April 2, 2020Executive Director’s ReportOwen J. Logue
What an extraordinary and unprecedented time we have entered. Recently, Mike Pulsifer made the comment to me that the COVID-19 would consume my work for quite some time. Indeed he was correct. Cathy Murphy has joined me for three sessions a week with Cumberland County Superintendent Association group for 1-hour zoom sessions to make unified decisions around the suspension of face-to-face instruction. Initially, we made a decision on March 15, 2020 to delay opening schools for 2-weeks, until March 30, 2020. On March 15, 2020 it was agreed to extend the delay until April 27, 2020.
It has been quite extraordinary to see the response of our Leadership Team in making major decisions for the benefit of all staff members including hourly staff. These sound decisions have made for a smooth transition for our entire statewide staff to ensure that all our student's educational and supplemental needs are met each day. We all miss our students and colleagues during this challenging time.
On March 16th, we received confirmation that we received our full funding request of $499,200 for the next two years to support out Brewer K-8 regional program. We are most fortunate as many of this year's supplemental requests were denied. This is indicative of the broad support amongst our Commissioner and legislatures.
We also received news from Senator King's office that MECDHH/GBSD's HRSA grant proposal for $235,000 for next four years has been renewed. We believe we are the only school for the Deaf selected for this competitive grant. Congratulations to Karen Hopkins and the staff who assisted her in the rewrite of this arduous grant process.
At the next board meeting, I will be seeking approval for a new housing concept based on the host family model versus the leasing of a residential facility such as Spurwink and the Morrison Center that we have utilized in the past. We have assurances from the Attorney General's office that this concept is within the language as written in Chapter 304.
We have recently offered the position of ECFS coordinator to Cassidy Marshall from South Carolina who will be joining us this coming fall.
We are excited to unveil our first annual report, since my arrival, to be released at the May board.
The upcoming board meeting will represent the first time that we have hosted an entirely virtual board meeting which is only permissible at this time due to a temporary decree from Governor Mills.
Mainstream and Deaf Education ProgramsRebecca Falbo, Director
Portland K-12 Program
I am so proud to say that our teachers and educational technicians have rolled up their sleeves and prepared students for building closures long before school buildings were closed.
Meanwhile, I’ve been busy keeping in touch with my staff, running IEP meetings (virtually), and participating in other virtual meetings with our State education leaders. Keeping up with changes in policy and practice is a regular exercise.
Statewide Education and Family ServicesKaren Hopkins, Director
Our world as we know it has changed, both personally and professionally. The spirit of togetherness and collaboration has never been stronger in our Statewide Education and Family Services Team. The energy and passion around supporting families and children has been fueling through the state. I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished in such a short time and proud of this team that has been working so hard!
We do have some other news to share! The National Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Meeting took place in the beginning of March before the travel suspensions took place due to COVID-19. The conference was well represented by our staff, other professionals and families from Maine. Karen Hopkins, Katie Duncan, and Donna Casavant represented MECDHH/GBSD. MECDHH/GBSD presented 9 presentations and one poster presentation. Each presentation offered information on one aspect of our programming in Maine related to our HRSA Grant work or the work of our early childhood programs. Sessions were full with people following Maine’s work. It is amazing to see the positive energy around our programming and services to children and families.
We are excited to announce we recently received notification of award of the Federal HRSA grant again! We received a total of $940,000-$235,000 each year for the next four years. This grant supports family engagement, professional development, parent to parent support, Deaf and hard of hearing infusion into programming, and support to Maine’s newborn hearing screening process. We are thrilled to be able to continue the work we have been doing!
Early Childhood and Family Services
Public School Outreach
The PSO Consultants have contacted the parents, case managers, school districts and any essential personnel that provide services for the PSO students. We have received a lot positive feedback as to how MECDHH and PSO are well prepared to provide supports in this unusual circumstance.
The PSO Department is continuing to serve students in several ways. During the past two weeks the team has been committed to:
The PSO team has been working together via Google Drive to develop resources that are available to support each other in this time of transition—this file has been shared among many other non-MECDHH Teacher of the Deaf in the state and around the USA. The other day, a non-MECDHH/GBSD Teacher of the Deaf commented that she couldn’t believe how professionally and quickly our staff work.
This is also the season of Pre-school to Kindergarten transition—ECFS, Mackworth Preschool and PSO have been collaborating closely and Kindergarten transition meetings will still be happening virtually!
Mackworth Island Preschool
Preschool has moved to virtual sessions with children in light of the school closure. The teachers and therapists have really come up with some creative ways to stay connected and engaged with children and families. They are doing a Music unit this week and have used Flip Grid to pose questions to the children in video format both in spoken language and ASL, the children can then respond to the question with their own video answer! Very cool!
We are holding morning meeting sessions in each “classroom” as well as 1:1 sessions with classroom teachers, therapists, and eventually some special sessions with our Ed Techs! The teachers are also recording storybook readings in both languages and we are sending that home to families each week, too. Some families have chosen to not participate virtually, so for them we are developing some packets of activities and resources to send home to them.
Our enrollment is now at 28, with 20 Deaf and Hard of Hearing friends and 8 hearing peers. We miss seeing them on island every day, but are really impressed with how quickly they have taken to the online format of instruction.
We are busy getting ready for all the Kindergarten transition meetings that are starting up as early as April 10 and very grateful for google drive and zoom!
Operations and Human ResourcesCathy Murphy, Director
Business and Human Resources
The mansion staff, which includes Suzy, Owen, myself and three accounting staff will be staggering our days in the mansion beginning Monday March 30th. In the meantime, our offices are very spread out so we have been able to practice social distancing. We have acquired hardware and software which will enable all of our staff to work from home. Although the Governor has decreed that all non-essential personnel work from home, accounting staff and administrative staff are considered essential personnel and can report to the island.
Our maintenance staff will also begin staggering their days on the island beginning March 30th. While I would consider maintenance essential personnel, there is not a need to have all four staff on the island in order to maintain safety and school readiness. We will have either two or three maintenance crew on the island per day and we are providing relevant professional development for them while working from home.
All Teachers and Ed Techs have been working from home since schools closed two weeks ago which gives our cleaning contractor an opportunity to do some deep cleaning. They are scrubbing all surfaces and touchpoints in offices and then disinfecting. Our pre-school staff did an excellent job cleaning out the classrooms on the last days they were able to come on to the premises. The classrooms will undergo the same cleaning as offices but we will also remove furniture and wash carpets while we have the opportunity. Then they will move on to hallways. Bathrooms have already been deep cleaned.
The mansion project to fix the water damage I reported on last month is progressing. Blowers were in the mansion for well over a week drying floors, walls, and ceilings. Asbestos tile and sheetrock on the second floor was then removed by an abatement company. We will soon begin the re-construction phase.
The Island Trail has picked up in popularity since school has been out and families are looking for something to do with their children. While some of the warmer days have created a traffic hazard at the gate and gatehouse, for the most part everyone has been well behaved. As I write this I have learned that the Governor has closed Mackworth Island State Park to the public.
It may be an understatement to say that Rich Foisy our technology guru has been the “Most Wanted” person at MECDHH/GBSD these last few weeks. Rich has been tirelessly supporting our staff while we navigate our way through the distance learning process. From enabling Virtual Private Networks to showing people how to use hotspots, to getting devices for our students, to issuing and loading up laptops with appropriate software, to answering thousands and thousands of questions. We owe him a debt of gratitude (or maybe just some quiet time off).