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The Monmouth University School of Education Special Services Academy held the first session at the Monmouth University’s Magill Commons on December 6, 2012. The Academy membership is made up of special service directors, school psychologists, learning consultants, school social workers, and speech specialists.  The topic was the New Jersey Administrative Code changes. Ms. Denise Cleveland, director of pupil services, Keyport High School, presented.

Proposed changes to the code in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), are based upon the September 5, 2012 Educational Transformation Task Force Final report recommendations which focus on identifying ways to improve student achievement, protect student health and safety, and manage the education sector’s escalating costs as well as offer recommendations that provide relief to overburdened districts.

Ms. Cleveland gave a concise history of laws and legislation related to the field of special education.  This was followed by a very succinct Power Point that was aligned with all of the proposed changes.  As Ms. Cleveland extrapolated on some of the changes, she entertained questions.  The questions led to a discussion on some key points related to classification definitions, timelines, special services, 504 options and the composition of the Child Study Teams.

All in attendance smiled when Ms. Cleveland shared that one of the proposals was focused on allowing parents to inspect and review copyrighted materials in student files, but not to photocopy such records. Possible changes in how case manager assignments are handled, initial planning meetings, preschool evaluations, eligibility, and other issues were openly discussed. Following this agenda, directors asked questions and shared information on questions of interest, sharing their expertise with each other.

“The Special Services Academy is very positive and productive for the members,” said Dr. Lenore Kopelovich, special services director for Hazlet Public Schools.

Monmouth University Professor Mary Brennan, a founding member of the Academy, concurred adding, “It is essential that members of the Child Study Teams have opportunities like this to come together in a forum to discuss relevant topics and provide support and assistance to their colleagues in special education.”

The Academy’s purpose is to provide professional learning communities that offer growth opportunities for members through sessions that focus on promoting reflective practice and positively impacting student and teacher learning. The upcoming sessions are: Thursday, February 21, 2013, What are the Differences between Accommodations and Modifications: An Update on Accommodations for all Students from Students with Autism to ADHD; Monday, April 22, 2013, Session A, Formal and Informational Assessments Used in Special Services, and Session B, How Can We Facilitate and Initiate the Effective Use of RTI; and Thursday, June 6, 2013, How the Educational Changes in New Jersey Affect Special Education. All sessions will be 1-3 p.m. in the Samuel Magill Commons Club – Rooms 107, 108, 109.

For more information regarding the Special Services Academy and its workshop series, please call 732-571-7518 or send e-mail to