The Iowa Board of Regents will vote on Wednesday, March 21, on a proposal to merge the superintendent positions of the Iowa School for the Deaf and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School into one position, taken by Patrick Clancy (the current superintendent of the IBSSS).
The Deaf community cherishes its children and culture. The focal point for Deaf children and cultural continuity is our schools for the deaf. The Iowa School for the Deaf must be led by someone who not only meets the minimum requirements for fluency in American Sign Language, but who understands the Deaf community's rich culture and history, and is able to connect with our Deaf children. We do not feel that Mr. Clancy is the appropriate person to lead the Iowa School for the Deaf, as his expertise is in the area of blindness, which has little to nothing in common with the area of expertise in deafness.
Below is the text of the petition being sent to the Board of Regents prior to their meeting:
To the Board of Regents of the State of Iowa:
We, the Deaf community of Iowa, friends, and allies, wish to express our serious concern regarding the proposal before the Board to appoint Mr. Patrick Clancy as superintendent of the Iowa School for the Deaf as well as the Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School. There are numerous reasons for this concern; chief among them is our conviction that the Superintendent of the Iowa School for the Deaf must (according to policy) provide the same level of communication equity required of all staff and faculty.
While we understand the necessity of budget cuts in these grave economic times, it would seem that this proposal is severely short-sighted, ignoring the long-term effects of the proposed change in leadership on the students of the Iowa School for the Deaf. To wit, we request:
1. That the Board of Regents open a dialogue with the students, parents, Deaf community, and Iowa School for the Deaf staff regarding the leadership needs of the Iowa School for the Deaf, in line with their revised Strategic Plan and the Board of Regents' own mission and vision;
2. That the Board of Regents examine whether the appointment of Mr. Clancy is in line with the Iowa School for the Deaf's policy requirement that all staff/faculty demonstrate and maintain proficiency in American Sign Language;
3. That the Board of Regents explain the process that led to this decision (to appoint Mr. Clancy) rather than opening the position as per accepted standards, as the process seems to have taken place entirely in closed sessions;
4. That the Board of Regents agree to establish a search committee (including staff of the Iowa School for the Deaf, Deaf community members, and parents of deaf children) in preparation for future superintendent searches.
The challenges facing Deaf students are very different than those facing blind students; indeed, placing blind students in a mainstream setting is typically far easier and more effective than placing deaf students in the same. We have seen little evidence that the Board of Regents understands this critical difference between the two populations, or the differences in how they learn. Opening a dialogue with all invested parties would, we believe, enhance the educational opportunities for all of our children, and allow the community, students, and parents the opportunity to understand how the Board of Regents operates.
The Board of Regents has, as point number four of their Vision, the following:
The Regent Enterprise will also be recognized for its excellence in meeting the needs of
students who are blind or visually impaired and deaf or hard of hearing.
We believe this excellence can best be achieved with a superintendent who is knowledgeable about Deaf culture, deaf education, and American Sign Language. Additionally, having a superintendent that they can communicate directly with (as opposed to through an interpreter) has an enormous impact on students' morale.
Further, the Iowa School for the Deaf has, as a matter of policy, a requirement that all staff and faculty must... “attain and retain a level of signing, depending on the amount of interaction they have with students.” (www.iowaschoolforthedeaf.org/ isdright/bfcomm.php)
If this policy is waived for the Superintendent, then it seems only a matter of time before it is no longer a requirement for staff and faculty. This would be a grave disservice to our deaf and hard of hearing children, who depend on the communication access and equity provided by the Iowa School for the Deaf.
The Board of Regents stress their accountability to the citizens of the state of Iowa, and numerous statements are found within the policy manual regarding accountability and transparency in communication with the public.
There has been no public notice of the proposal to place Mr. Clancy in this position until very recently; we have been unable to locate any discussion on the Regents' website regarding this issue until the most recent agenda (for the March 21, 2012 meeting) was posted on the site. It would seem germane to the goals of transparency and excellence in education to not only seek the community's input, but also conduct a search for an appropriate replacement for Dr. Jeanne Prickett.
The community is eager to work with the Board of Regents to continue progress towards the excellence in education for which Iowa has long been held in esteem. We look forward to beginning this process.