Challenges and Solutions
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.
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.
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. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/american-sign-language#8
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!
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 hsdb.k12.hi.us