All Massachusetts school districts are required to support development of an advisory group composed of special education parents, known as a SE-PAC. The Cambridge School Committee had voted to create a paid staff position to support the activities of this group, including organizing workshops and meetings and conducting outreach for mutual support and information-sharing activities.
- SE-PAC Co-chairs and leaders, who had much more experience navigating special education services and systems.
- Partners at the Federation for Children with Special Needs, who offered guidance and best practices
- School district officials, who were somewhat conflicted about supporting parent advocacy
- Parent volunteers including a listserv manager and volunteer webmaster (who I have since replaced, also on a volunteer basis).
- Other family engagement and education staff who supported specific workshops and presentations.
The mission of Cambridge SE-PAC is to work for understanding of, respect for, and support of all children with special needs in the community.Our purpose is to educate and support parents in advocating for their children.
Our goal is to have an active network of parents who work together to provide the best services and programs for our children.
Our guiding principle: Services are determined by the needs of the child, not the availability of programs or resources.
- Worked with parent leaders to build on an existing mission statement to define vision, purpose and goals.
- Chose graphics from low-cost, royalty-free resources to create branded content including a simple logo design.
- Instituted consistent practices for collecting parent contact information, doubling the parent listserv in one year.
- Created branded flyers, brochures and emails to market and promote workshops and presentations.
- Supported workshop attendance by providing childcare and light refreshments.
- Utilized Cambridge Public Schools outreach technology to record robocalls – a highly effective outreach medium for lower-income families.
- Average workshop attendance grew from under 10 per session to an average of 30 -40 per session.
- Collaborated and created educational materials and workshops on topics including communicating with teachers about your child’s needs, representing data visually to support parent-school collaboration, and other advocacy topics and tips.