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On February 20th, I had the honor of sitting in on the confirmation of 4 new MECDHH/GBSD board members. This is very exciting to finally be gaining close to the capacity board composition that we are mandated to have. We also have 50% deaf and hard of hearing representation as well.

March 5, 2020
Executive Director’s Report

I am looking forward to our March 5th board meeting as we will have four new board members joining us and they include:

  • Corda Kinzie
  • Tommy Minch
  • Paula Matlin
  • Jennifer Gaulin

On February 20th, I had the honor of sitting in on the confirmation of these 4 new members as well as the renewal of membership to board for Robin Foster and Amber Oakes. Anna Perna was confirmed on February 24th by herself. This is very exciting to finally be gaining close to the capacity board composition that we are mandated to have. We also have 50% deaf and hard of hearing representation as well.

On February 26th, Karen and I attended the supplemental hearing to the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs for the 129th Legislature to request $499,200 over the next two years. Prior to my presentation, Pender Makin spoke in favor of our request. It is not yet clear how long before the final outcome is determined.

At the board meeting, I will be presenting to you the addition of two Educational Technicians and a Public School Outreach consultant who will soon be joining us. Tracey Dulac has left MECDHH due to mitigating health issues. We wish her well in her future.

I attended a meeting with Deaf Superintendents from West of Pennsylvania to New England in Miami on February 9-11th. These sessions are invaluable to me as I have no such peers in Maine.

Our Leadership team is doing some incredible work around the creation of an annual report, drafting new legislation around chapter 304, examining options to current housing options for students attending Portland High School and creating a vision for additional regional programs in other parts of the state. All these tasks will guide us to the creation of our next biennial budget. We are very fortunate to have such a calibrated team guiding MECDHH/GBSD.

Mainstream and Deaf Education Programs
Rebecca Falbo, Director

East End Community School

Students are busy preparing for another round of district assessments as well as keeping on with keeping up.  Of our 15 elementary students, 4 students are supported continually by an Ed Tech.  All other students have Ed Tech support as needed.  We are thankful to have had a new Ed Tech join us this week.

Lyman Moore Middle School

We now have 4 students, all of whom are in 6th grade. One student has continual support from an Ed Tech.  The other three students have support in the mainstream as needed, as well as academic support time with our teacher.

Students are getting ready to finish up their units and their second trimester as middle school students.

Math:  Our mathematicians have been working hard on ratios and dividing fractions. They have solved real world problems related to distance, cooking and money while using their knowledge of the lessons. They are challenged to draw, solve and explain their answers

Science: Weather, climate and earth's atmosphere have been the main focus this trimester. For a week our meteorologist looked up weather in both Portland and another location to compare and answer the question: why is weather different in different places. Students picked 5 locations and researched weather and climate in those places as they prepared to embark on an "adventure" around the world.

ELA: Students just finished an all school writing prompt on exotic pets and used their skills of reading an article, providing a hook, thesis and evidence to respond to the prompts. Currently, students are using their knowledge of Indigenous studies (also being taught in social studies) to make connections and inferences about indigenous life.

Social Studies: Each week students watch and discuss current events that are happening not just here in America, but across the globe. Students have been working hard on their Indigenous people and culture unit. They've learned about stereotypes and how that impacted indigenous roles in movies, literature and sports. Along with this unit kids have been writing to their Japanese pen-pals and learning about their culture and providing information about theirs.

Portland High School

From the GBSD blog:

Wrestling correspondent Kirsten Lewis:

GRIT To have grit means you have courage and show the strength of your character. A person with true grit has passion and perseverance. Goals are set and followed through.

Marlaco Bethune started his 1st season of wrestling this year. Coaches tell us that at least 20-30% of kids stop attending after the first two weeks of practice. Not only did Marlaco keep going to practices after the first two weeks, but he continued to show up to every practice after losing meet after meet. It was at the very last meet on Saturday, February 1st that Marlaco won his first JV Wrestling Match! And again, he didn’t stop. He wrestled a second match that day. It was a Varsity Match. And, he won!

