May 30, 2020

Committee recommends more autonomy for Baxter school

FALMOUTH — The Baxter School for the Deaf is plagued by a web of state regulations that prevents it from fixing many problems, a committee of state officials and experts says.

The answer, according to the panel, is for the Legislature to consider giving the state-owned school more power to govern itself.

“I feel finally that as deaf people our hands are free to do what we want with the school,” said Roxanne Baker, a member of the 20-person committee who also serves on Baxter’s school board.

Problems identified by the committee, which has studied the school for three months, include the lack of a curriculum for middle school and high school students; few deaf teachers and administrators; and many staff members who are not fluent in sign language.

Baxter, which has 80 students on its Mackworth Island campus and 350 others in outreach programs around the state, also suffers from a lack of direction that comes from having four superintendents in five years, the committee said.

One of the recommendations is the formation of a committee to design a new, more independent governance for the school, based on models such as the Maine Technical College System. That committee would recommend a new structure to the Legislature, to be put in place in 2000.

Another recommendation is to give the school more money to supplement salaries for top administrators.

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