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Plan to merge schools for deaf brings protest

July 2nd, 2009 WildWolf No comments
The Eastern N.C. School for the Deaf in Wilson serves about 100 hearing-impaired students.

The Eastern N.C. School for the Deaf in Wilson serves about 100 hearing-impaired students.

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Wilson, N.C. — Staff, parents and students of the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf on Friday protested a plan to merge the school onto a Raleigh campus.

State lawmakers have proposed slashing the Department of Health and Human Services budget by $1.4 billion next year to help erase a projected $4.5 billion shortfall. One suggested cut by DHHS officials would consolidate state schools for blind and deaf students, meaning the Wilson school and the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton would close and students would be shifted to the Gov. Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh.

DHHS Secretary Lanier Cansler said the state spends $30 million a year to operate the three schools, which serve about 250 students combined.

“If we closed two and kept one, my staff have indicated we could save ultimately about $17 million a year,” Cansler said.

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“It’s not that they would no longer have a school to go to. It just may be in a different location, should this option be chosen by the legislature,” he said. “Most of the options are not things that we want to do, but (we’re) trying to figure out how to deal with the major cuts with the least amount of impact.”

Otis Hargrove, who had two daughters attend the Wilson school, said what’s best for the state budget isn’t necessarily what’s best for the children.

“The people up there making the decisions, they don’t have a clue what it takes to educate a hearing-impaired child,” Hargrove said.

Mary Miller, whose foster son, Billy, is among about 100 students on the Wilson campus, said the proposal sets the students up to fail.

“It’s not like you can just take them and put them in a public school and expect them to learn, because they can’t,” Miller said.

Her husband, James Miller, agreed that many of the students wouldn’t want to move to a new campus and would opt for public school. Those that made the move likely would be farther from home and would have to adapt to a new program, he said.

“I think it’s really sad when the state comes and picks on education and picks on the handicapped first,” he said.

Copyright 2009 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Fate of deaf school rests with N.C. legislature

June 26th, 2009 WildWolf No comments

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ENCSD

By Matt Shaw | Times Staff Writer

The fate of the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf rests — once again — with the N.C. General Assembly.

N.C. House budget writers are currently reviewing a proposal to close the Wilson school, along with the Western N.C. school in Morganton, by next year in favor of a central campus at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh.

The House is expected to unveil its 2009-11 spending plan by Friday.

ENCSD has been threatened many times, only to escape the ax. Most recently, in 2001 a N.C. Senate budget committee agreed at the last minute to stay its execution.

“They have tried to close us many times,” said Otis Hargrove, the father of two ENCSD alumni. “It seems like every time we change governors, speculation starts up again.”

Around 15 people protested at the school’s entrance on U.S. 301 Friday afternoon, holding signs that said “Save Our School” and “Do Not Close ENCSD.”

Deaf education is always a tempting target for budget makers because of its high cost, said N.C. Sen. A.B. Swindell, a veteran of past fights over the school. The state spends around $100,000 per student per year at the two schools for the deaf.

But this feels different, Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose said Friday.

“So far we have held them off every time, but it looks bad this time,” he said.

This time the state is facing an unprecedented budget crisis. Next year’s revenues are now projected to fall at least $4 billion under what would be needed to continue all state government programs.

In April, Lanier Cansler, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, ordered the Office of Education Services to “create scenarios based on the closure of one and two residential schools,” according to a April 24 report by Dwight Pearson, the office’s superintendent.

The 23-page report has not been made public, but a copy of it was obtained Friday by the Wilson Times.

The three residential schools combined serve fewer than 275 students, Pearson noted in the report.

According to state officials, current enrollment at the Morganton school is 103, the Eastern N.C. school for Deaf 107 and Morehead 62.

“Because of continuing operational costs and the lack of long-term sustainability, the operation of more than once school to serve so few students is not desirable,” he wrote.

The Morehead campus is the logical choice for a central location for a residential school serving students with an array of sensory impairments, he said.

He did note, though, that the facilities in Wilson “are in excellent condition” while either the Morganton or Raleigh facilities would need renovation or redesign. The Morehead school opened in 1845, the original School for the Deaf in 1874, and the Eastern N.C. school in 1961.

Pearson said the “one school” model would have advantages, including possibly greater access to services for students, including speech language pathologists, audiologists, orientation and mobility instructors, Braillists and counselors.

But he also projects a 60-percent reduction in the Office of Education Services’ staffing.

It reportedly costs the state around $30 million a year to operate the three schools; the annual cost of one central campus is projected at $15 million.

mshaw@wilsontimes.com | 265-7878

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Updating News: North Carolina School for the Deaf

June 26th, 2009 WildWolf No comments

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I wanted to let you know what is going on with North Carolina legislatures who discussed about closing two schools at Wilson and Morganton. They wanted to merge three schools into one school at Govenor Morehead school for the Blind in Raliegh.

“State lawmakers have proposed slashing the Department of Health and Human Services budget by $1.4 billion next year to help erase a projected $4.5 billion shortfall.”

Here is the link: http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/5243599/

If you want to fight with DHHS over Deaf Schools.  Here is the direct contact: http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/

NC Legislatures Homepage: http://www.ncleg.net/

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