Connect with Other Families

Webinar Wednesdays at 10am

Webinars will be re-broadcast via Zoom so that families can watch, use the chat bar to ask questions, and talk afterwards after as a group. To join, email Zuleka Queen Postell at zqueen-postell@cpsd.us to request the link.

Parent Support groups – Fridays at 10am

Free support group offering support and information, facilitated by New England Home for Little Wanderers. More Information >

Sensory-friendly Netflix Party – FRIDAYS AT 7PM

Join through the Netflix Party App, or join us on Zoom to watch through the SEPAC. Past Family movies have included Farmageddon (A Shaun the Sheep Movie) and Arctic Dogs. Learn More >

SE-PAC Community Meetings – 2nd and 4th sundays at 4pm

Work with other special education parents to advocate for equity and quality in special education in Cambridge. Learn More >

Questions?

Contact Zuleka Queen-Postell at ZQueen-Postell@cpsd.us or (617) 593-4402

SEPAC Statement – May 5, 2019

Statements read at the meeting are in bold with additional details following.

We ask for your consideration for the needs of students with disabilities and particularly low income, black and brown students with disabilities who are the most vulnerable among the most vulnerable students in CPS. Our students make up 1/5th of the total CPS student body and are the lowest performing student group in the district. 

We are speaking on several agenda items:

1) We support motion 20-69 and ask that the Committee additionally specify that a parent of a child on an IEP must be part of every School Improvement Council.  

2) We support motion 20-71 requiring weekly staff check-ins with every student, but ask that staff check-ins also include families, which is not consistently happening at this time according to our members, and students with disability are unable to access the learning material as a result of their parents not understanding what is going on.

3) We are also in support of Motion 20-70, regarding the set up of a recovery task force.  The SE-PAC board should be included as part of the recovery task force, to ensure the perspective of children with disabilities is considered. We also ask that CPS adopt a parent-friendly system for sharing student assessment data such as I-Ready.

In order to adequately address the recovery, we ask that parents be given full information as to how their child is performing compared to educational standards for students at their grade level. We ask that the district move to adopt a system like i-Ready, which is currently being used by a charter school in Cambridge as well as other school districts. We feel that this type of system addresses some equity concerns, not just for students with disabilities, but for all underperforming groups, as it provides communication to families as to the gaps in a student’s education, but provides tools that families can be involved in to address those gaps.

In the meantime, until CPS is able to adopt a system like i-Ready, we ask that after benchmark testing is available over the course of the year a report on results be shared with every family. In this way families will be able to be part of the plan to address their child’s gaps in learning. Only in this way can a true recovery plan address the gaps in education that exist in our District.

4) Regarding the Budget and District Plan, we support the major restructuring of CPS at the levels of Assistant Superintendents and request that the SE-PAC be the district’s resource for appointing a Special Education parent to each of the hiring committees for Cabinet-level positions including Assistant Superintendents of Elementary and Upper School/High Schools and Chief Equity Officer.

Job descriptions of both Assistant Superintendents should include responsibility for  inclusion of students with disabilities within general education settings regardless of placement and collaboration with the Assistant Superintendent for Student Services in order to hold schools accountable for inclusion and achievement goals. To ensure that disability rights are included within the equity vision of CPS, it is fundamentally important that students with disabilities be included in all planning around the position of Chief Equity Officer

5) We also wish to appoint a parent member for the position of Chief Talent Officer to ensure that the successful candidate has experience operating in a unionized setting to both value employees and hold them accountable to appropriate Civil Rights standards. 

6) Finally, we ask that as new structures are finalized, CPS correct the structural power imbalance that places the Assistant Superintendent for Student Services at a lower level of the district hierarchy than other Assistant Superintendents. The Assistant Superintendent for Student Services is responsible for special education quality and compliance within every single school in our district. If the Superintendent truly believes that our students are as important as any others, their highest administrative advocate should report directly to him or her. 

We have advocated for this in the past, and make this recommendation independent of any specific individuals. The role should not be structurally parallel to Curriculum Coordinators and Principals – it should be parallel to the instructional, curriculum and legal compliance leaders of the district. If the Superintendent of Schools truly believes that our students are as important as any others, their highest administrative advocate should report directly to him or her. 

