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West Orange School District Establishes Special Education Parent Advisory Committee

Cynthia Cumming

Friday, October 11, 2013 • 6:16pm

WEST ORANGE, NJ – On September 26, the first meeting of the newly established Special Education Parent Advisory Committee was held at Central Office.  In attendance were the appointed members, representative of the elementary, middle and high schools though parent, staff and administrator participation. Also present at the meeting was Connie Salimbeno, Director of the Department of Student Support Services, and Interim Superintendent James O’Neill.

The Parent Advisory Committee was formed pursuant to 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 committee gathered to establish ground rules and procedures for the meetings, which are expected to be held every 4-5 weeks and last approximately one hour.  Information from successful Parent Advisory Committees in other school districts were reviewed.

The committee was divided into sub-committees to develop a Mission Statement, By-Laws, and goals.  Strengths and concerns of the Special Education programs were discussed, including the committee’s desire to continue to see special education students challenged and encouraged with a ‘can do’ attitude.  The committee also wants to see more parent and teacher education, better communication between parents and administrators, and have a positive and collaborative impact in the community.

Other goals include the development of a Parent Advisory Committee website.  

Interim Superintendent James O'Neill was enthusiastic about the formation of the Parent Advisory Committee, noting "School districts always benefit from the constructive input of parents and staff who deal with the challenges and rewards of special education daily. We appreciate the willingness of the volunteers to spend time on this important committee. We hope to learn the value of existing programs, suggestions for new programs and suggestions for enhancing other programs."

Student Support Director Connie Salimbeno will have charge and oversight over the group.  

In an interview with the Alternative Press, Ms. Salimbeno looked forward to the positive and proactive effort, saying "I am excited to begin this collaborative process with parents, teachers, members of the Child Study Team and my fellow administrators. I consider myself fortunate to be a part of such a great team, district and department.  More than just complying with a State mandate to have a parent advisory group in place, it is my hope that through this group we will be able to make a difference in not only the great programs we currently have but to provide a forum for positive discussion on parent concerns and for parents to know they have a place for their voices to be heard. I am so appreciative of the time volunteered by these individuals to be a part of this committee."

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