Tuesday, 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.


Karen Mayes said...

Well-written blog.

I can't resist but leave a comment with a request for people to sign the online petition to save 4201 schools:


I have two Deaf children who attend Rochester School for the Deaf and they are thriving there... and they want to graduate from there as well.

Great blog, I posted it on the Facebook group page "Oppose Cuomo's Plan for New York State's 4201 Schools".

tina jo said...

It is frustrating to see distortion of facts about what’s “best” for Deaf children. THANK YOU for this great write up that keeps us vigilant for such outbreak of depriving Deaf children the very education they deserve! Our graduation rate and resulting success depends on the critical education provided by the 4201 schools. We all understand budget shortfalls are forcing difficult decisions but not when a proposal severely affects the future of Deaf children! It breaks my heart when we see legislators not understanding or see how critical it is when Deaf children acquire knowledge about the world mainly through ASL. Information about the world is processed and exchanged in a learning environment with ASL merits. Deaf children have the right to grow up bilingual. We need to stress not to allow our Deaf children fall short of the education they deserve from “growing up in schools for the Deaf.”
Preserve our Deaf schools by getting involved, not just watching from the sideline. Deaf children deserve better, or better yet, the best of the best! Thank you for posting this!

Anonymous said...

The money has to come from somewhere. Local school districts can make up the "shortfall". There is no "free" lunch. While this is certainly part of the state government budget game, we the taxpayers have to decide how much we are willing to tax ourselves and then set priorities. We can't have it all, unless we are willing to turn all of our economic resources over to government. So while these institutions and their causes are most admirable, what if anything do the prior commentators wish to cut and please, please don't say waste fraud and abuse, because they shouldn't exist in the first place, except in the operations of the Town of Greenburgh.

tina jo said...

The Governor’s proposal will require school districts bear costs of paying tuition for deaf students residing in their district. As we all know, school districts are already struggling with their budgets and the Governor’s proposed budget claims millions in savings. What savings? This is a cost shift from the State to local school districts. A vast majority of school districts does not have staff members knowledgeable about educating, or communicating with Deaf children. Already financially devastated, school districts would cut essential services required for Deaf students out of necessity. The lack of direct access to the educational curriculum will set Deaf students aback from their hearing peers! It is unfortunate to see school districts lack the training or experience working with Deaf children, and do not have appropriate tools to assess them. Unforeseen litigation against the school districts for failure to provide FAPE under the IDEA would wipe out any perceived savings. Closure is not the only threat. Cuts in funding to state schools for the Deaf require schools to make severe cuts that compromise the educational needs of Deaf students. Deaf children need to be assessed by qualified educational staff with experience and training in specific assessment tools and techniques required as mandated by law.

The proof that our system and laws lack the assurance of Deaf education lives in the statistics, and feeds off the apathy and ignorance hid behind the status quo. Do not let this idea of a cut deceive you as it does many. Deaf children have the right to grow up bilingual. Deaf children deserve better…growing up in schools for the Deaf. Deaf people are the very people who end up being the most affected by political choice. We are obligated to preserve our Deaf schools where Deaf children acquire FULL language acquisition using ASL, so that by the time the child starts first grade, the child is ready to learn, receive an education and ultimately graduate, enter postsecondary education, and enter the world of work as productive tax-paying citizen. This is where we need to come up with a resolution for education equality and human rights for Deaf children. It should not cost the government much!

Rudolph said...

The 4201 schools qualm with the Governor’s proposed budget is not based on the need to cut the cost of educating our students, but the way the school will be funded and the unforeseen consequences of his proposal. The Governor wants to save $98 million from the 2011-12 budget by delaying service reimbursement to the districts. The districts will then need to come up with the money up front. On top of that, the proposed executive budget includes a 7.3 percent cut in education aid and a 2 percent cap on property taxes. Already fiscally strapped schools districts that have seen revenues from property taxes go down and last year’s state aid reduced, will be in a very difficult position. Districts will most likely be forced to keep blind, deaf and physically challenged students, which they really cannot service. Probably most of these students will be placed in self-contained special education classes, which in most cases, is not an appropriate setting due to their very unique needs. The governor’s proposal will not give 4201 schools a chance to make the necessary changes so they can find ways to spend less and become more efficient. His proposal will force 4201 schools to close, not because of their quality of education and the need of the students, but merely because they do not have the money to keep serving their students. The 4201 schools need time to adjust and to discuss a solution that does not do irreparable damage to their students. It is comments from caring and informed citizens like Paul Feiner which gives us hope that New York State’s 194 years of support of our most vulnerable children continues to be one of its priorities.

Anonymous said...

The various posters on this subject have omitted a response as to how they would bring the State of New York's finances and budget back into balance, forget attacking the problem of all of the accumulated debt that has been generated by years of out of control spending.

No one denies that we should provide these students with reasonable educational support. "Leadership" is not calling for ever more spending when the treasury is bare. So to repeat the previous question, what would you all change to get the State's budget into balance? And please don't say cut out waste fraud and abuse without specific citations of "savings".