SOMSD Special Services Newsletter

March 2021

Message from the Assistant Superintendent of Special Services

Hello DOSS Family,

It is hard to believe that just one year ago today we were in a completely different place- in more ways than one! With all of the changes this past year has brought, I am using it as a time of reflection and appreciation for health, family, and togetherness.

With the challenge of the past year, the support and collaboration of families, teachers, school and district staff has been a mainstay. Please continue to reach out to your child's teachers and school support staff as any challenges arise, together we can work through the concerns.

This past year has undoubtedly been a challenging year for all, but one thing is for sure, Spring will be here before we know it! By definition, Spring is the season of new beginnings. I certainly am looking forward to seeing the Sun more and enjoying the outdoors.

As always, thank you for all of your support and advocacy.

Dr. Alegria

March is Disabilities Awareness Month

The month of March is recognized as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, an opportunity to promote respect for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The purpose of this month is also to raise awareness and educate others about the challenges and successes that people with developmental disabilities face.

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. In his proclamation, he invited “all individual, agencies, and organizations concerned with the problem of developmental disabilities to observe this month with appropriate observances and activities directed toward increasing public awareness of the needs and the potential of Americans with developmental disabilities.

The ARC of New Jersey has great resources to learn more about Disabilities Awareness Month.

National Social Worker's Month!

The Department of Special Services is helping celebrate this year’s Social Work Month in March with the theme “Social Workers are Essential” to highlight the invaluable contributions social workers make in our society, especially as this nation addresses the Coronavirus pandemic.

Below represent the names of our District Social Workers who go above and beyond to support students and their families. Please join us in thanking them for all that they do!

Arelis Tapia-Vargas
Eric Stoudemire
Eva Buggy
Fajr Salaam-Goodwin
Jennifer Easton
Laura Prato
Marilu Gregory
Maudjah Francis
Sharonn Dinkins
Shazaan Napoleon
Zakiyya Jordan

Janis Catalano

Phil McCormick

Kasoundra Clemons

Renee Joyce

Valencia Henry

Amy Pitucco

March Shout Outs!

Ms. Benn- Paraprofessional

Mrs. Spina- Special Education Teacher

Mrs. Butler- CHS Assistant Principal and 504 Coordinator

Mrs. Quinichett- Special Education Teacher

Mrs Pleasant- Special Services Administrative Assistant

Mrs. Hersh- Speech Therapist

Shout out a Special Services Staff Member!

Special Education Parent Advisory Committee

The Special Education administrative team will be present on March 18, 2021 at the SEPAC meeting for a Question and Answer session on the different levels of support at each level of education:

Thursday, March 18, 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 the 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

March 17- St. Patrick's Day

March 18- SEPAC Meeting

March 29- April 1- Spring Break

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Preschool Registration Updates!

We are pleased with the overwhelming response to our Preschool program!

Families who have pre-registered by the February 26, 2021 deadline must complete the process with the Registrar by scheduling and attending an appointment to turn in their documents.

Stay tuned for details on the lottery!

ASQ-3 Results

Dear Preschool Families,

As a reminder, results from the ASQ-3 Screening will be sent out to families on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. We encourage all families who have not submitted their ASQ-3 questioner to please do so by Friday, March 12, 2021.

Extended School Year 2021

The SOMSD Special Education Department is pleased to announce the dates of our 6 weeks Extended School Year (ESY) program. ESY will be held from July 6-August 10. More information will follow as plans are further developed.
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Parent Workshop by MUJC

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Returning to School Tips

As the SOMSD prepares to welcome back more of our learners to our schools. This is an exciting time but one that may be anxiety-producing. As we prepare for the return to in-person learning there may be many things we forget about Please click on this link from the CDC to find out some helpful ideas on how to prepare for a smooth transition back to in-person learning.

Educational Resources


Learning Ally, which is an online audiobooks program. Learning Ally provides either audiobooks or audiobooks 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).

Reminder: 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.