Thursday, February 24, 2011

School for the Deaf Students in Jeopardy

Here is the official website and video from Channel 8 news that Rochester School for the Deaf was on yesterday in regards to 4201 budget proposal. (closed caption is available at my YouTube channel)

I am glad that the news picked up what I said as a teacher: "Public school teachers aren't trained to make the best decisions for kids who are Deaf or hard of hearing. It denies the students to have power themselves for having the experience part of a real social situation, leadership, all of that. It's not only about the money, 
it's compassion."
For the students to be able to take ownership in leadership activities in public schools are not the same as in schools for the Deaf. RSD like most schools for the Deaf provides:
• Interscholastic Middle and High School Athletics
• Wildcat Zone Recreation Center
• Student Body Government
• Junior National Association for the Deaf Chapter
• Yearbook Club
• Hobby and Special Interest Clubs
• Drama Program
• Adventures in Education Program
• Artist-in-Residence Program
• RSD Travel Abroad Program
• Community Service Opportunities (i.e. Girl Scouts/Brownies)
• School-Day and Extended Field Trips
• Storytelling Competitions
• Math and Academic Bowl competitions and many other rewarding activities.
The news mentioned Cooper, who is currently a sophomore, that he experienced mainstreaming when he was younger and he wished not to go back.
"Today, Cooper lives at RSD with other deaf students and is on his way to a successful future."
"I might really be struggling as I was before. I'd probably just have a few friends as opposed to the many I have here."
If the Governor's proposal has passed, Cooper and many others will be forced to go back to local school districts who may not only face the struggles to have their learning needs met but social needs as well. They will miss all of the social and leadership opportunities that will be no longer provided for them to grow to be future leaders.
Remember the article, Deaf Education: A New Philosophy, Mark Marschark mentioned that,"Rather than closing them, we need more programs that understand how to educate deaf kids. The mainstream as it exists now is not necessarily the best place for many deaf students. Sure, a kid doing OK in the mainstream will stay there. But he could be a star in another setting. The status quo is not good enough."
America is often called “the land of opportunity” for all people. Where are Cooper's and his parents' rights to make an educational choice? Amendments 13 and 14 are supposed to guarantee such civil rights—the right to life, liberty, and ownership of property as well as equal protection under the law. The way many look at it, there is also a civil right to a quality education and the freedom necessary to pursue that education choice. For the Governor's proposal to be approved will be so un-American-like, so undemocratic. We can't let this happen!
As Dr. Mowl pointed out to the news, "What he's proposing is very destructive, possibly dismantling a very good system of services for deaf children in all of New York."
Kudos to Dr. Mowl for spearheading as a great leader and chairperson of 4201 schools association!

Letter to the Editor: Deaf Students Lose In Proposed Budget

Deaf students lose in proposed budget

For deaf children, English is very difficult to obtain. Much language is absorbed through hearing. Over 95 percent of deaf children are born into hearing families. Most of these parents don't initially know how to sign, thus language access through visual and auditory means are seriously delayed. A Feb. 18 (D&C) story on Page 1A showed that most of the area schools are not able to meet required standards in English for students with disabilities.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal transfers the costs of educating deaf students to individual school districts. This includes hearing, psychological, and educational evaluation, creation of Individual Educational Plans, and determination of appropriate services and placements. Few have evaluators who can communicate with the student while Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) has trained, experienced, signing evaluators and teachers on site, serving 43 districts, many with only one deaf student. Further, few districts can find and hire appropriate classroom interpreters ($60,000 per year), or for sports, etc., or pay tuition to send them to RSD. There are few qualified interpreters available.

The state saves: schools and deaf students lose.


Kudos to Pat DeCaro for speaking out! She is a wonderful advocate of the Rochester Deaf Community and she is a CODA.

I have an additional comment to the article and feel free to add your views.

In addition to that; ASL, that is Deaf students' primary language, is not commonly used by teachers in public schools that they are able to directly instruct, design lesson plans for Deaf bilingual learners and to assess their performance level using their first language.

Pat DeCaro pointed out that public schools are not able to meet required standards in English for students with disabilities while RSD like my children met the standards so why should we fix the system while it is not broken? What is the governor thinking?

One more thing, please look at the link: that explains why mainstreaming is not necessarily the best placement for many Deaf students.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ch. 8 News: RSD Interview About 4201 School Budget Crisis

WROC-TV Ch. 8 Rochester Anchor/Reporter Tina Shively interviewed Dr. Mowl, Barbara Di Giovanni, and Cooper and Paul Norris regarding the Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) and 4201 Schools budget crisis on February 23, 2011.

