The SCILS Group (SCILS) originated in 1977 with a group of parents in West Los Angeles who had a long range vision for their children with developmental disabilities to be fully included in the community. They, along with several dedicated “mainstream” teachers, worked together to realize a dream, a dream of life experiences for their children that are common to most young people without disabilities. The primary goal was to ensure attendance at a typical neighborhood school. Together they instituted innovative strategies and activities that supported inclusive school participation and community learning environments for children with a range of abilities, including:
- After school tutoring classes
- Parent collaboration meetings
- School faculty and staff orientation
- Parent – Teacher mentoring
After success in the Los Angeles area supporting children, families and schools, SCILS moved to Texas in 1979. There it expanded services to provide inclusive school programs, small group tutoring and in-class teacher training that ensured children with disabilities would be more successful in typical pre, elementary and secondary schools. The forward-thinking approaches pioneered by SCILS led to an award of “Excellence in Education” in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Education to an elementary school (directed by SCILS Group founder Mark Starford) for “creating a real community of learners”.
Since 1992, SCILS has been organized as a nonprofit educational and advocacy consulting organization focused on providing guidance to individuals and families, as well their communities and institutions. Unique to SCILS is its well-founded professional background in inclusive education, customized instruction and creation of user-friendly multi-media tools that promote community engagement. Over the years the SCILs team has expanded to provide additional consultancy, including:
- Strategic planning
- Plain language design and technical assistance
- Coaching and facilitation
- Focus group assistance
SCILS acts on the belief that every person has a right to participate in decision making, determine their direction in life and be involved in their communities. Some may need diverse services or individualized assistance, but all people have a capacity for independence and a meaningful life. Persons with disabilities and their families must be the primary decision makers regarding plans for the future and what and how assistance can be most meaningful. Services and supports must honor person-centered practices, individual preferences and respect cultural differences.
SCILS’ hands-on approach moves beyond the typical traditions of training and report writing. Its practice uses an inquiry process that stimulates new thinking to foster teamwork and collegiality. We assist our clients to build community connections and social capital through our co-teaching, practice, customized materials, facilitation and coaching. Our purpose is to foster sustainable personal and organizational change to advocate for basic human rights and dignified lives for all people.
Mark Starford founded SCILS in 1977. In 1994 he also established the Board Resource Center (BRC) to provide best-practice leadership training services for nonprofit organizations, community advocacy groups and public agencies that serve or advocate for people with diverse abilities. Mark’s work over 40 years began as an elementary teacher and advocate for school inclusion. His professional experience with persons having developmental disabilities began as a Montessori teacher. He founded a nonprofit pre, elementary and middle school in Texas that demonstrated effective inclusive teaching to a range of children. It was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in 1986 as exemplary for creating a “real community of learners.”
Mark’s professional focus also includes strategic planning, training and facilitation services for people with and without disabilities to direct their lives and engage in their communities. Working with BRC as a strategic partner, he has created plain language training, coaching and multi-media materials for the California Department of Developmental Services, many of its Regional Centers, the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities and its Area Boards on Developmental Disabilities, People First of California, other advocacy groups, service providers, charter schools and families.
SCILS collaborates with many community partners with parallel values. Its team includes professionals who work in education, social service, information technology and media production fields to bring innovative and tested practices to SCILS. Together they connect with a common purpose and alliance that brings success for clientele SCILs serves.
Charlene Jones teams with SCILS to provide technical assistance on instructional tools and strategies for a broad range of users. She has experience as a disabilities service provider and administrator for more than 25 years. Charlene blends facilitation and training with production of written materials in accessible formats to support individuals to increase personal leadership and civic engagement. She specialized in integrated team work and co-authoring publications on facilitation services. Charlene joins our team as a trained co-writer and editor.
Tammy Evrard is a project coordinator with 25 years of experience in human service coordination and administration. Her services concentrate on facilitation support and lending technical assistance to ensure projects deliver outcomes. Tammy works with SCILS to coordinate client activities and video production activities. She worked for 10 years as a service coordinator and resource developer for one of California’s Regional Centers. Currently Tammy works with the Hawaii Developmental Disabilities Council.
Marcia Orland began her career as a film editor (Afterglowmedia.com) in 2000 after 25 years in client relation management within the financial service sector. She launched her media business as a mechanism to produce videos that educate and raise awareness of the many contributions to our communities by diverse individuals. Marcia’s years in client relations and expertise with pre and post video production assures she meets the needs of the wide range of SCILS clients.
Brian Marsh provides strategies that support clients to manage goals and achieve desired outcomes. With experience in business and leadership development for a range of commercial companies and nonprofit organizations, Brian shares expertise in project evaluation, continuous process improvement, and life coaching. He works for a California health management company, focusing on care coordination and strategies for improved health outcomes.
Molly Kennedy, Disability Advisor
Molly is an advocate for persons with disabilities with 15 years of experience in the field of healthcare coordination and the homeless. Molly supports the disability community by volunteering on boards and councils and is active in abuse prevention for people with disabilities. Molly provides insight and support to SCILS as a representative of the disability community and assists with numerous projects.
Kecia Weller, Disability Advisor
Kecia has a range of experience as a self and peer advocate. She is a member of the CA Developmental Disabilities Council and has held positions with People First of California, including interim executive director. Kecia is interested in raising awareness and preventing abuse. She is a project advisor to The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability.