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June 15, 2006

Enrollment issues force school for deaf to close

From: Portsmouth Herald News - Portsmouth,NH,USA - Jun 15, 2006

By Associated Press

CONCORD - A charter school for the deaf is closing after its first full year of operation because of low enrollment.
The only public school dedicated to sign language in the state, the Laurent Clerc Academy in Concord, was unable to hit its target goal of 10 children, despite over $500,000 in state and federal aid. Of six pupils enrolled at the school, three are deaf and three are the children of the school’s director and only full-time teacher, a married couple.

Citing confidentiality, school director Susan Brule declined to say how many of the deaf pupils also are her children.

"It’s not about which of those children who were hearing or deaf were my children. That’s not the issue," she said Wednesday.

But state Board of Education member Fred Bramante said there were concerns early on about the school’s family ties. "When we found out a year that they only had a few kids in the school, and they were the children of the people running the school, it raised eyebrows at the Board of Education," he said. "We clearly did not intend for a school that was catering to just their kids."

Brule’s husband, Mario Mauro, is the school’s full-time teacher. When it opened midway through the 2004-2005 academic year, the school had four students - Brule and Mauro’s three children and one other child.

Fran Jacques, whose 13-year-old son has attended the school since it opened in 2005, said it never bothered her that the director’s family made up so much of the staff and student body.

"They treated their children just like any other student," she said.

Brule and Mauro were recruited to open a deaf school in New Hampshire because the state has a high dropout rate for deaf students, Brule said.

She blamed low enrollment on a lack of awareness about the school’s bilingual method, which teaches American Sign Language as deaf students’ native language, and printed English as their second language.

© 2006 Seacoast Online.