NORTH SMITHFIELD – Nicole Lavoie of North Smithfield says she realized there had been no active special education advisory committee in town for the better part of the past decade, so she decided to be the one to take the reins and rebuild the group.
According to state law, there should be an advisory committee on special education for every town that has a school committee.
Lavoie, who has lived in the community for seven years, has children who attend and receive special education services through North Smithfield schools. Her children are ages 5, 7 and 14.
Lavoie had worked at CVS Health for more than 15 years, and was a den leader and has held various roles on the committee for Pack 7 Slatersville Cub Scouts over the course of the last five years.
The group, which is supposed to be parent-led, is composed of those involved in or concerned with the education of children with disabilities within the district. The group is responsible for advising school board members on unmet special education needs of children with disabilities, and members comment publicly on any rules or regulations proposed by the state regarding the education of children with disabilities. The committee is also responsible for communicating with the Rhode Island Department of Education in developing evaluation plans and reporting on data.
Lavoie told The Breeze she has been spending a good part of the school year with parents who have children with special education needs trying to understand what is missing, and finally figured out recently that North Smithfield definitely didn’t have a special education advisory group. She took state-level training the first week of April titled Advocacy in Action: Special Education Local Advisory Committee Training.
Lavoie said they hope that by providing a forum to raise concerns, gaps, or challenges that students with disabilities are facing they can give new opportunities to these students.
“There’s an educational aspect to it, there’s community involvement. It’s providing a forum and a voice to the students and families, and to the community and the district to promote awareness and acceptance and inclusion,” she said.
On May 6, Lavoie had a booth at the Spring Artisan Fair at Beef Barn. Her booth, which had information to share about how she’s looking to rebuild the group, also featured fun sensory bins for children to play with. She said because she knows so much about the North Smithfield special education system, the booth was well received by educators and parents who are looking to learn more for their children.
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