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We have three students graduating from Portland High School! All three are working on their final Capstone Projects.

Executive Director’s Report
April 4, 2019

What a month it has been. On the surface it might appear that not much occurred activity wise yet many seeds were planted that have now reached fruitarian. Below are the highlights of activities that have occurred:

  • All Staff meeting took place on March 25th to provide update on all the exciting occupancies
  • Rebecca Falbo and myself met with Portland Public Schools to renew our MOU for the upcoming year ahead of schedule.
  • Karen and myself met with the New England Consortium to solidify role expectation and funding of our newly approved Special Education Specialist position offered to Kristen Shorey.
  • On March 28th, Karen and I met with the Education Committee to discuss our proposal for increased funding. We obtained full support from the board for recommendation to the appropriation committee to support our request of approximately $1.25 million.
  • April 3rd the Appropriation Committee will determine the level of funding based on the Education Committee's recommendations
  • The date of April 10th has been set for the Kindergarten Readiness Bill for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children

Very much looking forward to seeing everyone Thursday.


Mainstream and Deaf Education Programs
Rebecca Falbo, Director

Portland High School
We have three students graduating from Portland High School! All three are working on their final Capstone Projects.

Two students are working collaboratively on a project to develop more independence in the GBSD student lead "Coffee Cart". They are working to take out the need for sign language interpreters when Deaf students running Coffee Cart interact with hearing students and staff at Portland High through the use of visual tools and pictures. They plan to show how this will be effective for the work students do for Coffee Cart and how those skills can also be applied outside of school at work locations in the community. Both students are currently in the Food Services Program at Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) and plan to work in restaurant settings after graduation.

A third student is creating his own welding structure as his Capstone Project. He found a model that inspired him and is developing a blue print to create his own final project. This student was also recently accepted to the South West Collegiate Institute for the Deaf in Big Spring, Texas. He plans to continue to study welding there.

A high school junior recently participated in the Career Development Conference. She won 4th place in the Jobs for Maine Graduates competition for college interviewing skills.

Spring sports have started. We have two students participating. One is running track and throwing javelin. The other is doing shot-put, discus, and javelin.

Our Jr. NAD chapter is up and running. Elections for officers happened last week. There are plans in the works for our students to have mentoring through MEAD.

Portland Arts and Technology High School will have their Senior Celebration on Thursday, May 23rd, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland from 6:00-8:00PM. Family and friends are welcome. No tickets are needed. General seating.

Portland High School graduation will be on Thursday, June 6th at Merrill Auditorium at 2:00PM. Tickets are required for this event and seating is assigned.

East End Community School
Second graders have been studying the phases of the moon, learning to regroup with subtraction of double-digit numbers, and doing a lot of reading and writing!

The third through fifth graders have been busy with MEA state testing. Our fourth and fifth graders have been tackling multi-digit multiplication and learning division!! They are working on Biome projects; studying various biomes, temperature, animals, and plants, along with the biome's corresponding food web.

They’ve also been learning about predators and prey, carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores too.  All are practicing presentations in ASL for the upcoming Parent Teacher Conferences.

Operations and Human Resources
Cathy Murphy, Director

As you may have heard our Maintenance Director, Bill Rix, has been out due to unexpected emergency surgery. I am extremely happy to report that his recovery is going very well although his timeframe to return to work is still unclear. Meanwhile, our maintenance crew has been working diligently to keep things up and running in his absence. A list of projects completed by the maintenance team since this past summer are attached.  The crew and I also attended a safety workshop on Chemical Hazards on March 3 which was presented by MEMIC, our workers comp insurance company. It was very informative and the crew walked away with a renewed awareness of proper handling, storage, labeling, and mitigation of adverse effects of chemicals used in the workplace.

Business and Human Resource
It has been a very busy first month on the job. I am very grateful for our Business Office staff who have many years of experience here at the school and have been an enormous help to me. They also really stepped up to the plate and took on additional duties during the time my position was vacant. During the week of April 1st I will be in Augusta for a series of meetings with state agencies that I will be interacting with on a regular basis – MainePers, Division of Real Estate Management, Division of General Services and the Department of Education finance group. These should be informative meetings and I am looking forward to making connections at the state level.

Rich Foisy has been focusing on website re-design. The technology committee has been meeting once a month to determine the basic mapping of a new website. They are also reviewing media content and researching vendor options and quotes. Along with maintaining and troubleshooting all the technology we use on a daily basis, Rich has also been spending time converting our cell phone service to First Net. First Net is a first responder phone network which will provide much needed improved service for our many staff who work in satellite locations.

Over the next two months I would like to introduce to you the operations staff here on the island. This month I will include the business office staff and our IT Director; next month our maintenance crew. Although not involved directly with student instruction their support is, of course, critical to the success of our programs.  Below is a picture of the staff, their names, number of years they have worked for MECDHH, and some interest or hobby of theirs.

