Spring is here! Flowers are everywhere. Summer is just around the corner.
Your NAD Board of Directors met in Philadelphia in April 2009 to become familiar with the Marriott Philadelphia-Downtown hotel, where next year’s 50th Biennial NAD Conference will be held. We were impressed by the Reading Terminal Market, a huge and unique complex across the street where you can grab a famous Philly cheese steak and hundreds of others goodies. We are all confident that we will have the best conference ever put together for “yawl” (that’s “Texanese” for “all of you”).
It is always refreshing to see that our work at each board meeting consists of awesome dynamics. The Philadelphia meeting was no exception. During the meeting, we tackled several important issues, including approval of the fiscal year 2010 budget (April 1, 2009-March 31, 2010), which stands at $2.5 million. Of this amount, $1.5 million is dedicated to the federal Described and Captioned Media Program, which the NAD administers. The board is committed to being more fiscally vigilant with expenditures and raising the bar to bring in $140,000 in donations, apart from other fundraising activities by the headquarters. This means having at least eight fundraising activities or the equivalent in donations each month to honor our commitment.
We reviewed plans for the NAD Leadership Training Conference (NLTC ‘09) which will be held October 29-November 1, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. Regional caucuses will be held during to the two-day conference, which is expected to attract up and coming community advocates who seek to enhance their leadership skills. The NAD Board will meet right after the conference, on November 1 and 2.
We also reviewed an early draft of the Valuing Deaf Schools position statement. A reality check shows that close to 90 percent of our deaf and hard of hearing students are now mainstreamed. The draft stresses the importance of schools and programs for the deaf serving as statewide resource centers, which promote collaborative partnerships with local school districts and ensure high quality deaf educational services.
This issue was addressed at the recent conference of the Council of Educators and Administrators of Schools and Programs of the Deaf (CEASD) which I attended. They discussed the viability of deaf schools and elements that enable them to thrive. Strong leadership by deaf advocates at the local and state level, working closely with parents, school personnel and administrators, indeed makes a difference. Also important is strong political dynamics within each state, involving departments of education, legislatures, and public/private entities. Research data is also vital in terms of helping parents learn more about their options as well as educating local educational agencies (LEAs) and school districts on the need for specialized educational and professional services for deaf children.
Together, we can be a powerful force. Perhaps it is time to redefine where and how we reach every deaf and hard of hearing student. This close-to-90 percent statistic is pretty powerful considering where we are with deaf education. Everything we do must center on this reality. The role of deaf schools must be to reach out those who are left behind with very scant resources and support systems. State associations and affiliates must strategize to provide support to those children.
Such advocacy begins with you, at the local level. Forming partnerships with one family at a time leads to support groups then with local organizations, onward to the state level and then leading to the NAD and all other national organizations.
Let me hear from you. You are also responsible for the future of deaf children. Look at the deaf children around you. They are looking at you! I promise the support of the NAD in this effort. Don’t let them fall between the cracks! Act now!