Saturday, March 05, 2011

We Will Be Seen! We Will Be Heard! We Will Take A Stand!

The motto, "We Will Be Seen! We Will Be Heard! We Will Take A Stand!" represents the unity of 4201 schools when the Deaf community members take a stand.  I would like to thank Marlee Matlin, Deaf Bilingual Coalition, Greg Hlibok, Benard Bragg, Patti Durr, NYSUT, and many others for sending their letters to Governor Cuomo showing their support for 4201 schools. Also, I would like to thank NAD for taking the stand to give an important message on how to act to protect Deaf schools. You all rock!

Also, kudos to Sheri Farinha and Marla Hatrak who are the Co-Chairs of California Stakeholders for American Sign Language & English Families, Deaf Community, Advocates, Educators, Attorneys and other Professionals.  Sheri Farinha is an executive director of Nor-Cal, that is headquartered in Sacramento with outreach offices in Redding, Chico, Marysville and Stockton and employees who are co-located at the California Employment Development offices in Roseville and Sacramento. 

Thank you Sheri and Marla for allowing me to post your letter here:

March 4, 2011

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo (via mail)
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
RE: OPPOSE – Proposed Budget Elimination of 4201 Schools for the Deaf 

Dear Governor Andrew M. Cuomo:

All eyes across America are on New York’s legislative session, and we are joining millions of Americans to strongly object to your proposed budget elimination of the 4201 Schools for the Deaf.   

We strongly recommend that you take this proposed elimination of 4201 State Schools for the Deaf off the table. Not only would the proposed elimination of 4201 be in violation with Federal and state mandates, be unethical due to the fact that there has been virtually no stakeholder input to such proposal prior to this session, and detrimental to the state of New York as you have not accounted for the astronomical cost factor to the state which would far outweigh the existing line item costs the state currently expends to provide quality education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students throughout the state of New York. 

Each school district has been unable to serve the students which are why they were referred to receive an quality language appropriate education at one of the 4201 Schools. The cost to New York  would be to pay additional funding to every school district throughout the state, for personnel they currently do not have for age nor sign language appropriate placement, nor critical mass needed per class per district , which would mean additional salaries and benefits and classroom costs for hiring new and qualified teachers for the Deaf, not to mention, the state personnel board would need to fund hiring human resources personnel to locate such teachers to ensure their qualifications and certification clearly show Deaf Education expertise as well as fluent in American Sign Language. Additional costs to school districts are: due to lack of qualified personnel at the local level, (many have been laid off due to current budget cuts), sign language interpreters (of which there is a paucity of actual qualified interpreters), auxiliary aids, and other assistive devices for every classroom in every school district.  Last but not least, if placement is out of line with every Deaf child’s IEP, every parent will have due process rights to file suit against the state of New York. Bottom line, the cost to shift the 4201 Schools for the Deaf to ill-prepared school districts could result in approximately over $150 million above the cost of the existing line item. Whatever for?

We believe you have been ill-advised and request that you step forward to reverse this proposed line item elimination.  Stand for quality, equality, and advocate for the minority – Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students who reside in New York – 4201 Schools for the Deaf.

Do the right thing – take the elimination off the table.

Thank you,

Sheri Farinha and Marla Hatrak, Co-Chairs
California Stakeholders for American Sign Language & English  
Families, Deaf Community, Advocates, Educators, Attorneys and other Professionals

CC:  President Barack Obama, United States of America
          Reorganizing for America
          The entire New York Legislature
          New York Democratic Committee
          Governor Tim Kaine, National Democratic Committee
          National Senate Democrat Committee
          President Bobbie Beth Scoggins, National Association of the Deaf
          President Ron Stern, Conf of Educators Association of State Schools for the Deaf
          Mr. Claude Stout, TDI, Inc.
          California Stakeholders
          Senator Barbara Boxer
          Senator Dianne Feinstein
          The entire Deaf Community of New York

So far we got support from Michelle Schimel, an Assembly member of 16th district who responded to Sheri Farhina and Marla Hatrak and even to me:

I will be circulating a sign on letter to Governor Cuomo with my Assembly
colleagues urging him to protect New York State's 4201 schools for the
blind, deaf, and severely disabled.

