Grand Erie Welcomes New Chair and Vice-Chair of SEAC
A Q&A with Chair Lorraine DeJong, and Vice-Chair Kathy Jones of the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC).
Grand Erie is excited to welcome Lorraine DeJong as Chair and Kathy Jones as Vice-Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC).
SEAC plays an important role in Grand Erie to make recommendations to the board regarding special education programs and services. Consisting of parents, members of the local community and board personnel, this committee helps Grand Erie meet individual learning needs so that every student can experience success.
By way of introduction, we asked Lorraine and Kathy some questions about themselves and their role in SEAC.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself
|Above: Lorraine DeJong, Chair of Grand Erie Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC).|
Lorraine (Chair): I live in the County of Brant with my husband. I have three adult daughters, all attended Grand Erie schools during their younger years and were part of many teams and groups. I have always had an interest in people and systems, and especially family-centred approaches. I studied sociology and social work at McMaster University, and currently work as a social worker at Lansdowne Children’s Centre.
Kathy (Vice-Chair): I was fortunate enough to be raised in Long Point, Ontario, but went away to Guelph for my undergraduate degree (B.Sc. Wildlife Biology) and Thunder Bay for my master’s degree (M.Sc.F Wildlife Management). We returned to the area when I started working for Birds Canada and we started a family. I have been with Birds Canada for 25 years and now have three adult children, all educated in Grand Erie.
Q: What inspired you to get involved with SEAC?
|Above: Kathy Jones, Vice-Chair of Grand Erie Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). Photo courtesy of Birds Canada.|
Lorraine: I have been an employee of Lansdowne Children’s Centre for over 30 years. In my current role, I support families of children with special needs, from preschool up to young adults. Over the years, I’ve interacted with school board personnel and felt I had the knowledge to share about family experiences when entering school, and the various transitions that children and families experience at Grand Erie.
Kathy: When my children finished secondary school, my time attending and participating in parent advisory groups was complete. I wanted to continue to support our local education system and felt I had a lot to bring to SEAC. Like many parents, I also had a child who found school very difficult due to health and learning challenges; thus, it was important to me to see a strong SEAC committee at Grand Erie to help ensure future students have as many supports in place as possible.
Q: What are your responsibilities as chair and vice-chair of SEAC?
Lorraine: As the chair of SEAC, I am responsible for leading the meetings, reviewing the upcoming agenda, and meeting with the vice-chair and Superintendent of Specialized Services to determine appropriate topics for future meetings. I also ensure that the Special Education Plan sections are reviewed throughout the year and encourage committee members to share and discuss at the meetings. All committee members can suggest topics of interest for the SEAC meetings.
Kathy: As vice-chair, my role is to stand in at meetings for the chair, help keep track of current issues and, as with all committee members, support the SEAC goals and communicate with parents.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in your role?
Lorraine: I look forward to continuing to build engagement with all members of SEAC. There is a wealth of knowledge on this committee. I am part of the planning for orientation for new SEAC members to learn about their role on SEAC. I hope to build more connections within the committee - to encourage all members to share, broaden everyone’s understanding, ask questions so we are better informed about Special Education issues and needs. The goal is to provide Specialized Services with broad perspectives to help inform decisions made regarding special education programming.
Kathy: To help ensure equitable education is available for all students. All children have a right to education, and I hope to do my small part to help them achieve that.
Q: Why is it important that SEAC is represented by a large and diverse group?
Kathy: Different people bring different knowledge, lived experiences and skills to the committee. If everyone has the same skills and knowledge, it’s easy to overlook simple issues that may be identified by folks with other perspectives. I am a good example; with a background in science instead of education, I see topics differently than an educator or a mental health professional would. It’s essential to include parents’ perspectives in the group, as they are very aware of the needs of today’s special education students. If you want to ensure you teach with inclusivity, you need those diverse voices and experiences at the table.
Q: How does SEAC demonstrate Grand Erie’s mission to learn, lead and inspire, and our vision to build a culture of learning, well-being and belonging?
Lorraine: The various presentations of Grand Erie programs, community resources, discussions and sharing at SEAC meetings helps to demonstrate and inform the learning needs of special education students, and ways to engage teachers in their unique learning styles. SEAC members believe that all students belong in the school environment, including those with special needs, to participate in school activities, develop friendships and make meaningful social connections. Each family’s connection to their child’s teacher and school community is key to student success. Members keep the students in mind in an educational, well-being and connected framework.
Kathy: Building a culture of learning, well-being and belonging is the touchstone we reach for when we engage in our meeting activities, the achievement baseline. We certainly have it in our minds as we work on SEAC responsibilities.
Q: How do you like to spend your time outside of work & Chair responsibilities?
Lorraine: I am now an empty nester, a big shift from parenting responsibilities. I’m in the planning stages of travelling post-Covid. I’m an avid reader and have passed on my love of books to my daughters, and we share and challenge each other through the Goodreads app. I participate in a regular book club and love exploring various types of literature - stories about people, historical times and the human experience. I am a volunteer with the Brant 4 H organization, mainly with the quilting club. Youth learn valuable life skills, and I learn so much from them and their enthusiasm in willing to try new things. Our family has a long history of camping experiences throughout Ontario, as well as in the Maritimes.
Kathy: With family, our cats, going birding, enjoying our yard. We also spend time in southern Newfoundland where we take the time to slow down and enjoy nature.