IM this article to a friend!

March 16, 2007

House approves funds for Regional Service Center

From: Chickasha Express Star - Chickasha,OK,USA - Mar 16, 2007

The Express-Star


State lawmakers overwhelmingly gave their approval Wednesday evening to House Bill 1546, by state Rep. Susan Winchester, calling for the establishment of a regional service center in Chickasha for the Oklahoma School for the Deaf.

The center will include an early childhood/elementary day school for deaf and hearing impaired children; support services to deaf and hearing impaired students of all ages; support services for their families; and by creating a day school, establish a practicum/clinical setting that would greatly benefit the training and education of teachers for the deaf. The service center will partner with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, the Jane Brooks School for the Deaf and the Jane Brooks Foundation to provide services. The center will be located on the USAO campus.

“The regional service center would combine teacher preparation, education of the deaf and extensive services for the deaf community,” said Winchester, R-Chickasha. “The center would serve families in an approximately 40-mile radius including parts of the Oklahoma City metro and the community of Lawton-Ft. Sill.”

The project has been ongoing for the past five years, Winchester said, and is now nearing completion once state funding is provided.

“Support for this measure would create a tremendous asset for Oklahoma’s deaf community and those seeking the opportunity to teach in this field,” Winchester said.

State Rep. Wes Hilliard, a Sulphur Democrat who represents the Oklahoma School for the Deaf, also urged lawmakers to support the bill.

“The new service center will address one of the most pressing needs in Oklahoma’s deaf community—the demand for well-trained teachers who have completed deaf education programs,” Hilliard said.

He said the bill will also benefit the School for the Deaf in Sulphur.

“The early childhood programs at the regional service center will lead more students to ultimately attend the School for the Deaf to complete their primary education,” Hilliard said. “That’s a big positive in my eyes.”

“We are delighted to accept the unique challenge made possible by this legislation,” said USAO President John Feaver. “Coalescing three distinct programs for deaf persons into one facility is an exciting prospect – both for our students and faculty in Oklahoma’s only deaf education program at a public university, but also for all Oklahomans who need deaf services for family members of all ages. What Representative Winchester’s legislation would do is to create a satellite program in Chickasha for the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur. This completes a trinity here of essential and unique programs of service and education for the deaf. Combined with USAO’s respected deaf education program, plus the soon return of the Jane Brooks School for Deaf to its original home on our campus, the OSD satellite in Chickasha will provide important new services in this part of the state. The resulting triad – which will combine forces in the restored, historic Canning Hall – will offer to Oklahoma a model of deaf education and services like no other.”

Established in 1945, USAO’s deaf education program has been nationally recognized for its quality in teacher education and support of the deaf community. OSD is the single largest employer of graduates from the Deaf Education program at USAO and USAO supplies more teachers for OSD than any other university.

In addition to Hilliard, state Reps. Phil Richardson (R-Minco), Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs), and Ann Coody (R-Lawton) were co-authors of the bill. House Bill 1546 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 100-0 vote and now proceeds to the state Senate, state Sens. Ron Justice (R-Chickasha) and Don Barrington (R-Lawton) will carry the legislation.

© 2007, The Express-Star