Way to Go Marlaco! We are all so proud of you!! Remember when you get knocked down, Get up and Try again!

And Marlaco’s wrestling coach, commenting on the photograph, said: “This picture is the culmination of hard work and perseverance necessary to succeed in wrestling.”

The most powerful word?

This word has three letters and is the most common word we use. It is also an amazing word – as you will see in the fascinating article below:

I teach English to some of the Baxter students at PHS. We have been working a lot on determiners – that word or words we put before a common noun, like book or car.

A sentence that says, “I saw car outside” is missing a determiner. A car? Ted’s car? Your car? A teacher’s car? Bob’s best friend’s car? etc. In English class we have been looking at these options and practiced using the best determiners. For students learning English, these elements can be very difficult to master. As mundane and everyday as they appear, there is real complexity in them.

So it was nice to see this article and share it with some of the students. They could see that they are not alone! The article is about a word that is ‘technically meaningless’, but nonetheless it is miraculous, subtle and magical in many ways. Who would have thought it?

Marena Thompson is one of our most enthusiastic artists: she loves to draw! We invited Portland High School’s outstanding art teacher, Barbara Loring, to share her thoughts on one of her students:

Marena Thompson is a distinctively powerful young artist. Immersed in the study and practice of art, she is developing a visual language that is uniquely her own. Marena has created her own personal digital art blog with a devoted following and is continuously exploring and practicing methods of drawing and painting. She created powerful painted versions of her own photographs last year that were featured in the 2019 Portland Public Schools Citywide Art Exhibit at Portland City Hall, and is currently entering two approximately 28″ x 40″ works of art in the Scholastic Art Award Competition at Maine College of Art. Marena’s current works of art are moving representations of her experience as a Deaf student in a hearing world. She celebrates the warm, inclusive and dynamic facets of the Deaf community, as well as describes her observations of the hearing community and the limitations and challenges she and other Deaf people face in trying to connect, be understood and included. Her masterful pastel drawings describe the chaos and sorrows of misunderstandings and exclusion as well as a sense of heightened and supportive cohesion within the Deaf community. Marena’s mark-making is bold and emphatic, her use of color vital and strong, and her self-developed vocabulary of human form has a universality that makes it a sheer pleasure to perceive and “read”. Congratulations to Marena on her beautiful accomplishments and a promising future as an artist who creates works of such significant and informative meaning. (Marena is also a student representative on the MECDHH/GBSD school board)

 

Statewide Education and Family Services
Karen Hopkins, Director

Early Childhood and Family Services

The ECFS Team is excited to welcome Donna Casavant as our new ECFS coordinator. Donna has been doing a fantastic job closing-out her PSO duties and preparing to transition her students to the new PSO consultant, Jennifer Opperman. Donna is receiving training from CDS. Shadowing and meeting with consultants and Karen and learning her new job!

The team, led by Amy Spencer for this project, continues to work with a graphic designer on visuals for our communication exploration process. Amy developed these visuals as part of her Gallaudet Capstone Project and has been refining them with the ECFS team. With funding from the HRSA grant we are able to produce a professional looking tool. Thank you to Amy for leading this effort!

Amy Spencer completed five years of training, mentorship, and child and family service to work towards her Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certification and is preparing to take the exam! Good luck Amy! We are so proud of the work you do!

Katie Duncan has been working with the statewide pediatric audiology group to provide guidance, oversight training and create processes for this group to follow. Katie has also been fine tuning documents for CDS. Thank you Katie!

Karen Hopkins, Donna Casavant and Katie Duncan will be representing MECDHH at the upcoming EHDI conference. MECDHH has a total of 7 presentations and a poster being presented! We are extremely proud of the work we do in Maine and states have requested we share information at this conference. It will be a very busy and productive meeting!

On her way to the EHDI Conference, Karen will be stopping in DC to attend a career fair to recruit new teachers!  We are hopefully we can find new qualified staff to join our teams!

