On Monday, the Board of Cooperative Educations Services hosted their first informational meeting on how parents, educators and members of the community can join a Special Education Advisory Committee in partnership with San Juan BOCES.
The meeting was hosted at the First National Bank in Cortez by BOCES Director of Exceptional Student Services Brandi Durr. She started the meeting by giving a brief overview of what a SEAC is and what would be covered during the meeting.
There are two more upcoming meetings, one on Oct. 25 from 5:25 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. at the Bayfield Public Library, and the last on Nov. 15 at Pagosa Memorial Library from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
According to Durr, a SEAC is a “committee of parents, students, educators and community members who are interested in the education of students with disabilities.”
To start the meeting, Durr briefly went over what BOCES is and how it works. BOCES was created in 1965 by state legislation (CRS 22-5-101) to provide services to districts that are members of BOCES.
There are 21 BOCES in Colorado, serving a total of 169 districts. Sixteen of these BOCES groups serve as an administrative unit for 137 districts.
An AU is responsible for providing education services for “exceptional” children, whether that be special education or gifted and talented programs.
To be an AU, a BOCES group or school district, if they choose to be their own AU, must receive approval from the Department of Education.
The Colorado Department of Education then monitors the AU to ensure all benchmarks and guidelines are being met.
She went on to explain that San Juan BOCES is made up of a board of eight people, one from each district that belongs to BOCES. There is also a Superintendent Advisory Council made up of eight superintendents, the San Juan BOCES executive director and ESS director.
The current districts that are members of San Juan BOCES are Archuleta, Bayfield, Cortez, Dolores, Dove Creek, Ignacio, Mancos and Silverton. Cortez, however, is in the process of withdrawing from BOCES and attempting to become their own AU, pending approval from CDE.
Durr shared that the vision of BOCES is to build “collaborative and cooperative regional education reform initiatives by maximizing and leveraging regional resources to provide a continuum of quality services for all students and families.”
For the 2022-2023 school year, San Juan BOCES served 7,603 students in its eight districts, with 1,119 of those being in Individualized Education Programs, up from 1,080 in 2021-2022.
As an AU for their eight districts, Durr said that BOCES provides data reporting, legal advisement, personnel development, specialized expertise teams, crisis prevention training, assistive technology, additional exceptional student services, shared programs and grants.
As part of the SEAC, members would help shape special education locally.
According to the SEAC mission, they will “actively represent children/youths with disabilities and impact decisions made on their behalf to enhance the quality of educational services.”
Members of the SEAC will help advise local districts and advocate for the students they represent. Some of the potential duties and responsibilities mentioned were advising districts based on the needs and goals of students with disabilities, representing students and helping impact educational decisions made on their behalf, advising districts as they form educational programs and serving as an information and communication source between the districts and families.
They will also educate on special education, provide forums for parents and staff to share ideas, inform on proposed legislation that will affect special education, share success stories, submit reports and recommendations, stay informed on national, state and local rules and regulations regarding special education, report special education information to other committees as needed, communicate and coordinate with other members of the SEAC, ensure meeting locations are accessible for those with disabilities, consider meeting locations that provide care options for those with children, provide interpreters and translators as needed, provide technology options such as Zoom and establish an environment where everyone feels welcome to attend and have their voice hear.
The term for members in a SEAC is two three-year terms, for a total of six years.
Those who are interested in learning more about SEAC or expressing their interest in being part of the committee can attend the next two informational meetings or contact Durr at firstname.lastname@example.org.