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Academic Department


With about four weeks remaining in the 2013-2014 school year, the warmer temperatures of May seem to remind us of how far we have come.  It also reminds of how much work lies ahead to prepare for the coming summer program and the start of the 2014-2015 school year.  While we must certainly look ahead, there is still a lot of instructional time left to the current school year and it is during these final weeks that providing lots of structured learning activities and enrichment opportunities are the most important of all. Additionally, supporting our students, families and staff members for all of the transitions that come with the end of one year and the beginning of another becomes a key focus for the academic department.  Clearly, this is a busy time of year.

One of our more notable events that occurred was the arrival of mime J. J. Jones on April 10th.  Both afternoon and evening performances were very well attended and applauded by our students, staff and members of the broader deaf community.  J.J. performed a number of skits with great skill and humor and more often than not audience members were called upon to participate which they did with a lot of enthusiasm.  J.J. also provided a mime workshop for our students during the morning that our students really enjoyed. We hope to have J.J. return in the future for another performance here at GBSD.


On May 6th, our 8th grade students at Lyman Moore Middle School attended a field trip to tour the Freedom Trail in Boston and our pre-school/elementary students recently travelled to Jillson Farm in Sabattus to tour the farm and learn about the creation of what makes our pancakes so yummy, maple syrup! It’s hard to think of a better chemistry lesson than that.


Immediately after the April vacation, the MDOE Maine Autism Leadership Team trainings wrapped up the two year cycle of trainings in Bangor, Maine with presenter, Dr. Cathy Pratt, Director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism and faculty member of Indiana University.  Over the course of the past two years, many of our staff members have increased their knowledge of evidence based interventions and instructional strategies for students with Autism and related challenges. The training sessions were extremely informative and provided a wide range of resources.  While GBSD is not a school for students with Autism, many of the behavioral intervention techniques and other resources can be applied to support our students’ learning and self-management.


A recent event was on May 22 when the Annual Sports Banquet took place.  Dinner was provided as we celebrated the achievements of our student athletes in soccer and basketball.  This has been a very successful year for our students and a number of our students have also participated in Portland Public School sporting activities such as the Lyman Moore indoor and outdoor track teams.  Many thanks go to our Athletic Director Matt Welch whose efforts in organizing and supporting our athletic teams has kept our students engaged in valuable physical and social activities. Thanks also to Clayton Marr III who provided assistance to both soccer and basketball teams and also to Tammy Daly who was instrumental in making sure transportation arrangements were made in a timely manner.


On May 29th, MECDHH will host the Senior Banquet from 4-6 pm in the school cafeteria. This year we celebrate the graduation of senior Janessa McAlpine from Bucksport, Maine.  While Janessa’s plans for life after high school are still developing, we are all hoping that she can remain connected to the deaf community of MECDHH and southern Maine. Her enthusiasm will certainly be missed from the halls and classrooms at Portland High School.


The last day of school will be June 19th for students and on June 20th, Amy Szarkowski from Boston Children’s Hospital will be providing a day-long workshop here at MECDHH on the social/emotional aspects of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. She will also be available to parents during the Family Fun Day on June 21st.  The following week of June 23-26th will be filled with professional development and planning opportunities for our academic staff.  This will be a great opportunity for planning and professional learning.


There is a lot of planning to do in the coming days and weeks as end of the year tasks are checked off and student transition activities are completed. Preparations are already underway to begin summer school planning and begin organizing for another school year.


It is worth noting that May 5-9th was Teacher Appreciation Week and May 7th, nurse appreciation day.  On behalf of MECDHH/GBSD I would like to extend the sincerest of thanks to all of our dedicated pre-school and academic department faculty members who each day provide our students with rich learning experiences.


From Our Library

Leona Anderson attended the 25th Annual Reading Round-Up of Children’s and Young Adult Literature, held at the Augusta Civic Center on April, 10th. The statewide conference, sponsored by the Maine State Library, is for school and public librarians. This year’s theme was “Children’s Literature: Past, Present and Future.”


Click here to review “Cream of the Crop,” an annotated bibliography of the best children’s and young adult’s books for 2013. A print out is available in the library.


