New Diagnosis? Clarke Can Help!
 

President's Letter dated September 15

Date: September 15, 2010

To: All Members of the Clarke Community

From: Bill Corwin, President

Re: Northampton Campus Update

Clarke has proudly served the needs of children with hearing loss since 1867, and now, in 2010, our mission has not changed: providing children who are deaf and hard of hearing with the listening, learning and spoken language skills they need to succeed. Clarke has always been a leader in the field of auditory/oral education, and our programs and services have evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of the children and families we serve.

Clarke is now delivering services very differently than we did just a decade ago. In the past, many of Clarke’s Northampton students attended Clarke for their full elementary and middle school years and graduated from the 8th grade to go on to their hometown high school. Because newborn hearing screenings are now required in over 40 states, more and more children who are deaf and hard of hearing are being diagnosed as early as infancy. With intense early intervention services and the help of advanced hearing technologies like digital hearing aids and cochlear implants, many children are ready to join their hearing peers in mainstream classrooms by Kindergarten or even earlier. We continue to provide support to many of these mainstreamed students through our Mainstream Services, the most rapidly growing area of our work.

In the past, children and families typically came to Clarke’s campus to receive the services they needed, but now, in many instances, we are going to them. Whether it’s a home visit to an 18-month old’s family, mainstream consulting to a school district or one-on-one teaching in a public school classroom, we are fulfilling our mission in new ways by taking Clarke’s expertise out into the community. We are actively exploring new models and opportunities to help us provide services as efficiently and effectively as possible, and are serving more children, in more ways, in more places than ever before.

Over the last two years, we have engaged in a comprehensive strategic analysis process to assess where we are and make plans for the future. Through this analysis and as a result of some of the changes I described above, we have determined that we have much more space than we need on the Northampton campus. Clarke was originally designed as a large residential campus and for many decades, the majority of our students lived in dormitories on campus. Over the years that has changed, and now the majority of children attending Clarke’s Northampton school program are day students. This shift, combined with the extensive work we are now doing outside Clarke’s walls, means we no longer need such a large campus to fulfill our mission. Rather than continuing to put resources into maintaining buildings that are underused, we would rather direct those resources toward our programming.

We spent the last year exploring many options for leasing or renting parts of the property, but none of these options have yet proven workable. Therefore, the Board of Trustees is now considering putting much of the Northampton property on the market. No definite plans have been made, but we wanted to inform you that such options are being considered. We realize that this will impact the Clarke community and the greater Northampton community in many ways, so we want to be as transparent as possible in sharing our plans. The Board will continue its analysis of this issue and is likely to make a decision concerning the Northampton property sometime later this fall.

I want to emphasize that Clarke is not cutting back our programs or going out of business. All of the programs and services currently offered on the Northampton campus will continue, and there will be no interruption of service to students and families. We are committed to maintaining our K-8 school program, as well as our programs for infants and toddlers, and students in the mainstream. If a decision is made to put parts of the property on the market, it could potentially be several years before a sale is completed.

Although Clarke’s Northampton campus has been at the core of our work for many years, Clarke is much more than its buildings. Clarke is a community of families and individuals, and a network of experienced and committed professionals working to fulfill our mission and serve children where they live in their communities, as well as in our specialized school programs. I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about the many exciting new initiatives that Clarke is undertaking both in the U.S. and abroad. For more information about the possible Northampton campus transition, please see the enclosed Frequently Asked Questions document or visit www.clarkeschools.org/community.

Whatever decisions are made regarding our physical facilities, the high quality of Clarke’s educational programs will remain unchanged. Clarke is continuing to evolve, as we always have, to meet the changing needs of the children and families we serve, so that we can remain a vibrant and viable organization that will continue its important work for many years to come.

Thank you for being part of the Clarke community. Please contact me at 413.584.3450 or community@clarkeschools.org if you have any questions or thoughts to share. You are also invited to join us for a Community Meeting devoted to this topic on Thursday, September 23 from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. on Clarke’s campus in Bell Hall, 45 Round Hill Road.