Monday, August 8, 2011

CACSE's Year

I've been working really hard these past three weeks on a fair number of projects for CACSE  (the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Special Education).  One of the projects was to create a brochure to explain who we are and what we do.  That's always been a tough one to explain because to be quite honest and up-front about it, though we've tried, we really haven't done much for a really long time.  Sure, we've accomplished small goals, but they haven't gotten after our main purpose, which is to advocate for the educational needs of children in our county.

We haven't had the infrastructure necessary to have a voice and to have that voice heard.  In my opinion, we also don't seem to have more than nominal support from the Department of Special Education, but it's hard to pinpoint why I feel that way.  It seems like sometimes there are out-and-out roadblocks, but at other times, it seems to be a lack of help.  To be fair, we've behaved like children to the the department's adult, looking for information and direction that rarely came, and that needs to change.

Now, though, we've established goals and have a better idea of what our purpose is.  We're working to stand on our own two feet.  And, again in my opinion, one of the best things that has set us on the path toward doing something has been the establishment of committees so that we can identify issues and assign jobs (rather than simply attend monthly meetings and do little else).  Granted, most of the jobs since the establishment of committees in April have been about building that infrastructure, but we're getting there, and I believe that we can get there this year

Which brings me back to the brochure.  We set up the main content to address what CACSE is, what members can get from it, and what members can bring to it.  (Imagine that all pretty in a tri-fold brochure, complete with the CACSE logo.)

According to Maryland law, each local school system must establish a special education citizens’ advisory committee. CACSE fulfills this requirement for St. Mary's County Public Schools.

Some of the functions of CACSE are:

  • to study specific issues and concerns of parents, educators, concerned citizens, and the Board of Education
  • to advise and counsel the Department of Special Education and the St. Mary’s County Board of Education about the needs of children and youth with disabilities
  • to advise and counsel on the relevancy of educational programs and related services to meet the needs of children and youth with disabilities
  • to offer suggestions for the local proposed budget
What Can CACSE Do for You? 

CACSE offers the opportunity...
  • to become more knowledgeable about local, state, and national special education issues
  • to collaborate with the Department of Special Education to improve the education of children with special needs
  • to hear the monthly Director's Report about developments and changes within the Department of Special Education
  • to influence decisions and policy
  • to meet other parents, educators, and service providers with similar goals
CACSE offers local workshops on special education topics.

CACSE can provide funding for members to attend conferences.

CACSE Needs You

CACSE needs your experiences, perspectives, insights, and ideas.

  • Come to a monthly meeting and see what CACSE is all about.
  • Volunteer to be the CACSE representative (or alternate) for your school or agency.
Representatives are voting members of CACSE and agree:
  • to attend monthly CACSE meetings
  • to report relevant meeting information to their agency or school (to principals or SIT teams, for example)
  • to focus on group needs rather than personal issues
CACSE meetings are open to the public. You do not have to be a school or agency representative to attend.
I actually started this post to gripe.  My particular committee is overburdened and understaffed, and I'm really tired.  Reports were due in today, and my committee (three people total, but summer vacations and other life happenings kicking in) had to do the brochure but also had to research and recommend promotional, educational, and recruitment items for purchase, update parts of the website, create an accurate, up-to-date distribution list, set up a poll for members, initiate steps towards holding a workshop on Extended School Year services, and investigate and determine the correct procedure for reaching the Board of Education.  All in three weeks.  Now, before you say, "At least you have a job," remember that this is a volunteer committee,  we're all parents of children with special needs, and those children are home for the summer.

I started this post to gripe, but in laying out the brochure and listing what we accomplished, I got jazzed.  This is CACSE's year.

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