What is a school board’s Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)? What can SEACs do for students with vision loss in Ontario schools?
Would you like to represent OPVIC as a member or alternate member on your school board’s SEAC? Even if not, when might you wish to contact your SEAC for help?
Every Ontario school board that gets funding from the Ontario Government is required to have a Special Education Advisory Committee, SEAC. That includes English school boards, French school boards, public school boards and Catholic school boards.
What is a Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)?
Under Ontario law, each school board must appoint a SEAC to advise the school board on what it should do to better serve the needs of students with special education needs. The SEAC may make recommendations to its school board about any matter affecting the establishment, development and delivery of special education programs and services for students with special education needs. That includes students with vision loss. The school board is required to consult its SEAC on its Special Education Plan and its special education budget.
Members of a SEAC can raise issues and concerns with school board senior officials, and ask for solutions to problems experienced by students with special education needs. The SEAC is not a place for a family to address their child’s specific needs. However, it is a place where organizations like OPVIC can raise recurring problems with the school board, and try to get them fixed.
Who sits on a school board’s SEAC?
The School boards’ elected trustees choose who sits on their SEAC. A SEAC can include representatives from community organizations of parents of students with one kind of special education need or another. They can include some individual parents from their community who are not representing any community organizations. As well, some elected school board trustees sit as members of their board’s SEAC.
As part of its responsibilities, each school board must appoint representatives of organizations of parents of students with different special education needs. For example, OPVIC is entitled to a seat on a school board’s SEAC. In fact, for each of the 72 school boards in Ontario, OPVIC is entitled to nominate both a voting SEAC member, and an alternative SEAC member. The OPVIC voting SEAC member can attend all SEAC meetings and has a vote. The Alternative OPVIC member of a SEAC can attend all SEAC meetings, and can also vote at those meetings, if the regular OPVIC representative is not at that meeting.
Several school boards have an OPVIC representative on their SEAC. However, many school boards do not have an OPVIC member on their SEAC, neither a voting member nor an alternate member. Of those school boards that do have a voting OPVIC member on their SEAC, many do not have an alternate OPVIC member.
OPVIC is very eager to nominate a representative and an alternate to every school board in Ontario. We need volunteers to take on this role.
What are the qualifications or requirements for OPVIC to nominate you to sit on your school board’s SEAC?
In order for us to nominate you to serve as a voting member or alternate member of a school board’s SEAC, you must meet these requirements::
- You must be a member of OPVIC and must be nominated to serve as a voting member or alternative member of that SEAC.
- You must live in the school board’s geographic area. If you are not sure if you do, you need to contact your local school to ask.
- You must be eligible to vote for the position of school board trustee for that school board.
- You must not be an employee of that school board.
- You must not have been convicted of an indictable criminal offense.
Where and how often does a board’s SEAC meet?
Each SEAC must meet at least ten times per year. Typically, they meet each month that schools are in session, and not during July or August, but this can vary from school board to school board. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they met in person. During the pandemic, they held virtual meetings. It will be up to each SEAC to decide when they will meet in person, and when they will meet virtually, and when members can attend virtually even if the SEAC meets in person.
Who else might you find sitting as members of the SEAC in your community?
Most often, SEAC members are parents of students with special education needs. They may represent a disability organization such as one connected with students who are deaf, or who have autism, a learning disability, an intellectual disability, a physical disability or other disabilities.
What does a SEAC do at its meetings?
At a SEAC meeting, school board officials can ask the SEAC members for ideas and feedback on issues, policies or plans as they might affect students with special education needs. SEAC members can themselves raise an issue or propose a new policy or other change that would help students with special education needs. You don’t need to be an expert in the education system to take part and to make a difference. An OPVIC representative on a SEAC has the chance to watch out for the needs of students with vision loss and to raise issues that concern them, or that concern any students with special education needs.
What help and support does OPVIC provide to its representatives on SEACs around Ontario?
If you become an OPVIC representative on a SEAC, OPVIC can give you important help. We have virtual meetings with our SEAC representatives from OPVIC, all virtual meetings, to toss around ideas and learn from each other. We share resources with each other. Moreover, any OPVIC SEAC representative can contact the OPVIC board for any help, training or tips.
If you want to learn more about being an OPVIC representative on a SEAC, how can you learn more or put your name forward to be nominated?
If you want to learn more about this, or are thinking about offering to be an OPVIC representative on a SEAC but have questions, just contact us. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to offer to have OPVIC nominate you to serve as an OPVIC voting representative or an alternate representative on a SEAC, write us at email@example.com. There is no formal application form to fill out. Tell us what school board you are connected with, and let us know a bit about yourself. We need you to confirm for us that you meet all the qualifications listed above.
How long does an appointment to a SEAC last?
Each school board appoints its SEAC for a four year term, starting right after a municipal election (which happens every four years). However, don’t worry about that timing. If OPVIC wants to nominate you for a school board’s SEAC, we can do so any time. Your name can then come up before the school trustees for approval at one of their meetings.
Once you get appointed to a SEAC, you can resign any time you wish. If you are thinking of resigning, let us know so we can try to find a replacement.
Typically, after each municipal and school board election, school boards will agree to re-appoint the OPVIC representative who had been serving on their SEAC up to then.
If there is an OPVIC representative already on my SEAC, what can I do?
If there already is an OPVIC member on your school boards SEAC, you can still be nominated as the alternate. That gives you the chance to go to SEAC meetings and speak, as well as filling in for your voting rep and actually voting during meetings when the OPVIC voting representative cannot attend. In some cases, we may have a voting representative already on your SEAC who would be open to switching with you, and becoming our alternate representative if you take over as the voting representative. We can be very creative to ensure you get a good chance to make a real impact on your SEAC.
Do you need prior experience or expertise on SEACs to become a member of a SEAC?
No prior knowledge, training or experience is required. In fact, school boards are required to provide orientation and training to new SEAC members. As we said above, we will be there to help you out.
Please contact us, if you might be interested in considering becoming an OPVIC representative on a SEAC. Let’s discuss it! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org