Deaf program families, staff push back against budget cuts at school board meeting

In just over an hour during the May 14 school board meeting, dozens of Edmonds School District students, staff and families expressed their concerns about upcoming budget cuts due to a $10.6 million funding shortfall. 

To accommodate the quantity of speakers,, the meeting’s public comment portion was extended by about 40 minutes. Most commenters focused on the elimination of the district’s deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) program director position, and the way budget cuts have impacted music programs and the Madrona K-8 school.

Several paraeducators, many deaf or hard of hearing themselves, spoke about the importance of the DHH program. Several alumni said the program had given them structure and much-needed inclusivity – particularly when they were the only signing person in the area. Paige Nguyen, a deaf and hard of hearing teacher at Madrona, signed that the Americans With Disabilities Education Act requires the school to offer services and accommodations and that if those are not provided, the district could face legal consequences. 

Paige Nguyen was one of many who spoke about the importance of having a deaf individual familiar with deaf education and culture leading the DHH program.

“The ongoing training and support offered by the DHH program manager are essential for the coordination of our teachers, carers and interpreters to ensure they have the skills and knowledge necessary to work effectively with DHH students,” Nguyen signed. “The DHH program manager advocates for resources and support services within the school and the broader community. This includes ensuring that students have access to interpreters, assistive technology and necessary accommodations… A knowledgeable leader, particularly one deeply entrenched in the deaf community and fluent in ASL, American Sign Language, is not a luxury, but a necessity.”. 

Parents with children in the Madrona K-8 school spoke about the positive impact the school has had on their children– focusing on the school’s variety and flexibility. Many speakers were concerned that the K-8 model would be compromised as a result of the district’s budget cuts and some felt that the cuts disproportionately affected Madrona compared to other schools. Madrona students spoke about how they would have few electives to choose from in upcoming years.

A 5th grader concerned about music programming at Madrona K-8 said the school was a special place to him.

Echoing comments from last year when budget cuts were made to district music programs, more families spoke about the impact that arts have on motivating students and aiding their brain development. 

In other business, teacher Laura Marshall discussed the process used to adopt an instructional plan for secondary mathematics, including soliciting feedback from students, math teachers and data studies. Secondary mathematics includes Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2 courses. Input received focused on a linear path among subjects, teaching the functional parts of math that students can use in their adult lives, meeting Common Core State Standards and the use of digital resources to supplement practice. Print and digital materials for the curriculum will cost about $454,000 for a five-year use agreement, which was noted by Marshall to be less than the district anticipated. This agenda item was for briefing purposes and will be voted on in a future meeting.

Students from the SEARCH program spoke about the process of applying for and learning about work

VOICE students presented to the school board about their work in the SEARCH program, which aids students with disabilities by providing practical education on life skills such as money management, workplace structure, using accommodations, proper nutrition and social skills. Students spoke about their internships at places such as Starbucks and the Swedish Cancer Institute and what they hoped to accomplish in the future. 

First languages spoken by students at Meadowdale Elementary

Principal Dan Davis spoke about Meadowdale Elementary School’s school improvement plan. Davis said that Meadowdale’s growing diversity brought a host of benefits to the school. However, a student survey indicated that students have difficulty relating to their sense of belonging. From fall 2021 to fall 2023, favorable responses from third-sixth graders regarding the question of belonging declined by 5% – from 63% to 58%. It was noted that data may be skewed as only 100 students were surveyed in 2021. 

Other items at the May 14 meeting include:

– An acknowledgement from Superintendent Rebecca Miner about four district students who had become finalists in the Northwest Educational Service District Regional Art Show. The following students will move to the state competition later this year:

Amber Mutabra, Mountlake Terrace High School, Peace In Knowledge

Josephine Wynn, Lynnwood High School, Girlhood

Ton Trung, Meadowdale High School, Ramen Bowl 

Rachel Jackson, Mountlake Terrace High School, Even In Heaven

– Introduction of a revision to the district’s service animal policy to comply with the Washington State School Directors Association’s policy recommendation. The revised policy redefines a service animal as “any dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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