The current Executive Budget Proposal eliminates most direct
State support of these schools while shifting the financial support to
local school districts. This will amount to a loss of $98 million in
direct state aid for these 4201 schools. This is unacceptable.

Thank you for writing,
Michelle Schimel

Also I got a response from Teresa Sayward.

Ms. DiGiovanni,

I have no idea how this budget is going to shake out! The Governor isn't
saying much just that we will have more details after his Commissions
reports which are just coming out and he issues his 30 day amendments. I
appreciate the overall importance of these schools for the individuals,
their families and their communities.  The debate will be strenuous.
You can be sure I will work with the Governor!

Teresa R. Sayward

Assemblywoman, 113th District

On Wednesday, March 2nd, it was a Legislative Advocacy Day when I was part of the 4201 team of students, parents and teachers who met with nearly 80 members of the New York State Assembly and Senate. It was our goal to convince them that proposed changes in New York's 2011-12 budget will dramatically hurt Deaf, blind and severely physically disabled students who currently attend New York's 4201 schools. In my team, we visited Mark Johns and Christopher Friend that they who signed a letter (that Michelle Schimel was referring to) that they will protect 4201 schools. I am proud of the students who did an excellent job explaining to them why it is crucial to support 4201 schools. We also visited assistants to Pat Gallivan and Thomas O'Mara that they got to listen to us and they will convey our messages to the senators so I hope they will be passionate enough to advocate for 4201 schools.  

Also see Mark Johns' letter who responded to Karen Mayes:

Here is a list of legislators' e-mail addresses below that you can copy and paste in your e-mail to send them your letter and please download the brochure (click on file on the left side) to attach as well. The brochure can be found here. It is recommended to include your address and phone number as well. When I used the e-mail addresses below to send my letter, I got many responses saying that they will take the time to read and respond later.

List of e-mail addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

These are the emails that did not get through (apparently they don't have it) so you would may have to send your letter or message to them by clicking on each of the links:

Also we should not overlook Rebecca Cort who is a state director of special education and a strong advocate for inclusion that she believes all disabled children should mainstream.  On her website, it mentioned: 

"In the past, the disabled were kept separate from the nondisabled (not a cost-effective way of dealing with issues) and thus special education teachers concentrated on methodologies.  "... providing similar instruction for all students means “all.” 

Rebecca Cort believes that those disabled students are not getting quality instruction from "special" teachers and that they are better off to be mainstreamed in public schools that they should be instructed by subject area certified teachers who know their stuff. She forgot that there are Teachers of the Deaf who are dual certified like I am with social studies certificate and deaf education certificate and that not all teachers are like when instructing disabled students. It is not fair for her to stereotype Teachers of the Deaf like they are incompetent also she forgot that TODs who are in schools for the Deaf are more advanced in signing skills and keep at par on updated training (i.e. CAEBER training on bilingual strategies) and receive frequent educational workshops relating to instructions to Deaf children.

Alexis Kashar made a great response in one of the articles concerning 4201 issues. She is a current chairperson of the Scarsdale Village Council on Persons with Disabilities, a president of the Board of Trustees for the New York School for the Deaf and  chairs the National Association for the Deaf (NAD)‘s Civil Rights Subcommittee and is a member of the NAD’s Bioethics committee.

See her response about Rebecca Cort @ 

"Unfortunately, this is probably a result of the State Education Department’s mistaken belief, under the guidance of Rebecca Cort, that all children should be educated in their local districts, regardless of their needs. This proposal WILL NOT result in the savings that Ms. Cort has led the Governor and lawmakers to believe will result. It is a SHAME that no input was sought from the deaf and blind community as to other less drastic alternatives."

Rebecca Cort can be reached at:
Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (New York)
Dr. Rebecca H. Cort, Deputy Commissioner
State Education Department
99 Washington Avenue
One Commerce Plaza
Albany, NY 12234

Phone: (518) 474-1711
Toll-Free: (800) 222-5627
TTY: (518) 474-5652
We have a lot of educating to do indeed!

If I am missing one of the legislators' e-mail addresses or there is an error or there is more I should add, please let me know. I had revised from the list based on some of the email addresses that no longer exist.

(Note: Just removed "last but not least" because I was planning on putting that paragraph in the end but thought no, I want to thank them first!)