SEAC: Building Bridges to Better Education for Children with Disabilities

By: Tayler Sykora

A Special Education Advisory Council, or SEAC, is a group of individuals devoted to bettering the education of students with disabilities by serving as an advisory body to their local district on matters of special education. The purpose of a SEAC is not to decide policy, but rather to support the district’s special education program and the students involved by sharing their experiences, providing the district with feedback on existing services, and offering advice on how to more effectively meet their needs in the future. In addition, each individual SEAC may also establish ts own unique set of goals tailored to address specific topics of concern within the district.

Though Minnesota law mandates the presence of a SEAC in every school district in the state, it provides little instruction as to how the group is to be organized or the duties they are to perform.This results in a variation of structure, number of members, frequency of meetings, operational procedures, and responsibilities from each SEAC group to the next. Despite these differences, however, each SEAC has one very important thing in common: they are building bridges. SEAC’s across Minnesota are laying the foundation for a more efficient passage across rivers of misunderstanding and miscommunication on matters of special education, uniting parents and staff on a path toward achieving a better education for children with disabilities.

Building Bridges and Crossing Barriers

Both parents and educators have their own unique views on special education and how these services can be improved, but without a means to share these views with one another, they will continue to maintain a limited perspective and understanding on matters of special education. This confined perspective risks not only the success of local programs providing these services, but also the well-being of every child involved. If an educator’s understanding of a child’s needs is limited to the behavior of that child when in a school setting alone, then the ability of that educator to provide the child with the help and attention they need is equally limited.

But by building bridges that allow parents and educators to cross this divide and collaborate on issues concerning special education, SEAC’s throughout the state are unifying communities in a movement towards achieving a better education for children with disabilities. Together, these individuals are helping their local school districts to develop a fuller, more complete understanding of the unique needs of children with disabilities and how to provide them with a positive learning environment that allows them to reach their potential. “The more parents involved, the bigger the change”, says Karen Keenan, an active member in her local district’s SEAC.

Joined together by their mutual commitment to improving education for children with disabilities, the parents of SEAC are working with one another to enhance their understanding of the special education process and apply that knowledge to making a difference in their local district. By simply sharing their ideas, concerns, and experiences with other members of SEAC, parents are not only able to provide support and friendship to others in the district in similar situations, but also to the hundreds of children effected by special education practices every year. “By being involved in SEAC, I hope to provide a better education for my daughter” says Karen, “and to ensure that she and other children with disabilities are getting the support they need”.

To learn more about the SEAC in your district and how to
get involved, follow the links below or contact your district’s
special education director at the emails provided.

Independent School District 200 – Hastings Public Schools
Contact: Dave Haveman (dhaveman@hastings.k12.mn.us)

Independent School District 2144 - Chisago Lakes Area Schools
Contact: Jamie Nord (jnord@scred.k12.mn.us)

Independent School District 622 - North St. Paul, Maplewood, Oakdale Area Public Schools
Contact: Cory McIntyre (cmcintyre@isd622.org)

Independent School District 624 - White Bear Lake Area Schools
Contact: Kathleen Daniels (kathleen.daniels@isd624.org)

Independent School District 831 - Forest Lake Area Schools
Contact: Kelly Lessman (klessman@flaschools.org)

Independent School District 832 - Mahtomedi Public Schools
Contact: Lynne Viker (lynne.viker@mahtomedi.k12.mn.us)

Independent School District 833 - South Washington County Schools
Contact: Kevin Witherspoon (kwithers@sowashco.k12.mn.us)

Independent School District 834 - Stillwater Area Schools
Contact: Paul Lee (leep@stillwater.k12.mn.us)

About the author:  Tayler Sykora is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls majoring in marketing communications with a minor in professional writing. Tayler has an internship with ConnectWC for the summer of 2015 and is writing several articles focusing on disability-related topics of interest to individuals with special needs, their families and the community.
Email: tayler.sykora@my.uwrf.edu
Phone: 715-338-6150