WOBURN - The temporary head of a special education (SPED) parent advocacy group heralded vastly improved lines of communication between the budding organization and school officials in recent months.
During a recent School Committee meeting, local resident Meghan Chapman, the interim coordinator for the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC), welcomed the spirit of cooperation between parents and administrators like SPED Director Kim Lawrence late this summer.
Chapman, who is trying to revive the group's membership after longtime SEPAC Chair Kerstin Lochrie stepped down from the organization last year, had been somewhat dismayed earlier in the summer, after she received a copy of a state review of the SPED department months after it had been initially released.
That state examination, which checked the city's compliance with state and federal regulations in various areas, identified 19 issues, where the city's SPED department wasn't following those guidelines.
During a meeting with other parents last August, fellow SEPAC member Laurel Collins, an educational advocate asked to examine the results of the state review, complained that school officials didn't reach out to the SEPAC after the report was issued last January, despite the fact that state education officials asked for group's input.
However, during the recent meeting, Chapman clarified what had transpired, pointing out that she and other parents had met with Lawrence and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Gary Reese last June, when reference was made to the coordinated review findings.
Chapman recalled being surprised to learn that the report had been released, and when she voiced her concerns that parents hadn't received a copy, Reese immediately made arrangements to provide her with one. According to the local parent, Reese apologized at that time for the delay in releasing the findings, telling Chapman that he assumed she had already seen the document.
Since the parent meeting in August, Chapman added, SEPAC members have been in regular contact with administrators and School Committee member Michael Mulrenan.
"The very next day [after that August meeting], we met with [central administrators] and they answered all of our questions. Since then, people are thrilled with the corrective action plan," said Chapman.
Of the 19 issues identified in the coordinated review, only three still have to be addressed, according to school officials.
With Chapman and other parents trying to revive the SEPAC, which by state mandate is charged with the task of advising the school department on SPED issues, the group will host a reorganization meeting next Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the Joyce Middle School.
The gathering, which will feature Lawrence as a guest speaker, will begin at 7 p.m.
On Tuesday, Oct. 29, in another meeting at the Joyce Middle School, SEPAC members will begin accepting nominations from begin accepting nominations for officers on a newly constituted executive board for the organization.
An election will then be held on Nov. 12, with the first meeting of the executive board scheduled for Jan. 14.
Those interested in learning more about the advocacy group can visit its website at www.woburnsepac.org.