Upcoming SEPAC Meetings


Finding the Right College for Students with Learning Differences, by Dr. Michelle Berg
Thursday, October 27, 7:30 pm
Darien Library Community Room

Parents and students: Please join educational advising and placement expert Dr. Michelle Berg, who will discuss ‘right fit’ colleges which includes full consideration of the academic, social and emotional realms of a student’s life. Dr. Berg will address:

  • How to evaluate if a college has an appropriate level of support
  • Essential skills that help students who have learning differences be successful in college
  • Pros and cons of disclosing a student’s disability

Please RSVP to dariensepac@gmail.comDarien SEPAC, DHSPA, and Darien Library are sponsoring this evening program.

Dr. Berg earned her B.A. in Psychology from The George Washington University, her M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Marymount University, and her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Prior to attending graduate school, Dr. Berg provided individual, family and group therapy to adolescents and young adults in various outpatient settings. She conducted evaluations for students, formulated diagnoses, developed treatment plans and made recommendations for school placement. As a result of this work, Dr. Berg has taken a special interest in students with learning differences, and has focused her educational advising and placement practice on these students.

Dr. Berg has developed a database of schools that offer varying levels of support to help students achieve their goals, and considers each student’s academic, social and emotional needs carefully when determining the best learning environment and the appropriate level of support for students.  In addition to her educational advising and placement practice, Dr. Berg serves as a consultant to The School Counseling Group in Washington, D.C. as their learning differences specialist, is a member of the National Association of College Admission Counseling, and serves on the Professional Advisory Board of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities.


Special Education Overview for 2016-17 Darien’s Special Education Administration
Monday, September 12, 11 am

Darien Library Conference Room, 3rd Floor

Please join Assistant Superintendent Shirley Klein, and Program Directors Scott McCarthy & Shira Schwartz who will provide a brief overview of the topics below and respond to parent questions.

–Communication Procedures
–New Staff
–Results of ESY Review
–Chromebook rollout & training
–Update on Co-Taught Classes
–Update on Progress Monitoring


Building GRIT…For Students Who Tend to Quit Difficult Tasks Due to Frustration and/or Low Confidence by Todd T. Kellogg, LMFT, BCBA

Thursday, April 28, 7:15pm, Darien Library Community Room

Research shows that the brain changes over time when faced with challenges that require effort, making mistakes, and, ultimately, persistence. One fundamental characteristic to successful learning is Grit: stamina, passion, and a determination to continuously plug-away when experiencing difficulty. 
The problem that plagues many children, though, is that, instead of embracing difficulty, they shun the experience and associate challenging tasks with anxiety and stress. Others might just give up, thereby killing off the learning opportunity. It is possible to help our children learn by increasing their understanding and acceptance of Trial & Error, which is the process of how we learn a vast majority of skills over time.
Todd Kellogg, LMFT, BCBA, a licensed marriage and family therapist and a board certified behavior analyst, will offer strategies for addressing these important issues. He has worked in the field of disabilities since 1994 and has established PositiveFamilyBehavior, a private practice with offices in Trumbull and Wilton.

Please RSVP to Darien SEPAC at dariensepac@gmail.com


Colleges with Support Services Panel

Tuesday, May 10th, 7:15 PM, Darien Library Community Room

Learning differences do not need to stand in the way of a student’s pursuit of a college education.  Increasingly, students with IEPs and 504 plans are participating in a range of programs that support students as they transition into and throughout college.  Whether a student has ADHD, intellectual disabilities, autism, dyslexia, or other disability, post-secondary programs exist to prepare them for meaningful careers and independence.

Paul Ribeiro, Director of Guidance, Darien High School, will moderate a panel that will include the following representatives and colleges. They will share details about available academic, social and living supports.


Daneshea Palmer, Iona College, Director of the College Assistance Program (CAP)

Jacqueline Jewett, Mitchell College, Director of Individualized Services, Director of Thames Academy

Goldie Adele, J.D., Southern Connecticut State University, Director of Disability Resource Center (DRC)

Tim Pearson, Norwalk Community College/College Steps, Program Coordinator

Lauren Merritt, College Steps, Executive Director, with programs serving Norwalk Community College, Westchester Community College, Northern Virginia Community College, American International College, Southern Vermont College, Castletown University, Lyndon State College, Johnson State College

Students and Parents are invited to attend. Please RSVP to dariensepac@gmail.com. Darien SEPAC, DHSPA, Darien Public Schools and Darien Library are sponsoring this evening program.


Monday, June 6, 7:15, Darien Library

Twice Exceptional:  Understanding Students with both Disabilities and High Abilities by Susan Baum, Ph.D. 

Co-sponsored by Darien Library, Darien Advocates for Education of the Gifted (DAEG) and Darien Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC)

Unified Sports presentation at DHS‏

Unified Sports in Darien

Monday, April 4 at 7pm, Darien High School, Room A 206
Parents and students, please join Darien Athletic Director, Chris Manfredonia, and President of Special Olympics Connecticut and founder of Unified Sports, Beau Doherty, for a presentation on Darien’s newly established Special Olympics Unified Sports program.
Unified Sports brings together individuals with and without disabilities to inspire inclusion and respect for everyone on and off the field. It is a program that combines approximately equal numbers of athletes with and without a disability on sports teams for training and competition.
Chris Manfredonia will explain the Unified Sports program at Darien High School that began with basketball and continues now with Track and Field.  Beau Doherty will highlight the benefits of high school Unified Sports, which include:
• Positive social interaction between students with disabilities and those without
 Ties that develop into friendships on and off the playing field
  New friendships, improved self-esteem and positive changes in attitudes, behavior and performance
Inclusive school communities where the values of tolerance, patience and sensitivity are the cornerstones.
Through Special Olympics Connecticut’s partnership with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC), Special Olympics Unified Sports is offered in more than 245 elementary, middle and high schools across the state. Unified Sports is also growing globally.
Please RSVP to Darien SEPAC by April 1 at dariensepac@gmail.com.

