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On April 10th Maine’s Kindergarten Readiness legislation received full support from the Education Committee! We had a lot of support from parents, staff, Deaf community members and other agencies.

Executive Director’s Report
May 9, 2019

I am writing this report while returning from the CEASD (Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf) recently held in Denver, CO from April 26-29th. MECDHH was represented by Kevin Bohlin, PSO Coordinator, Cathy Lushman, ASL Teacher of the Deaf, K-5, and myself.

Cathy Lushman served on a panel of experts to discuss the topic of partnerships in Early Intervention. Later that afternoon, Cathy co-presented, with Tawny Holmes Hlibok, Esq., on a plenary session asking “Want More $$$ for Early Outreach?”. Much of the emphasis was focused on Maine’s involvement with the HRSA grant and its impact on Maine children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and their parents in. Karen Hopkins participated via zoom and, along with Cathy, prepared a beautiful power point presentation that all participants can access from the conference’s website. It is evident that Maine is leading the nation in the birth to five programming efforts.

At the State level two major events took place. On March 27th, Karen and I presented to the Legislative’s Education Committee to request a substantial funding increase of approximately $1.8 million for the next two years. As you may recall, we were slated for flat funding for the next two years by the previous administration. The Education Committee has recommended an increase of $777,000 for FY 2020 to include $577,000 for new positions, and $200,000 additional funds to offset excessive transportation costs. The following year we will receive the same funding plus approximately $245,000 for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for a total of over $1 million. The Education Committee supported this request by a vote of 12-0. We are not likely to learn the final financial figure until sometime in June. Because of this I would like to request that we move our next meeting to June 20th in the hopes that we will have a final budget to approve. Meanwhile, it is important to continue to contact legislators and senators to support this effort.

On April 10th Maine’s Kindergarten Readiness legislation received full support from the Education Committee! We had a lot of support from parents, staff, Deaf community members and other agencies. The next step is for this bill to be voted on in the House. We are waiting to hear the date of this hearing. We are optimistic that this will pass!

The Leadership team will spend two days in early May to prepare for union negotiations. We have received our initial letter from the Union to begin negotiations for both professional and support staffs. We are hopeful to reach an agreement quickly on both contracts.

The State police approached MECDHH/GBSD about the possibility of renting space to provide an office for its nine patrol officers that cover Interstate 295. We are seeking clarification from the Attorney General’s office as to whether this would be permissible. This concept has been received favorably by staff on Mackworth Island especially those who work later hours.

We recently learned that Portland Public Schools has asked us to explore new space for the K-5 program currently located in East End Community School. This request is due to an extreme space shortage at all of the K-5 programs. This is an extreme disappointment to all of us. We are actively seeking a new location for our educational program. Rebecca Falbo is taking the lead on setting up meetings and site visits.

Mainstream and Deaf Education Programs
Rebecca Falbo, Director

East End Community School

Students have all finished testing. We are eagerly awaiting results to see what gains have been made this year.

The East End Community Garden allows students to participate in gardening. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students. Related to gardening, Mr. Sparks and his rehabilitated animals came to school and shared knowledge with the first grade to help students start their Bird Unit.  They will go on a field trip to Falmouth Audubon at Gilsland Farm on May 16th to continue their learning.

Our elementary students have been working on science standards studying animals around the world, describing what they look like, how they move, learning about their habitats, different biomes, and different food chain/food webs over the year across the grades.

K-12 Trip to Wells National Estuarine Research

Our Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing K-12 program has been invited to the Wells National Estuarine Research at Laudholm Farm as part of the Teachers of the Estuaries Program. This special field trip is on May 6th. Elementary students will leave Portland around 8:30 am and return by 2 pm. Last summer we won a grant from Watershed Stewardship in Action: Deaf Students on the Estuary, collaborating with ASL Clear (www.aslclear.org) to learn about the watershed and estuaries in Maine. During their visit to the reserve, students will learn to use a watershed model to explore human impacts on estuaries, and more. It is going to be fun-filled and busy day!

Our kindergarten through 5th grade students will arrive at the reserve at 9:30 for a Wild Friends in Wild Places presentation, followed by a nature walk and then lunch at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm. The elemenatary progarm lasts 3 hours. After lunch, we will have outside play and then head back to school in time to return home.

