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Doing Your Homework:
How to Work Effectively with Your State Advisory Panel
by Sue Whitney Heath, Research Editor, Wrightslaw

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state advisory panel discussion I was just appointed to our state's advisory panel.

What's the best way to work with the panel to encourage change?

Sue's Response

Congratulations on your appointment! This is good place to be if you would like to encourage change.

My first advice is to blend in as soon as possible and watch for several months.

Here are some more tips that will be helpful as you serve.

Read the minutes of past meetings. If you can access the minutes of past meetings, read them to get a feel for the interest of the other members.

Network. Get to the meetings early and stay late so you can have some social conversation with other members as they arrive and get ready to leave.

Read the federal and state law concerning the Advisory Panel. Re-read it often. This will give you the ground rules uder which your committee must operate. Knowing the rules is the first step in using the Panel effectively.

Find out how the agenda is developed. Work with this process to get items that concern you on the agenda.

Do not stop your own advocacy efforts. Continue to work outside the Panel as well as within it.

Take notes at the meetings. Take notes not only about what is being discussed, but also about what comes to mind while you are listening to discussions. You will be surprised at how many ideas you get.

Be prepared. If you get an item onto the agenda, or make some other presentation to the Panel, be prepared. Think of each member's backgrounnd and prior knowledge as your prepare. Provide handouts or outlines to the Panel, so that members can refer to them during or after your presentation.

Plan for your replacement. While you are learning the ropes, you also need to keep in mind that your term will come to an end. Find several key people who you want on the panel. Ask them to come to meetings as a guest so that they can get to know the system and become effective members themselves.

Good Luck,


Read Sue's article:

The Most Powerful Tool in IDEA 2004: Your State Advisory Panel

Meet Sue Whitney

Sue Whitney of Merrimack, New Hampshire, is the research editor for Wrightslaw.

Sue is the co-author of Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 978-1-892320-12-4) that is published by Harbor House Law Press.

In Doing Your Homework, she writes about reading, research based instruction, No Child Left Behind, and creative strategies for using federal education standards to advocate for children and to improve public schools. Her articles have been reprinted by SchwabLearning.org, EducationNews.org, Bridges4Kids.org, The Beacon: Journal of Special Education Law and Practice, the Schafer Autism Report, and have been used in CLE presentations to attorneys. Sue Whitney's bio.

Sue has served on New Hampshire's Special Education State Advisory Committee on the Education of Students/Children with Disabilities (SAC) and has been a volunteer educational surrogate parent. She currently works with families as a special education advocate.

Copyright © 2002-2015 by Suzanne Whitney.

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