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DEI/SES Leadership Bulletin Board, Issue 3

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Issue 3 | May 2021 | Marcella E. Franczkowski, M.S., Assistant State Superintendent

From Marcella Franczkowski and the DEI/SES

A Message for LOCAL Early Intervention and Special Education Leaders

Thank you for bridging the learning experience for children, students, and families from home to school and continuously Moving Maryland Forward.

As we move forward to fully opening Maryland public schools for in-person instruction and services, I want to thank each of you for your steadfast commitment to the continuity of learning and engagement for children and students with disabilities, and their families. Together, we can be proud that Maryland remains a national exemplar for coordinated planning across all local school systems and public agencies that serve individuals with disabilities and their families. There is still much work to do. But, rest assured, we are here to support you and your local teams. The Division of Early Intervention and Special Education Services will continue to offer opportunities for conversations, professional learning, and technical assistance. I wish you a Happy Spring and a wonderful final few months of the school year. Again, thank you for all that you do.

Marcella E. Franczkowski, Assistant State Superintendent, DEI/SES 

Family First

On October 20, Garrett County Public Schools held their first in-person SECAC/Family Event since the pandemic began in March. They had more attendees than they’ve had in the previous several years! Parents were given information on the GCPS reopening plan, accountability audit, and additional family support resources. The event was not only informative, but also fun; students of all ages from both general and special education, including infants and toddlers, participated in fall crafts and pumpkin painting!

Take Note: Baltimore City Public Schools staff use virtual phone numbers to connect with families during the pandemic. 

“Nap and Learn”

SOMERSET County starts a new 6-week Birth to 5 learning series to support family care providers.

The Somerset County Birth to Five Special Education and Judy Centerprograms have stepped out of the box and into solution-finding. To meet the needs of family care providers, an engaging “Nap and Learn” series was born. The special education and Judy Center leaders have developed a six-week series of workshops on relevant topics. The workshops, delivered during the children’s nap time, supports 77% of family care providers. They offer critical information to assist providers in a variety of skills, strategies, and resources supporting children with disabilities in their care. The program began with the Pyramid Model for Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children, using resources and strategies to help providers understand the challenges faced by families and children and provide them with the foundation and skills necessary to support children with behavior, social, and emotional challenges. Current success has led to plans for future series and an increase in provider participation.  

Incredibly Inclusive!

QUEEN ANNE’S County expands opportunities for students with disabilities to learn alongside their typically developing peers.

Through the development of the 3 and 4-year-old program, Queen Anne’s County Public Schools expanded opportunities, while closing the gap on Least Restrictive Environment data. An analysis led the team to recognize the limited access to age-appropriate peers and traditional learning expectations and determine the need for inclusive programming for the youngest learners. An incredibly inclusive 3 and 4-year-old preschool program was created,providing students with disabilities the opportunity to develop and grow alongside their typically developing peers. In a language-rich environment, students learn through play building on communication, while pre-academic skills develop. The program evolved from a self-contained setting to an inclusive classroom with eight to 15 students. The single-site program will expand with a second site in the fall.

Addressing Emotional Needs

HARFORD County is helping children and families thrive in their homes, communities, and schools.

Harford County Public Schools is building a seamless Birth to 5 model to help children and families thrive in their homes, communities, and schools. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, providers and families continue to collaborate to meet the needs of children and their families. Throughout the past year, providers and families have been flexible in providing services and supports through family coaching, virtual instruction, and in-person instruction. In implementing the Pyramid Model social-emotional framework, providers and families have also been intentional in addressing the social and emotional needs of children and families. Furthermore, providers have collaborated to create meaningful tools and supports, such as video models, to intentionally teach social-emotional skills. As a result of this ongoing collaboration, children continue to learn and grow.

Innovative Training for Behavior

HOWARD County Public School System offers online modules for families.

The challenges facing school systems and families over the last year did not stand in the way of Howard County Public Schools’ dedicated team of special education leaders from empowering parents to support their children’s behavior and social-emotional learning when the home became the classroom. Grounded in a vision of parent empowerment to support student behaviors at home that began pre-pandemic, Howard County Public Schools (HCPSS) sprang into action to launch HCPSS Behavior Talks. This series of online modules providesparents and families with authentic, family-friendly and practical tips to support the behavior and social-emotional well-being of their children. Each module includes resources to individualize the approach to support behavior. Parents have responded favorably to Behavior Talks; one parent shared that she “LOVES” how the task completion module encouraged parents to adjust their expectations of the task based on their child’s completion. The series is strengthened by the expertise of BCBAs who provide “just-in-time” support to students and coaching to families. These combined efforts promote access to learning across service delivery models and supports students and families.

Virtual ASL Training

MARYLAND SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF creates virtual training to help hearing parents communicate with their Deaf children.

Staff at the Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD) have been working hard over the pandemic to support hearing parents in communicating with their Deaf children. Just as students participated in academic classes virtually during the extended school closures, parents were able to participate in virtual American Sign Language (ASL) classes. While ASL classes were previously available to families of MSD students, this past school year the school experienced a surge in interest from extended family members of Deaf students, including grandparents, aunts, and uncles. 120 family members signed up to attend the virtual ASL classes, which were available at multiple proficiency levels to support both beginners and those with some ASL proficiency. As a result, many family members are now better able to communicate with and support MSD students in their academic and social journeys.

Building a Portfolio for Success

20 local school systems are putting the Maryland Transition Digital Portfolio to good use.

