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Collaboration in Gwinnett

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Parent Mentors Present: Meetings at Centerville OneSTOP Center 2019-20 Information Sessions for Parents of Students receiving Special Education
Services in Gwinnett County Public School System
This is the description of the meetings:
Parents, schools, and the community should work together to promote the health, well-being, and education of all students. Fostering good community connections fosters partnerships that result in sharing of valuable information and resources. Students whose parents are involved are more likely to have better social skills, higher self-esteem and show improved academic success and behaviors. In an effort to connect families who have students receiving special education services in GCPS – Gwinnett County Public Schools to resources and to support family engagement in the community in collaboration with community leaders from various agencies and OneSTOP Community Center, Centerville.

Community Center Sessions

  • Oct. 9, 2019 ABA Therapy: How to Access Services through Medicaid Funding presented by Kathleen Dumitrescu, Staff Attorney for Atlanta Legal Aid
  • Nov. 6, 2019 The Marriage Puzzle: Connecting Marriage & the Impact of Raising Children with Special Needs presented by Dr. Ken & Vanessa Reed
  • March 4, 2020 Katie Beckett Medicaid 101: presented by Niyokia Sermons, Supervisor RSM Centralized Katie Beckett Unit
  • April 8, 2020 Criminal Justice: How it Impacts Students with Disabilities presented by Judge Pam D South, State Court, Gwinnett County This presentation is regarding challenges in the child’s home & community and is unrelated to School Discipline issues.

A Look at the Work –

A Q&A with Gwinnett Parent Mentor Jackie McNair

Q. How many Gwinnett students have IEPs?
 A. 24,200+

Q.  How do you decide what to offer trainings on?  Do you use any kind of
survey or feedback data to determine what topics you will train on? If so,
what do you use?
 A.  All of the current trainings we offer today are a continuation of programs Anne Ladd (who worked as a parent mentor in Gwinnett prior to becoming a Family Engagement Specialist with the Ga. Department of Education) and I worked together.

FE Standard 1 Welcoming By approaching the family engagement trainings from personal experience, the mentors have discovered that the topics are more family friendly.

We decided to attempt to be mentors that we wished we’d had when our children began their special education journey.
“Before Anne and I started working as mentors, we had both been on
journeys to learn all that we could about supporting the lives of
individuals with disabilities and I think that is why our vision of
what families needed were similar.”

      Parent Mentors Present -PMP is a collaboration with coordinators, coaches and others who work in the Special Education Department, to share various topic with families.  The purpose of doing this is to build
relationships with leaders in our department, as well as help
parents become engaged with educators who support their children’s academic success. Parents with children in Elementary-High School can choose topics that they are interested in:  ADHD: Home &School Strategies to Help Your Child, Behavior Strategies to Help Parents at Home, OT/PT: Clinical & School-Based, Reading Strategies,etc.

FE Standard 6: Collaborating with the Community By involving other organizations and hosting meetings at Community Centers rather than school campuses, a collaborative approach to family engagment trainings and events is achieved.

      Parents Engaging in Early Childhood Education – PEECE   In 2007,
Parent to Parent of Georgia was seeking mentors to help promote a
Literacy initiative, to encourage parents to support readin skills of elementary school children. 
      Transition Learning Group (TLG) – Created to help parents of children with moderate to profound disabilities be an informe participant in helping the IEP team develop a meaningful transition plan.    

Centerville Community Center meetings – This is an attempt to collaborate with a county agency and to encourage parent engagement in the community.  Parents not only have an opportunity to hear various topics that support individuals with special needs, they also get to learn about resources and activities in and around their community.

Q.  When you have speakers, do you create learning targets for these
trainings, or ask your presenters to do that?
A.Prior to each meeting, we discuss with speakers what information we want parents to gain from their presentations.  Since the majority of
speakers have experience teaching students with special needs, they
do a good job of presenting information in a way that parents can understand.

FE Standard 5: Sharing Power By involving other experts, not only do families have access to more information, but other organizations have the opportunity to get to know the work of the GaPMP and access families who can use their services. This makes the Gwinnett mentors a go-to resource for families and agencies.

Q.  Are these series designed around your target group and initiative?
A.  PEECE and TLG are designed around our target group initiatives.

Q.  How far in advance to you plan these?
 A. At the end of each school year, before we leave for summer break, we
plan for the next school year.  In the spring, we choose meeting date based on the upcoming school calendar.  We consider school holidays, early release days and staff workdays, in determining dates for sessions.  Rooms for meetings are reserved before we leave for the summer break.  Speakers are contacted before summer break and when school starts, we confirm topics and dates with them.  After returning to work from summer break, we sometimes have to continue to contact speakers and decide on topics.

Q. How do you promote them?

A. All of our sessions and programs are promoted in several ways:

FE Standard 2: Communicating Effectively By offering information in different languages and a variety of formats and locations, families can find the information they need more easily.

Flyers are printed in English and Spanish and shared through our district’s administrative newsletter.  Administrators in the local schools share the flyers with families in their local schools. Some schools also post the information on their school websites.
We email flyers to GCPS’ coordinators, coaches, nurses, Title I staff and social workers to share with the staff and families they support.
Gwinnett County Public Schools Facebook page, news channel and district website
Dawn and I have our own confidential list of over 3,000 parent email addresses.  At each meeting we conduct, we offer a Sign In Sheet that allows those who are not on our list to share their email address.  This is optional but the list has grown substantially. Thus, we are able to email information about sessions, as well as community events directly to parents