Rep. James Arciero advocates for illustration for particular training college students on faculty committees – Lowell Solar
WESTFORD – State Representative James Arciero spoke to the Joint Education Committee calling for a bill that would support parenting councils for special needs education by ensuring representation on local school boards. A virtual hearing was held on July 6th.
A bill submitted by Arciero earlier this year – House Bill 537 – aims to help families with special education students have a stronger voice on school committees. According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, approximately 20% of Commonwealth students are considered special education promoters, ranging from physical to developmental disabilities.
Rep. Arciero graduated from the Westford Public School System and wanted to have a conversation about the needs of special education.
“As someone diagnosed at a young age and early elementary school who has had severe intermittent struggles with dyslexia and ADHD, I understand the important role SEPACs play in the Commonwealth,” said Arciero. In addition, SEPACs work closely with students in need and their families and provide school authorities with a valuable resource.
“Every public school district is required to have a SEPAC, but currently SEPACs only have an advisory role to local school committees, meeting regularly with officials to participate in the planning, development and evaluation of the district’s special education programs,” according to a press release.
“The bill would allow an ex officio seat on a school board without voting rights as a representative of the local school district’s SEPAC. The member would be subject to all rules of the school board. “
Laurie McCarron, a Chelmsford resident who is a member of the city’s SEPAC, said in a testimony: “We have come very far over the years in public education. We still have work to do. Children who were once excluded, are now advancing, are successful and have the chance of an appropriate education have since proven what a true ‘role model’ goes out for all students. “
It was the work of school committee member Alicia Curtin Mallon at SEPAC that inspired her to run for the school committee. “Although I consider our city to be one of the most cooperative in the state for families with children with special needs, the perspective of special educators was often lacking in political discussions,” she said.
Susan Bogosian, Attorney and Legislature Chair of the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association (MAPTA), said, “This would provide a stronger communication link between SEPACs and school boards and a unified means of communication across the Commonwealth and a more clearly defined role for SEPACs,” added that the bill would give families and students a greater voice “as they deal with the unique challenges of quality education with one or more disabilities”.
In addition to Curtin Mallon, Bogosian, and McCarron, school committee member Gloria Miller and Kathy Norton also testified for the law.
“I would like to thank Alicia Curtin Mallon, Susan Bogosian, Gloria Miller, Kathy Norton, and Laurie McCarron for their leadership in this legislation and on SEPAC issues. This is their idea and I pay tribute to all of them as I am happy to be working with my district in general and the SEPAC families to bring about this important change, ”said Arciero.