News from the Technical Assistance Center
In This Issue

2714 N. Martin Luther King Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53212


(877) 374-0511

Fax: (414) 374-4655



Region 4 TA Staff


Courtney Salzer 

Jan Serak


 Chris Stagge  
 Program Assistant

Nelsinia R. Wroblewski

 Multicultural Consultant

Don Rosin
 Multicultural Consultant

Carol Knutson 
 Financial Manager

Region 4 Website 

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, OSEP, PTAC - H328RO80011.  Project officer:

Marsha Golberg

Views expressed are not necessarily those of the U.S. Department of Education.



February 2011 
Issue No. 10  


Dear Friends,


On Feb. 2nd, good old Punxsutawney Phil crawled out of his burrow and predicted just what we wanted to hear:  Spring will come early this year. 


We hope this newsletter finds you "looking for your shadow" - we are predicting that there will be good things happening for your center sooner than expected - as, submitting your OSEP continuation report early, knocking out of the park the progress on your strategic plan, receiving some great unrestricted funds, having all staff on board with electronic data entry earlier than you thought possible, finding registrations for your training events coming in even larger numbers than hoped, and more.


Region 4 hopes that you are looking forward to even more great things from TA in the coming months: an information-packed Region 4 conference in Milwaukee; webinars on topics you can use; support from the ICAP process; productive center site visits; collaboration to ensure that talents and expertise in our region are better known and able to be shared; and, individual assistance when you need it.


Jan Serak & Courtney Salzer

Region 4 PTAC Co-Directors



                                                 PEN Logo
 PEN Staff
 Parent Education Network


By:  Courtney Salzer


Parent Education Network (PEN) is one of the two PTI's in Pennsylvania providing services to families.  PEN is charged with serving the Eastern Region of the state and is headquartered in York.  PEN was founded in 1984 and has been home to a PTI grant since then.  Currently, 11 individuals staff PEN with Kay Lipsitz serving as their Executive Director.  Prior to becoming Executive Director in 2008, Kay worked as a Parent Support Coordinator with PEN for 17 years.  Kay is a parent, but also a sibling of an individual with mental health issues. She believes that the most rewarding aspect of directing a PTI is to get to see first hand the growth that families experience as a result of their support.   It is particularly rewarding for Kay to see families who, through their involvement with PEN, have become knowledgeable and confident enough that they want to go beyond advocating for their own child and help support other families.  This philosophy of empowering and respecting the uniqueness of each family is what underpins all of PEN's services.  In fact, they have a tagline on their email signature block that reads, "Respecting the Rights of Parents to Make Educational Decisions for Their Children".


As part of their SPDG project, PEN is conducting training to para-professionals on topics such as literacy, assistive technology, and communication.  They have had great success utilizing the IDEA Network curriculum, "Creating Agreement".  Recently, PEN has begun a new initiative working closely with prisons and jails in their service area to provide training and support to inmates.  Their trainings have largely focused on literacy issues, but have also expanded to include communication training as well.  For Kay and her staff, this has been a challenging but very worthwhile venture.  The response they have received from the women and men they are training, as well as the prison staff has been very positive.  Additionally, many times the individuals who are charged with caring for the inmates' children are very unaware of the resources available. By making a connection and building trust with the incarcerated parents, they are able to reach out to the friends or family currently caring for the children and bring this much needed information and support to them.  PEN is looking toward expanding this initiative in the future to include employment readiness training for women who are being released.


PEN has a long history of promoting parent/educator collaboration, which Kay attributes to her mentor, the founding PEN Executive Director, Louise Thieme, who was herself a parent and an educator.  PEN is a long standing center with a rich history.  However, Kay said that one of her biggest challenges as a director is maintaining the integrity of who they once were and balancing that with who they would like to be in the future.   If you'd like to learn more about PEN, please visit their website at: 




                                 nonprofit management

Data Visualization

Looking for novel ways to bring agency or project evaluation information to your Board, staff or funding sources that excites and informs?  The American Evaluation Association offers a daily blog:  AEA365: A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators which offers many ideas. 