Preparing Middle School Students with Special Education Services and 504 Accommodations for High School and Beyond

MPA Special Education Committee and SEPAC Parent Coffee & Panel Discussion

February 10, 2016; 11:00 AM

Middlesex Middle School, Room 214 (new Science classroom)

Please join us for an informative and frank panel discussion that will demystify the transition to high school and post high school process. Topics will include:

-What are the supports for students with IEPs and 504s at DHS?

–Who does a student typically go to for help?

–When do articulation PPTs take place?  Who participates?

–What are the DHS graduation/average college admission requirements?

–Please provide an overview of the post-secondary transition planning?

The panel will include:

Scott McCarthy, PhD, Program Director, Special Education & Student Services (SESS) and panel moderator.

Shirley Klein,  Assistant Superintendent of SESS

Marc Power,  MMS Guidance Counselor

Paul Ribeiro, DHS Guidance Coordinator

Meghan Emanuelson, DHS Guidance Counselor

Barbara Gillespie, DHS Special Education Teacher

Please RSVP and send preliminary questions to: dariensepac@gmail.com

SEPAC January Meeting: District Priorities & Initiatives for 2016-17

Wednesday, January 27, 1PM
BOE Meeting Room
35 Leroy Ave.

Please RSVP and send preliminary questions to: dariensepac@gmail.com

Shirley Klein, Assistant Superintendent, Special Education and Student Services &
Scott R. McCarthy, PhD, Program Director, Special Education and Student Services
Administrators will provide an overview of current special education initiatives and explain district priorities for the coming school year.
Topics include:
–Professional development
–Administration reorganization
As planning will continue during this year, a follow-up meeting on district priorities will be scheduled for later in the Spring as well.

Understanding the PPT Process

Tuesday, December 15th, 9:30-10:30

Tokeneke School Common Room

Shirley Klein, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services

Dr. Scott McCarthy, Darien’s new Program Director for Special Education and Student Services

Laura Straiton, Interim Program Director of Early Childhood SESS Preschool through 2nd Grade

Administrators will demystify the PPT process and explain:

  • Referral to — and eligibility for — special education
  • What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a Planning and Placement Team (PPT)
  •  Who are the team members and what is their role in your child’s PPT – updates to district policies
  • Parent’s role in the PPT process

Attendees are encouraged to submit preliminary questions by Friday, December 11th.  Please RSVP and send questions to: dariensepac@gmail.com

Sponsored by SEPAC and the Tokeneke PTO

November SEPAC Meeting: College & Employment – Plan Now for Secondary Transition!

Monday, November 9th
7:15 PM, DHS Room A 206 (English/History Learning Connections Room)

Parents and Students Invited

Forwarding of preliminary questions in advance is encouraged.

Please RSVP: dariensepac@gmail.com

Thinking ahead is key to preparing a student to enter a post-high school environment successfully. Professionals from Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC) and Darien High School will explain:
–The guidelines for transition planning outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004)  
–Transition Planning and the Individualized Education Program

The panel of professionals will include:

Beth Reel from Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC)

Shirley Klein, Assistant Superintendent of Special Education and Student Services

Ellen Dunn, Principal (Moderator)

Ellen Spark, Assistant Principal

Paul Ribeiro, Director of Guidance

Eileen Whalen, School Psychologist

Teresa D’Elisa, School Psychologist

Dave Miller, Special Education Teacher

CPAC and DHS professionals will provide resources and strategies and outline the active role of students, parents, teachers and adult service providers in the transition process. Transition planning begins no later than age 16, or earlier if determined appropriate by the Planning and Placement Team (PPT).

New State Information: Dyslexia, UDL & Common Core

— Dyslexia

— Universal Design for Learning (UDL) & Common Core

— Legislative Update 2015: Paraprofessionals Attending PPT Meetings, Restraint and Seclusion, Transition Planning, Programs and Services, Electronic IEP, Transportation of Special Education Students, RESCs, Dyslexia

  • New Dyslexia Legislation  

On August 4, 2015, Governor Daniel P. Malloy signed Public Act 15-97, An Act Concerning Students with Dyslexia. This is the second piece of Dyslexia legislation in the past two years. (2014 P.A. 14-39).



  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) & Common Core

The State has created a website which includes: parent education information, professional development opportunities and online resources. It includes an interview with David H. Rose, who is considered to be   “the principal architect of Universal Design for Learning, a curriculum-development framework based on flexible instructional approaches that can be customized and adjusted to address the learning needs of individual students. (edweek.org)



  • Legislative Update 2015

The CT State Department of Education (CSDE) has released a legislative update for 2015 (scroll down in doc for each topic).

Paraprofessionals Attending PPT Meetings

Restraint and Seclusion

Transition Planning, Programs and Services

Electronic IEP

Transportation of Special Education Students

RESCs (Regional Educational Service Centers)