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STEP to host meeting to help make connection between schools and families with disabilities

On Thursday, March 3rd, Assistant Commissioner, Joey Hassell, of the Tennessee Department of Education, Division of Special Populations and his team will be in Johnson County to provide professional development to Johnson County School personnel. Tennessee Department of Education has widely publicized their core beliefs, and they work with school districts across Tennessee to provided ongoing information and support regarding issues related to these beliefs and the impact on students with disabilities. The TN Department of Education beliefs are:
•All students can learn and demonstrate growth (ALL means ALL)
•Specialized Instruction is a continuum of services (not a place)
•Relationships and collaboration (tearing down silos of education) so stakeholders will focus on decisions that are best for all children
•Responsibility and accountability in teaching and supporting ALL students
•Strong leadership at all levels is essential in an inclusive environment that supports ALL students
•High quality professional learning empowers all stakeholders and builds capacity for the success of ALL students
Training topics for the professional development for Johnson County teachers and administrators will focus on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), best practices in educating students with disabilities, and the TN Special Education Framework. Focused training will be provided on the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), working effectively with students who have challenging behaviors due to their disability, educating students with disabilities in the general education setting through differentiating instruction, and parental involvement.
Later that evening a session will be held for parents and family members of children with disabilities and special needs who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 or who may be in need of services. Information that mirrors the information provided to teachers and administrators will be presented by a team from the TN Department of Education and from staff of TN’s Parent Training and Information Center, STEP, Inc. Families will learn about best practices in educating students with disabilities, what they can do to be active participants in the education process, what they can expect school district staff members to do instructionally and at IEP meetings, and open discussion about next steps in the process of ensuring effective and appropriate education for students with disabilities in Johnson County. Paula Norton, Johnson County Schools Supervisor of Special Education, encourages all parents and family members to participate in the first Connecting Families and Schools Night which will be held on Thursday, March 3rd at the First Christian Church, 401 West Main Street in Mountain City.
The Connecting Families and Schools Night will begin at 5:30 pm with a light supper and “get acquainted” time. Presentations and discussion will be from 6:15 pm – 7:45 pm. Following the presentations there will be topical tables set up for families to talk with presenters regarding specific questions.  Presenters and topics will include: From the TNDOE: Alison Gauld (Behavior and Communication); Blake Shearer (Transition: High School); Ryan Mathis and Joey Hassell (Parental Rights and Systemic Change); Joann Runion (Inclusion and Instruction). From STEP, Inc.: Karen Harrison, Beth Smith, and Gina Lynette will be available for IEP questions and planning and Person Centered Planning. The evening will conclude at 8:15 pm.
This event, including dinner, is FREE. Childcare will be provided by individuals who are skilled in working with children with special needs.  Registration is not required.  If you have questions regarding the evening event, please call 1.800.280.7837 or email [email protected]
STEP, Inc. (Support & Training for Exceptional Parents) houses one of 109 Parent Centers across the U.S. funded by the U.S. Department of Education.   STEP is a statewide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that relies on individual, corporate, and foundation contributions and support.  STEP services are FREE and available to any parent or family member of a child or youth with a disability, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or a student who may need special help in school (birth through age 26).  For over 26 years STEP has been serving Tennessee families who have children with disabilities, youth with disabilities and working collaboratively with schools and other organizations that also provide services and supports to families and youth.  Headquartered in Greeneville, STEP, Inc. has offices in East (Greeneville), Middle (Nashville) and West (Memphis) Tennessee.
For more information about services provided by STEP please visit our website at or contact the East Tennessee Coordinator, Beth Smith at 423-639-0125, ext. 17 or 800-280-7837 (English) or via email at [email protected]  Services are also available in Spanish at 800-975-2919 (Española) .