Trustees and the SEAC

Trustees and community members help improve outcomes for students through the Special Education Advisory Committee
Posted on 04/11/2019

The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) is a government-legislated committee required in every school board. Its membership consists of representatives from 12 large organizations and three Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) trustees.

“The SEAC is a very positive force within the board,” says Chris Samis, Superintendent of Program and Special Education. “The SCDSB works very closely with the SEAC to find solutions to many challenges.”

SEAC members guide the overall direction the board takes on special education, and have the right to comment on budget allocations across the board, transportation, new school builds and to approve the board’s special education plan. 

Over the last decade, the SEAC has contributed to significant positive outcomes for students, including a doubling of student achievement in special education programming. By directly addressing student challenges, such as making all schools accessible for students who are visually impaired, the board reduced exemptions significantly.

According to Superintendent Samis, “only two per cent of students are exempt from assessment now, because we set high expectations within the board that all students, regardless of need, can achieve great things.” 

The broad nature of special education services means trustees must be able to look at the implications of programming across the board.

“Students receiving these educational programs and services are our most vulnerable, so we need to continue to meet their needs,” notes Trustee Donna Armstrong. “I hope to keep education services and programs for our special education students at our current levels, and expand upon them if possible.”

SEAC members explore a wide range of programming opportunities to meet diverse student needs. As a result, trustees absorb and disseminate a significant volume of information to stakeholders across the board.

“As a new trustee, I look forward to working with the knowledgeable members of the committee to make important recommendations that will support our students and their families” says Trustee David O’Brien.

In 2018, as a result of the SEAC’s efforts, the SCDSB partnered with the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie to provide access to education for students unable to attend regular classes due to a diagnosis of anxiety or depression. Students can now access a day program through the Simcoe Muskoka Regional Child and Youth Mental Health Program where they receive academic and mental health services.

“I am really proud of the work that SEAC and SCDSB staff put into the new partnership with RVH,” says Armstrong. “This partnership will enhance the board’s ability to meet student needs”

SCDSB trustees continue working to maximize outcomes for students with special needs, with success, not just attendance, as the goal.

Learn more about our current SEAC trustees on their profile pages:

We sat down with Trustees Lisa-Marie Wilson and David O’Brien. Here’s what they had to say about the SEAC: