For several years, East End Community School has been the home of the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing elementary program, giving students the opportunity to have deaf students from Portland and other Maine communities in their classes with the center’s professionals to support them.

Students experience diversity while giving deaf kids a cohort of peers instead of the isolation of mainstreaming. This program costs Portland taxpayers nothing! Moreover, each student placed there from other communities brings in funds to Portland Public Schools.

In April, without consulting his board or the East End administration, Superintendent Xavier Botana abruptly canceled the memorandum of understanding with the center, asking them to move to another district because of the need to add pre-K classes. These classes can be added to other schools, such as Rowe. However, moving the center’s program out of the East End School will cost Portland taxpayers money.

Because of its integrated nature, the center only uses one classroom, but technology and training invested in the East End School will be wasted, Portland Public Schools will lose revenue coming from out-of-district deaf students and Portland will then have to pay for the services their own deaf students require, including professional staff like the ones that are now free through the center.

Furthermore, most of Portland’s elementary-aged deaf students live in the East End. It makes sense for them to attend school in their community with siblings, neighbors, friends and teachers they’ve bonded with. We can’t afford to lose this educational partnership.

In his Portland Promise, Botana states: “Our schools offer an educational experience that stands out in Maine for a variety of reasons – our rich programming, our dedicated and caring staff, our extensive community partnerships, and our diversity.” The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s East End School program embodies this. Let’s keep it that way.

Arricka Noe

Portland