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December, 2014

Academic Department

As the temperatures are becoming much cooler, the past month has been a busy one for the Academic Department as we are now getting deeper into the school year where learning expectations and routines are becoming firmly established. Believe it or not, the first 50 plus days of school are already behind us! Teachers have been working diligently developing engaging units of study and lessons that are both aligned with standards of the Common Core and the Maine Learning Results. With the assistance of our curriculum consultant, Deborah Howard, teachers have been learning how to look at and develop units of study for our students that meet Common Core standards and focus on learning outcomes.

In the area of professional development, many new and exciting learning have taken place this past month that will serve to improve our programming and intervention skills. Jennifer McCann and Shana Kelley-Cohen were recently certified as SafetyCare “Trainers” and will be starting specialist certification training with our K – 8 staff beginning on November 25th. This training will provide our staff with the necessary skills and background knowledge from which to respond proactively and effectively to behavioral challenges that occasionally can disrupt learning.

Our East End Community School and K-3 teacher Julie Clark recently attended a conference in Massachusetts that addressed mainstreaming issues and considerations for students that receive educational services within a larger public school setting. We were also fortunate enough to send a few staff members to Waltham, MA to a short seminar regarding Executive Functioning and Deaf and Hard of Hearing students.

Jonathan Connick and Lenore Boerner recently attended the ASLRT (American Sign Language Round Table) conference sponsored by Gallaudet University at The Learning Center in Framingham, MA. The purpose of the conference was to learn more about ASL instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. Our teaching staff is currently working on the development of an ASL curriculum along with adopting and developing a Self-Advocacy curriculum to help our students develop their independence.

We certainly hope that many more professional development opportunities like those mentioned above will continue throughout the school year.

The GBSD Soccer team wrapped up the fall season by attending a tournament in Rome, New York. This tourney came the day after our team attended a game at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT. Many thanks go to our Athletic Director Matt Welch for his ongoing efforts to provide and organize these activities for our students. It is also worth noting that the behind the scenes work of our Department’s Administrative Assistant, Tammy Daly, really helps to pull all of the details of these adventures together. A big thanks also goes to Lenore Boerner who helped chaperone the Rome trip.

We are now in basketball season. Practice began November 17. This year GBSD will be hosting the ESDAA tournament the weekend of February 13–15 so watch for upcoming details. Eight teams from around the northeast will be coming to Mackworth Island for this exciting event.

Here in our K-3 classroom our relationship with the Ogunquit Museum of American Art continues to grow stronger and planning has begun for our GBSD Art Show in February of 2015! This will provide our students an opportunity to showcase their work to both parents and the public. Specific venues in addition to here at GBSD will be explored in the greater Portland community. Most recently our students attended their second field trip to the museum in Ogunquit following up on the work they did in the classroom with Amy Donovan, the museum’s educational coordinator. The students really enjoy their time working on their art projects and I am sure they will be very thrilled to have their work displayed and celebrated.

As we look ahead, there appears to be a lot on the horizon for the Academic Department and this includes the development of a new teacher evaluation system, SafetyCare training, Parent-Teacher conferences, committee work, and the day to day instruction and supports that our students require.

Public School Outreach

Public School Outreach and Community Programs
PSO has received 146 requests for services from districts all over the state of Maine! As a result, we have been providing consultation and support to these students. PSO staff have been working diligently: developing our next webinar; creating an evaluation tool to help us identify where students fall on our regional skills rubric; and, collecting data on hearing assistive technology (HAT) used by outreach students (just to name a few).

Kids Like Me Update
The Oct.17 & 18 Kids Like ME 6th -12th grade overnight program was a huge success! If you go to the PSO Facebook page,, you can view some of the pictures taken on the overnight. You’ll see by all the smiling faces that shutting off their electronics and carrying cut wood to restock the cabin had no negative effect on these 18 students! They all worked and played hard, made some great friends and left feeling tired but happy.

Webinar Update
Our next webinar, Can you hear me now? An “Ears-On” Demonstration of FM System Use and Misuse was held November 18. Proper use of Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT) is a critical factor in maximizing access to the learning environment for the majority of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. This webinar guided participants through active listening demonstrations that highlight best practices and provide examples of proper and improper use of the equipment.

Also, please take a look at all our webinars which are archived on the MECDHH website. You will see the wonderful transition we have made since our first webinar in March 2013. They are now fully accessible!

Early Childhood Programs

Early Childhood and Family Services
The Full ECFS team took part in the upcoming Guide By Your Side Stakeholder training during the weekend of November 14-16 in Lucerne, Maine. Guide By Your Side (GBYS) is a support program where parents of children who are Deaf or hard of hearing are trained by national trainers to support the parents and families of infants newly diagnosed with hearing loss. MECDHH is thrilled to have been named Maine's agency partner in this critical new program! Darlene Freeman has been hired as the GBYS Program Coordinator. The three parent guides that have been hired are: Mitchell Daigle, Jamie Guerette, and Tracy Henderson. We are excited to welcome them aboard! ECFS will be supporting the guides in their collaborative work with families.

ECFS is working to firm up their processes and procedures and are fine-tuning their "6-visit process" with families. In the first 6 visits, we expect that the consultants will have explained: communication approaches, technology options, program options and the specific details of their child's hearing levels and early communication and language support for infants and young children. The consultants have been working collaboratively with CDS to become a true member of the CDS Early Intervention Team and this involves weekly meetings throughout the state.

ECFS is thrilled to welcome Pam Doig to our team! Pam is a new ECFS consultant in our Bangor office. She will cover the mid-coast area including Belfast and Rockland. Pam comes to us from North Carolina where she had been working as a home visitor for Head Start. She is a graduate of Gallaudet University in the Early Childhood Deaf Education program and also has additional certification in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants Toddlers and Families. We are fortunate that Pam was able to attend the GBYS Stakeholders meeting in Lucerne. She is a wonderful addition to our team!

