Saturday, October 9, 2010

WSD is in crisis

Today I write with a heavy heart. The state school my son attended through the fifth grade is being slammed with major budget cuts. It has been going on for awhile but now they are cutting critical programs and firing staff. A friend who has worked there for 27 years was let go. They have already cut the fat now it is time to start chipping away at the bones.

I am told that because it is a state agency there is no federal protection money that other schools get. I don't know much about that but I do know my son's mainstream school is managing to maintain even in this economic crisis. I also know he wouldn't be in that amazing program if it weren't for the staff and programs offered at the state school.

I am told that the birth to three program will be cut. Early intervention provided by qualified professionals is critical the successful outcome of our kids. My son would not be testing above grade level if we did not have a strong foundation with the help of these services.

Some would argue the school needs to shut down. I strongly disagree. The kids at this school benefit from the critical mass necessary to educate them in a least restrictive, natural environment. Social and emotional growth is fostered with deaf adult role models. In some cases the families don't sign so this is a place for them to learn about the world.

If it were possible I would think it would be cool to have the state recognize cutting the already meager budget is counter productive. It is painful to see the school struggle to make the cuts without effecting the kids.

I was thinking maybe the school district could take over the school and the state could continue to cover the cottages and outreach services. The school could become a charter school with guidelines set is place to insure the bi/bi program could continue. Just a thought.


  1. People in decision-making positions may be misinformed by over-optimistic people that there is less need for schools for the deaf because kids have cochlear implants and supposedly function as hearing kids by first grade.

    Whether this is true or not needs to be verified by impartial data collected from all schools having deaf kids. Each school will want to guard their own numbers so will tend to give information in their favor. This makes impartial data difficult to come by.

    Personally, I wish the overoptimistic people would shut up and that all the different schools remain open so that parents have a true choice. Closing just the dedicated schools for the deaf is not the answer.

  2. Breaks my heart to hear that WSD is facing severe cuts. I feel for my colleagues and friends there.

    Amy Cohen Efron

  3. Dianrez- I agree

    Amy it is so crazy in my opinion. The school district is protected but because WSD is a state agency it is not. WSD has made so many gains with their program over the last year even though the are cutting programs and staff, it sucks.

  4. Mel:

    I am glad that WSD is being cut as in my opinion WSD is a waste of state tax dollars. Your son, who is on grade level, will be better off in a mainstream setting where he will be challenged intellectually and socially to grow and develop. In my experience, WSD stifles academic and social growth of their deaf students by creating a hierarchy. Those at the top stay at the top with no ongoing stimulation. WSD is slated for cuts because we can do without it after all.


  5. T.G.

    Thanks for the comment. I understand your point, it is expensive.

    As far as social growth goes my son's case is interesting. He mainstreamed for a half day in third and forth grade. I went to his class and taught ASL to the kids every week. They could voice off with me but never signed with my son. He was socially isolated. He was "popular" but didn't have any real friends. The academic challenge was no different from WSD. The problem at WSD was the numbers. He only had a few kids in his class. The up side was the teachers challenged him individually and shared there life experience. He could communicate socially in his native language and gain self confidence.

    Academically in the early years for gaining core concepts in reading WSD was the better choice. The curriculum is designed for deaf learners. All of his instruction was direct. The teachers are able to tailor the challenge to the student in all subjects. The kids are also given the opportunity for public speaking which helps build confidence.

    Early intervention is being cut which had a huge effect on my son's outcome even though the program was not perfect.

    My son is doing so well mainstreamed in part because Wsd was an option. It was the most appropriate choice at the time. There are kids who go through mainstream in the early grades and transfer to WSD after that doesn't work. Many kids live in remote areas that cannot support the services they would need. I feel they have the right to a free and appropriate education just like the other children in the state.

    I know WSD is not perfect and not the right placement for all deaf children but it is critical for some including my son.

  6. I think WSD's first mistake was hiring Jane Muholland as their superitendent. OSD had problems with their budget when she was superitendent there. Now WSD is having problems...go figure.

  7. Interesting perspective. My dealings with Jane have all been positive. I do know the cuts have nothing to do with her. Here is a little bit from a letter sent to parents

    "Governor Gregoire recently issued Executive Order 10-04, which reduced all state agency budgets by 6.3% on October 1st. For the Center on Childhood Deafness (CDHL)/Washington School for the Deaf (WSD), this equals $552,000 from our current school year budget. In addition, we are required to submit a plan for an additional 3.7% (total 10%) reduction of our proposed budget for the next two years (2011-13)."

    Since the school is an agency there is no protection. I am not sure how the superintendent could be held responsible. I am not familiar with her time at OSD though so I can't comment on that.

  8. WOW! So many thoughts. First let me start by saying, WSD has had budget issues long before Jane Muhollnad showed up. She has been a tremendous blessing to that school on many levels. I, as a parent, am grateful she is there.
    Now on to "T.G." All politics aside, Do you know how many children attend WSD? How many children benefit from the education they provide? Not every student at WSD does as well as Mels son. Many of them struggle socially and academically. Did you know that many come to WSD that way. Do you know why? Because no matter how hard their parents advocate for them their local early intervention was not enough, or their local mainstream public school failed them. I know many teachers try to help and do all they can. But a deaf student in a class of 25+ is going to be somewhat overlooked. Deaf children, as well as hearing children, need a strong language foundation to be educated. ASL or English, it doesn't matter. Most deaf will not get that in a public school setting.
    We CHOSE to raise our child DEAF. She uses sign language for communication, as do we. When she was three months old, WSD took us in. They taught us sign language. They introduced us to other deaf families. They taught us how to teach our child. How to help her become aware of the world around her. Most importantly, how to advocate for her. She is educated. She too meets the states guidelines for academics. She is very smart, and she thrives in a deaf school setting. Without the support of WSD and their staff, we would have had no early intervention for our daughter. I would not be able to communicate with her on a "relationship" level. She can tell me all about her day. Her wants, needs, likes and dislikes. We can read together and we can talk about tomorrow. We share a language.
    You are putting a price on the relationship families have with their children and on their education.
    You said that Mels son would be "better off in a mainstream setting where he can be challenged intellectually". But I ask, how do you challenge someone with whom you can not communicate. Someone you can not relate to.

    The only thing these budget cuts say to me is that one child's education is more important than another. Their education should be protected.

    -Hearing Mom-