Mackworth Island Preschool

Preschool is back in action after all the snow days and February vacation week! We had lots of fun on Valentine’s Day wearing red and pink, having our faces painted, and giving cards to our friends! We are in our unit on Shapes and have enjoyed going on shape hunting walks!

Our enrollment is now at 27, with 19 Deaf and hard of hearing friends and 8 hearing peers. We still have some permanent positions open for Ed Techs both full- and part-time, as well as substitute positions, so if you know anyone who might be interested, send them our way! Our collaboration with Maine Behavioral Health and their CADD program is going well. It is great to see more programs and children on the island!

As the new semester gets under way we anticipate having volunteers join us from the interpreting and linguistics programs at University of Southern Maine. They are fun to have around and many become substitutes (and sometimes even Ed Techs) for us, which is always a need!

The team continues to work to keep up with our NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accreditation. It is a lot of work and the team is putting in a lot of effort to make sure we are continually meeting the standards. State of Maine licensing will visit in the next couple weeks, so we are finalizing all the necessary information for them as well

Public School Outreach

February was a busy month for Public School Outreach as we saw a significant expansion of students that we serve. After some research with district representatives, we discovered how they learned of our services. Some common responses were:

  • Heard about this program through DOE, MADSEC, colleagues or know someone who works within MECDHH organizations
  • New staff who transferred into their district had used MECDHH/PSO services in their previous district
  • Used MECDHH/PSO services on interim basis and saw the benefits
  • From Mackworth Island Preschool and other GBSD programs
  • Through parents, Advocacy-related organizations

Kids like Me (KLM) Weekend program was postponed to February 28th to 29th due to a snowstorm. The students will bowl, snow-tube and spend the night in the dorms! To date we have 33 students signed up! It is exciting to see the growth in this program!

PSO sponsored a SAT Webinar for high school students. Feedback from the first webinar was very positive! The second webinar will take place on March 14th, one-on-one support for the students will be available until they take their SATs in April.

PSO's ASL Video for the community project is underway. We are hoping through this platform to lead people to the MECDHH website and social media platforms.

The community/family classes that are provided at Mackworth Island on Mondays and Wednesdays are showing a regular attendance. This is exciting because it shows families are learning ways to communicate more effectively with their children.

We are excited to welcome Jennifer Opperman to our Brewer office as a Teacher of the Deaf. Currently, we have Speech Language Pathologist and Teacher of the Deaf Consultant positions (both Falmouth office) open as well as a shared PSO/ECFS position in the Rockland area.

There has been increasing interest among PSO staff for professional development. They often return from their professional development and share new resources with the team. This sharing supports our efforts to stay updated about current Deaf Education trends. We appreciate the opportunities sponsored by PPBF, MECDHH, MEAD, DRM, MBHC and community members!

Junior NAD members are working to development a social event for Deaf/Hard of Hearing youths. It is nice

Operations and Human Resources
Cathy Murphy, Director

Business and Human Resources

We have completed all of our year-end document processing such as W-2’s, 1099’s, 1095’s and all associated uploads to the IRS, State of Maine, and Social Security systems. We will be expanding the direct deposit of Accounts Payable checks to contractors and for the purposes of employee expense reimbursements. This new process of direct deposit vendor payments has saved us both time and money. We are continually looking for ways to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. We are no longer hosting our accounting server on-sight, but have contracted with Tyler Technologies (accounting software) to host our server at their location. The transition was not without its hiccups but overall it went extremely well. In doing this, the version for our Employee Portal was upgraded which has resulted in more functionality and ease of use for our staff.

Facilities

Over the last two months our maintenance crew has been busy with snow storm clean up, event set-up and take down, and assisting Maine Behavioral Health with their transition to our facility. On Sunday, February 24th and Monday September 25th we experienced water damage in the mansion due to what we believe is a leaking pipe. The water is currently shut off to the second and third floors. Servpro has been called in to mitigate water damage and dry out affected areas. Some floors and plaster walls will need to be removed and replaced.

We have recently switched all our fire suppression testing services from Simplex Grinnell to Eastern Fire due to financial and other considerations.