Prized area deaf school is struggling financially


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Inside Bay Area - Prized area deaf school is struggling financially

AT 9 months old, Danny Twomey wasn't responding when his parents would call out his name.

He also started just yelling. "He just made a lot of noises at the same tone," said his father, Michael Twomey of San Jose.

Danny's parents soon learned he was profoundly deaf in both ears.

"We were devastated," the father said. "With something like this, what are you going to do?"

But the Twomey family's shock eventually turned to hope after Danny was given cochlear implants and enrolled in the Jean Weingarten Peninsula Oral School for the Deaf in Redwood City.

Other parents of the hearing-impaired have experienced the same sense of optimism, being part of the school that is the only one of its kind in the region primarily serving young children with the innovative implants.

However, ongoing funding challenges make for an uncertain future for a school that many families regard as giving their children the best chance to succeed in the mainstream world.

Jean Weingarten currently serves about 50 children from across the Bay Area, site coordinator Marsha Boyes said.

It costs about $40,000 a year to teach a child at the school, Boyes said.

She said about half of that is paid by a child's home school district as mandated by special-education laws, while the remainder is subsidized by the school.

But officials at Jean Weingarten said a money crunch has resulted because of rising operating expenses here and funding shortages in the public-school system.

"We are finding ourselves in the same situation as public districts," said Mary Ruth Leen, the school's Family Center director.

Leen said the public districts are trying to keep special-needs students within their schools as much as possible by developing their own programs. That, in turn, affects the funding for Jean Weingarten.

According to income-tax returns, the Foundation forHearing Research — which funds and operates the Jean Weingarten school — has struggled with budget deficits in recent years.

In the 2003-04 fiscal year, the foundation posted revenues of $2.1 million but had expenses of $3.7 million, for a $1.6 million deficit. It did much better in 2004-05, but still didn't finish in the black. Revenues were $3.8 million and expenses were $3.9 million.

Even so, Leen said she doesn't believe the school is in danger of closing in the near future.

"We just have to work that much harder," she said.

School officials said they will continue fundraising efforts such as one set for Nov. 18 in San Jose.

"We want to outreach to the community so they know we are here and know about our programs," Boyes said.

Parents at the school feel it is the premier campus around for the deaf or hard-of-hearing.

"A school like this just doesn't exist anywhere else," Michael Twomey said. "It gives the support and education to children and teaches parents what they need to know."

Having the implants in both ears and receiving individualized attention at the nonprofit private school, Danny — now 4 — is able to listen and speak almost like any other child his age.

"He's gone from shouting" to understanding "a huge amount of language," his father said.

The elder Twomey added that he believes Danny will be able to transition to a mainstream school in his home district in about two years.

Cochlear implants are electronic devices designed to bring a sense of sound to people with severe hearing loss.

But even with the implants, young children still need to learn how to distinguish sounds and connect them to the right objects.

That's where the school comes in. "We help children learn to listen because it doesn't happen naturally for these students," Boyes said.

During one class, for instance, teacher Jenny Ignacio hit a drum and a parent asked her child, "Did you hear that? What was that?"

It may seem like a learning exercise found in any other school, but here it has an added specific purpose.

"It helps students connect the sound with the drum," Boyes said. "It becomes part of their auditory memory."

Ignacio added that the school coaches parents on various other techniques to help develop their listening skills at home, such as asking questions and pausing for the child's answer.


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I can help this school.

I can help this school get some funding from the same fund going to another deaf school in California.

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Just because ONE Reddick has made bad decision after bad decision doesnt mean all of them have to rot in hell. Look into your own families and Im sure you all have a family member to be ashamed of. Im not excusing him, and I wouldnt have chosen him to be on the board either, but his son doesnt have to carry his dads mistakes.