Parent, teacher and student organizations exist in every school district.
But the Dysart Unified School District recently started a unique association, which a first in Arizona. The Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association began this year.
Corey Montaño, director of exceptional student services, and Sara Rivera, SEPTSA president and Dysart parent who is the President took the reins on this new endeavor.
“Sara came from out of state with a similar board and she inquired. After hearing about her experiences and realized we have a statewide group, but not at Dysart so took the ball and ran with it,” Montano said.
Rivera said it was important for the association was started to include students. And on July 27 the first charter meeting kicked off. Twenty-eight members took part with 20 taking part on the virtual Zoom platform. Currently the group has 44 members.
Montano said most sites have a PTSA, but not one that focuses on needs within special education this group is basically on large umbrella for the whole district versus a singular school.
Rivera said the focus is on students, families and teachers in special education and working through the various nuances. A big goal is to bring together the community inside and outside of special education.
“We want to break down the walls of just not knowing, so our students are seen just as any other student” she said.
A key goal is continuing to focus on inclusion and accessibility for families.
At the district level, Montano said officials are looking for the whole person perspective to come to the front of conversations and collaborating and creating partnerships. Rivera agrees, saying the partnership with Montano and how heavily involved she is with the association will only help students to be successful.
“This will build more of a community and give the kids the best shot they have at life,” Rivera said.
Montano said parents can make quality connections in this group, whether they are new to caring for a special needs kid or have been for many years. Understanding next steps and navigating together will help families to avoid isolation.
Over time, Rivera said students will be empowered to advocate for themselves as they get to high school to be successful in a post-secondary world.
The only requirement to become a member is to be 14 years old or in the ninth grade, whichever comes first. Grandparents, parents, students and even businesses can get involved.
The group is working to put together sensory items and have it available at schools throughout the district to have during festivals, games or activities. This will allow for a sensory room to be nearby so when a family needs place to decompress, the option to remain at the event is available.
“We will be looking for business sponsors to purchase those times and support the room,” Rivera said.
Coming up, the group is planning a Halloween Trunk or Treat event Friday, Nov. 4 at the DUSD Support Services Facility, 13825 W. Desert Cove Drive, Surprise.
Next month, the group will also sell shirts to raise funds.
To get involved, people can visit dseptsa.memberhub.com to create a membership or to donate funds. Information about the group is available at facebook.com/dseptsa
Reach reporter Jennifer Jimenez at email@example.com.