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Brandon Thibodeaux straightens up the pumpkin display Tuesday, October 15, 2019, at The Home Depot in Lafayette, La.

Applications close Friday for a new Lafayette Parish School System special education advisory council.

The council is being established after a mandate from the Louisiana Department of Education that all school districts should have a stakeholder board advising their special education departments, said Holly Ortego, LPSS special education director.

The director, who took the helm at the department in July, said the council is an important growth opportunity and will help challenge the special education department to be its best.

“I’m excited about getting different perspectives. With this council, adults with disabilities, board members and parents with children with disabilities from across the district can all come to one table and give their concerns, but also can collaborate and offer new fresh ideas to improve our program,” Ortego said.

Since opening the applications in mid-October, the school district has received about 130 submissions, she said. Ortego said the council doesn’t have a preset size and the district will likely aim to have each stakeholder group well represented.

Council participation is voluntary, and members won’t be compensated.

The council will be appointed by Interim Superintendent Irma Trosclair and each member will serve a two-year term. The council will meet at least three times per school year during school hours and advise special education administrators and school system staff on policies, procedures and resources.

Aside from advisory duties, council members will also assist in community outreach to educate the public about special education and build support and collaboration among community members and groups. Ortego said she’d like the council to attend community events, including Special Olympics events and local buddy walks.

While the council can make recommendations, they do not have direct authority over district personnel, operations, policies or budgeting, according to the council application.

Ortego said the district is planning to host its first advisory council meeting in January.

The school system wants stakeholders, including parents of students with disabilities, self-advocates, student leaders and adults with disabilities, to serve on the council. Ortego said she’s particularly interested in getting feedback from parents and adults with disabilities who live in the community.

They have a different perspective on what’s needed from the education system and how the school system can support students with disabilities in the classroom, their homes and in the community, she said.

“I want to help ensure we’re working on students’ transition to adulthood,” Ortego said. “Equipping our kids to be young adults who can live independently and give back is crucial.”

Candidates must submit their applications by 5 p.m. on Friday.

Email Katie Gagliano at kgagliano@theadvocate.com