PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION... HAS YOUR DISTRICT APPOINTED REPRESENTATIVES TO SERVE ON THE SELPA'S 2019-20 CAC?
The San Mateo County Special Education Local Plan Area (the "SMC SELPA") will have its first Community Advisory Committee ("CAC") Meeting on October 16, 2019.
What is a SELPA?
The Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs) in California serve as a liaison between the Department of Education and the local school districts (or local educational agencies - LEAs).
In 1977, all school districts and county school offices were mandated to form consortiums in geographical regions of sufficient size and scope to provide for all special education service needs of children residing within the region boundaries.
There are currently 122 SELPAs in California. Each region, a SELPA, developed a "local plan" describing how it would provide special education services. The governance structure of each SELPA is outlined within its local Plan.
What is a CAC? Why is it important?
CACs are required under the California Education Code as a public accountability measure for budget and service planning for the local Districts' special education programs supported by the State's SELPAs.
Funds from the State for each District in San Mateo County flow through the SMC SELPA. The SELPA Governing Board, consisting of representative Superintendents from the County's Districts, approve the SELPA's Budget and Plan annually.
The CAC serves in an advisory capacity to the SELPA Governing Board in regard to development of the Special Education Budget and Plan for the entire County.
The Ed Codes sets forth that "[t]he community advisory committee shall have the authority and fulfill the responsibilities that are defined for it in the local plan. The responsibilities shall include, but need not be limited to, all the following: (a) Advising the policy and administrative entity of the special education local plan area regarding the development, amendment, and review of the local plan. The entity shall review and consider comments from the community advisory committee; (b) Recommending annual priorities to be addressed by the plan; (c) Assisting in parent education and in recruiting parents and other volunteers who may contribute to the implementation of the plan; (d) Encouraging community involvement in the development and review of the local plan; (e) Supporting activities on behalf of individuals with exceptional needs; (f) Assisting in parent awareness of the importance of regular school attendance; (g) Supporting community involvement in the parent advisory committee established pursuant to Section 52063 to encourage the inclusion of parents of individuals with exceptional needs to the extent these pupils also fall within one or more of the definitions in Section 42238.01. California Education Code, Section 56194.
The SMC SELPA refers to its CAC as the Resource Parent Council ("RPC"), but it remains subject to the requirements of a CAC under the Education Code and its own Plan.
Who can serve on the CAC?
Each School District (LEA) that is a constituent of the SELPA appoints members of its own community to serve on the SMC SELPA's CAC. These individuals are "responsible to . . . the governing board of each participating district or county office, or any combination thereof participating in the local plan. Appointment shall be in accordance with a locally determined selection procedure that is described in the local plan. . . . Such procedure shall provide that terms of appointment are for at least two years and are annually staggered to ensure that no more than one half of the membership serves the first year of the term in any one year." California Education Code, Section 56191.
The SMC SELPA's Plan (Rev. 2014) states that "[t]he Community Advisory Committee shall consist of members appointed by the LEA Governing Boards, including the County Board of Education. The appointments from each agency may include parents of students enrolled in general education, parents of students with disabilities enrolled in public or private schools, pupils or adults with disabilities, LEA personnel, including teachers, representatives of other public agencies, or other persons concerned with the needs of children with disabilities. All relevant public agencies will be invited to send a representative to serve on the Community Advisory Committee. Members appointed to represent an LEA are to be appointed by the governing board of the LEA. All parent members of the committee must reside within the geographic area of the Special Education Local Plan Area. Membership shall terminate for a member who is absent from three consecutive regular meetings without the member contacting the SELPA. A member may resign by filing a written resignation with the chairperson of the Community Advisory Committee and their LEA Board." See pp. 28-29.
How Quickly Can Appointments be made?
If your School District's Board of Trustees has not yet appointed members to the SMC SELPA for this school year (or in the recent past), it is not too late to request that this be put on an upcoming agenda so that appointees can be in place before the first CAC meeting of the 2019-20 school year, which is scheduled on October 16, 2019.
