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March 22, 2005

New name reflects services for deaf

From: Portland Press Herald, ME - Mar 22, 2005

By TESS NACELEWICZ, Portland Press Herald Writer

Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

For nearly half a century, the name of the state school on Mackworth Island in Falmouth has been Governor Baxter School for the Deaf.

It was named after Percival Baxter, the Maine governor who donated the island and the money to build the school for Maine's deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

But much has changed since the school was built and named in the 1950s. So a bill before the Legislature calls for a new name - the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing - to better describe the services the state delivers to about 560 students in the 21st century.

The name of the school on Mackworth - only about 10 percent of the students actually go there - would remain the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf under the legislation.

The new name would be an umbrella title describing all of the educational services Maine provides for its deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

However, Rep. Herb Adams, D-Portland, says the new title detracts from the honor rightly due to Maine's governor from 1921 to 1925.

"Given the sacrifices that Governor Baxter made for Maine and given the gifts Governor Baxter gave to all of Maine . . . his name needs more prominence, not less," said Adams, an expert on Maine history.

School officials say no slight is intended to Baxter, whose gifts to Maine also included Baxter State Park. They say the new name would just help the public understand what services the state offers.

Baxter's superintendent, Larry Taub, was not available for comment Monday. But he told the Legislature's Education Committee last week that the school has "undergone so much change that it is a school in name only. Given the scope of our work across the state of Maine, we would be better defined as the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing."

Jane Hecker-Cain, Baxter's director of communications, said Monday that the school's name isn't changing. The bill, she said, is for "the addition of a new organizational name."

She said the title was selected by a committee whose members listened to alumni, students and their families, and the staff.

She said the school on Mackworth - one building was a Baxter family home - is just one portion of the three-pronged array of services that the state offers.

The state actually serves the vast majority of deaf and hard-of-hearing students - 514 youngsters around the state - in their home communities and schools through consulting services and other programs.

Hecker-Cain said that Baxter, through its library and the other resources, also serves as an information center on such topics as sign language, deaf culture and deaf education.

Rep. Glenn Cummings, D-Portland, who is sponsoring the bill, said the new name is needed. "The mission of the program has changed significantly," he said.

Adams, who spoke in opposition to the bill last week, said the committee asked him and Taub to work out a compromise on the name before March 31, the date the committee will hold a work session on the bill. The session is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Room 202 of the Cross Office Building in Augusta.

Staff Writer Tess Nacelewicz can be contacted at 791-6367 or at:

Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.