Parent Infant Toddler Group
The Parent, Infant, Toddler Group meets Thursdays from 10-11:30 for 8 weeks this fall. We have veterans from last year as well as some infants under the age of one. The parents have been very grateful for the gas cards that the Foundation has provided. One of the families drives from Gardiner every week! Our goal is to create a comfortable environment for families to foster learning about their child's development, to observe/discuss different communication strategies, and to ask questions. The parents have been open to conversations with staff and with each other. This has proven to be very productive! As always, the children and their siblings have enjoyed exploring the topic of routine activities within their homes. Mindy and Amy are beginning to work on updating their blog with a few ASL/Spoken English stories as well as a discussion related to resources that families may find helpful.

In the past few weeks, we have continued with daily preschool fun. This has included play and learning more about the O.W.L Curriculum. We recently had an in-service with all preschool professionals to review the components of the O.W.L. Curriculum that we are implementing so that we could assess the success of those components. We also discussed adding a few minor components that will further enrich our program. Because the O.W.L. Curriculum does not provide an in-depth assessment system, the preschool team will develop pre and post assessments for each Unit beginning with Unit 3.

We had 2 annual IEPs, and will have 6 more before the end of the calendar year. Teachers and therapists are busy continuing to collect data, complete on going assessments, and gain knowledge of each child's current level of performance in a variety of areas that typically impact children with different hearing levels. This is to be completed before the end of the quarter (December 2) and will help to guide individual instruction and IEP development. Teachers are conducting home visits (typically once per week) in order to strengthen home-school communication. We have been getting positive feedback in regards to this new aspect of our program!

Katie Duncan, our audiologist, has been attending all the KidTalk meetings and reviewing each child's hearing levels with respect to possible educational impacts. She has also been sharing this information with our Ed Techs to provide them with further understanding of possible needs of each of our student.

We continue to collaborate with 5 different CDS sites, and a multitude of Part B case managers at each site. Recently, Karen and Kim met with Kris Michaud, the leader of Part B services, to learn more about CDS needs and what the best practice is for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children.

We have had a few observers from CDS in the recent weeks. ECFS continues to conduct observations in preparation for IEPs. A few families of both typically developing friends as well as children with IEP needs have come to observe the program for possible placement of their child. We have added one new student with an IEP just this month. He is full of energy, curious to learn and is adjusting well!

Administrative Updates

We are approaching the end of the first trimester of the school year. Lots of good work has been happening over the past few months! As I take part in various meetings and visit classrooms, it is clear to see that students and staff have settled in and have a clear and strong learning focus.

The work toward establishing a regionally-based service provision model continues. On Thursday, November 6, John, Karen, Angie and I met with Jan Breton of D.O.E. and a small group of Special Education Directors from Hancock, Oxford and Southern Penobscot counties. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss the results of a survey (regarding the regionalization of services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students) completed by Directors of Special Education from around the state. We had 56 surveys returned. Of those 56 respondents, 44% (25) were in favor of regionally based itinerant services, while an additional 28.6% (16) were undecided. In regards to a regionally-based day program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students (similar to our collaborative model in Portland Public Schools), 66% (38) of the respondents were not interested in such a program while 15.3% (9) were undecided and 20.4% (12) were interested in a center-based regional program.

Along with D.O.E. and Directors of Special Education who are attending our meetings, we will be selecting one or two counties with the greatest number of school aged children and design a model of itinerant service provision for that area. This is very exciting for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing children/students of Maine! We will keep you posted in regards to the progress we are making.

Plans to move ahead with the work needed on the causeway bridge are still in process. Currently, the projected date for working on the bridge is February of 2015. I have been assured that one lane at a time can be worked on. Clearly this will cause traffic stops, however, it will not close the bridge completely and we will be able to continue with business as usual! Given the work done by Traci Drake in tandem with the Department of Education, we do have regular oil delivery and trash pickup.

A very productive and upbeat meeting was held with Senator Justin Alfond and Senator Rebecca Millett (also in attendance were Barbara Keefe and Karen Hopkins). As you know, both Senators Alfond and Millett are very influential voices in the landscape of Maine politics, legislation and rule making. The purpose of the meeting was to provide information regarding the ongoing progression of our organization and the collaborative efforts and activities in which we are engaged. Both Senators were pleased to hear about our collaborations with CDS, Portland and hMn (hear ME now). They were quite interested and excited about our work toward the regionalization of services and the work we are doing under our Guide By Your Side Grant. It is imperative that each of us does our part to spread the word about the good work and strong initiatives that are taking place on behalf of Deaf and Hard of Hearing infants, children, students, their families and the professionals with whom they work.

We produced our 11th webinar! Congratulations to Rich, Angie, Karen and the staff members of ECFS and PSO! Our Webinars have had audiences from each county in the state of Maine, from other states and from Canada! This demonstrates their value. They provide information via spoken English, an ASL interpreter and C.A.R.T. As you probably know, each of these webinars is archived on our website. Please take a moment to watch a few of them. They are well done and highly informative!

There are many wonderful and interesting activities and practices taking place throughout our organization. It is important to remember the positive impact public relations can have for our organization. Please take some time to consider what might be newsworthy and the importance of how it could help spread the “good word” about our organization.

As we approach the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, I want you each to know how thankful I am for the opportunity to work for this organization and with each of you as a colleague. We have seen many changes over the past few years and, because of your diligence and hard work, we are not just surviving, we are thriving! You continue to do so many meaningful and beneficial things on behalf of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing children of Maine. They are SO very fortunate to have you on their “team”. Thank you for the many things that you do!