SOMSD Special Services Newsletter

December 2020

Dear Parents & Guardians,

Happy holidays! This is a wonderful time of year, but also very busy and often stressful- especially with adding in COVID-19.

First and foremost, let again me thank you for your support and understanding as we continue to work within the realm of virtual learning. I know that while many students have benefitted from the individualized supports that the teachers and CST have been working to provide, there are also some students who need more. For the students and families who continue to seek additional supports, please reach out first to your child's teacher, and then case manager for support. Together, you as a team can work together to make adjustments that will help your child be successful.

Our Paraprofessionals have been working diligently to learn and improve their technological skills to better enable them to assist our staff and students in the learning platforms being utilized. They have been provided professional development in the use of the many applications teachers are using in their instruction. We are very proud of the work our paras are doing to support our students!

In closing, I want to reiterate our gratitude for your continued support and wish you and your family good health and good spirits throughout the holiday season.

On behalf of the entire Special Services Department, we thank you for your partnership and collaboration.

Yours in education,

Dr. Melody Alegria

December Dates to Remember

December 2 - 3: Half Day (3 & 4 Hour Day) Evening Conferences (PreK - 5)

December 4: Half Day (3 & 4 Hour Day) Afternoon Conferences (PreK -5)

December TBD: District Town Hall Meeting

December 23: Half Day (3 & 4 Hour Day) Holiday Recess

December 24 - 31: Holiday Recess

2020-2021 School Year Calendar:

Frontline Collaboration Portal


During virtual IEP meetings, you will be asked to sign the participation page of the IEP electronically via the Collaboration Portal. The Collaboration Portal is a message delivery system we are that allows us to share documents related to your child’s IEP. It is a service provided by Frontline Education, which is our IEP platform (IEP Direct). You will receive an email indicating that a document is available for your review/signature.

The access code for this document is the first three letters of the student's last name (upper case) plus his/her date of birth in mmddyyyy format. Example: XYZ04032005. Note: if a student has fewer than three letters in his/her last name, the full last name is included with date of birth.

Your case manager will be available to support as needed.

Thank you,

Building Coping Skills as a Family

A coping skill is something that helps a person deal with unpleasant feelings such as stress. Learning to cope is a very important skill that takes a lot of practice. Parents and guardians can help children build coping skills. Brainstorm as a family a toolbox of coping skills, so when someone in the family needs to access a “tool” to cope, a list is readily available. What works for one person, may not work for everyone, so it is important to try different coping skills to find what works for each member of the family. Take time to talk about which strategies were helpful or which strategy everyone might try next time a strategy is needed. Some examples of coping skills include exercise, keeping a gratitude journal, talking with positive people in your life such as friends, family and teachers, deep breathing, listening to or playing music, or engaging in a hobby that you enjoy.

Educational Resources


Learning Ally, which is an online audio books program. Learning Ally provides either audio books or audio books with highlighted text for many textbooks and other books. Any student that falls into one of the following categories can use this program:

  • Students with print disabilities (learning disabilities)

  • Students with Physical Disabilities

  • Students with Visual Impairments

  • Struggling readers who are receiving intervention in the school setting


Lexia, is an online reading supplemental program to support struggling readers.

If you would access to Learning Ally and Lexia, please contact your special education teacher(s).

School Nurse Contacts

Therese Crigler


Gretchen Shook


Hilary Conway


Keith Turpin


Joann Harrigan


Tanisha Anderson


Jean Johnson


Steffi Golden

Montrose Early Childhood Center

Theresa Oweifie

Seth Boyden

Sharyn Wills

South Mountain School (SMS) Elementary

Julie Porter, RN

South Mountain School (SMS) Annex

School Nurse Leader

Angela Thompson


Did you know....

  • December 10-18: Hanukkah

  • December 25th: Christmas Day

  • December 26-January 1: Kwanzaa

  • December 31st: New Year's Eve

Learn about unique traditions, celebrations, and holidays that occur around the world during December and January.

Don't forget to take the Winter Holidays Quiz:

Special Services Staff Shout Outs!

Is there a special education teacher or special services staff member who you would like to recognize? If so, please complete this form so they can be recognized!

December 2020 Shout Outs!

This month we would like to acknowledge the following...

Mara Fox - Child Study Team (LDTC)

Cynthia Van Wert - Special Education Teacher

Hillary Rosen - Special Education Teacher

Big picture

Preschool Parent Guide to the Curriculum

Preschool News

Greetings Preschool Families!

Each school year, all general education students who are new to the South Orange and Maplewood School District’s Preschool Program are screened using the Early Screening Inventory-Revised (ESI-R) developmental screening instrument. This year, during our District’s Virtual Learning Plan, we will be utilizing a screening assessment called Ages & Stages Questionnaires, Third Edition (ASQ-3). The ASQ-3 is a developmental screening tool designed for use by early educators and health care professionals. It relies on parents as experts, is easy-to-use, family-friendly and creates the snapshot needed to catch delays and celebrate milestones. Preschool families will receive additional information during the month of December on ASQ-3 and their role in their child’s screening process.

IEP Progress Reports

Dear Families,

IEP progress reports for December, 2020 will be available for viewing via the Parent Portal in PowerSchool. Steps on how to access reports will be sent in a separate communication. Please feel free to reach out to your child's case manager directly with any questions.

Thank you!

Example of Teletherapy during Virtual Learning

OT Teletherapy Session

Requesting Support!

Instructional Accommodation Request

  • -Please reach out directly to the teacher, and copy the case manager
IEP Revision Request
  • -Please reach out directly to the case manager

Progress Monitoring and Reporting

  • -Please reach out directly to the teacher, and copy the case manager

Related Service Question

  • -Please reach out directly to the assigned therapist and copy the case manager

Unresolved Challenges on Above Concerns

  • -Please reach out to the assigned supervisor (see below), if not resolved, please reach out to Asst. Superintendent, Special Services

Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC)

The Special Education Parent Advisory Committee, or SEPAC, is an advocacy group focused on policies, programs, and practices within the South Orange/Maplewood School District. Families and caregivers of student(s) with learning needs or students eligible for or receiving services under an IEP or 504 plan are encouraged to attend SEPAC Meetings. SEPAC provides parents with tools and information to work collaboratively with the school district and to be more effective advocates for their children with special educational needs.

Find us at Contact us at

SEPAC BOARD, 2020-2021

Michele Richman, Vice President of Policy

Malia Herman, Vice President of Community Outreach

Caryn Gehrke and Nicole Josey, Vice Presidents of Family Support

Nicole Stewart and Lindsey Stone, Vice Presidents of Programming

Beth Cosentino, Communications Officer and Administrator

Ann Leeb, Ex Officio

Department of Special Services Leadership Team

Dr. Melody Alegria, Assistant Superintendent for Special Services

Leroy Johnson, III, PreK Program Supervisor

Karen Thomany, Supervisor of Special Education K-5

Susan Ellis, Supervisor of Special Education Self-Contained K-8 Programs & 6-8

Gerri Colon, Supervisor of Special Education 9-12