An Open Letter to Governor Cuomo Re: Executive Budget Proposal for 4201 Schools

 February 23, 2011

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I am a mother of two Deaf children and they have been attending 4201 School Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) since 1997. Also, I am a dual-certified Teacher of the Deaf at a 4201 school. I have been teaching for 18 years with a demonstrated history of high success rate among Deaf students who pass the Social Studies Regents exam. I am also an American Sign Language (ASL)/English Bilingual Specialist, and I develop ASL curriculum that makes learning English easier for students. Currently, my Deaf children are doing very well academically, as they have met the State standards and both have skipped a grade.

Your executive budget proposal for the 4201 Schools not only underestimates the costs of sending these children back to their local school districts, it does these same children a great disservice. Changing the funding structure to a rate-setting model delegates to local school districts a powerful economic decision-making process. Having districts conduct intakes, evaluations, and IEP’s for Deaf children who are ASL users is an impending disaster of grand proportions. Evaluators who may not be familiar with ASL and Deaf culture do not, therefore, have the expertise to conduct quality assessments to develop appropriate IEP’s for Deaf students. Qualified interpreters are also difficult to find and since certified interpreters are not required in New York State schools, it is an unnecessary attack on families whose Deaf students require an appropriate education. Interpreters are no match to RSD and 4201 Schools Teachers of the Deaf who are college trained and State certified. Studies have shown that providing indirect instruction for Deaf students is not as effective as direct instruction.  For every school district to hire a Teacher of the Deaf and interpreters for each Deaf 4201 School student, will place additional burdens on costs, as districts are already facing budget crises of their own. Once districts get the money from the state based on the rate-setting model, they will prioritize district spending to cover the deficit costs instead of looking out for the best interest for Deaf, blind and severely physically disabled children.

For school districts to have total authority in their hands means denying all of the rights from competent, professional teachers and administration in 4201 Schools, who know and work well with these students every day. It denies us the right to support these students. It denies us the right to make appropriate recommendations regarding the appropriate educational placement for these students. It also denies us as parents the right to choose the best placement for our Deaf children. It further denies us as parents the right to empower our children, because it takes away their opportunities to experience real social life and to master leadership skills.

While public schools may only experience an approximately 7 percent cut, the 4201 Schools may suffer an 85 percent cut, which significantly increases the educational inequities I mentioned and hoists upon children undue harm and discrimination just because they are Deaf, blind and severely physically disabled. It is completely wrong to place this enormous economic burden on New York’s Deaf and other 4201 School children! Please do not rob their education and social development opportunities and also prevent Deaf children’s access to qualified teachers and Deaf role models who play vital roles in their lives.

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, has suggested that “…instead of further cutting education, you should reconsider to continue the tax on high-earners, which would provide more than $5 billion in critical revenues. Wall Street bankers can afford to pay a little more to help our kids receive a better chance to learn, especially as their mistakes caused the economy to collapse in the first place.”  Please don't shift the blame on our Deaf and other 4201 School children.

Your proposal is not offering a solution but an even greater host of problems. It will not only cost the State and school districts more in the long run, the massive, negative impact on innocent children, will scar them for life and permanently extinguish their rising stars.

Sincerely yours,

Barbara DiGiovanni

Please view @ my YouTube

(this letter is also sent via snail mail)

Thank you parents for your permission for allowing me to post your children in the pictures in my vlog.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Thanks to a concerned Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) parent, Paul Norris, who initiated the petition to oppose proposed budget cuts for NY 4201 schools and for allowing me to post this announcement on my blog, please take a minute to sign the petition. We need to show Governor Cuomo that this is a bigger deal than he may be aware of. 

RSD and all the other 4201 schools in NY state are under threat of serious funding changes which will negatively impact the schools that we need to show Governor Cuomo how many people care about this issue and maybe it will help him reconsider his budget proposal. 

We only have 10 days left to get as many signatures as possible (I want to submit the final list of signatures to Governor Cuomo by March 1st so he has it to consider before the final decision is made on March 3rd ) so please act swiftly and encourage others to do the same.  Participation is paramount -- that includes writing letters which is also critical to show Mr. Cuomo that we are involved and have a stake in the outcome of this issue.

And remember, signatures don’t have to come only from people who have a direct connection to RSD, ANYONE IN NY STATE can sign it because this affects funding in every school district that would have a student who needs a 4201 school.  So don’t limit who you reach out to – be an annoying pest if you have to!  I am!

After signing it, you will then receive an e-mail with a message that you can copy/paste into your Facebook posting.  When you post the petition on your Facebook page (you'll see the option to do that) which is critical to expanding awareness and getting more signatures, as well as links to other important sites in this fight.  Look for that e-mail.