Signed by fifteen current SE-PAC members

  • Ruth Ryan Allen, Co-Chair
  • Pamela Blau
  • Paula Caruso
  • Pia Cisternino
  • Bernette Dawson, Co-Chair
  • Karen Dobak, Co-Chair
  • Mercedes M Soto
  • Luis E. Cotto
  • Lisa Downing
  • Kevin Fanning
  • Katherine Gamble
  • Tina Lieu
  • Rosalie Rippey
  • Madelaine (Misha) Rosenberg
  • Jennifer Kozlik

Letter from DESE and Special Education Parent Toolbox

The following letter was sent to School Districts to distribute to special education families. It was downloaded from the DESE website.

April 9, 2020  

Dear Families and Guardians:

During this period of extended school closure, we recognize this is a difficult time for families, guardians, and caregivers. We understand that one of your concerns is how your children with disabilities will continue to receive support and services from schools while they are closed due to the public health emergency related to COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, we appreciate that families and educators will work together to provide the best possible access to special education instruction and services.

In this letter, I want to share important updates about what schools are doing to support your child during this time. The accompanying Family Resource Toolbox provides some helpful information about resources and strategies for families. 

On March 21, the U.S. Department of Education issued a fact sheet clarifying that schools must continue to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities while protecting the health and safety of students, educators, and service providers. In these extraordinary circumstances, special education services will be provided differently than they are when school buildings are open and fully operational. Remote special education services should start immediately. You do not need to provide consent for remote services to begin. You should receive a plan about how the school will provide remote services.

Read Full Letter:

Family Resource Toolbox

Emergency School Closures: Resources for Our Community

Following are some important resources and sources of information for parents of students with disabilities in Cambridge.

Federation for Children with Special Needs

The Federation for Children With Special Needs has extensive resources for parents of students with disabilities – including distance learning resources and information about students’ legal rights while school buildings are closed. Some key guidance from this website is directly linked below.

View these resources here >


Federal Guidance

“How a district will provide FAPE will look different during this unprecedented period of national and state emergency. While ensuring the health and safety of students and educators is a priority, it may not be feasible during the current period of school closures to provide, for example, hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or tactile sign language services. However, many specialized instructional opportunities and related services may be modified to be effectively provided by sending resources and supports

to students or online or telephonically. Such forms of specialized instruction may include, for instance, accessible reading materials, speech and language services through video conferencing, and videos with accurate captioning. Moreover, districts may continue to implement many of the accommodations on a student’s IEP, such as extensions of time for assignments, large print, and use of speech-to-text and other assistive technology.”

Read full guidance >

Department of Elementary & Secondary Education – Guidance to Special Education Leaders

  • Begin services as soon as you can; add more over time
  • IEP amendments are not required
  • Online or virtual remote learning in this emergency is considered an alternate mode of instructional delivery
  • Give written notice to parents of remote learning plans – what to expect and how services will be delivered
    • Send email or correspondence to documenting services, accommodations, and modes of delivery – could use N1
    • Let parents know who to contact with questions

Read service delivery guidance from April 3 >

First Annual Dyslexia Community Fair

Image of teen girl's hands holding a pen, captioned: Cambridge Public Schools Celebrates Dyslexia Awareness Mongth

First Annual Cambridge Dyslexia Community Fair
Saturday, October 19 from 1-5pm
Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
459 Broadway • Cambridge, MA 02138 

Join us for an afternoon of workshops, guest speakers, simulations, and parent panels. Barbara Wilson, author and co-founder of the Wilson Reading Program, will give a keynote address. Refreshments & childcare will be provided. 

Please RSVP Here >>

Presented by the SEPAC Dyslexia Working Group and the Office of Student Services. Questions? Contact the CPS Office of Student Services 

Cambridge Dyslexia Diaries: Part 1

Principal, Anthony I. Byers, PhD shares his personal story about how he struggled to learn how to read. As an elementary school principal, he offers encouragement and advice to students telling them that with the right instruction and support they will succeed. It is important to raise awareness about dyslexia and highlight the stories of role models so that students do not feel invisible or ashamed but rather understand that they need to learn differently.