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Beachwood Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program Topic of Debate

Parents, community members expected to attend tonight's Board of Education meeting with concerns about the future of the program administrated by Beachwood City Schools.

Parents and staff involved in Beachwood’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program are expected to make an appearance at tonight’s Board of Education meeting to express fears about the future of the program.

A two-year educational interpreter’s union contract, which includes language about discontinuing its role as the program’s fiscal agent after the 2013-2014 school year, was finalized at a special meeting Aug. 30.

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The district administers the program, which serves 23 full-time and two part-time students, as part of a consortium of 29 schools in Cuyahoga, Summit, Geuaga and Lake Counties. Each school district pays about $50,000 annually per student to send kids through the program, and dwindling enrollment has driven costs up over the past several years, said district spokesperson Doug Levin.

Though Beachwood City Schools hopes to bow out as fiscal agent, Levin said that the district is considering ways to serve the students in another way.

During the Aug. 30 meeting, a Shaker Heights resident expressed concerns to the board about eliminating the program, according to the minutes.

No proposal for Beachwood City Schools to cease managing the program is on tonight’s agenda (See the agenda in PDF to the right) but a Facebook Group called “Save the Beachwood School’s Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program” calls for parents to attend tonight’s meeting to speak out.*

“Our beloved program has been educating D/HH students for 35 years … I am suggesting that all of us; parents, former students, interpreters, residents, and teachers attend this meeting to tell the BOE why closing this program is NOT what's best for our children!!! We must advocate for the kids!” the page description reads.

See the message Superintendent Rich Markwardt sent to the community in response to the Facebook group here.

However, Levin added, a plan to change the program is expected to be presented at a meeting sometime in the late fall — a move he called a “proactive approach” by the district to save the program.

“I think what people are really missing here is that the administration is trying to save the program,” said Levin. “If our objective was to eliminate that program, the district could have done nothing and allowed the numbers to dwindle over the next few years.”

The proposal will likely not include Beachwood City Schools as fiscal agent for the program.

An online petition has been posted to call for the district to keep the program.

Facebook page administrator Pamela Bernzweig Kiner’s personal page states that she’s been an American Sign Language interpreter at Beachwood City Schools since 1980.

*Editor's Note: The original version of this story pointed out that the Facebook group description states that a proposal to eliminate the program would be addressed tonight. A wall post in the private group acknowledges that no such proposal is on the agenda, but encourages community members to attend and show their support for the program.

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