News & Events

SE-PAC Elections

While all Special Education families are part of the Cambridge SE-PAC, the SE-PAC Leadership Team requests that you consider stepping up to serve as an officer to make the team stronger, increase diversity and be more inclusive.

SE-PAC Officers must commit 20 hours per month of their time for the full school year. These hours may include attending meetings and workshops, planning events, providing support and referrals to families, writing statements, among other activities.

Please fill out the below form by Tuesday, July 14th to nominate yourself to be an officer on the Leadership Team.

An election form will be sent out Monday, July 20th with the election ending Wednesday, July 29th. An announcement listing our newly elected Leadership Team will be sent out Friday, July 31st.

As a first step in working toward becoming a more anti-racist and inclusive organization, the role of Co-Chair will be shared among the newly elected Leadership Team members who by taking on a specific role or to help manage the sub-committees listed below.

  • Parent/Caregiver Support: Supporting parent/caregiver advocacy and developing a family-to-family mentorship program
  • Workshops: Planning and setting priorities for parent/caregiver education
  • Outreach & Communication: Communicate with families, district, partner organizations and the public
  • School Committee Relations: Attending and organizing attendance at school committee meetings
  • Racial Equity: Lead advocacy efforts around racial equity & special education
  • Community-Building: Building community among special education parents and caregivers
  • Awareness Raising: Organizing and supporting organization of disability awareness activities
  • School Relations: Supporting and structuring connections with all CPS schools
  • Compliance Monitoring: Taking action related to district legal compliance
  • Leadership Development: Empowering leadership skills within the SE-PAC and SE-PAC Board
  • Treasurer/Co-Treasurer: Develop and coordinate finances

Even if you’re unable to be part of the Leadership Team, we encourage you to reach out with any concerns to the SE-PAC through the Special Education Liaison, Zuleka Queen-Postell, zqueen-postell@cpsd.us or the SE-PAC Twitter or Facebook pages to ensure that your voice is heard.

Creating Hope: A Dialogue with DJ Savares

Cambridge SE-PAC has been invited to join a special opportunity:  Creating Hope: A Dialogue with DJ Savarese at 3 pm EST on Sunday, June 14th

“Hope is not easy. Hope is hard. But what if we imagine living life as a perpetual meditation on Hope? In this webinar, I make visible what helps me create hopeful possibilities in a world that is thankfully always coming-into-being.”

Prior to the dialogue, join us for a screening of the documentary, Deej Sunday, June 14th at 1:30 Register HERE

Deej is the story of DJ Savarese (“Deej”), a gifted, young writer and advocate for non-speaking autistics. Once a “profoundly disabled” foster kid on a fast track to nowhere, DJ is now a first-year college student who insists on standing up for his peers: people who are dismissed as incompetent because they are neurologically diverse. Will Deej be able to find freedom for himself and others like him?

Join us this Sunday, June 14th at 1:30 for a viewing of the Documentary. Register HERE

Then join DJ himself for his “Creating Hope” Dialogue at 3 pm EST/2 pm CST/ 1 pm MT/ 12 pm PT. 

Link for CREATING HOPE will be shared at the Documentary viewing.

For Questions an Comments Please Contact Zuleka Queen-Postell, ZQueen-Postell@gmail.com

Connect with Other Families

Webinar Wednesdays at 10am

Webinars will be broadcast via Zoom so that families can watch as a group, use the chat bar to ask questions, and talk afterwards. We are currently working through the Basic Rights in Special Education trainings of the Federation for Children with Special Needs. 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 Wednesdays at 6pm

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, 2020

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 >