On April 19, 2018, following a request from snkids.org for a prompt appointment of stakeholders to the SMC SELPA's CAC (which had its final 2017-18 CAC meeting scheduled within a couple of weeks thereof), the San Mateo-Foster City School District's Board of Trustees appointed five (5) parents to the CAC, including: Steve Davis, Jenny McPherson, Melissa LaRue, Maggie Chen and Lisa Warren. These appointments were made within two weeks of the initial request.
The San Mateo-Foster City School District had not made such an appointment to serve on the CAC in the past 10 years. Since this issue was not addressed in 2019, it is timely again, but the Board's willingness to make prompt appointments in 2018, once they realized this requirement, is commendable.
Is Your District Represented on the SMC SELPA's CAC?
I am not sure which San Mateo County Districts have made official appointments in the past (or recently), but if you are not sure if your District has representatives serving in this capacity, you might want to ask your Board of Trustees.
I do know that the CAC meeting in the Spring of 2018, following the appointment of the San Mateo-Foster City School District's Representatives, was attended by no more than four (4) San Mateo County Districts. I am not certain if any attendees (other than those from SMFCSD) were appointed by their District Trustees or were casual public attendees.
Anyone is free to attend the CAC meetings without being appointed (which is great), but given the public accountability model that the State has in place for special education budgeting and planning, it would be terrific to see official appointments being made each year.
Questions? Feel free to contact me.
In 1994, I earned my dual major in Elementary Education & Psychology from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. I returned home to San Francisco and began looking for a teaching position.
I began as a long-term substitute in Kindergarten for Mrs. Louise Anderson at Skyline Elementary School in the South San Francisco Unified School District while she was on maternity leave in the Fall of 1994, and I was then hired to teach kindergarten for the remainder of the 1994-1995 school year, for the following year and then I transitioned into teaching First Grade. I was "Miss Doerrie" and I was honored to teach some amazing students and to work with some dedicated colleagues for 4 years.
Even after I began law school in 1998, I stayed in touch with my colleagues and the families of my students, and now I am in contact with many of my students who are now my cherished millennials... they are teachers, they are counselors, and more! I could not be more proud of them. They taught me so much when I was in my mid-20's, they enabled me to be a better mom, an active PTA member, a volunteer teacher (even now) & a school board member who truly understood the love & joy, as well as the stress and anguish, that can accompany teaching.
Thank you to my students, my teacher colleagues and the many teachers I have encountered through my life for the impressions you left on my heart. You are amazing, brilliant, patient, and my guiding light each day, including in the journey I am on now to be elected to the San Mateo County Board of Education with the goal of making a difference in the education of students throughout San Mateo County!
My name is Chelsea Bonini. Beginning in 1994, I became involved in education in San Mateo County. First, as a teacher in South San Francisco at Skyline Elementary School, and then as a parent and also a School Board Trustee in the San Mateo-Foster City School District. I currently serve on the Personnel Commission for the San Mateo County Office of Education, as well as on the Commission on Disabilities for the County of San Mateo.
These experiences frame my knowledge of the systems, governance and the work of educating students in San Mateo County.
Why am I sharing this?
I am passionate about education and ensuring that kids have what they need to succeed and that they are respected in their endeavors. And as a former teacher, I am also very protective and respectful of teachers in the important and difficult work that they do.
I am building this site and starting this blog because I have realized a need for a "primer" of sorts - a quick reference - about how education is structured in our County, who the decision makers are, what they are responsible for, how Districts and the County Office of Education provide education, how funding in Districts varies and why, how special education works, what changes at the state level mean for us locally, how our local landscape of communities (cities and school districts) is unique, how entities engage and interact to help ensure that our most valuable community resource, our schools, effectively prepare our kids to become leaders, professionals, business owners, service providers and active community members.
I will attempt to share this information in a useful way here. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions, additional perspectives and facts, and other thoughts on how we "do" education in our wonderful and diverse County.
Chelsea Bonini is a former teacher, a parent, a former school board trustee, an attorney, an advocate for kids and a Candidate for San Mateo County Board of Education in November 2020.