What do we mean when we are talking about data visualization? In short, it is the graphic representation of data, a visual communication. Check out the Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. Mouse over a cell to get an example of visualizations of all sorts.  Think of the great ways that you could use many of these ideas!


BoardStar:  On Being Board

BoardStar offers new, 8 to 10 minute podcasts on various governance topics.  To help strengthen your Board, you can suggest showing one at your next Board meeting to help Directors learn about their roles and responsibilities or to introduce a topic for discussion.  Recent topics include:  Nonprofit Sustainability; Committees; Grantmaker's Policy on Diversity; Positive Planning and Corporate Structures.  For the full list, go to: and click Podcasts.  Play on MediaPlayer or iTunes for free.

How to Track Employee Discipline

By Marcia Moore, M.S.S.W.


Tracking employee discipline is a major responsibility of a supervisor or manager. One definition of discipline is the enforcement of company rules and policies. Due to certain legal issues, such as discrimination and harassment, it is necessary for all disciplinary actions to be documented in writing. Although the best discipline is "self-discipline," problem employees unfortunately exist in the workplace. Therefore a formal focus on discipline is required.


Things You Will Need:


  • Incident reports
  • Documentation of investigation
  • Documentation of disciplinary action
  • Separate file with lock.


1.      Investigate any report of an incident or offense. It is best to be on the safe side than off and running with a disciplinary action if the facts are not reliable. Receiving a disciplinary action of any kind is serious business. If not handled in a professional manner, there could be legal ramifications for the company. Some companies use an Excel spreadsheet for tracking disciplinary actions, but confidentiality is an issue.


2.      Document the incident in writing. If not in writing, it never happened. Depending on company policy, the first incident or offense may be addressed with a verbal warning. Even so, complete the correct forms with dates, employee(s) involved, and all of the when, where, who, why, and what questions answered. Even if it was only a verbal warning, document it in writing and have it signed by both employee and supervisor. Place the document in a separate, locked, file in the personnel folder.


3.      Write clearly and include all of the necessary information. Be cautious about expressing anger or any other emotion in the documentation. Keep in mind that others may look at it, even the employee's attorney. Maintain objectivity and respect for the employee. Each time the file is used, make certain it is returned to the proper place, under lock and key.


4.      Set up separate files in the personnel folder. Disciplinary actions should always be documented in writing and placed in the employee's file. In order to protect the employee's privacy, many companies keep these files separate from other information.  There are still pro and con arguments about tracking employee discipline in a software package.



legal 1

Recent Court Cases of Interest

By: Victoria Davis

WI FACETS Law Student Intern


U.S. Supreme Court Issues Pro-Child Decision.                   

June, 2009


A student was evaluated by his school district and determined ineligible to receive special education and related services.  His parents had him privately evaluated and he was ultimately diagnosed with ADHD and several learning disabilities, so they enrolled him in a private school. The school district re-evaluated the child and found once again that he was ineligible for special education.  A hearing officer granted the parents reimbursement for his enrollment in private school; the school district appealed.


The district argued that the language of the IDEA did not authorize reimbursement to parents who enrolled their child in private school without the district's consent when the child had not previously received special education and related services.  The Supreme Court disagreed and stated that a school district's failure to propose an IEP at all is at least as serious of a violation of IDEA as a failure to provide an adequate IEP.  IDEA authorizes reimbursement for the cost of private education when the school district fails to provide a FAPE, regardless of whether the district previously provided the child special education and related services.


Caution: The Court noted that when parents change their child's placement without the consent of the school district, it is done at their own financial risk. The incidence of public reimbursement for private education is quite small.  This decision should not be read to encourage parents to decide, without the school district's consent, to remove their child from public school and then seek reimbursement as the process is extremely risky and lengthy.



