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January 5, 2004

Boss of deaf, blind school has review this week

From:, ID - Jan 5, 2004

Superintendent's fate to be settled by State Board

GOODING — Angel Ramos' job is on the line as the superintendent for the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind goes before a State Board of Education hearing in Boise this week.

Controversy at the school centers on Ramos' management style and several programs he instituted since he became superintendent in August 2001.

Following guidelines from the Americans With Disabilities Act, Ramos instituted a communication policy forcing those familiar with sign language to use it while talking both in and outside of class, so people have equal access to communication.

Ramos required teachers to use sign language and hired an American Sign Language/deaf culture teacher to help them improve their skills. Those without the skill were moved to positions out of direct contact with students.

Critics say Ramos took the money designated for a speech and language pathologist, and instead used it for the salary of the specialist, a new position to the school.

The school has been using part-time and contracted speech and language pathologists, and has seen difficulties getting enough experts to work with the students' needs.

Criticism also arose from a parent advisory board for more orientation and mobility training for the school's blind students.

In May, about 47 employees and 12 parents met with Gary Stivers of the State Board of Education to express their dissatisfaction with Ramos. The state responded by issuing a corrective action plan to improve the school in June.

Ramos was put on administrative leave July 30 — before the deadline for many of the changes — and Harv Lyter took over as acting superintendent.

The board hired former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Charles McDevitt as Ramos' hearing officer. The hearing is scheduled to start today and is expected to last at least one week.

McDevitt will make a non-binding recommendation to the board after hearing arguments from Ramos and his opponents. The state board will then make the final decision about Ramos' status

Ramos is still living in the superintendent house in Gooding and is receiving his regular salary of $84,500 a year.

He is the first deaf superintendent at the nearly century-old institution charged with educating Idaho's deaf, hard of hearing and visually impaired students.

©2004 Idaho Statesman