The local deaf community is seeking a greater say in who is considered and ultimately selected to be the next superintendent of the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind.
A new superintendent is expected to be named Jan. 29 to replace Carol Hilty when she retires at the end of this academic year, the state school’s governing board was told at a meeting Thursday.
Hilty, who has worked at the school east of downtown Colorado Springs for 30 years, has been superintendent for 15 years.
A search firm, Ray & Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, listed the job as paying $150,000 plus benefits. Board members will begin reviewing vetted applicants on Friday, and hold meetings with the staff and public this month.
A spokeswoman for the deaf community, Ida Wilding, a professor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, objected to the board’s timeline, saying the deaf community wanted more involvement from the beginning in selecting the school’s next leader.
Wilding, president of the Colorado chapter of the American Sign Language Teachers Association, accused the seven-member board of ignoring letters requesting input from the deaf community.
The board has shown “extremely low to no transparency, little to no public discussion or preparation for the superintendent search,” she said through an interpreter.
“We’re not sure why all of this is happening. We cherish inclusion and wish to collaborate our values with yours. Let us all work together to ensure the best possible person be selected.”
Board member Andy McElhany said the board is “almost as in the dark as you are.”
The search firm has done what it’s been hired to do, he said, which was to advertise the position, collect applications, sort them and present a list of the top candidates.
“That’s where we are right now,” McElhany said. “None of us have seen the applications from people who have submitted them. As we go forward, there will be forums for staff input, community input.”
Also, an anticipated December deadline to complete an independent finance and performance review of the school has been extended to June 30, according to the Colorado Department of Education.
Colorado’s former Interim Education Commissioner, Elliott Asp, now a senior partner with the Colorado Education Initiative, is serving as the independent facilitator for the program audit, along with several industry experts.
Public concerns about the school presented in a briefing in December 2017 to the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee led school leaders to voluntarily suggest to the Colorado Department of Education that an external review of the school be conducted.
For more than a year, the JBC had fielded complaints about the school’s methodology in deaf education, academic quality, student performance, admissions policies, off-campus intervention programs and board oversight.
Those areas and others, including per pupil spending, transparency and accountability, will be analyzed over the next few months, Asp said Thursday in updating board members on the process.
The team will examine and identify program strengths, gaps, areas of focus and growth and resources, he said.
Review team members are making on-site visits, talking with staff, students and parents, he said, with the goal of presenting a report with recommendations to the JBC at the end of June.
“The purpose is really not to go ‘A-ha, we found something,’ but here’s some interesting things, here’s some places where they can grow, to give an opportunity for staff to get better at what they do,” Asp said when talking about examining student achievement.
McElhany and a few others expressed concern about comparing state- and school-based test scores of deaf or blind students to able-bodied students, but Asp said the team will look for year-over-year growth as well as suitable comparisons to similar student populations.
“We’re not here to evaluate the instructional program happening inside the classroom,” Asp said.
“The issues are is your curriculum aligned with state standards, do kids get exposed to grade-level content, do we have high-level academic expectations for all kids based on their abilities.”
The historic state-funded campus in the Middle Shooks Run neighborhood east of downtown Colorado Springs enrolls about 210 deaf or hard of hearing, blind or vision-impaired students from ages 3 to 21. About 80 students live on campus. Off-campus programs reach more than 700 students statewide.
Richard “Rick” Hauan, the deaf education consultant on the team, has participated in similar studies for other states’ schools and recommended the six-month extension for the review to “provide a more thorough analysis based on his prior experience,” said Jeremy Meyer, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Education.
Hauan is the executive director for the Washington State Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss.
Donna McNear, an education consultant who provides technical assistance to local and state education agencies for students with vision impairments, is the blind and visually impaired education consultant.
The fiscal consultant is Glenn Gustafson, deputy superintendent and chief financial officer for Colorado Springs School District 11. Other experts and two employees of the school also are involved .