May 7, 2020Executive Director’s ReportOwen J. Logue
As you are aware, I have been working remotely for more than a month now. It has worked out remarkably especially well with multiple Zoom sessions throughout the day.
We have recently completed an Annual Report that truly showcase the outstanding work we do each and every day for all of our deaf and hard of hearing children throughout Maine. Suzy Sargent did an extraordinary job in pulling the report together. We can’t wait for you to preview it. This booklet will enable us to more effectively demonstrate the return on Maine’s investment in our organization. This will be distributed to our legislatures, the DOE, other d/hh schools, stakeholders, job applicants, and whomever would benefit or is curious about what we do.
We are so proud of our entire staff for stepping up to find ways to connect with children and families. Of course, we all miss one another yet are able to find ways for our children to be connected with their teachers and fellow classmates. The response has been extremely favorable from parents and local districts.
Each Wednesday afternoon, our Leadership Team, hosts a Q and A session with our entire staff as a way of staying connected with one another and to keep them updated on any news that they need to be aware of.
Applications for Host Families are now out with an application deadline of May 22, 2020. Please pass along this information to prospective families.
We were able to secure a rebate from Luce Transportation and the Morrison Center due to shutdown of both services since March through the end of the year. We are grateful to both organization for the wonderful service they provided us this past year.
We are in the process of hiring several key personnel due to the retirement of Rebecca Falbo, Director of Mainstream and Deaf Education, Bill Rix, Maintenance Supervisor, and Therese Rouleau, Accountant III. We thank each of them for their dedicated service to our organization. They will be greatly missed.
Mainstream and Deaf Education ProgramsRebecca Falbo, Director
K-12 Center School Program
We’re living in a Zoom world. All of our staff are engaging virtually with students. They have been able to reach all but one student. That student is regularly sent packets with work at his level. His GBSD teacher and mainstream teacher are also regularly texting and calling the father.
Portland High School and Lyman Moore Middle School have changed their schedule to 4 days per week, leaving a day to allow students to “catch up”. That gives our teachers and educational technicians an opportunity to assist students with academic support for their mainstream classes. Portland schools have also advised teachers to grade all students with either P (pass) or IE (insufficient evidence). We are frequently told by Portland principals and DOE staff to “Do no harm” to students or to ourselves.
We are all participating in training sessions and webinars from the Department of Education. IEP meetings are still occurring. We continue to have weekly staff meetings. The public schools are continuing to hold professional development.
One area of consideration if this type of event, i.e., pandemic, happens again is to ensure early on that all of our families have technology and internet capability. We were great at getting teachers and educational technicians prepared, but we are still being challenged by appropriately serving those children who had 1:1 support for behavior. A second challenge has been working with our immigrant families. Rebecca has gone to one of our families a few times to help the parent and child to get online and navigate the iPad for virtual learning. She and the parents used Google Translate to communicate with each other.
I love how regularly our staff check-in with each other to offer positive support. Morale is good, despite Zoom fatigue.
Operations and Human ResourcesCathy Murphy, Director
Business and Human Resources
The Business Office is currently managing operations with staff working part-time from home and part-time in the office. We are already beginning to plan for the audit this summer. We are also preparing teacher contracts and reasonable assurances for the following school year. We will be using the contracts module in our accounting software which will eliminate paper, postage, and will allow employees to receive and sign their documents virtually. There is a lot of set up involved with this process, but once the set-up is complete the process will provide for a much more accurate and proficient process in the future. We have advertised for our Accountant III position as our current Accountant, Therese Rouleau, is retiring this summer. Therese has been with MECDHH/GBSD for almost 40 years.
We have advertised to replace our Maintenance Supervisor position. Bill Rix, our current supervisor will be retiring this fall. We have, to date, received 27 completed applications for this position.
The Governor has closed Mackworth Island State Park due to Covid-19. The gate at the end of the causeway has been locked and our maintenance crew is at the gate from 7;30-8:30AM, 12-1PM, and 3:30-4:30PM to let MECDHH/GBSD employees and tenants on and off the island.
The Portland Water District (PWD) awarded MECDHH/GBSD a grant for a Water Bottle Refilling Station and drinking fountain. Mary Jo York, one of our Administrative Assistants, brought the grant to our attention. The filling station was installed in late April. Thank you to PWD and Mary Jo.
