Executive Director’s Report February 7, 2019
January proved to be a very productive month for our Leadership Team as we worked diligently on preparing our new budget and gain clarity around the future of MECDHH. This was achieved by the Leadership Team committing to a two-day retreat on January 14th and 15th. We were able to frame out a future vision to share with the board. Drew Freme has been a wonderful resource to us in his role as consultant.
The Executive Director attended a two-day workshop in Brunswick hosted by ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Confront, Evacuate) a national training program for individuals to become trainers of how to respond in the event of an active shooter presence. This program has been adopted by many schools. The training was attended by fifty-five school officials and local police officers. As a result, we are planning a full day of training with staff in June. In the meantime, we have updated our lockdown procedure and emailed it to all staff.
On January 14th, Karen Hopkins and the Executive Director attended a ‘meet and greet’ with legislative members of the Education Committee. We were warmly received by the committee as we informed them of the challenges in operating on a budget that has not increased in the past three years. They are aware that we will be seeking more funding to expand our capacity to provide quality services to approximately 800 students statewide.
The Executive Director has joined the Cumberland County Superintendent’s group that meets monthly and recently attended their winter convocation in South Portland. These connections are vital to our organization. It is hopeful that one of our newest board member will be a recently retired Superintendent.
We are seeking an RFQ (Request for Quotation) for Building B and possibly Carter Hall. This would allow the State to redevelop either one or both buildings. As we know, Building B is condemned and Carter Hall poses some potentially costly renovations that may not be wise to pursue. Once the RFQ is complete, MECDHH will put together a task force of community leaders from the surrounding area, as well as from Maine’s Deaf community, to assess various proposals that ensure local groups have a voice with regards to the future of the island.
We are moving forward with renovating Building C (DRM’s building). The relocation of the museum is also moving along and ready for artifacts to be set up. It is hoped that sometime in the spring we will see a Grand Re-opening event.
Deaf Seniors now meet in the cafeteria every other Tuesday to share a meal, play Bingo, and socialize.
The Executive Director will attend the COPSD (Coalition of Private School for the Deaf) conference in Miami, Florida from February 3rd to the 5th. The sessions available during this conference are intense and informative with fifteen of the country’s Deaf leaders represented.
Kristen Shorey has accepted the position of Special Education Specialist. Kristen's role will be to support the growth of our ability to service deaf children with additional needs. This position has a special focus on children that are Deaf/Blind. She will be working with the Leadership Team to identify areas of need for additional programming and support services for those children. Kristen will continue to work from the Brewer site.
We are awaiting a final decision from our top candidate to assume the position of Director of Operations and Human Resources.
Mainstream and Deaf Education Programs
Grades K-5 East End Community School
We are coming into our busiest IEP season, which means lots of testing. It will be interesting to see the progress that our students have been making.
Staff had an opportunity to attend a Special Education professional development activity with all of the Portland Public Schools. They learned more about differentiating instruction, scaffolding content, and ways to use accommodations in assessments.
Our team, including our wonderful interpreters, have been meeting with grade level teachers for communication meetings, that is, how can we meet the diverse linguistic needs of our students especially when several are in the same classroom. The meetings have been very informative and a wonderful opportunity for sharing. The interpreters bring so much rich information to the meetings. Their knowledge of and experience with our students adds a level of depth that can only enhance our services.
Grades 9-12 Portland High School
Students are in their second semester classes and time is flying by. Seniors will be making decisions about post-secondary education and training, their capstone projects, and summer employment. Underclassmen are adjusting to new schedules. It’s a busy time at PHS.
We recently enrolled a student who came to Portland from Nigeria. Although he is in eighth grade, we received permission from PHS to allow him to be in our GBSD program at PHS so that he can be immersed in American Sign Language. His school in Nigeria taught ASL to their Deaf students, but, unfortunately, the ASL teacher did not remain at the school for more than a few months. He will be able to audit high school classes, such as physical education, though he will not be earning credit until next year.
Emily Blachly, Teacher of the Deaf, recently did an art project with the MECDHH preschool through high school. We are looking forward to seeing the finished projects.
Statewide Education and Family Services
The Statewide Education and Family Services department had a full day strategic planning retreat this month that was highly successful. The team of professionals met in Augusta and worked on our mission, vision and strategic goals for the future of our department that will feed into the overall strategic plan of the organization. After working together as a group, they broke out into two teams of ECFS and PSO. Preschool had a separate session following the same process. Data driven services, technology, and regionalization were top on the lists of future goals.
The Early Childhood and Family Services (ECFS) team has been working to firm up processes. We’ve worked closely with the Maine Newborn Hearing Program to analyze data and see where the system is losing kids. We are making good progress in sealing the gaps and improving our overall outcomes. Maine has a 98% screening rate so we are doing a great job there! Documentation of early intervention services is now our focus.
We have been spreading the word about the Kindergarten Readiness Legislation. We are currently waiting for the date of the legislative hearing.
The PSO team recently put together a full day of training for the greater Bangor area. This training was provided for Teachers of the Deaf, Speech Language Pathologists, Interpreters, Ed Techs, regular Education Teachers and Special Education Administrators. Our training team included Kevin Bohlin, Karen Hopkins, Katie Duncan (Audiology), Amy Chang (Speech/Language), Donna Casavant (teacher of the deaf) and Marisa Zastrow (Educational Interpreting). The hope is to take this training statewide, providing consistency in all regions of Maine. Feedback was extremely positive.
Time is flying by in preschool. The last few weeks have been very busy. Cold and flu season are upon us and we are trying hard to keep everyone healthy! We are hoping for some more snow so we can go sledding in the quad, make snowmen, and just have some plain, old fun in the snow.
As a team with some new members, we are working on a plan to revisit the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) criteria that we met two years ago to become an accredited program. While our accreditation is good for five years, a representative could visit anytime to make sure the program is still meeting the high quality standards set by NAEYC.
The teachers have added some new curriculum units this year. Some of the topics include: transportation/community helpers, music around the world and some math/science-based themes. They are fun, engaging, and also help meet more of the Maine Early Learning Development Standards. With the help of our therapists, the team was able to take videos of each child’s present level of language. We will take more videos toward the end of the year and use this video documentation to assess the children’s language development to address any gap patterns we might be seeing. It’s exciting to see children’s growth from when they entered the program to when they leave.
We always need more subs, especially during this time of year. If you know of anyone who is interested, please let us know!