Enhancements to GBSD Library software are coming. School and public libraries running Destiny will be automatically upgraded by the end of the month. A new search interface, designed to make searching and learning better and easier, will be made available. New dynamic capabilities will continue to be added to the search interface over the next several months. Leona and the two library volunteers, Karyl Sylken and Reta Nappi, participated in a Webinar on Thursday afternoon, May 8 to learn about the newest features.


GBSD Library hours:


Tues. Wed., Thurs


10:00 - 3:00


when school is in session.


GBSD Library Catalog


Public School Outreach

Public School Outreach and Regional/Family Programs

The long winter is finally over and school will be closing in less than four weeks.  This busy time of year has consultants attending many IEPs across the state, preparing for transitions and wrapping up services for the year.


On May 3, the Aroostook Family Fun Day brought close to 35 people together representing 11 families for a day filled with fun and sharing.  After a swim in the pool, we gathered in the gym for group activities and lunch.  There were smiling faces everywhere as they shared information about each other while planting flowers, making art projects, playing games and telling stories.  This year, we were lucky to have three UMPI students and a Baxter alumni provide extra hands of support. Our youngest participant, just a year old, had everyone chasing him around as he was determined to “shoot hoops” with the big kids.  Observing with fascination the hearing aids of other students and signing up a storm to make sure everyone knew what was on his mind made him a treat for all!


Our final “Kids Like Me” overnight for students in grades 6-12 took place May 16/17.  We had 24 students signed up to hike into Flagstaff Lake and camp in the lodge.


Conrad Strack provided a passionate webinar entitled “Classmates/Peers: Navigating Complex Social Environments for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth” which highlighted the important roll incidental learning plays in development of the social skills and emotional well-being of students who are Deaf or hard of hearing.  Several parents attended and had very thoughtful questions for Conrad regarding their children’s needs. We hope to see these parents at Family Learning Day this year.

Family Learning Day will take place on June 21 and we are very excited to have Amy Szarkowski presenting a workshop to parents entitled: Construction Zone: Building Social and Emotional Competence in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children.  Amy is a psychologist who specializes in supporting Deaf and hard of hearing children and their families at Boston Children's Hospital. Encourage your families to join us.  It is going to be great!


Webinar Update

The last webinar of the year will take place on June 10th 3-3:30 and will be presented by ECFS staff Corri Sanders and Cathy Glover.  Family Journeys:  Exploring Communication Opportunities will provide an overview of the wide array of communication opportunities available to Deaf and hard of hearing children and their families.  These opportunities include: Auditory Verbal, American Sign Language, Auditory Oral, Cued speech, Signed English, and Bilingual Bimodal. This webinar will highlight parent’s individual experiences exploring each communication opportunity. Feel free to sign up and join us!

Early Childhood Programs

Early Childhood Team

ECFS - Karen has begun her CDS site visits across the state. Throughout the months of May and June, Karen will be presenting the new CDS/ECFS MOU at each CDS site in Maine. These meetings are extremely important for establishing a positive start to our MOU and explaining the details to all the CDS employees.  The ECFS consultants, now called ECFS Early Intervention Specialists, have been assigned to specific CDS sites and will begin the implementation of this MOU in the near future.  We hope this will build a strong early intervention system in Maine for children who are deaf and hard of hearing and gives families the support they need when they need it most.



We have had smaller numbers this session, but still 5 families attend consistently.  Many families were blessed by the gas cards that we were able to give them thanks to the donation from The Foundation for Maine’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children.  This took the financial traveling burden off many families.  Thank you Foundation!  We have been focusing on spring and mud... the kids love it!


We have also had a number of families being encouraged to come to playgroup by members of their audiological teams at Boston Children's Hospital, Northeast Hearing and Speech and Maine Medical Partners.  It is great to have the support of so many professionals!


Younger and Older Early Childhood Classrooms

Parent Teacher conferences were held last week.  The teachers of the older early childhood classroom invited the children to the conference so that they can "lead" the meeting. We have 6 to 10 conferences scheduled - over 50% attendance!  Both early childhood groups have been working all year on child portfolios for home and assessment portfolios for school.  We are looking forward to sharing with the parents a multitude of the children's best work samples over the course of the year that demonstrate progress in each standard.


