational trajectory documents, meeting notices, IEPs, etc.
· Set up a communications log to keep records of phone calls, emails, notes from meetings, etc.
· Inform your child’s teacher, nurse, or administrator if your child or family experienced any changes over the summer or at the beginning of the school year. Keep them informed over the course of the year of any new changes.
· Keep the lines of communication open with your child’s case manager, and reach out with any questions or concerns.
PREPARING FOR LIFE AFTER GRADUATION: The transition from high school to college or career is a critical and potentially challenging one for all students, but particularly for students with disabilities. Working toward New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) can help all students successfully prepare for life after graduation. For students in the Multiple Disabilities class at Columbia High School, identifying career interests and strengths is also a focus. These efforts enable students to make more fulfilling choices regarding post-high-school employment and/or higher education. Special Services is also expanding our Community-Based Instruction (CBI) program in ways that promote successful and sustainable transitions, adding partnerships with local businesses and community resources. As part of our goal to make learning relevant and meaningful, the CBI program extends the scope of learning beyond classroom walls.
NEW ONLINE IEP SYSTEM: The Individual Education Plan (IEP) Improvement Initiative continues to move forward through the conversion to our new IEP system. Although the development and decision-making processes will be the same at IEP meetings, the new online system will provide greater efficiency and will better fulfill the needs of our teachers, parents, Child Study Team members, Related Services providers, and administrators. Special education requirements will remain consistent with state and federal laws. We look forward to coordinating training for our staff and parents. The gradual conversion will be completed in spring 2020.
RELATED SERVICES: Related Services are an integral part of a student’s IEP. The main goal of these services is to help students benefit from the specialized instruction stipulated in their IEPs. To ensure strong, focused collaboration, our department launched a new Related Services team on September 16 made up of highly committed, organized, and caring specialists.