Use Caution in Relying on Doctor Recommendations; Teacher Compliance with IEP


A recent decision highlights the fact that parents should not rely on doctor's recommendations when challenging a school district's evaluation of their child's eligibility for special education.  A physician who had no special education training and had spent no time observing the student in class recommended that the child receive special education. The court found that physicians cannot simply prescribe special education but rather that the designation lies within the discretion of the child's IEP team.


The court also stated that a teacher's compliance with a child's IEP is  not proof that he or she believes that the prescribed services are necessary for the child.  A teacher who followed the child's IEP testified at the hearing that she thought the IEP services were unnecessary, and because of this the ALJ dismissed her findings as unreliable. The court stated that the teacher was fulfilling her obligation under the law to follow the child's IEP.  Just because she followed the law did not mean she wasn't entitled to testify that she believed the child's IEP was unnecessary.


IDEA emphasizes the cooperation of the IEP team in determining the child's educational needs.  Thus, educators are able to express dissent from a child's IEP even though they are in compliance with it.


See Marshall Joint S.D. No. 2 v. C.D., 616 F.3d 632 (7th Cir. 2010)



 Save the Date!
Region 4 PTAC Conference
June 15-17, 2011
Milwaukee, WI


InterContinental Milwaukee is the place to indulge your senses. Located along the Milwaukee Riverwalk, a vibrant stretch lined with parks, sculptures, restaurants and nightlife, the InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel places you in the center of the downtown business and theatre districts.


Visit Milwaukee - The Official Convention & Visitors Bureau Site for Milwaukee



 vm 2




Policy Tool


Writing an Effective Social Media Policy


As social media becomes increasingly embraced by Parent Centers, Directors are concerned about adopting effective policies that provide guidelines to celebrate and address the positive and the negative sides of social media.


Social media policy is becoming much less about what needs to be included in the policy and much more about how to share the information appropriately so that every member of the organization can be both informed and empowered to converse online in an appropriate way.


Three major elements to consider before writing an effective policy are: a) to determine the policy and what you want to accomplish; b) include how to make all the employees aware of the implications; and c) how the policy will be enforced consistently.


Need a Social Media Policy?  Need it quick? Here is a new tip...


Policy Tool can help Parent Centers to create a social media policy.  The new tool consists in responding several questions about your organization while creating an standardized social media policy based on your answers. The whole process takes about 5 minutes and it is free! 





Using Interpreters Effectively

Facts and Tips for Parent Centers


By Nelsinia Wroblewski


Parent Center's Policies mandate the delivering of services to the most underserved families in a fair and equitable way. Recognizing and responding to cultural and linguistic diversity is a key to ensure the provision of oral information necessary to enable limited or no-English proficiency families to access programs or services offered by Parent Centers.


As (we) continue developing policies for language access and cultural competency, we would like to present some facts and tips to increase the knowledge and enhance the capacity of Parent Center's staff to interact effectively with families from all backgrounds when using the services of Interpreters and Translators.


FACT #1-Interpreter vs. Translator: An "interpreter" uses speech or sign language to convert one language into a different language. A "translator" converts one language into another language through the written word (Castro, Ayankoya, & Kasprzak, 2010).

People often use the terms "interpreter" and "translator" interchangeably but they mean two different things and require very different skills. Individuals who are bilingual and bicultural, with training, may be excellent interpreters because they are verbally proficient in both languages being used. However, those same individuals may not be equally proficient in the written expression of both languages. In other words, speaking and listening proficiency does not guarantee writing proficiency in both languages. In fact, writing well is often more difficult than speaking well in another language. Accurately translating the written word requires a high degree of academic proficiency in written language.


FACT #2-In addition to interpreting spoken language, interpreters act as cultural mediators or cultural "bridges".

Language conveys more than mere words or grammatical structures. In fact, language cannot be separated from culture (Genesee, Paradis, Crago, 2011). People learn about their world through culture and culture is expressed through language. Expectations and rules for communicating with others are highly influenced by culture although these rules are often unspoken (Castro, et al, 2010). This means that misunderstandings and miscommunications can most easily occur between individuals of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Ideally, the interpreter is skilled in the communication styles and language forms of both languages so that miscommunications are minimized. Explaining and clarifying cultural differences and "gaps" is a large part of an interpreter's role during communications with families, practitioners, and agencies.


