Austine School

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Holton Hall of the Austine School, Brattleboro, Vermont - 20060921.jpg
Austine School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Location
Brattleboro, Vermont
Information
Type Private
Established 1904
Staff 175
Grades Pre-K–12
Number of students 74
Color(s) Green and White
Mascot Arrows
Website

The Austine School, in Brattleboro, Vermont, is an independent, coeducational day and residential school for deaf and hard-of-hearing children age four to eighteen from New England and New York.

History[edit]

In the late 1800s, U.S. Army Colonel William Austine retired to Brattleboro, Vermont.[1] In his will, the Colonel specified a sum of $50,000 to establish a hospital for the treatment of strangers or local residents with extraordinary circumstances. Complying with this wish and under trusteeship, five prominent local citizens incorporated the Austine Institution in 1904. After debate, the Vermont Attorney General, who was also the administrator of the Colonel’s will, prevailed with his suggestion to open a school for blind and deaf students. Support was gained from the Vermont General Assembly to purchase a 200-acre (0.81 km2) farm. In the fall of 1912 the Austine School opened with 16 students.

In 1914, Alexander Graham Bell delivered Austine School’s first commencement address.[2] During the late 1950s and early 60s, the school experienced expansive growth. A new elementary school was added followed by a new high school wing. Soon after, the high school boys' and girls' dormitories were completed. In 1970, the construction of Vermont Hall upgraded the dormitories for the younger children and added administrative offices, a modern kitchen, dining room and health facility.

On April 11, 2014 The Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VCDHH) Board of Directions voted to close both the Williams Center and the Austine School for the Deaf.[3] The organization has had continued financial issues due to declining enrollment over the years. The Board is considering opening a residential program by July 2016 but the details of that program have yet to be announced.

Vermont Center[edit]

In 1975 the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed. This legislation greatly impacted how persons with special needs are educated. As public schools began struggling to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing students in mainstream classrooms, Austine School leadership increasingly realized that their education expertise and guidance could be invaluable in helping school systems and families achieve their education goals. Thus the Vermont Center was created to provide statewide, location-based support for deaf education through a consulting network. Programs the Austine School had founded over the years to meet the needs of the deaf community beyond the classroom were grouped under the Vermont Center.

Williams Center[edit]

With mainstreaming underway, the Austine School recognized a marked increase in the percentage of its students who face multiple physical and education challenges. In response, The William Center was created as a separate school licensed by the Department for Children and Families and housed on the Austine Campus as a residential facility for emotionally disturbed deaf children.

Academics and education philosophy[edit]

The Austine School is led by principal Anne Potter and offers residential and day student programs. The elementary school program uses a combination of the Montessori Method, the State of Vermont Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities and the VCDHH curriculum to develop within students the foundation of knowledge, communication proficiency, critical thinking and conflict resolution skill, and a level of maturity to transition into middle school and beyond. The middle and high school continue to focus on the whole student and adhere to curricula based on VFSLO.[clarification needed] Core classes are English, Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, Health, Keyboarding and Physical Education. Electives are provided.

Austine provides specialized classes for students with multiple disabilities or special learning needs. Each student is encouraged to explore and discover the art of independent and collaborative learning. Additional opportunities take place through a Career Exploration class, a Business Education class, work-based learning, vocational assessment and transition planning. High school students participate in Austine's innovative supported onsite learning program at Brattleboro Union High School and may apply to the Southeast Vermont Career Education Center in Brattleboro for courses that develop specific employment skills in 16 fields.

Striving to prepare students for entry to college and career by making learning relevant to everyday life, the school provides a challenging academic program tailored to meet the individual needs of each student. The ultimate goal for every Austine student is to experience a happy, healthy and successful adulthood.

Austine's idyllic campus provides opportunities for a rich student life, ranging from onsite ropes courses, hiking and swimming, and varsity sports, to participation in Deaf Academic Bowl at Gallaudet University. The mascot is the Arrows.

Austine has a vibrant alumni community, many of whom choose to stay in Brattleboro after graduation.

Language Policy[edit]

From its establishment, the Austine school was intended to be run by the oral method of teaching:“It is to be a pure oral school, and the trustees hope to make it a first-class school in every respect[4] ”. This implies that only spoken and written English were used in the classroom by instructors and students. It appears this was the policy until the mid-1960s until the high school was established. According the Austine News 1965, sign language was allowed in the high school:

"Simultaneous communication was determined as the basic communication method in the high school area. This method employs the media of speech, speechreading (lipreading), amplification through group or individual hearing aids, writing, dramatics, pantomime, finger-spelling and the language of signs. This means that students with little residual hearing can see the manual symbols on the hands; those who are proficient lipreaders can follow oral conversation clues; those who have a usable residue of hearing can follow auditory clues. All conversation is given at a normal rate of speed. The simultaneous method reduces the need for numerous repetitions and augments our traditionally strong program in speech, lipreading, and auditory training.[5] "

At this time sign language was actively discouraged in the elementary school and preschool programs. However, the high school program was such a success, sign language instruction quickly spread throughout all the programs and by 1971 the entire school was encouraging the use of sign language. In 1990, Austine officially adopted the Bilingual-Bicultural Approach.[6]

Notable Alumni[edit]

  • Dr. Clayton Valli (1971): linguistics professor at Gallaudet University and sign language poet
  • Rene Pellerin (1972) comedian & storyteller, former Vermont State Coordinator for the Deaf
  • James Edward Tucker (1976) superintendent of the Maryland School for the Deaf
  • Daryl Wetzel (1979) a three-time Deaf Olympian, he won two gold medals for basketball and a bronze metal for handball

References[edit]

  1. ^ "History of Austine". Retrieved 2014-01-07. "after retiring in Brattleboro" 
  2. ^ http://www.vcdhh.org/index.php?action=subpage&id=367
  3. ^ "VCDHH Board Votes to Close Austine School". Brattleboro Reformer. 
  4. ^ "A Pure Oralist School in Vermont". The Volta Review 13 (1): 61. April 1911 – March 1912. 
  5. ^ "Austine Dedicates Two New Buildings". Austine School News LIII: 3. June 1965. 
  6. ^ "Notes on More Changes at Vermont School for the Deaf". Deaf Nation 1 (11): 13. September 1996. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°50′32″N 72°34′29″W / 42.8422°N 72.5746°W / 42.8422; -72.5746