SOMSD Special Services Newsletter

February 2021

Hello SOMSD Family,

As we enter into the 2nd month of the year and go further into our reopening plan, I am excited to bring this months newsletter to you.

Upon welcoming additional students into the buildings, I finally had the opportunity to visit our district schools (one of the downfalls to starting during a pandemic!). Seeing the excitement in our youngest students faces (behind the masks of course!) was absolutely amazing. I know they were excited to be back!

We will soon be discussing the next phase of our reopening, and we are all looking forward to seeing as many students as we can safely see as soon as possible.

As always, thank you for your advocacy, partnership, and collaboration. You are appreciated.

Thank you,

Dr. Alegria

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion; The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”

– Wilma Rudolph

February Staff Shout Outs!

Ms. Nichole Kaller

Mr. Christopher Faley

Ms. Amanda Quinichett

Ms. Lataeya Lane-Mega

Ms. Patty Scali

Ms. Jessica Knasel

Ms. Meg Richardson

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!

National Children’s Dental Health Month

Dear SOMSD Community,

Did you know that February is National Children’s Dental Health Month? As many of you know, good oral health habits established at an early age is essential to maintaining good oral health habits throughout our lifetime. Additionally, poor oral health can lead to far greater consequences than cavities and gum disease. In two and a half short weeks, the KinderSmile Community Oral Health Center at the Boys & Girls Club of Newark (KSCOH BGCN) will be celebrating Give Kids a Smile Month, a national program supported by the American Dental Association and locally by the New Jersey Dental Association Foundation. During Give Kids A Smile Month, dental communities such as ours, provide free dental care to children age 0-17 who cannot otherwise afford dental services. The entire month of February is dedicated to providing free oral health care such as dental exams, dental cleanings and fluoride treatment to prevent cavities. Please direct your families to contact 973-824-0036 to schedule their appointment as we adhere to all Covid-19 protocols.

Please feel free to spread the word as we look forward to servicing Newark and surrounding area Youth!

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Preschool Curriculum News

A NEW play theme starts week 18 on the Tools Portal website, Feb. 8, 2021: Medical Theme! There are so many fun Medical Theme settings we'll explore in the 5 weeks of this theme, from the Hospital Nursery and Emergency Room to the Dentist and Eye Doctor!

Continued fun and educational play-based learning awaits!

Look for ways to connect personally with each student and to build program around them.

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Register Now!

For more information on the South Orange & Maplewood School District's Preschool Program, please review our Frequently Asked Questions Guide.

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Regular screening provides a fast and helpful look at how your child is doing, in important areas like communication, social skills, motor skills, and problem-solving skills. Screening can identify your child’s strengths, uncover new milestones to celebrate, and reveal any areas where your child may need support. It helps you understand your child’s development and know what to look for next. And it helps you work with doctors and educators to plan next steps when it makes the most difference—your child’s critical first years of life.

Be on the lookout for our district’s new screening tool, called the Ages & Stages Questionnaires. It offers flexibility in its administration and can be completed in the natural setting of the child’s home. The questionnaire is brief. It can be filled out in about 10-15 minutes, and results are submitted to the district electronically.

Tips and Tricks for Distance Learning

Below are some helpful ideas on how to handle distance learning at home.
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South Orange Public Library

Children’s Events and Book Lists for Black History Month. There’s a new Book List every week. This week’s theme is “No Sidekicks Here” for younger children and “Overcoming Obstacles/Against All Odds” for all ages.

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Our Voices

This weekly podcast will feature conversations with members of our local and nearby communities. For 2021, Our Voices focuses on this year's theme for Black History Month - The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. This podcast will highlight black families who practice Judaism, black LGBTQ+ families, and black people with disabilities and their families.

1st Episode:

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Special Education Parent Advisory Committee


SEPAC Meeting

Focus Topic: Race and Special Education

Join SEPAC to learn about how race and special education intersect in our district.

Special Guest Panelists, including Dr. Alegria, Ana Reyes and Reesa Salomon.

Tuesday, February 16 7:15-8:45pm

Google meet:


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

Dates to Remember

February 2nd - Secondary Quarter 3 started

February 12th- Winter Break Schools Closed

February 14th- Valentine's Day

February 15th - Presidents' Day- District Closed

February 16th- Term 3 Begins (Elementary)

February 22nd- Board of Education Meeting