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Changes at Pa. School for the Deaf upset some parents and advocates

Photo: Kimberly Paynter | WHYY

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Changes at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Northwest Philadelphia are rankling many in the school community.

Pat Pomroy, custodial grandparent of two students at the school, said she’s concerned the school’s leadership is forcing out qualified staff.

"My granddaughter had a speech therapist," said Pomroy. "She was very, very good, but she was also very vocal. The next thing I know, [the therapist] was gone."

Seven positions eliminated

A number of parents and teachers echoed Pomroy’s concerns about a lack of deaf leadership on the school’s board of trustees, an announced budget deficit, and staffing changes.

By the end of June, seven full-time and two part-time positions will be eliminated through layoffs and attrition. These include a counselor, two part-time movement therapists, the library manager, an administrator, a reading specialist, an occupational therapist, the athletic coordinator and an art teacher. In total, these positions represent about 5 percent of the school’s total staff.

Margie Marshall, whose 11-year-old daughter is hard of hearing and requires additional emotional supports, said the quality of education for her daughter has declined.

"I’ve been there long enough to know that there’s a huge difference," she said.

Marshall said administrators recently recommended that her daughter’s Individualized Education Program, the legal document that spells out the specially designed instruction and services for special education students, be changed to de-emphasize her deafness.

Marshall said that if she hadn’t known enough to push back, "the change in that placement would probably set [my daughter] back years."

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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