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Georgia’s State Advisory Panel
Georgia’s State Advisory Panel
The State Advisory Panel for Special Education (SAP) advises the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) Division for Special Education Services and Supports on the provision of special education and related services for students with disabilities. The SAP is comprised of parents, persons with disabilities, educators, administrators, and representatives from public and private agencies. This diverse group of stakeholders assists the Division in addressing a variety of special education issues and topics.
Steve Derr, director of the Coastal Georgia Comprehensive Academy Georgia Network for Education and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) Program, is in his sixth year on the panel and serves as its chairperson. He believes that his participation on the SAP allows those students receiving education services through GNETS to have a voice. Derr also believes that varied representation from a wide swath of Georgia’s geographic and stakeholder population is vital to the efficacy of the SAP in carrying out its stated duties:
- To advise the State Education Agency (SEA) of unmet needs within the State in the education of children with disabilities;
- To comment publicly on any rules or regulations proposed by the State regarding the education of children with disabilities;
- To advise the SEA in developing evaluations and reporting on data to the Secretary under section 618 of the Act;
- To advise the SEA in developing corrective action plans to address findings identified in Federal monitoring reports under Part B of the Act;
- To advise the SEA in developing and implementing policies relating to the coordination of services for children with disabilities;
- To review and comment on completed due process hearing findings;
- To serve as a Stakeholder Committee as outlined in the Georgia Continuous Improvement Monitoring Process.
Derr explains that because the SAP serves in an advisory capacity, “The key is diversity. It is important for us to represent all the different regions of the state. It is like a puzzle, the more inclusive we are, the more pieces to the puzzle we have to work with and the more complete the picture will be.” He said that the SAP’s recommendations can carry weight with GaDOE leadership. “The State Department is seeking feedback from us to see if they are heading in the right direction. With everything the State Department is asked to do, having a diverse group of stakeholders can give perspective or a voice to a whole range of issues. That is a valuable thing.”
Approximately seventy-six percent of the SAP members are individuals with disabilities or parents of students with disabilities including parent mentors. Cobb County Parent Mentor Ijoema Ajoku served on the SAP from 2005-2008 and said, “ It was a great experience. We participated in the development of the revised State Rules for special education through work groups during SAP meetings and hosted public input sessions throughout the state. I also had the opportunity to participate with special education administrators, teachers, and GaDOE Division for Special Education staff in developing an Implementation Manual to assist parents and school personnel in fully understanding the new rules which came into effect at that time.”
For more information about the State Advisory Panel, including applying to serve please click on the links below.