State to relocate schools for the deaf and blind superintendent

Aug 8 2011 - 10:57pm

OGDEN -- A state task force set up to investigate the effectiveness of the Ogden-based Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind has recommended the USDB superintendent be relocated from his Weber County office to the Salt Lake City offices of the Utah State Board of Education, where state officials can keep a closer eye on USDB decisions and how funds are spent.

Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Superintendent Steve Noyce said Monday that whatever the motivation for task force decisions may have been, he is happy with the recommendations and the state board's immediate vote to move him.

Such a move would give him greater access to the people in a position to help the USDB, Noyce said.

"Generally, I'm pleased with all the recommendations," he said. "There are a lot of new board members, and I've only been a superintendent for two years. The board members may not know of the extensive programs we have statewide."

Normal public school districts have their own school boards, but the USDB answers directly to the Utah State Board of Education, said USBE Deputy Superintendent Martell Menlove, who headed the state's investigative task force.

"The task force was formed as a result of conversations that occurred back in February, as the Legislature was looking at the budgets," Menlove said.

"There was a recognition that there's a significant amount of state funding that goes to the USDB, and a recognition that the program is unique in that the state Board of Education has direct responsibility for the Utah Schools of the Deaf and Blind."

The USDB has schools in Ogden and Salt Lake City, but most other school districts only have designated classrooms to serve groups of deaf and/or blind students, or have traveling teachers, interpreters or aides who divide their services among many individual students.

"There's a need for recognition that the USDB provides services statewide and that resources must be used effectively and collaboratively with local districts," Menlove said.

"By having the office here (in Salt Lake City), we hope to improve some of those relationships statewide and get better at coordinating services."

Menlove stopped short of saying some districts felt shorted on funds and services to deaf and blind students.

"We just want to make sure the umbrella covers everyone it is intended to cover," he said.

Menlove said Michael Sears, who is the financial officer for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, also will be required to work from the state Board of Education offices in Salt Lake City.

Both Noyce and Sears will be required to report regularly to Utah state board officials, Menlove said.

Noyce said details remain to be worked out, but he assumes he'll also keep his current USDB offices in Ogden.

Another task force recommendation concerned the makeup of USDB's advisory council.

Of the council's 11 members, the rules were that two had to be deaf, two had to be blind, and two had to be either deaf and blind or the parent of a deaf and blind student. The remaining council members were to come from specific deaf and blind service or representative groups.

The task force recommended that some of the 11 positions be opened to people with academic expertise in the education of deaf and blind students, rather than being limited to service organizations that might push their own agendas.

Other recommendations made in the task force report included, instead of hiring a USDB superintendent, hiring a person to serve as the chief executive officer, with administrative oversight over the entire USDB program.

In the future, the report states, administrative expertise and the expertise needed to interact with local education agencies "may be more critical in this position than specific knowledge of sensory disabilities."

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