Wild Friends in Wild Places

What is it? Live animal "ambassadors" from the Center for Wildlife are used to teach about native wildlife and their behaviors, characteristics, and life needs. Students also venture outdoors to explore the habitats of the Wells Reserve while searching for animal homes and signs.

We will have a guided nature walk on one of the many nature trails discussing various topics that may include; the History of a Saltwater Farm, Life Between the Tides, or the Secrets of a Salt Marsh.

Portland High School

High School students will arrive at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at 9:00 am on May 6th. They will observe and identify live planktons, come to understand the importance of plankton to healthy ecosystems, and learn plankton life histories. They also will visit the salt marsh to explore water quality testing methods for measuring salinity, pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. The program lasts about 3 hours and we will return to Portland High School after lunch at the reserve.

On April 26th, we had students from the PHS program at the Cumberland County Special Olympics.  Ed techs Matt, Darleen, and our speech-language pathologist, Casey, attended the event with four students. Each student ran in a heat. Our newest student ran the 100- meter dash and got 2nd place in his heat. Another student ran the 100m dash and got 4th place in his heat. Our senior girl ran the 50-meter dash and got 3rd place in her heat.

 

Statewide Education and Family Services
Karen Hopkins, Director

The HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) grant is headed into its third, and final, year.  Karen met with her federal support provider and received extremely positive feedback on what we have done with the grant. The are pleased with our creativity and our ability to serve so many families and providers statewide. We are now working on a new app for physicians, early interventionists, audiologists, and families that will provide information to all. As DHHS no longer has the funds to support the audiology consultant and parent consultant for the Maine EHDI (Early Hearing & Detection Intervention) program, MECDHH will be pulling these two positions under us with the HRSA grant to ensure our state still has these two critical positions. We are beginning to look at how to use our audiologists to fill this need. The initial focus will be on providing hearing screenings statewide to support our loss to follow up and ensure families have the support they need. We will also be providing physician education, more family days, and more involvement with adults who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

ECFS's (Early Childhood Family Services) Parent Infant Toddler (PIT) program has launched its first Pop Up: Spring ASL Story Hour. This is in collaboration with the children's program at the Auburn Public Library. We are expecting families of children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing to join in the coming weeks and have opened the story hour to all families of children ages birth to three. The long term goal is to establish a series of ASL story hours in libraries statewide.

We are excited to have two new team members joining out team this summer as we continue to increase our support to families and children throughout Maine. Our community of practice once again increased its number of accepted referrals this month for both new and ongoing services. This COP learning community has decided to coordinate two forum-style meetings a year, allowing an opportunity for new providers or families to join for feedback and questions about working with this population.

ECFS and CDS (Child Development Services) have received great feedback from participants on the Routines Based Interview and Early Intervention Trainings we offered at the end of last month. We expect to maintain an ongoing level of fidelity to ensure families are getting the best support possible.

The CEASD conference recently requested presentations on grant writing for our 0-5 programs as well as for the HRSA Grant and other federal grants. Karen Hopkins was unable to attend so ASL Teacher of the Deaf, Cathy Lushman, delivered the presentations on our behalf. She did a fabulous job and received many questions and requests to visit Maine!

Mackworth Island Preschool currently has an enrollment of 30 children, 18 DHH children and 12 hearing peers. We just finished our Three Little Pigs curriculum unit. The children enjoyed using different types of materials to “build” and create various “houses”. We will begin a Healthy Bodies unit after April vacation, which includes taste-testing foods from each food group, practicing our tooth brushing, and getting outside as much as possible for some good old-fashioned exercise!

Over the past couple months, we have had many volunteers come work in the preschool program. The children love having volunteers who just come to play! Many of the volunteers go on to become substitutes for our program, which is fantastic! Some even become Ed Tech certified and work in our program on a permanent basis.

We are gearing up for a busy annual IEP and Kindergarten transition meeting season. It is a bittersweet time of year for the preschool team, just as it is for families! We are so proud of all the children have accomplished, and will miss them as they move on to Kindergarten!

The preschool program just passed its annual DHHS Licensing review. Thank you to the whole preschool team, preschool coordinator, Lori Leveasque, and the business office and maintenance staff for making sure all was in order for this critical visit! Congrats to this wonderful team!