Business Office Staff

Rouleau, Accountant III
36 years at MECDHH, enjoys outdoor container flower gardening

Doreen Spear, Human Resources Generalist
28 years at MECDHH, likes to garden and watch football

Kathy Lagasse, Accounting Support Technician
30 years at MECDHH, rides a motorcycle named Suzy and is hoping to finish her 16 sided house before retirement

Internet Technology Staff
Rich Foisy, Technology Systems Specialist8 years at MECDHH, enjoys landscaping, remodeling and boating on the ocean

Maintenance projects completed since the summer of 2018:

  • Air quality testing in all buildings – No mold detected except for G building (unoccupied)
  • Lower K – painting, wall repair, floors stripped and waxed, wiring for electric/communications
  • Upper K – painting, wall repair, floors stripped and waxed, wiring for electric/communications
  • Lower C – painting, wall repair, wiring for electric/communications, ADA upgrades in process
  • Upper C – painting, wall repair, replaced alarm system, replaced doors
  • G Building – painting, wall repair, cabinet refurbishment, replaced fans, wiring for electric/communications
  • D Building – replaced sinks in all pre-school classrooms
  • Finished transforming library into conference center
  • Erected outdoor storage facility on end of facility garage
  • Moved shed to principal parking to increase maintenance storage
  • Multiple classroom and office moves


Statewide Education and Family Services
Karen Hopkins, Director

Early Childhood and Family Services has experienced a few growing pains in the past few months. We received 31 referrals in the past month! In years past we had an average of 20-25 referrals a year! We are collaborating with Child Development Services (CDS) to provide over 176 different services to children ages birth to 3 years and their families, even while being short staffed.  This month we hosted a routines-based interview and early intervention training at the Mackworth Island Conference Center for more than 20 providers from around the state. This training was presented in collaboration with CDS as a way to improve and maintain consistency with the services we provide. We continue to receive positive feedback from providers, families and preschools throughout the state.

Mackworth Island Preschool currently has an enrollment of 30 children, 18 DHH children and 12 hearing peers. We just finished two weeks of a World of Color unit, which is very popular with the children and staff, as they all wear a different designated color for each day of the week. Even parents dressed in the different colors. It was very fun!

A couple weeks ago we had a visit from 13 high school students from Brewster Academy, a boarding school in Wolfeboro, NH. The students were taking a 2-week intensive course on Deaf culture and learning some ASL. They came to do some activities with our preschoolers. We had a blast and hope we sparked an interest for some of these students to go on to become teachers of the deaf!

We are gearing up for a busy annual IEP and Kindergarten transition meeting season. We also have a famous artist, Nancy Rourke, coming soon to paint and visit with the children in the preschool. A big thank you to Emily Blachly for including us in Nancy’s time in Maine. Emily also came in last month and did an art project with the children. It was a beautiful creation! We hope it will find its way back here to be on permanent display.

Public School Outreach Updates

  • We are in the process of rolling out a PR campaign to explain our new model of outreach services to school districts statewide. We are now providing IEP and 504 services statewide. Per DOE directive, the services that are being provided through Public School Outreach will be at no cost to the school districts. The only cost to the districts would be the cost of interpreting services if they needed support in securing qualified educational interpreters.
  • The department has been going through some “updates,” with how the services are being requested, processed and to gain better relationships with our stakeholders. (School district, family members, consultants)

There is a new e-mail for inquires and service requests: This has been an effective system as we are receiving/replying in a quicker and more timely manner.

MECDHH/PSO had a successful presentation with the Bangor educational community at the end of January which was reflected in the positive feedback received in a survey that was sent to all participants. We are looking forward to meeting with more districts to share information related to the new services we are providing at MECDHH/PSO and best practices in deaf education. relations.

  • Since February, the PSO Department has been working on implementing a new electronic PSO student information system. The initial testing seems to be very positive and well secured. This will allow for a more confidential filing system as well as easier access to files statewide.  We are hoping for a full electronic file system to be completed prior to the 2019-2020 academic year.
  • There is a handbook being developed for PSO Department. This departmental handbook will detail expectations, roles and procedures for all PSO employees. This handbook should be ready for review/approval by the end of April.
  • The ECFS and PSO teams have begun the ECFS to PSO transition process. In this process students that are transitioning to kindergarten are assigned to a PSO consultant. The ECFS and PSO consultants meet to discuss the 0-5 history of the child, conduct a joint observation of the student when possible, and attend the kindergarten transition meeting together. This process allows for a smooth transition for both the student and their family.
Hands & Voices recently held a Winter Weekend Getaway on the island! This family weekend was fully funded by the HRSA Grant. Families came from all over Maine and New Hampshire to learn from Djenne and Michael Morris with the theme of "Finding Balance". Djenne is the president of Hands & Voices headquarters.  She and her husband Michael are parents to a son who is DeafBlind. The weekend brought lots of sharing for deaf and hard of hearing children, their siblings, and their parents.