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Much has occurred in the past month which you will glean from the other directors’ reports. MECDHH/GBSD has established a clear presence in Maine and across the country. Our staff and school board member serve on many important boards and commissions related to deafness.

Executive Director’s Report
October 4, 2018

Much has occurred in the past month which you will glean from the other directors’ reports. MECDHH/GBSD has established a clear presence in Maine and across the country. Our staff and school board member serve on many important boards and commissions related to deafness.

Our Leadership Team has begun some important work on devising a Strategic plan for the next three years. We are appreciative of the services of Mark Falbo, who has graciously offered his services pro-bono. Mark has an extensive national and international reputation in facilitating such processes. The Leadership Team has effectively worked through some complex issues.

We had hoped to move the entire Statewide Education and Family Services over to Carter Hall but that was delayed due to discovery of mold that needs to be treated. We hope this will be rectified by January and at that time we can resume our move.

On September 27th, MECDHH welcomed the Deputy Commissioner from the Department of Administrative and Financial Services (DAFS) accompanied by officials from the Bureau of Real Estate Management and State Parks and Public Lands, to tour the campus and look at existing buildings for possible leasing opportunities. Currently, the State has over 200 empty buildings and over 13 million square feet available. Recently, the State has taken on renovation of the Dorothy Dix Building in Bangor (former BMHI psychiatrist building). This initiative was derived from State and private funding sources.

The Executive Director met with Senator Breen and Representative Pierce to discuss current issues and the need for new legislative bills after this fall’s election. Nationally, Maine is one of the last States to pass legislation known as LEAD-K, which promotes language equality for all deaf babies by advocating for deaf children to have access to both American Sign Language and English. Karen Hopkins and Cathy Lushman (ASL Teacher of the Deaf) will be attending a national conference on how to gain passage of this bill. Upon their return, they will meet with our local representative to craft the initial bill that has to be prepared by December. Also, we are asking to revisit some of the inequitable tenets of Chapter 304 under Title 20-A, especially around transportation and behavioral support. This will be a difficult challenge as we will likely face strong opposition from Superintendents and Special Education Directors. If nothing else, clarity around language will be helpful. Also, we asked to on get an ASL teaching endorsement on the books. The Executive Director has agreed to do the leg work on looking at other States’ certification. Also under consideration is the need for a multi-purpose use of buildings.

A local entitlement grant for 2019 was submitted for the sum of $33,322 to fund a part-time Special Education Consultant for statewide services.

Statewide Education and Family Services

All the programs in the Statewide Education and Family Services Department are low on staff requiring each member to work extremely hard to meet the needs of children and families statewide. Staff are working long days and driving for hundreds of hours to make sure the children are supported in a timely manner and get the support they need to start the school year off on the right foot!

The Parent Infant Toddler (PIT) Program started-up last week with a great group of families and children ages birth to 2-1/2. Children and families had fun interacting, playing, and learning new strategies from each other and the PIT team. This year's program is running in 8-week sessions with an ASL class for families after each program.

The ASL for Families program is up and running again this fall! Melinda Meyers is offering classes to the PIT families and, in addition, offering classes at four different times on Tuesdays to families with children age birth to age 5. We are surveying families of children in grades K-12 to see what days and times work best for them and what they are looking for in ASL classes. All classes will be open statewide utilizing our ZOOM technology.

Karen Hopkins, Katie Duncan, Corri Saunders, Darlene Freeman and Roy Fowler (State CDS director) have been working to develop an intensive two-day training on our state's early intervention model to train the state of NH. We are excited to see our program and family centered ways spread nationally. We have a great package to offer to 47 participants on October 1st and 2nd and look forward to supporting their learning.

The preschool team supported five staff from the Utah School for the Deaf this week in learning about Bilingual Bimodal preschool program. We spent time explaining our model, offering time to observe in our classrooms and time to spend with our preschool staff. They were incredibly impressed with our team and the program and are implementing our program in Utah. This school has sent staff to observe our model in action, four times. With each group, we saw more openness and excitement about supporting families and truly watching children and following their lead while ensuring they have access to deaf children and adults. It’s exciting to see another state create a program following our lead.

The Public School Outreach Team has been supporting students throughout Maine with school startup. They are out setting up technology, working with interpreters and teachers and addressing both parent and school concerns. The Kids Like Me Program has been supporting the social emotional development of students in regions and pulling kids together for various activities.

Lots of great work is being done in all of our programs! The students are having a ball learning and playing, and the staff are working to ensure this happens!

Director of Mainstream and Deaf Education Programs

This month has flown by. All of our K-12 students are busy learning school routines. East End Community School recently had an Open House. Several of our parents attended and were able to meet teachers, visit their child’s classroom, and view some of their schoolwork. Portland High School students are already engaged in their classes. The coffee cart project has begun and is being enjoyed by PHS staff and students.

On September 20th, several of our high school students and staff traveled to Augusta to participate in the Deaf Tea. The event was held in the Hall of Flags. Several prominent Deaf individuals received awards, including former student board member Emma Foster.  Liz Seal, one of our staff members, was this year’s keynote speaker. Our students were able to meet and converse with many other Deaf Mainers.

This year we have 5 high school students at PATHS. The courses being pursued are: Food Services, Auto Collision, Welding, and Marine Systems. Teachers and Educational Technicians are providing academic support for our students as they learn technical vocabulary and concepts.

As we continue searching for an ASL teacher, the director has taken on the lead of overseeing and instructing ASL at both Lyman Moore Middle School and Portland High School.