This article was submitted to the March "Alcott Action",  as a follow-up to the Alcott School  Principal's Coffee, held  Friday January 8, 2005.

January Principal’s Coffee

By Melody Orfei, Concord SPED PAC Tri-chair, Alcott SPED PAC liaison, and parent.

At our principal’s First Friday coffee in the New Year, the focus was special education and in particular the new organizational structure in which principals are now Team Chairs, and are responsible for running special education meetings.

Ms. Young, our principal, and about 20 parents gathered in the cafeteria, on January 7th.   Ms. Young started by explaining why being the Team chair of special education is not a new role for her.  She has a special education background.  In her pervious position, in a small school district in Irving Massachusetts, she had a combined role as special education director, principal and assistant superintendent.

With the Department Of Education Reform, came more local control to the building principals hence Brenda Finn, our Superintendent, expects the principal to be charge of everything that goes on in their school building.

One parent asked about communication between parents, teachers, and herself.  How does she stay in the loop?  Young explained:  She meets with teachers on a regular basis and attends the all Team meetings.  If a parent has any questions or concern they should first talk to the teacher, provider, or case manager.  When requesting an evaluation, direct that request them to her (Parents can find a sample request letter on our website:, along other special education information.)

While Sharon runs the Team meetings, there are also case managers involved.  The case manger is usually one of the special education teachers, or certified providers.  They are selected based on support the child needs and who evaluated them.

A question was asked about what parents should tell their child before they are evaluated.  Sharon suggested explaining to your child what will be happening and who they will be seeing.  If parents note any changes in their child, like tiredness or irritability, let the school know.  Provides can always spread out the testing over a longer time frame.

Someone asked: “What tests are used, when doing an educational evaluation?”  Formally, Woodcock Johnson (WJ) was used and now it’s the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT) is the standard assessment in Concord.  There were concerns expressed with using this test as diagnostic tool, especially for written expression.  Unfortunately there is a lack of reliable standardized tests to access written expression.  We are excited to have so many of our teachers trained in the EmPower Writing Program.

Another parent asked:  how do we help a child who needs to work with a special educator outside their classroom?  Ms. Young recommended previewing the child’s schedule at home before they leave for school in the morning.  Some of the parents in attendance recommended that parents talk up the necessary specialize instruction and make the child feel privileged for the special attention.  Parents commented on the special rewards offered are very popular with the students.  A parent asked about the special education teachers and providers caseloads?  Sharon explained that it is 15-18 students, and small instructional groups of 1-8 students.
A question was asked why a parent would get independent evaluations, at their own expense, given the significant cost, ranging from $1,000 to $3,500. Several reasons were mentioned such as   access to a specialized disability evaluator, it is a second option, and it is independent.  Sharon pointed out when the school evaluates using their own staff; there is no direct cost to the parent.

For information on special education, please visit our Concord SPED PAC website:   

Before we knew it, the hour had passed and we all had to leave.  Several parents commented that this was a very informative session and Sharon was thanked for taking the time out of her schedule.

Our principle Ms. Young holds coffees for parents on the first Friday on each month from 9:30- 10:30 am in Alcott faculty room. Join us for lively discussions and informative about various school and childhood issues. All are welcome.  To find out what the coffee topic will be check our Kinder Reminder or the Alcott Action editions.  If you have any suggestions for topics to be discussed, please contact Sara Pacelle at

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Last updated February 5, 2005
By Melody Orfei