* ASL version
Executive Director’s Report September 5, 2019
Looking forward to welcoming back our school board members in September! August proved to be a very busy month due largely to our efforts to fill numerous vacancies, conduct Staff trainings and the start-up of Brewer's new program which I will highlight below.
Nationwide, the shortage of special education personnel, especially Teachers of the Deaf (TOD), presents the greatest challenge ever. It is expected that nationally, over 500 TOD positions will be unfilled. Currently, we have five TOD vacancies Statewide along with several Educational Technician positions vacant. We fared well in the area of contracted service providers (OT and Speech therapists for example).
As you know, we received $250,000 annually for the next 2 years to fund a new regional program in Brewer. We have assembled an amazing team to get this program up and running. At the board meeting I will explain in detail some unexpected challenges stemming from the interpretation of Chapter 304. We have a strategy as to how we will prevail one way or another. It has become glaringly evident that a major rewrite of chapter 304 is needed.
On August 20th we hosted a day of orientation for our newest staff members from all over the country. Then on August 26th and 27th we welcomed back to Mackworth Island our entire statewide staff for two days of presentations by outstanding speakers from Louisiana and Colorado. A real highlight was MECDHH/GBSD staff leading the group in interactive exercises exploring Deaf and hearing cultures. For the first time, we brought a speaker from The Democratic Republic of Congo to address the challenges of welcoming asylum seekers into our schools. Collectively, all these speakers and activities enlightened and energized our staff in their preparation for the upcoming year.
Statewide Education and Family ServicesKaren Hopkins, Director
We started the year off with three great presentations for staff. Akilah English came to us from Washington, DC to present on Bias and how to support deaf and hard of hearing children in the mainstream. Susie Broderick came to us from Colorado where she works at Rocky Mountain Deaf school, and she shared several literacy techniques. We were also fortunate to have a man that is an asylum seeker, he shared heart breaking stories of trauma and cultural experiences.
The ECFS team has had an exceptionally busy summer! We hired two new early interventionists that have been shadowing other team members and learning our statewide processes. As we are short staffed, the ECFS team has been covering for other consultants and trying to meet all the needs. Our parent infant program will start in three weeks and families are already expressing interest. This program provides support and routine- based play with infants, toddlers and their parents.
The PSO team has already received over 400 requests for service. These came in over the summer and are all services that are on the IEP or 504 plans of the students. The system is so much clearer and driven by the educational plans.
Preschool starts the year with an open house on August 28th. We have new Educational Technicians this year but our teaching team is the same, which makes for a nice strong team of early childhood educators. We spent time training on lockdown procedures this week to ensure that our staff are ready and know what to do in the event there is an emergency on island. Staff were engaged and truly showed they want to keep everyone safe.
Business Operations and Human ResourcesCathy Murphy, Director
The auditors were here in July, and both the preparation for the audit and testing performed by the auditors was quite rigorous. The auditors will be presenting their findings at the October or November board meeting. Contract negotiations continued through the end of July when a tentative agreement was reached by both parties. We have been very busy supporting the Leadership Team with the hiring process and with the onboarding of new staff. Direct deposit of payments to interpreters was planned and implemented this summer and paystubs are now being emailed to employees. Both of these changes have saved us time and paper/postage costs.
Upgrades were made to heating system controls in the boiler room and in our pre-school building. These upgrades should lower our fuel and energy costs. The bottle vents which are part of our sprinkler system in the gym are being replaced as they are old and if they were to give out there could be significant damage to the gym floor.
Mainstream and Deaf EducationRebecca Falbo, Director
Summer has flown by! The month of August was busy with developing Adobe Connect videos for professional development. The videos include information about FERPA, Title IX, Affirmative Action, Dress Code, Restraint and Seclusion, and more. Staff will be able to watch the videos during their free time so that they do not have to sit still for 2 days and have one of present to them. That way, we can have special presenters with informative topics about Deaf Culture, reading, and writing for Deaf children.
Luc Samuel, an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo spoke to us at the all staff training. Luc is a Cultural Broker, currently assisting agencies in understanding the differences in culture between Americans and Africans. He presented information on his culture and spoke about how we do things differently here. His presentation was well received. If you want more information about him, google Ticvah Matumona. Tivah is his baby girl who has chronic liver disease. The family is in Portland awaiting a liver transplant for Ticvah.
We are looking forward to a busy school year. Four of the K-5 children have gone back to their home district. Public school outreach will provide services for them. We are so happy to have a continuum of services to offer the Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Maine.