* ASL version
From the Office of the Executive Director:
The board has not met since June so this report will highlight events for the past two months. Additionally, I have asked each director to include a summary report that will be reflected here and in future reports.
Because of multiple storm cancellations, Portland Schools did not end until June 20th. Our final all staff meeting took place June 22nd on Mackworth Island. This was an opportune time to reflect on the past year and think about where we are headed. It was nice to have Rebecca Falbo available for the month of June to begin to meet many staff members and attend some student’s IEPs. Over the summer we have begun interviewing a number of candidates for the many vacancies that remain open. Our biggest challenge appears to be in the area of Public School Outreach and Speech and Language Therapists.
On June 27th Grammy Award winning pianist, Paul Sullivan and violinist for the Bangor Symphony, Nathan Lesser, performed in the Blue Hill area for a private reception that raised funds for the Percival P. Baxter Foundation.
As many of you are aware, Mackworth Island experienced a “down burst” on July 10th around 6 p.m. that created havoc with many trees and telephone power lines resulting in the campus being shut down for three days. Summer school and all staff were placed on administrative pay for this time period (July 11-13th). I returned from vacation Wednesday evening to assist Traci and a skeletal staff with the logistics around clean up. Traci and the maintenance crew did an exceptional job with the massive cleanup required. In addition, Traci fielded all the media requests from multiple outlets and did a terrific job.
On July 17th the leadership team spent the day on Peaks Island to tackle an aggressive agenda which we proudly worked through. It was beneficial to leave campus where none of us would be interrupted. This team is working hard to interview and hire all remaining positions and to prepare for the end of August professional development days.
I have no update to provide regarding Disability Rights of Maine’s eviction notice for July 31st. I inquired with Sarah Forester as to our obligation and she replied that this matter involves the State so let them handle it. Additionally, Hear Me Now has requested a 6-month lease which is being drafted by the State.
Report from Rebecca Falbo, Director of Mainstream and Deaf Education Programming
My first two months here at MECDHH have been a whirlwind. I appreciate the opportunity to be here before the 2017-2018 school year ended. I have had a chance to meet the staff, students, and many stakeholders.
Our K-12 summer camp has 14 students. All of the students are working very hard to improve their ASL, English, math, and social skills. The K-5 students are working on their skills through several renditions of The 3 Little Pigs. They have been very industrious in learning the different versions of the story, making predictions, identifying cause and effect, and then writing their own stories. They have also made houses of straw, sticks, and bricks as culminating activities. They are learning STEM by doing!
The high school students are busy learning skills toward independence, such as ASL expressive skills, map navigation, and how to use a video phone. They are gaining real life experiences doing shopping, finding their way to and from places, and communicating effectively with their peers, teachers, and community people.
I greatly appreciate the dedicated staff that we have! They are all passionate about our students learning what they need to be critical thinkers and independent adults. OJ is a dedicated leader with the fervent desire to serve all of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Maine. I am privileged to work under his leadership. Thank you for the opportunity.
Report from Karen Hopkins, Director of Statewide Education and Family Services
HRSA Grant Update
Darlene Freeman, our quality improvement specialist for the grant has been doing a lot of work gathering feedback from families and professionals statewide. Once these feedback sessions are complete we will be forming one statewide stakeholder group that will offer guidance to the grant team.
Darlene has also been meeting with prenatal groups and obstetricians to pass out brochures on newborn screening to encourage follow up. She has been doing a lot of work with the Eastern Maine Medical Center to help them improve their screening process and build a collaborative relationship. We will be providing trainings and support. We are in the process of developing an app for physicians that they can use when they have a new baby that is deaf or hard of hearing in their practice. The app will provide resources and a "roadmap" for families and professionals on the next steps after newborn hearing screening.
New family binders have been finalized, printed and ordered! These binders offer statewide consistency in the messages families receive from early intervention and offer resources for new families. The binders have arrived and will be given to all new families!
The annual Hands & Voices conference, which is funded by the grant, will be held at the Civic Center in Augusta on November 16th with Denne Morris, a parent who is also the Hand & Voices National HQ Board president, as our keynote speaker. Please plan to join us!
Early Childhood and Family Services
The ECFS team has been working throughout the summer meeting with new families and providing early intervention services to the infants and toddlers following their Individualized Family Service Plan. We continue to get new babies referred to us on a frequent basis.
I have been working with Child Development Services to renew our Memorandum of Understanding. We are making revisions to improve the MOU and make our services and connection to the state system stronger. Part of this process is looking at the Communication Plan and the current 6 visit process we offer families. We are working to refine the process for children that come into our system between the ages of 3-5. We are also working to improve our assessment process. We will be adding a new assessment tool this year to increase our assessments in the area of social emotional growth.
We are happy to be welcoming back two of our staff from recent maternity leaves and continue to try to fill the one ECFS position we have open.
I was approached by NH's Early Intervention Statewide Agency to provide training to their state on our early intervention model for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. We will be sending a small team of our providers to train NH in some of our approaches and strategies. This training will be funded by NH early intervention. We are excited so many states are interested in learning from us!
After the big storm that closed our program for a few days and damaged our playground, the Mackworth Island Preschool has been in full swing this summer with our extended school year program! We have 15 students enrolled for a summer of fun and learning on the island with summer learning themes. The children and staff have been enjoying therapies happening outside on the island as much as possible. We are happy to be starting the school year with all teachers returning! We are looking for a speech therapist and finalizing the hiring process for one more educational technician.
Public School Outreach
We have already been receiving requests for service for consultation and specially designed instruction this fall. We have been developing contracts and working with special education directors to ensure services are ready to begin when the children start back up in the fall.
We will be holding a Department of Education supported Stakeholders Meeting August 3rd on Mackworth Island to illicit feedback from special education directors from all over the state on the services we provide to outreach students and how these services can be improved or tailored to better meet the needs of students and the districts they are from. We will be doing a pilot this year with consultants assigned regionally to provide more in depth services to students and school teams. Kim Matthews and I attended the NTID Mainstream conference to focus on new initiatives for itinerant teachers to bring back to the PSO team and also to try to recruit for our open PSO consultant and coordinator positions.