Challenges and Solutions

We welcome your letter of support towards Dr. Angel Ramos and Hawai'i School for the Deaf and the Blind. Please send your letter to Mahalo nui loa (Hawaiian for thank you so much).

As President John F. Kennedy once said, 

“Ask not what your country can do for you

– ask what YOU can do for your country.”


In that concept, we, as Deaf individuals and American Sign Language users, are already experts when it comes to discrimination and oppression by incompetent officials, educators and ignorants. We have seen, experienced, and endured the discrimination and oppression in the Deaf education environment. Instead of complaining and protesting, we present to you the challenges and solutions to creating a healthier educational environment. We need to see REAL and POSITIVE changes for both short and long term improvements in the education of Deaf and hard of hearing students. Here are the challenges with solutions…. 

Deaf people do not need ears to LISTEN,

and we hope you will listen to us.

Deaf Education

HSDB is managed by a Principal who reports to a Complex Area Superintendent (CAS). The CAS who have overseen HSDB have had no background in Deaf Education. Over the course of HSDB's 105-year history, they have appointed Principals at HSDB who have been non-signing and non-Deaf Education certified administrators. In fact, from 2011 to 2016, HSDB was run by a Principal and Vice-Principal who were non-signers and had no background in Deaf Education and no knowledge of the Bilingual-Bicultural method that HSDB uses. These were the dark ages for HSDB.

Language Deprivation

The vast majority of elementary students who transfer to HSDB from public schools for hearing students arrive with little or no language - either in ASL or English. These students have been deprived of language since birth. Their language deprivation has had a lasting negative effect on their academics and social skills. Even Middle School and High School students arrive at HSDB 3-4 years behind their hearing peers in reading and other academic skills. When these students perform poorly on state assessments tests, designed for hearing students, HSDB is the one that gets criticized.

Oppressive Environment

On August 1, 2019, CAS Rochelle Mahoe  replaced HSDB’s Principal, Dr. Angel Ramos,  Dr. Ramos had brought HSDB out of the dark ages into the brightest years in HSDB's history. He helped HSDB receive NATIONAL accreditation. Yet, CAS Mahoe replaced him with a hearing Principal who does not sign and has no knowledge of HSDB's Bilingual Bicultural philosophy. CAS Mahoe made the decision unilaterally - without input from the Deaf community, HSDB teachers, staff, staff, students and parents. The time to end this oppressive behavior from the Department of Education has arrived.

Deaf Education Solution: Dr. Angel Ramos

HSDB has had a variety of Principals and/or Administrators over the course of its 105 years of history. These administrators have included a Deaf woman (Dr. Jane K Fernandes) and a Deaf man (Dr. Angel Ramos). Unfortunately, they have also included non-signing and non Deaf Education certified administrators. From 2011 to 2016, HSDB was run by a Principal who was non-signing and had no background in Deaf Education (particularly in the bilingual-bicultural method that HSDB uses). For many of HSDB’s teachers, staff and students, this was HSDB’s darkest time in history. In 2016, after an extensive national search, Dr. Angel Ramos was hired to run HSDB. Deaf himself, Dr. Ramos is fluent in ASL and understands Deaf Culture. Dr. Ramos brought with him a vast experience in the field of Deaf education (over 40 years including 14 years as a superintendent/principal). For the next 3 years, HSDB grew, developed and expanded. It’s student enrollment increased. The dorms were opened to Oahu student again, it’s ASL Program blossomed. For the first, HSDB even grew a Computer Science/Robotics program. Probably one of the most significant events in 3 years took place on July 1, 2019 when the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges gave HSDB a Six-Year Accreditation Status. HSDB is now one of the few schools for Deaf and hard of hearing students in the U.S. with national accreditation! Dr. Ramos did not make all these wonderful things happen - he entitled and lead his staff to make them happen. In many ways, the past 3 years have become one of HSDB brightest periods in its history. HSDB needs Dr. Angel Ramos!

Language Deprivation Solution: ASL Department

HSDB is the only school in Hawai’i that follows an ASL-English Bilingual/Bicultural philosophy, that has an ASL Department and where classroom instructions occur in American Sign Language (ASL). ASL, a complete, natural language expressed by movements of the hands and face, has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages but with grammar that differs from English. It is the primary and first language (L1) of many North Americans who are Deaf and hard of hearing, and is used by many hearing people as well.


Through the use of students first language (L1), ASL, HSDB’s ASL specialists and teachers prepare students to gain mastery of English, their second language (L2), helping students become successful adults ready to succeed in the hearing world.


This emphasis on developing students ASL (L1) competency is critical because the vast majority of students that hearing schools transfer to HSDB’s elementary school (ES) arrive with no language or minimal language skills in ASL (L1) and English (L2).  Middle school (MS) and high school (HS) students tend to arrive 3 to 4 grades, or more, behind their hearing peers in reading. This is why the ASL Department plays a vital role in the success of HSDB students – by providing HSDB students with ASL instructions so they gain fluency in ASL (L1), they will be ready to master a second language, English (L2). 


During SY 2018-19, all students showed increased skills and mastery in their L1 (ASL). With L2 (English), MS students average Lexile (reading) score increased by 98L, while HS students average Lexile increase was 82L. Both Lexile increases exceeded the national average Lexile increase of 70L. (Note: Data not available for Lexile levels for ES students.)


Additionally, 46% of Elementary School students saw their MAP reading scores increased, while 67% of Middle School students and 67% of High School students saw their MAP scores increase.

Oppressive Environment  Solution: Nothing About Us Without Us!!!

HSDB is a public Department of Education (DOE) school within the Honolulu District (most Deaf Schools in the US are separate schools, that have their own governing board and a superintendent who oversees the school and its programs). HSDB is managed by a Principal who reports to a Complex Area Superintendent (CAS). The CAS who have overseen HSDB have had no background in Deaf Education. On August 1, 2019, CAS Rochelle Mahoe made a decision to transfer Dr. Ramos to a school for hearing students and replaced him with a temporary principal who cannot sign, does not understand our Bilingual Bicultural educational philosophy, but is an "expert" in  Deaf Education because her school has a small Oral Program for students who are hard of hearing, Deaf or Deaf-Blind - and forbidden to use ASL!


It is time for the Deaf Community to take control of our community and away from the hands of hearing people who believe they know better than us how to educate our Deaf and hard of hearing students. It is time for the Deaf Community to take control of the education occurring at HSDB, to take control away from the paternalistic and oppressive hearing administrators in HIDOE, and cease their destruction of HSDB. 


For all the criticism these paternalistic DOE individuals may have of Dr. Ramos, there is no question that he is responsible for leading HSDB out of the dark ages, for making HSDB into a NATIONALLY accredited school, for following Hawai’i Superintendent’s Kishimoto’s strategic plan of Equity and Excellence, for developing excellent relationships with the community throughout Hawai’i and neighbor islands, for leading HSDB into one of the brightest periods in its history. And for doing all of this he is removed as HSDB Principal? 


Their control stops now.

Bring back Dr. Angel Ramos!

About HSDB

HSDB is a Hawai’i public residential school (it has dormitories for students that live on other islands or live a far distance on Oahu). HSDB is for students who are Deaf, hard of hearing, or Deaf-Blind and who use American Sign Language as their main mode of communication and education. It is a bilingual-bicultural school where students learn and communicate in both American Sign Language (ASL) and English. Students and staff are able to communicate freely through ASL, without an interpreter. Students at HSDB are placed at HSDB through IEP team decisions. It’s geographic boundaries include the entire state of Hawai’i. For further information about HSDB, please see