The Vermont Agency of Education has tapped a Montpelier nonprofit group to oversee outreach services for Vermont children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Those services faced an uncertain future when the Brattleboro-based Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing closed abruptly earlier this month.
The state announced Tuesday that Nine East Network and its director Susan Kimmerly will assume responsibility for school outreach services for deaf and hearing-impaired students around the state. The state-funded program serves about 600 Vermont students. Until a few weeks ago it was staffed by a statewide network of consultants working through the now-defunct Brattleboro center.
Cindy Moran, Vermont’s special education director, says she hopes many of those consultants will transition to Nine East Network.
"There’s been a lot of rallying, a lot of support for these consultants," Moran says. "And they are really dedicated and have a lot of background, a lot of knowledge and we would really love to keep them on board."
Nine East Network will also oversee a program for parents and infants dealing with deafness and hearing loss issues. The group will take over the two services on October 20.
Moran would not comment on a movement urging the state to establish a school for the deaf at Brattleboro’s now-closed Austine School.
"I hear things from parents, about (how) they don’t want their students to go away and be in residential schools and not be integrated into the hearing population," Moran says. "And then I hear the deaf advocates saying they can’t get the instruction they need because they’re in a hearing environment. So there’s a lot of controversy around it right now."
The Vermont Association for the Deaf is planning a rally at the statehouse on Saturday to advocate for a dedicated state school for the deaf and hard of hearing.