The Older Early Childhood Classrooms recently went on a field trip to Jilson Farm. The children were excited to have this hands-on learning opportunity where they were able to see and interact with lots of animals!


We recently collaborated with Laurie Denno from the DeafBlind Consortium and Perkins School, and have continued collaboration for many students with Bruce Chemelski. We have one new student beginning in the preschool full time this week. We are excited to welcome this new little one to our group of learners!


We recently invited sub applicants to come and tour the programs in the Early Childhood department, and that was a big success!  We believe in preparing our subs to work effectively in our programs.


Also, come check out the Pre-K/1st Grade Hallway; we have a lot of work posted, almost like our very own art walk!  The students are working very hard on Life Cycles and enjoying this unit.  This week, we are studying the life cycle of ladybugs.  The next several weeks include the lifecycle of butterflies, bees, frogs, whales, octopus, and sharks.  Our plan for the end of the year is to have a field day, as well as an end of the year field trip to the York Zoo.


The teachers and therapists have been extremely busy with end of the year K transition meetings and annual IEPs of students.  We are finalizing meetings in the next few weeks.  These meetings are always bittersweet as we say good-bye to some of our students as they transition on to Kindergarten.  We are so proud of the progress they have made.


Our annual Potluck dinner celebration is scheduled for June 19th, our favorite activity of the year where children, families and the MECDHH staff gather to celebrate a year of learning together!


Administrative Updates


I am very pleased to report that MECCHH/GBSD has been selected as the winning RFP for the Parent to Parent Pilot Program via DHHS.   The purpose of this program is to hire and train parent “Guides” that will mentor the parents of newly diagnosed Deaf/Hard of Hearing infants and toddlers.  It is connected to the “Guide by Your Side” program designed by the National Hands and Voices Association.  We are very excited about expanding our opportunities to educate parents and make a positive impact on Deaf and Hard of Hearing young children in Maine.  We will keep you posted in regards to the growth and development of this program.


The end of the school year, as usual, is shaping up to be a very busy time.  Please refer to the All Staff Message that outlined the important event dates that are coming up.  Of note are the following:


  • June 4                    Portland High School Graduation
  • June 19                  Last Student Day (This is a full day)
  • June 20                  Staff Development with Dr. Amy Szarkowski of Boston’s Children’s’ Hospital
  • June 21                  Family Fun Day
  • June 26                  Last Day for School Year Staff


Our annual summer school programs are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, July 8.   The programs will support Deaf and Hard of Hearing children/students in Pre School through those students entering grade 12.  As was the case last year, the program will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  It will run for a four week period, ending on Thursday, July 31.  Please see John Jones or Karen Hopkins, ASAP, if you are interested in working the summer school program.


On Tuesday, July 22, we will be hosting a presentation, tour and luncheon for a group of Legislators, school officials and members of the Department of Education.   This will be a “golden” opportunity for us to showcase our school, our programs and all that we have to offer.


John Jones, Karen Hopkins, Angie Bruno and I met with Jan Breton, State Director of Special Education and a group of Special Education Directors (Sharon Pray of Portland, Paula Leavitt of RSU 9, Jane Morse of S.A.D. 17 and Patty Rappaport of Bangor) to discuss the regionalization of programs and services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Maine.  Our first meeting was held in Augusta, on Thursday, May 9. We had a very helpful discussion regarding the needs of public schools with their efforts to support Deaf and Hard of Hearing children.  We also discussed the various regionalized services and/or programs that might be created.  We will be doing a survey of all Special Education Directors in Maine.  We hope to gain a better understanding of the individual needs of each region.   We will be meeting again at the end of September.


Although we will be celebrating Staff Appreciation on Wednesday, May 14, the past week is nationally designated as “Teacher Appreciation Week”.  I want to thank all of you who work with our students every day.  Your hard work, dedication and caring make a huge difference not only in their world today, but also in their future.   Thank you!!!!