Going the distance; NSPAC honors 105 for contributions to special education.

 
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Byline: Bill Janson

NORTHBORO - In 2011, members of the Northborough/Southborough Special Education Parent Advisory Council wanted a way to acknowledge the positive impact of those who work with children with special needs.

They decided to hold an awards ceremony recognizing teachers who made a difference in the life of a special needs student. Parents and families sent in nominations that explained why the nominee deserved an award. A date was set and the first NSPAC Go the Distance Awards Night was founded.

"We just thought let's just start," said NSPAC Co-President Kate Carroll Noke of Southboro. "Let's do it and see what happens."

The night was a hit. The second year was a bigger hit. On April 30 NSPAC held the third annual ceremony, which saw 105 nominees receiving awards, a number none of the organizers could have expected when planning the inaugural event two years ago.

"We don't get many people that come to our regular meetings and presentations so we just didn't know what to expect," said NSPAC's other co-president, Izumi Ludgate of Northboro.

There were about 25 nominations that first year, so organizers, with the help of Algonquin Regional High School Principal Tom Mead, arranged for the event to take place in the rotunda entrance at Algonquin.

"I think we had about 75 people show up" said Ms. Carroll Noke. "It was packed, it was completely packed. The principal was actually a little worried because the fire marshal could have come by at any time."

Last year there were 90 nominations and about 150 attendees. Luckily, organizers realized the event had outgrown the rotunda, so they held it in the cafeteria. This year the event was held in the gym and about 250 people attended.

"I don't know how much bigger it can get-we'd have to split it into two days," said Ms. Carroll Noke jokingly, adding that they may need to limit how many nominations they accept to prevent that from happening. Ms. Carroll Noke is the lead teacher at First Steps Children's Center in Southboro.

NSPAC is a volunteer organization that offers resources to parents and guardians of children with special needs. It's primarily run by five board members, who estimate that there are about 70 members with varying levels of involvement. Under state law, all school committees are required to establish a parent council to advise the district on special education issues.

The council's role is nebulous. It holds the school district accountable on concerns within the special...

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