Signing a petition is effective. A number of factors influence the effectiveness of a petition. The more a target organization is impacted by public opinion, the more effective your petitions. In addition, the Petition Site enhances the credibility of online petitions by centralizing signature collection, regulating signature data collection and output, facilitating communication of petitions via fax, email, etc. and by using fraud-reduction technology. The effect of a petition goes far beyond the actual list of signatures. Journalists write stories about petitions, signers get inspired to take additional action and other potential targets conform their behavior to avoid being a target.

Please note that it is more effective when it is signed by NY state residents.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Letter Template To Oppose NY Governor's Proposal on 4201 Schools

A letter template below is designed for any concerned NY residents who oppose Governor Cuomo's Executive Budget that revises funding appropriations for 4201 schools. See The Proposal page for more information.

FYI: People who are not NY residents who send this letter will be disregarded. However, they are welcome to attend the rally on March 10th since numbers of attendees are crucial to be visible at Albany capital city.
search here by your zip code
search here by your street address and zip code

This letter is intended for Senate and Assembly members.

However, you can easily modify this letter that is to be addressed to Governor Andrew Cuomo and drop your messages into the form on this Web page: 

or at:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

(518) 474-8390
Twitter: @NYGovCuomo

Remember, you have until March 2nd. Every letter counts and may make a difference.

Rochester School for the Deaf was used as a sample. You may select any schools from the list from the 4201 schools @


Dear Senator/Assemblymember XXXXXXXXX,

I write to ask you to oppose a proposal in Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget, which would have a devastating impact on ROCHESTER SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF.  The Governor’s budget would shift the entire cost of educating children at our school to local school districts, abandoning the nearly 200 year tradition of state support for the education of children who are blind, deaf or severely physically disabled.

The Executive Budget proposes a number of changes which are of great concern to me, including:

·      To alter the appointment process for children to attend these schools,
·      To significantly change the system by which these schools are funded, replacing it with a rate setting methodology used by other special education schools that delays payments for months (or even years!) – leading some to close and others to accrue tremendous debt.
·      This rate system would be paid for entirely by the home school district of the disabled child.
·      Changing the evaluation process so that parents would no longer be able to take their child directly to a 4201 (state-supported) school, like ROCHESTER SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF, for an evaluation. Under this proposal, parents would be required to go through the local school district, which would assume total responsibility for evaluating the child’s level of educational needs.

I am very concerned about the damage this proposed change would have on deaf, blind and physically disabled students. ROCHESTER SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF, a 4201 school, is well-respected in our community. The teachers and all other school staff have the professional knowledge and expertise to communicate directly with each student, without an interpreter or a third-party aide. If school districts are forced to take on the responsibIlity of evaluating each of these students, direct communication with students would very likely be lost. Evaluating children indirectly through interpreters for whom there are no minimum quality standards or qualifications in our state is not effective or efficient, especially in determining a child’s degree of disability. There are enormous fiscal implications if local schools were forced to hire outside professionals, as well as the practical challenge of actually finding qualified professionals in many areas of the state.

The appropriate educational evaluation and placement for deaf, blind and physically disabled children must be the priority. The 4201 School system has proven to be highly effective; these proposals jeopardize the education of New York’s students who are deaf, blind or physically disabled and their future prospects for achievement.

Please oppose Governor Cuomo’s attack on our school!


Thank you very much for your participation. Remember, Deaf/4201 students need you! Let's make noises across New York!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Save 4201 NY Schools Now! (subtitled short film)

This is a short film demonstrating the case scenario when Deaf students are denied by the school districts from attending schools for the Deaf (4201 schools) in NY. because of the passing of Cuomo's proposal.

Kudos to these young Deaf filmmaker and actors!

To follow up what is going on with the Governor's proposal, please view my b/vlog @

NY Deaf Schools in Danger of Closing!! Governor Cuomo's Proposal

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Barb's Kitchen Talk: Italian Lasagna (Part II)

This vlog follows up the findings about people's response to my question whether if this is discrimination or audism relating to the ABC's "What Would You Do?" show.

See Part I click here and read more discussions at YouTube from Part I

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Barb's Kitchen Talk: Italian Lasagna (Part I)

Talks about CBS's "CSI: Two Mrs. Grissoms" and ABC's "What Would You Do?" TV Shows.

Links to watch if you haven't seen these TV segments:

CBS's CSI:The Two Mrs. Grissoms (click on captions)

Joey Baer's link to ABC's "What Would You Do?"

Related links to read/view about:

Shel's b/vlog