The following projects have been completed in April
Statewide Education and Family ServicesKaren Hopkins, Director
The Statewide Education and Family Services team has embraced the challenge of an immediate transition to virtual services due to COVID19 and has done so with professionalism and success. I am incredibly proud of the work our team is doing to provide educational opportunities to our students and families.
Early Childhood and Family Services
For the ECFS team, a day after learning of the stay at home order, consultants were contacting families and educational teams, checking in, offering personal, technical, educational support. Within days, consultants were back at work supporting families and children using online platforms. They were exploring Zoom, Google Hangouts, Google Classroom, You-Tube, Facetime, just to name a few. And for some, telephone and text support and old fashioned paper documents provided families with reassuring guidance. By the end of the month, some consultants had figured out successful ways to conduct evaluations and observations; all had found new ways to engage children and families.
April is the time for Kindergarten transition planning and COVID19 did not interfere with that! ECFS consultants are writing formal transition reports to share with sending and receiving schools. ECFS and PSO consultants are now meeting to discuss the best way to facilitate this important transition, supporting the needs of the children, their parents, sending programs and receiving school districts.
Mackworth Island Preschool
Our Preschool team continues to offer virtual sessions with children in light of the school closure. The teachers and therapists have come up with some creative ways to stay connected and engaged with children and families. They are in the middle of our Healthy Bodies unit this week and continue to use Flip Grid to pose questions to the children in video format both in spoken language and ASL. The children and preschool team are having fun recording their video responses!
We are holding morning meeting sessions in each virtual “classroom” as well as 1:1 sessions with classroom teachers, therapists, and eventually some special sessions with our Ed Techs! The Ed Tech sessions are: Yoga, Science, Cooking, ASL chats, and Show and Tell. These sessions are offering are a great opportunity for the children to be together in a more informal way and just connect with each other while doing a fun activity. The teachers, with the help of the Ed Techs, are also recording storybook readings in both languages and we are sending these 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. We sent out a survey over vacation asking for feedback from families. The responses are slowly trickling in and the families are happy and so appreciative of everything the team is doing.
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 right in the middle of Kindergarten transition meetings, so that is definitely keeping the team busy.
Public School Outreach
For the PSO team, April was a challenging but very optimistic month as our Department has been working from home and providing services through various online portals.
PSO Consultants have been truly amazing with providing lessons, consultation, hearing assistive technology/access supports and opportunities for students to interact with other students. They also have been using this time to take advantage of many professional development activities that are being offered, doing research about technology education and networking with other professionals.
PSO Consultants have been providing variety workshops for the community such as ASL, Cued Speech and storytelling. We have been getting positive comments from the community.
Our Virtual Kids Like Me program has been very successful as we are noticing an increase of participants over the weeks. The students have had the opportunity to discuss about themselves, the changes they’re experiencing and meet a Deaf Olympian who also is a former PSO Consultant and a former PSO student who is a successful fitness coach in New York.
Our Summer Transition Program has recently been changed to a virtual program as we felt that it is not realistic to have a program happening on the island this summer due to COVID 19. A committee, including PSO staff, Maine Vocational Rehabilitation personnel, Disability Rights Maine personnel and Maine Behavioral and Healthcare personnel are working on identifying variety of modules to be used for this summer. This program will be available for students that will be a Junior/Senior this fall and have plan(s) to continue post-secondary education or vocational training program. We are hoping by the next Board Meeting to be able to share more information about this program.
The HRSA grant team has begun its work for the next four years! We have several areas of focus for our work including family engagement, family activities, newborn hearing screening improvement, Deaf and hard of hearing involvement in systems, education for parents, physicians, audiologists and early interventionists and strengthen our collaboration and MOU with Child Development Services. Our team has been meeting regularly with the Maine Newborn Hearing Program to align our goals and develop a collaborative plan.
The New Hampshire All Together Now Grant Team has been very busy! We have been providing professional development, parent discussion groups, weekly teacher of the deaf groups and surveying various groups to gain insight on the state of Deaf Education in NH. This work is leading up to the role out of the NASDSE Deaf Education Guidelines which will happen simultaneously in our programs at MECDHH. The goal is to take an in depth look at our Deaf Education System, services and program and see where our strengths and challenges lie.