The PSO (Public School Outreach) department is getting busy with new requests to continue services for the upcoming academic years. Most of the requests that we have been receiving are for the following services:

  • Teacher of the Deaf Observation and Consulting
  • Functional Listening Evaluation
  • Direct Instruction with Teacher of the Deaf
  • ASL Evaluation or 1:1 ASL Support

PSO has been working closely with ECFS in the last couple of weeks to ensure that any child from preschool/ECFS-related programs will have an efficient transition into kindergarten, including PSO support if their family/school district opt to use PSO services. At this time we have received 21 students from ECFS and we were able to assign them to a current PSO teacher. We anticipate the transition process to be smooth.

We have three positions within the PSO Department we have been trying to fill.   We were able to hire one new Teacher of the Deaf, one new Deaf Mentor/Teacher of the Deaf. One staff recently notified that she will not be returning next year- however we believe that we can cover her region with the one more vacated position and we are anticipating interviews to be completed soon.

A big focus in our department is on-going training. The majority of the PSO Department recently received trainings with the following organizations:

  • Phonak’s Explore the World with Confidence: Phonak Pediatric Portfolio
  • Hands and Voices’ Advocacy, Support and Training program
  • Boston Children Hospital’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in the Schools: Classroom Considerations and Accommodations)
  • Boston University’s Bedrock Literacy Curriculum (this is an ongoing training until end of this academic year)
  • Perkin’s Deafblind Coaching and Consulting

With all of these new teaching techniques, and updated research on best practice in Deaf Education, PSO will be updating the webinar series for the upcoming academic year.

PSO is developing a handbook for the department so everybody will be on the same page and to promote more consistency with quality of works/expectations. We were hoping to have it ready for review at the end of April but we are looking completion by the end of May.

PSO is collaborating with Maine Behavioral Health Care and Vocational Rehabilitation to encourage our Deaf/Hard of Hearing High School students to start preparing for their future. There will be two transition fairs happening in Presque Island on May 14th, and in Brewer on May 15th.

Kids Like Me will have their final weekend retreat in the Bangor region on May 17th and 18th.

 

Operations and Human Resources
Cathy Murphy, Director

Facilities

Most notable is that Bill Rix, our Maintenance Manager, is making wonderful progress with his recovery and has returned to work on a part-time basis. Again, the rest of the crew has really stepped up in his absence to make sure our buildings remain safe and clean for our students and staff. The company which holds our preventative maintenance contract for our HVAC and boiler systems, Siemens, was here this month meeting with myself and the rest of the maintenance crew. We walked through the entire campus and highlighted areas which needed more than just preventative maintenance. Of upmost concern were the bottle vents in the ceiling of the gym. They are old and need replacing in order to avoid what could be significant water damage. Siemens is developing a quote to address items over and above our preventive maintenance contract. There are a number of weekend events scheduled in May and June, so along with spring clean-up and general maintenance requests, our crew will again have plenty on their lists.

Business and Human Resources

Focus for our group in the upcoming months will be on year-end close out, preparing for the audit this summer, and managing the open enrollment process for benefits. We have begun a discussion amongst ourselves on a couple of initiatives which will streamline some or our processes and cut our costs for supplies. More importantly we will be evaluating, over the next month, exactly how much time will be saved if we change these processes. I will report out on specific initiatives as we progress. This past month I attended a conference in Maryland on our HRSA grant which was very informative on the HRSA grant cycle, internal controls, processes, allowable costs, etc. I was able to meet our Grant Management Specialist and that discussion has already benefited our organization.

Technology

Rich Foisy again has been focusing on website re-design. He has been updating the website's content links and as part of the technology committee reports that they are leaning toward keeping the platform and vendor we are currently using as their website program is more flexible and we are more used to using it. He will have more definite information at our next meeting in 2 weeks. He has also been working with our ASL for families’ teacher, Melinda Meyers, in an effort to expand on the remote session experience by utilizing our in-house technology resources; cameras, lighting, smartboard, and related software. The results have been very promising.

Last month I introduced you to the business office staff and our IT Director, next month I will introduce our maintenance crew. Although not involved directly with student instruction, their support is of course critical to the success of our programs.