January 7, 2021Karen Hopkins
I am truly honored to be writing this Executive Director’s report for the first time. As your new Executive Director, I will be looking at MECDHH/GBSD with a through lens. My focus these next six months will be to listen to staff, families, students, our community and our board. The six areas of focus that will be my priority include:
The next six months will be a time of transition and exploration. I am honored to bring MECDHH/GBSD into its next chapter. I am thankful for your trust in my leadership and look forward to building many collaborative relationships.
As we continue our work of supporting families and educating our students, I would like to share some of the highlights of our incredible staff from the month of December. We are so fortunate to have such skilled and passionate staff at MECDHH/GBSD.
Our Statewide Education and Family Services continue to meet the unique needs of children, families and school programs statewide during the unprecedented times of a COVID pandemic. Services continue to be “hybrid” as shared in our previous Board Report. IFSPs (for children birth to age 2) and IEPs (for children 3-21) are now happening regularly and any deferrals due to COVID closures of the spring and summer are moving forward as normal. We welcomed many new staff to MECDHH/GBSD this year and are excited with the skills and diverse perspectives they are bringing to our organization. Our new early intervention staff (Chelsea Alexander and Caitlin O’Connell) are spending more time with their fellow early interventionists and Child Development Services (CDS) colleagues to observe assessments and services while also building their capacity to provide MECDHH services to families and young children on their caseload. Our new Speech Language therapist, Abby Bishop, jumped right into supporting speech language therapists and our itinerant teachers of the deaf throughout the State of Maine. In our Portland High School (PHS) Program, Meaghan Dube, our new Teacher of the Deaf has been doing a great job leading the PHS team! All of our new staff continue to learn the complexities of our organization and the critical importance of support to families and providers in everything we do at MECDHH/GBSD.
Organization-wide, we continue to receive referrals for services for children birth through High School statewide. Having a clear, consistent referral process will add strength to our organization and ensure that children are connected to the appropriate services in a timely manner. Referrals come to us for early intervention, early childhood programming, our preschool program, and our Governor Baxter School for the Deaf site based programs in Brewer and Portland. Donna Cassavant and Kim Spencer have worked to develop a new referral form and checklist for incoming referrals. This new process will ensure referral information is accessible to all directors and coordinators and will streamline creation and sharing of documents, releases, files, etc. to all individuals on the child’s team.
The Mackworth Island Preschool is continuing to grow. In January we will have 23 students enrolled (19 deaf and hard of hearing and 4 peers) with more coming in the next couple of months! During the month of December, the children learned about Kwanzaa, Chanukah and Christmas. They also enjoyed time outside sledding and building social distance snow people. We are so fortunate to be housed on this beautiful island that offers many natural learning opportunities for our students.
The Governor Baxter School for the Deaf Brewer site- based program currently has four students receiving daily Specially Designed Instruction and several others receiving on-going consultation from our teachers of the deaf and have been actively engaged in lots of wonderful learning activities. During a break one day, a student started constructing a boat from an old box. Construction required some math. We have used this boat as a writing prompt, writing about all the places they'll go in it and what they'll see there. The class made a book using prepositions: “I am in the boat, I'm under the boat”, etc. We worked on cooperation and social skills as we floated the sea and fished off the side. It will be exciting to see what other ideas they create for expanding their student’s learning opportunities!
Our Governor Baxter School for the Deaf site-based program in Portland has had a busy month! With several IEP meetings, our staff have been focusing on the individual needs of each student and looking at ways to enhance their educational opportunities. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to engage with our programs in Portland in this transition and be able to look at the strengths and hear from staff the areas of needs they wish us to focus on as a team. Our Portland continue to do an incredible job at meeting the needs of our students delivering instruction in-person, in hybrid models, and remotely, all while collaborating with their Portland counterparts.
Please join me in welcoming Kaitlyn Millen, our new Director of Deaf Education Programming to our team of dedicated professionals at MECDHH. Kaitlyn has spent the last month shadowing Karen Hopkins, meeting the various teams she will be working with, and offering ideas on some major projects the Leadership Team has been working on. It has been an incredible month of collaboration.
Kaitlyn would like to share a personal hello with everyone:
"I joined MECDHH/GBSD on December 1st, so I would like to briefly introduce myself. For the past 17 years, I have worked with students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) in variety of settings (e.g., deaf schools, mainstream/inclusive general education), using a variety of communication modes (e.g., ASL, listening and spoken language). I also established and led summer camps and social programs for students who are DHH in Massachusetts and Colorado. Programs that I led included expeditions for students who are DHH and students with and without disabilities in the Grand Canyon, Peru, and Nepal. I recently completed my PhD in special education focused on students who are DHH at the University of Northern Colorado. I am thrilled to join MECDHH and look forward to continuing to get to know staff, families, and students."
Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to meet our teams and learn about programs and services across the state. The breadth of the work of MECDHH/GBSD is impressive. In meetings, the positive energy and enthusiasm among staff was palpable. The year of 2020 has challenged us in ways we never imagined. It is clear that our staff are committed students, have been creative, and have persevered to continue to offer quality educational services for students who are DHH across Maine. Families have also needed to support the education of their children while juggling all of the responsibilities of home and work. Educators and families, thank you for all that you do. You are incredible. I look forward to diving into the work and programs at MECDHH/GBSD and meeting more students and families. Happy New Year!”
As I transition into the role of Executive Director, I would like to thank Owen Logue for his leadership, mentorship, and friendship. We have built a collaborative relationship over the past 32 years that is based on trust and shared experiences. As two deaf individuals who grew up in Northern Maine with limited resources, we have a shared passion for making the world a better place for deaf and hard of hearing children in Maine. We learned the value of family support from our incredibly supportive families and strive to ensure families of deaf children have the support of others. Most importantly we have worked together to ensure that deaf children know other deaf children. The connection in shared experience is like no other. OJ has had an incredible career, one that was focused on supporting others and ensuring successful outcomes. OJ, I wish to thank you for everything you have done for me and for MECDHH/GBSD. You have left a mark at MECDHH/GBSD that will never be forgotten. I wish you much rest and enjoyment in your well-deserved retirement.
Respectfully submitted,Karen Hopkins, Executive Director
Operations and Human ResourcesCathy Murphy, DirectorBusiness and Human Resources projects and improvements:
Preparation for year-end processing of W-2’s, 1099 and ACA forms continues. Webinars and professional development for these areas are ongoing. I have been following developments with the Family First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) to determine if an extension of benefits will be mandated at the federal level or will be enacted locally here in Maine. At the time of this report it is still unclear if FFCRA benefits will be extended. Training of new staff continues.
Facilities projects and improvements:Ongoing additional daily cleaning due to COVID 19; steel beam replacement in mansion basement has begun, our first snowstorm cleanup occurred this past month and the crew did a great job plowing, shoveling and sanding. Furniture has been moved from Karen’s office to Owen’s office and maintenance is assisting with the cleaning of Owen’s office. The crew attended a professional development day on safely working with and removing lead products (paint, tiles).
Technology projects and improvements:Network Maine has provided us faster internet service and Rich has been making adjustments to the system to help it run efficiently and fast.
Maine Behavioral Health departed our premises unexpectedly on December 5th. There is a possibility that Child Development Services will request to rent the space MBH occupied but there is still a lot of fact-finding which needs to be done before that can happen.