It has been a while since I have had a chance to post something on our blog, but I am taking the time today to talk about an issue looming over the Fremont Deaf School and their community for the past few years.
Jon and I take a back seat to any issues facing the community as we respect their wishes and follow their lead. Two months ago, we were asked to sign a petition regarding the removal of their superintendent. We were shocked! He is a Deaf young role model in the community with a PHD. Why would Deaf people want him out of the school? It just did not make sense to us, so we did not sign. We would not sign anything without full context.
Over the next two months, we did research about the issue. We found out many things about the school and the leadership over the past few years. We discovered the decline in admissions at the school, morale of the teachers and movement of positions that did not make sense from an outsider’s perspective. Many talented Deaf teachers were moving to schools outside of the state.
I have to say that the more research we did the more we could not believe it. How could this happen? Heath is in The Early Childhood Education program so we did not really see too much of an issue. Heath was thriving, he loved school, and his language was skyrocketing so we were happy with the results. Last year we did notice a decline in home visits and other activities from the teachers, such as the loss of the ASL teacher position, but we were not too worried. We expected the school to adjust and recover. The ECE principal and teachers are phenomenal educators and do their best to shield the children and frankly the parents from the political issues at the school. Now looking back the enrollment of the children in the ECE program has declined. There are only five kids in his class now. Last year there were 15. Where are they… granted many moved because they got older and so the pre-k class is larger this year, but there should be more kids now in his class!
The issues came to ahead on the first day of school, teachers protesting, media doing stories, California Association of the Deaf and the AFTC stepping in, the teachers Union threatening strikes and all the while, many hearing parents like us still baffled by what really was happening. We respect the Deaf community as our children are a part of it and so we follow their lead, but we were all still confused. Many parents stayed up late doing the research, reading the articles to get on board and so we did. We supported the community the best way we could. A meeting was called for the parents, teachers and community members to speak with the acting superintendent the afternoon school began. We all adjusted our schedules to attend. The sheer number of people at that meeting surprised me! We listened and in true form, I could not keep quiet, so I gave my two cents. Apparently, whatever I said made the acting superintendent give me a meeting with his boss. He said you have five minutes to say to him what you want to get across, the severity of this issue from a hearing parents perspective. I went to that meeting the next day, but I was not allowed to speak to the group. His boss said no. Therefore, I guess I am going to take my five minutes here. It is all irrelevant now, since the superintendent has been reassigned and California School for the Deaf in Fremont is actively looking for a replacement. However, I am going to give those five minutes I would have said then to the new person coming in. I would have said and will say the following:
“This school is not just a school, it’s a community. The authorities at CDE cannot treat it like other schools in its district. As parents who are hearing with all hearing family members, this is the place our Deaf children go to be with people like them. There is no one Deaf in our family and that this same for other kids in Heaths class. This is their extended family, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters. This community needs to be heard, their concerns are valid and the morale of this community is at stake. The future of our Deaf children is at stake. If Deaf people leave this school to teach at other Deaf schools out of state, who will they be replaced with? Will they be replaced with hearing people who specialize in D/HH kids? Will the school close and our Deaf children be pushed into mainstream schools? Heath is not ready for that. He is still learning English. There is no way he would survive with an interpreter. With whom would he play at school? Would he resort to being an introvert and play by himself? He has such confidence in himself and to us it is a direct result of his being at this school. It is not the same! If my son experiences some sort of discrimination because he is Deaf, I can sympathize, but I cannot relate. He needs to have a community to support him in his growth and development as a person. He needs this community to help him deal with these experiences in life. He needs people like him! This school is not just a school it is a place for Deaf children to grow to their full potential and thrive. This school helps them become the people they were meant to be. People move from all over the country to be here at this school and you will see that change if the community does not support it. Do the right thing and follow the lead of the Deaf people and their community. We as hearing people owe it to the Deaf to treat them with the respect and listen.”
That is my five minutes.
And that is my perspective.