BY: KATHY MCDONALD
It came as no surprise that numerous parents, when asked about SEAC, were unable to correctly say the acronym and most never heard of the committee. Most got the education part right but it all fell apart after that. SEAC stands for Special Education Advisory Committee. As the name suggest this committee provides advice to their respective school boards on matters pertaining to special education. This committee also advocates for the needs of students that have specialized educational requirements in order for them to be successful.
In Ontario, our publically funded educational institutions are overseen by school boards. School boards are independent entities governed by trustees. The trustees are guided by the regulatory and policy framework established by the Ministry of Education. The duties of the board are set out in the Education Act. Under the Education Act, part of the duty of a trustee is to establish policies and committees. The board has legal obligations and responsibilities for establishing special educational services and programs in an attempt to make education accessible to all students regardless of abilities. School boards in Ontario are required to establish statutory committees. These statutory committees are mandated by the province. SEAC is a mandated committee. Other mandated committees include the Audit Committee, the PIC (Parent Involvement Committee) and the SAL Committee (Supervised Alternative Learning). At the Peel District School Board (PDSB) we have established the PP&B (Physical Planning and Building Committee) and IPC (Instructional Programs/Curriculum) committees to serve as our committees that tackle the building and maintenance as well as the instruction and programming that our students receive. The names of some of the committees across the boards may be different but their mandates are the same and all have student success at their center.
The SEAC committee consists of trustees, board staff and volunteers representing various parent associations and advocacy groups. The PDSB has twelve representatives from parents advocate groups. They are: Association of Bright Children, Peel Chapter; Autism Ontario, Peel Chapter; Brampton Caledon Community Living; Canadian Mental Health Association, Peel Branch; Easter Seals Ontario; FAS World Canada, Peel Chapter; Fragile X Research Foundation of Canada; Learning Disabilities Association of Peel Region; Down Syndrome Association of Peel; VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children; Tourette Syndrome Association of Ontario and VIEWS for Blind and Visually Impaired Children. The board benefits from the expertise and experience of these dedicated volunteers. They represent a wide range of special educational interest and often provide insight to many of the special requirements and challenges that children with exceptionalities face.
The SEAC committee often provides recommendations to the board that the trustees will consider when establishing policies and procedures. These recommendations range from matters affecting the delivery of special educational programs, for example, the gifted program to unique accommodations and requirements a student may require to be successful. Such accommodations may include providing students with assistive technology or special devices to help a student focus on a task. The SEAC committee will often provide input into procedures, for example how some special needs students transition from one program to the next or how medically fragile students have their needs met.
SEAC also provides cherished input into the board’s annual budget process. In matters concerning the board’s special education plan, SEAC’s advice and input is crucial as trustees decipher copious amounts of business proposals and priorities for a finite amount of dollars. The SEAC committee also reviews the financial statements of the board’s special education budget as a committee as well as the committee participates in the board’s annual review of its educational plan.
The various requirements for the SEAC committee established by the Ministry of Education are set out in Regulation 464/97. As such school boards across Ontario have a duty to abide by these guidelines. If you are the parent of a child with special educational needs, whether or not the child has been identified by a professional as a parent you have the right to access programs and supports that will enable your child to be the best that they can be. I have personally seen benefits of children that are provided the necessary supports.
The PDSB produces a brochure that describes the role and responsibilities of SEAC and prevalent in the brochure is the fact that parents are valuable partners. These are not just words at the PDSB we truly value the relationship with parents, caregivers and the community. SEAC plays a vital role in how information is disseminated to the parent community. SEAC also acts as an invaluable source of information for parents. They can be contacted at SEAC@peelsb.com. All the SEAC meetings are open to the public and a list of the committee’s meeting schedule can be found on the PDSB website. I think this information would be readily accessible on most school board’s websites if not contact your local trustee.
An exceptionality is not an excuse or a reason for a child’s full potential not to be attained. As an educational system, we have a duty and responsibility to ensure that all learners reach their full potential. We all benefit as a society both financially and socially. So. journey with me as together we strive to make each student be the best that they can be and realize their full potential. Walk Good. Belle Marché.