New Diagnosis? Clarke Can Help!
 

President's Letter Dated September 15th

Date: September 15, 2010

To: Clarke Alumni

From: Bill Corwin, President

Re: Clarke Northampton Campus Update

As we begin our 143rd school year, I am inspired by the promise and potential that the future holds for today’s students, and the legacy of accomplishments left by the generations of students who came before them. I am writing to bring you up-to-date on the challenges and opportunities that we are working on, some of which involve our historic Northampton campus.

I know that many of you share deep feelings of affection for and attachment to this beautiful campus. In the coming months, I will be communicating with you about its future as openly and as often as possible. This letter is the first communication that you will receive as our Trustees deliberate about the future of the campus. You will find additional information on our website (www.clarkeschools.org), and there will be a special meeting just for alumni in Bell Hall on Wednesday, September 22 at 7:00pm to answer your questions on this topic. If you are able, please plan to attend. I will also be addressing this at Homecoming on October 2, and look forward to seeing many of you there.

The first thing that I want to be sure you know is that Clarke is actually serving more children, in more ways and in more places than ever before. We are responding to the changing world we live in with the same level of leadership and innovation that have been our hallmarks since 1867. Whether attending a Clarke school in Northampton, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, or Jacksonville, or receiving services from our dozens of specialized programs, over 1,000 infants, toddlers, children, and youth who are deaf or hard of hearing benefit from being part of Clarke each year.

In some ways, life for today’s Clarke students in Northampton is quite different than it was for previous generations. But, in the ways that matter most, they are just like every other generation of Clarke students. They arrive with the same mix of anxiety and excitement that comes with the start of a new school year, and they feel the same sense of pride and belonging that comes with being part of the Clarke Community.

Our services have changed a great deal in recent years. While many children still come to us for services, more and more often we are going to them. Many infants, toddlers, and their families receive comprehensive services from Clarke in the comfort and convenience of their homes. The majority of children that Clarke now serves are under age seven. Children as young as two or three months of age are now served by our staff. With hearing loss now often being diagnosed in infancy, and with advanced hearing technologies, many children now receive intensive early help from Clarke and as a result are ready to attend their neighborhood public school as early as preschool or Kindergarten.

When they do, Clarke now has a wide range of services available to provide whatever ongoing support they may need. For example, Clarke teachers are now working in many mainstream schools side-by-side with regular classroom teachers. We are even providing help internationally, such as with on-site consulting services to an organization in Kuwait that is developing a program for children who are deaf.

With great change and opportunity, come challenges. One of the many challenges we are addressing now is the reduced need for buildings on our Northampton campus. This campus was built in an era when most children who were deaf and hard of hearing went to boarding schools. As we have come to serve more children in their homes and hometown schools and fewer of them on campus, our need for space has diminished. During the past decade, we have consolidated our operations into fewer buildings and have sold some buildings around campus. Now, we have reached the point where we have underused buildings in the campus core.

The Board of Trustees has been exploring options for the future use of these buildings and at this time is seriously considering putting some of them on the market. However, please understand:

  • No final decisions have been made. At this time the campus is not for sale. Clarke’s property is zoned for Educational, Agricultural, and Residential use. Therefore, no retail businesses would be permitted to purchase or build on the property.
  • There are no buyers waiting in the wings, and given the state of the economy and the real estate market, even if the Trustees decide to put buildings on the market, it is unlikely that a sale would take place in the very near future.
  • All of the programs and services currently offered in Northampton, including our Kindergarten through 8th grade school program, will continue. There will be no interruption of service to students and families.
  • The campus will continue to be well cared for. Even though our use of buildings has been reduced, we would not allow unsightly deterioration to occur.

As you may know, Bob Storm is now serving as Alumni Liaison in addition to his duties as a Middle School science and math teacher. Please feel free to be in touch with Bob at alumniliaison@clarkeschools.org or with me at bcorwin@clarkeschools.org if you have any questions or comments. I hope to see you in Bell Hall on Wednesday September 22 at 7:00pm when we will continue our conversation, or at Homecoming on October 2. If you are unable to attend the meeting on September 22 and would like to e-mail a question ahead of time to be addressed at the meeting, please e-mail it to community@clarkeschools.org. There will also be a meeting on September 23 that is open to the public, but we wanted to have a special meeting first, just for alumni. For your information, enclosed with this letter is a document of Frequently Asked Questions that will be provided to the public.

Finally, we are beginning the initial planning stages of a very exciting project that will document, preserve, and protect the history of Clarke—not only many of the cherished objects and artifacts on campus, but more importantly, the story of Clarke, which in many ways is the story of being deaf in America for the last century and a half. This story needs to be told and I believe that we, the Clarke School family, are the ones to tell it. You will be hearing more about this creative project in the coming months, and I sincerely hope you will become part of it.