TIP #1-It is best to utilize an interpreter who is proficient in both languages AND has experience in cross-cultural communication" (Castro, et al, 2010).

It is essential that an interpreter be bilingual; however being bilingual does not guarantee that a person will make a good interpreter (Castro, et al, 2010). To be truly effective, an interpreter needs to understand the cultural nuances of both language groups in order to communicate the intended meanings of each person's spoken words. Depending on the language used, it may take fewer or more words to interpret intended meanings. Individuals with only a few courses in another language are rarely able to effectively and accurately interpret communications with families. By the same token, it is not considered good practice to use children of any age to interpret for their families-often children do not have the maturity to understand or convey the meaning of the concepts being discussed (Castro, et al, 2010). In addition, using children to interpret for their parents places too much responsibility on the child, and can seriously disrupt family dynamics (Castro, et al, 2010).


 TIP #2-It is important to meet with interpreters before formally meeting with parents or caregivers.

Interpreters need time to become familiar with you, your program and any terminology specific to your services (Castro, et al, 2010). Often specialized terms cannot be interpreted literally. Sometimes terminology or concepts that you wish to convey may not even exist in the other language. Interpreters need time to understand what your program or services are about so that they can formulate accurate meaning(s) for your terminology into the other language and culture. It is also important to meet with interpreters beforehand to review the purpose for the meeting and the expected roles and guidelines for the interpretation process (Castro, et al, 2010).


TIP #3-Establishing guidelines for the interpretation process can help ensure more accurate and effective communication.

Parent Centers might consider developing written guidelines that explicitly state the roles and expectations for both interpreters and participants especially during IEP meetings, home visits, and the delivery of training to children and families. The roles of interpreters may vary depending on differing circumstances. So it is important for programs to clearly state whether or not they expect the interpreter to assume an advocate role during the interpretation process. Whatever role expectations are stated, it should also be clear that everything that is said during IEP meetings, home visits, and training sessions is interpreted --including side conversations--so that no one is "left in the dark". Sometimes parents may need to discuss or process information with each other privately in order to make decisions. In this case, the interpreter should simply inform the IEP team of what is happening and not interpret the parents' private conversation with each other.


Reference: Facts and Tips

Curriculum and Assessment: Serving Dual Language Learners

Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborative Partners





 NPDC logo 

The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders is a multi-university center to promote the use of evidence-based practice for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. The Center operates through three sites that include the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the M.I.N.D. Institute at University of California at Davis Medical School, and the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Each year, three states are selected through a competitive application process for a two-year partnership with the Professional Development Center. The Center works in coordination with each state's Department of Education, Part C agency, and University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities to provide professional development to teachers and practitioners who serve individuals from birth through twenty-two years with autism spectrum disorders.


Updated Evidence-Based Practices


The National Professional Development Center uses rigorous criteria to determine whether a practice is evidence based. Currently the center has identified 24 evidence-based practices and developed briefs for each one.


Click Here and select a practice to access the overview of the practice and downloadable PDF files for EBP brief and the individual components.



                                                       important dates-desk calendar 


February 25, 2011  

OSEP Webinar 1-2 pm CST

"Meaningful Parent Involvement on the State Advisory Panel,"

Register: )


March 4, 2011 - Region 4 Webinar       

"What's Coming in the 2010 Census" 1:00-2:30 CST


March 14, 2011 -

2011 Performance Measures Centers: Descriptions are Due


March 17-19, 2011  - ENTEN Conference


April 6, 2011 - Region 4 Webinar - TBA       


April 8, 2011 - OSEP Continuation Reports Due


May 4, 2011  - Region 4 Webinar - TBA


June 15-17, 2011 

Region 4 PTAC Conference -

Intercontinental Hotel, Milwaukee, WI