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Release Date: March 15, 2011

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed budget, if approved, could lead to the closure of the New York School for the Deaf--which is located on 555 Knollwood Road. I think the closing of this historic school would be a big mistake. I am very familiar with the successes the school has had and have held every one of my swearing in ceremonies at the school  since being elected Town Supervisor (and before that Westchester County Legislator). I  spoke at and attended a very well attended rally at the school today with County Legislator Mary Jane Shimsky and encourage residents to write to Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Executive Chamber, NYS Capitol Building, Albany, 12224.  I plan to introduce a resolution before the Greenburgh Town Board urging the Governor & State Legislature to save the school.  I will also urge the school districts in Greenburgh to  urge the state to save the school.

The closing of this school will destroy NY State's reputation as having the finest system of deaf education in the nation. There are serious consequences that the proposal will have on deaf children. 
The  2011 budget proposal is a radical change and shifts the costs of educating students who require complex education environments to individual school districts.  School districts do not have specialized staff and are completely unequipped to meet the educational needs of these children.  Yet, your budget will nevertheless require school districts to serve these children, but not give them the staff needed to appropriately serve them.  In fact, there are not enough specialized staff to serve the deaf children of this state unless they are served in centralized locations such as the existing state schools.   THIS PRPOOSAL ELIMINATES THE ACCESS OF DEAF CHILDREN TO AN APPROPRIATE EDUCATION. Every student has a legal right to a free appropriate public education under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Given that schools for the deaf serve some of the most complex learners in the state, and a large percentage of the children have more than one disability, we can say with total certainty that many children will not have their educational needs met in their home school districts, thus stripping them of their right to an appropriate education.
• Schools for the deaf will be forced to close, leaving deaf children isolated in school districts, without teachers and peers who can directly communicate with them.

• Already financially devastated school districts will be unable to provide essential services required to appropriately educate deaf children.

• The proposal will result in deaf children being assessed by people who cannot communicate directly with them.  School districts do not have the specialized staff who are familiar with deaf children and do not have the appropriate tools to evaluate them.
• The proposal will violate the federal law mandate for a free appropriate public education.  The school serves many children who have complex learning needs that cannot be met properly by their local school districts.

• The proposal will result in special education litigation throughout the State caused by the district and state’s failure to provide a free appropriate public education.

• The proposal will cost New York State more in the long term. Experience has shown that deaf children who are deprived of an appropriate education are more likely to be functionally illiterate, unemployed, and completely dependent on government services and assistance.
Paul Feiner
Greenburgh Town Supervisor
In the early 1800s, the Rev. John Stanford gathered a small group of deaf children in downtown New York City to teach them the alphabet and basic language skills.


Chartered in 1817, the New York School for the Deaf is the second oldest school for the deaf in the United States and the oldest in New York State.  Originally located in New York City in the Almshouse behind City Hall, the school moved uptown in 1829 to a ten-acre parcel of land between present day Saks’ Fifth Avenue and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


The school moved again in 1856, after purchasing a 37.5-acre wooded estate on the bank of the Hudson River, near the current location of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The school adopted the name of this estate, Fanwood, as its nickname, one that has followed the school to its current location.     


In the late 1890s, Fanwood adopted a military curriculum to instill discipline and provide a more structured learning environment for students. The school was the first in the nation to do so and was also the first school for the deaf to form a military band. For the next 50 years, precise military drills in tight formations were a daily occurrence on the Fanwood parade grounds.


After spending 80 years in Upper Manhattan, the school purchased a 77-acre apple farm on Knollwood Road near White Plains in 1934. Embarking on a major expansion program, the school constructed Ford, Peet and Currier Halls, the current centerpieces of its campus, as well its athletic field and several residential dormitories. In 1952, the school dropped its military program and become a coeducational institution again. Since then, Fanwood has continued to expand its mission of providing a wide range of educational services to help deaf and hard-of-hearing children in school and become successful adults.


In 1964, the school built Johnson Pavilion to accommodate the growing numbers of elementary school children who became deaf as a result of the rubella epidemic. Today, the pre-school classes represent the fastest-growing segment of the school’s enrollment.


Since 1977, Fanwood has practiced a total communication approach to learning – which challenges students to develop their linguistic ability in a number of areas, oral and written English in addition to American Sign Language.


Fanwood has also fully recognized the benefits of using technology to help deaf children function in the world of the hearing. The TTY phones and closed caption TVs of the 1970s have given way to video phones, smart boards and computer learning aids.


In addition, all students are now assigned MacBooks as part of the Apple 1:1 program for use in the classroom and, for high school students, to use at home as well.


As the New York School for the Deaf approaches its 200th anniversary, Fanwood will continue to build upon its heritage of combining individualized instruction for students with the latest innovations in education for deaf students.  






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