Instructional Assistants (IAs), as valued members of the team are included in this focused effort. Leveraging the flexibility provided by one asynchronous learning day each week, WCPS brought the IAs who work with the participating teacher teams together to learn about strategies for delivering accommodations and supports during distance learning, with additional professional learning planned for later in the year. In addition to these elevated professional learning opportunities, the instructional teams receive ongoing coaching and support from the systems special education coordinators. Stipends are available to support dedicated monthly planning time outside of the school day.

Return on Investment

The Maryland Transition Digital Portfolio (MTDP) was introduced in 2018 in several local school systems (LSS). Since its introduction, the use of the MTDP has increased widely throughout the state with 20 of the 24 LSSs and several public agencies currently implementing the MTDP in schools. Garrett, Carroll,and Howard County public school systems have embraced this tool and are now the local systems with the largest number of users across Maryland. Each has just under 100 students actively working on their portfolio. What is even more exciting is how these districts have tailored the benefits of the MTDP to meet the specific needs of their students. Garrett uses it to improve student engagement during virtual, hybrid, and in-person instruction. Carroll conversely has found the MTDP particularly beneficial with self-advocacy skill development and promoting student-voice during IEP team meetings. Not to be outdone, Howard incorporated the use of the MTDP to enhance and support community outreach, agency linkage, and employment outcomes for students. The MTDP offers an electronic platform for transition-age students with IEPs to share information and experiences from a strengths-based perspective. Many LSSs across the state have adopted the use of the MTDP with great success. Congratulations to Garrett, Carroll, and Howard County schools for utilizing the many benefits of this student-owned tool at such a high level. A job well done!

Driving Towards Success

Local school systems are using transportation and mobility to expand employment and recreation options for students and communities.

Secondary Transition (ST) Steering Committee team members began using Padlet with students last spring to communicate and keep all team members updated and involved. Students from Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties participated virtually in the WorWic Community College Inclusive Higher Education transition program. These students were able to access Padlet online to receive weekly schedules, daily assignments and real-time feedback from their teachers and peers.

Participants learned to:

  • Use assessment data to inform student transportation and mobility needs,
  • Implement transportation content in academics,
  • Build connections with transportation planners and providers,
  • Hold family-student transportation forums, and
  • Identify programs and resources to support travel instruction.

The ability to travel independently vastly expands employment and recreation options for everyone, including students with disabilities. Anne Arundel, Calvert and Talbot counties, and Baltimore City will continue to partner with MSDE and the National Center for Mobility Management to support Maryland’s secondary transition leaders, and their local transit agency partners, to incorporate transportation education into the secondary transition planning process in the 2021-22 school year.

Secondary Transition Spotlight

Barbara Bell, Secondary Transition Coordinator for WICOMICO County Public Schools, is retiring!

The MSDE Secondary Transition team would like to shine a spotlight on Barbara Bell in recognition of her contributions to transitioning students and their families in Maryland for many years! Barbara Bell is retiring this year from Wicomico County Public Schools after 17 years and many more before that in Baltimore County. During her time with WicomicoCounty Public Schools, Barbara started the Tri-county council (S.W.E.E.T) a regional transition council that includes all stakeholders on the Lower Shore who work with individuals with disabilities. S.W.E.E.T. has opened doors for the innovative collaboration across the Lower Shore. Barbara was also instrumental in the planning and development of the 18-21 Transitional Youth Program at Wor-Wic Community College. Barbara has personally impacted the lives of so many transition-aged students by providing opportunities for students with disabilities and their families to become informed of services and supports available to them both while in school and in post-secondary settings. Barbara started Pathways Night, an annual tri-county event for all students to meet in person with career, college, and military personnel to discuss their future and engage in breakout sessions related to post-secondary services. Barbara’s longevity in the field of secondary transition and her dedication and perseverance on behalf of the students and families she has worked with over the years will not be forgotten.

Reaching Families

PRINCE GEORGE’S County Family Support team embraces technology to meet the needs of families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prince George’s County Public Schools Family Support Services (FSS) was one of the first Family Support teams to fully embrace outreach and training in a virtual world. During the past year, the FSS team quickly adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic in order to meet the needs of their families during the COVID-19 crisis. The FSS team embraced technology to provide virtual family support training webinars, in both English and Spanish. Additionally, through their positive relationships with the school system and community-based partners, the Family Support team has been able to continue to share meaningful information to support their families as they continue to grow through these challenging times. The FSS team also hosts a YouTube channel which has increased the viewership of their virtual events and made the events more accessible and available to families, not only in Prince George’s County but throughout Maryland. Way to go, team! Keep up the good work.

Monitoring in a Virtual World

LOCAL School Systems display outstanding effort and flexibility during DEI/SES comprehensive monitoring cycles.

As students return to in-person instruction, the Policy and Accountability team acknowledges the outstanding efforts and flexibility of local Infants and Toddlers Programs, local school systems, and public agencies in jurisdictions across Maryland. Special recognition to:

  • Anne Arundel County
  • Baltimore County
  • Baltimore City
  • Cecil County
  • Dorchester County
  • Frederick County
  • Harford County
  • Kent County
  • Montgomery County
  • Prince George’s County
  • St. Mary’s County
  • Somerset County
  • Washington County
  • Maryland Department of Labor 

The collaboration of these systems and agencies with the DEI/SES monitoring specialists allowed for a smooth transition to virtual and electronic comprehensive monitoring activities when local and State guidelines did not permit onsite visits.

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