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Clerc Center sets priority areas for 2013-2018

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Image: Clerc Center National Priority Setting Meeting participants

Clerc Center National Priority Setting Meeting participants

From February 4-5, 2013, diverse representatives in deaf education and early intervention that included parents, teachers, service providers, and other professionals participated in a National Priority Setting Meeting to determine the 2013-2018 strategic focus for the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center.

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The Clerc Center is a federally funded program that works to provide information, training, and technical assistance for parents and professionals to meet the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing from birth to 21 years of age. The Clerc Center receives its mandate from the Education of the Deaf Act, which requires it to establish priorities through a process that incorporates public input. The Clerc Center then uses those priorities to guide the national portion of its strategic plan.

Over two days, 23 stakeholders traveled to the Gallaudet University campus, where the Clerc Center is located, and participated in a "Structured Dialogic Design Process" (SDD). The SDD was developed by Dr. Alexander "Aleco" Christakis, who has more than 35 years of working in the field of complex change and has been consulting with the Clerc Center to plan this meeting (or "co-laboratory" as it is called in the SSD).

 The stakeholders brought perspectives and values that represented a wide continuum of practices within deaf education. Christakis explained that this played to the strength of the design of the SDD. "A person's perspective is just that-an individual opinion. However, with many perspectives you have collective wisdom," he said. The co-laboratory process is democratic and engages all participants and, as a result, promotes consensus building and results in shared ownership of the priorities identified.

Participant Ron Stern, superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf and current president of the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf, commented, "As diverse as this group is, we do have similar passions: We are all interested in the future of deaf and hard of hearing children. It's not only about collaboration from people who are like-minded but also from people who are across the way."

Judy Harrison, another participant and the director of programs at the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, observed the same. "We're all looking for the same thing in the end-maybe not the same way, but we're all looking for the same results. Through collaboration, perhaps we can move forward," she said.

 The two-day meeting was facilitated in American Sign Language by Dr. Susan Jacoby, executive director for Planning, Development, and Dissemination, and Dr. Richard Jeffries, a training specialist with the Clerc Center. By the meeting's end, all of the participants had developed a shared understanding of challenges that, if addressed by the Clerc Center, would have a positive impact on the success of current and future generations of deaf and hard of hearing children. Based on that shared understanding, the group identified the following areas of focus for the 2013-2018 Clerc Center strategic plan:

1.    Creating productive collaborations between all stakeholders involved in the education of  deaf and hard of hearing children

2.    Providing professional development for professionals serving deaf and hard of hearing children

3.    Developing and providing proactive collaborative training for parents and professionals

Participant Djenne Amal-Morris, a parent from North Carolina, felt like an equal stakeholder. "Just seeing and hearing the ideas, seeing the passion... but what made the difference for me is the process that we went through, that each person had an opportunity to say what his or her passion was or his or her belief was, give an explanation, and then move on. And you were heard. For me, I felt validated," she said.

"I sincerely appreciate the vision and passion of everyone who participated on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing students across the nation," said Ed Bosso, vice president of Gallaudet University's Clerc Center. "I believe this led to a successful outcome for the meeting and that all of the participants left with a powerful sense of contribution and accomplishment. I look forward to the work that lies ahead."

The Clerc Center anticipates releasing its strategic plan in the fall of 2013 and would like to thank all the participants of the National Priority Setting Meeting for their investment of time, energy, and wisdom:

  • Djenne Amal-Morris, parent, Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf
  • Ed Bosso, vice president, Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
  • Kimoy Campbell, parent, Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
  • Ernest Garrett III, executive director, Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Steve Gettel, superintendent, Montana School for the Deaf and Blind
  • Shira Grabelsky, teacher, California School for the Deaf, Fremont
  • Judy Harrison, director of programs, Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Lisa Herbert, psychologist, Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
  • Hendi Kowal, parent, DC Public Schools
  • Cheryl Lee, interpreting services coordinator, Montgomery County Public Schools
  • Dr. Irene Leigh, professor emeritus of psychology, Gallaudet University
  • Mary Ann Mieczowski, director, Exceptional Children Resources, Teaching and Learning Branch, Delaware Department of Education
  • Susan Morrow, specialist, Christina (Delaware) School District
  • Taiyabah Naeem, teacher, Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
  • Kevin Nolan, outreach coordinator, Boston Children's Hospital
  • Dr. Khadijat Rashid, professor of business, Gallaudet University
  • Charity Rogers, teacher, Saint Paul Public Schools
  • Dr. Ron Stern, president, Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf
  • Irvine Stewart, social worker, BJC Healthcare
  • Debbie Trapani, coordinator of inclusion and differentiation, Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
  • Nanette Virnig, athletic specialist, Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
  • Fred Weiner, interim assistant vice president, Administration and Finance, Gallaudet University
  • Dr. Christine Yoshinaga-Itano, professor, University of Colorado