So, I don't know how many people who are reading this follow Deaf education politics in Utah, so I will summarize....
Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind recently appointed a new superintendent. He worked for USD in the past, but his most recent job was running Tucker Maxon Oral school. He is an oral advocate. The Deaf community, here, is up in arms about it! They think that he is too biased to provide appropriate services to those who do not choose and oral path for their children. So, he appointed an assistant superintendent. She is also hearing, but she is a strong advocate for ASL and she is a fluent signer.
So, we had a "Town Hall" meeting to discuss the "future of Deaf education in Utah".
The superintendent gave his presentation. It was focused on parental choice, and technological advances. But we did get the good news that the bi-bi school will soon have a high school option. That is AMAZING news. It is wonderful that ASL kids will now have the option of direct communication with their teachers in high school. I could not be happier about that!
He also emphasised that they will be putting a lot of time and energy into the Parent Infant Program. He believes that the birth to three age range is the most important for language growth. He says that too many of our kids are showing up to preschool with no language. I agree with this as well. I think Miss Kat did OK during PIP, but that, if given the right professionals and access to quality interactions (therapy, etc) she could have done much better. He said that he wants all his PIP advisers to be highly qualified (AV or ASL certified).
That was all very good.......and then we opened the floor for questions.......
I asked the second question. My question was:
"We have these two really great paths for education (oral and bi-bi) BUT what do we do about the kids in the middle? The bi-bi school can't provide access to fluent spoken language on a daily basis but there are kids who can't, or don't want to, be oral only. What can we do for these kids?"
They didn't really answer my question. I didn't hear any new thoughts or strategies on how to educate a child who uses ASL but also has access to spoken language. Oh well, I guess we will keep blazing a new path for Miss Kat....
Some of my favorite highlights of the night:
(The superintendent said he was tired of the infighting between the people who choose an oral route and those use ASL) So a Deaf adult said "I'm sure you are sick of the fighting after (the few years of his career), we Deaf people are sick of it after 300 years!"
Another Deaf adult claimed he worked at the Oregon School for the Deaf, and had encountered "all the students that Tucker Maxon had failed". The superintendent was livid about that statement. He said that Tucker Maxon followed ALL of their graduates and that over 95% went on to graduate college. YIKES!
One last Deaf adult asked how he can allow parents to choose AVT when "There is so much research out there that shows that learning ASL improves literacy." The superintendent said that he was no going to "Get into a war of research, but that we need to respect parental choice. If the Deaf community wants parents to feel comfortable with them, and have their children interact with the community, they need to welcome families with open arms, regardless of their communication choices."
So, it wasn't a terribly productive night, but it was interesting. I continue to reserve judgement on the superintendent, until I see what changes he makes, and what direction the School for the Deaf is headed.