DBC Interviews Dr. William Ellerbee, Deputy State Supt. of the CA Dept. of Education
Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Dr. William Ellerbee, Jr, Deputy State Superintendent of the California Department of Education (CDE), recently granted an interview to the Deaf Bilingual Coalition on the topic of the importance of residential schools for the Deaf. We caught up with Dr. Ellerbee last week after graduation ceremonies at the California School for the Deaf, Fremont.

Says Dr. Ellerbee: "Every time I visit the schools for the deaf, both here in Fremont and in Riverside, I'm reminded of the dedicated staff and wonderful learning opportunities for our deaf and hard-of-hearing students. There is no question in my mind that our schools for the deaf are definitely needed. Without them, many of the students who graduated today here at CSD Fremont may not have seen their graduation come to fruition."

Much has been in the news in recent times about a few states which have debated whether to close their state schools for the Deaf due to shortfalls in the state budget, though the specter of such possible closures has been exaggerated in the press and the only permanent school closures have been in Nebraska (1998), Wyoming (2001), one of two schools in Virginia (2008), and one of three schools for the Deaf in North Carolina (2001).

Dr. Ellerbee commented about those closures: "When that happens, I shudder to think how terrible that is. How will the students who attended those schools receive a quality education? Will they be prepared for the real world? While dollars may be saved by closing the schools, a state inevitably limits the learning opportunities and choices for their deaf and hard of hearing students. This is terrible! Here in California, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell is doing everything possible to ensure we don't lose our schools for the deaf in California. There have not been any overt efforts to close our schools for the deaf, and we can't let that happen here in California. Our economy is bad, and revenue is low, and we know there are budget cuts that are going to take place. We have already seen large budget cuts to our schools for the deaf during the past few years, and there will be more cuts during the new school year. We need to join hands and make sure everyone understands the importance and need of the schools for the deaf in our state. We must work together to ensure as much money as possible is budgeted for our two schools in 2009-10. Our deaf and hard-of-hearing students deserve the best and the opportunity to grow and learn like everyone else. They can't do it without the resources."

The Deaf Bilingual Coalition applauds Superintendent O'Connell, Deputy Superintendent Ellerbee and all the staff members of the California Department of Education who have done so much in support of California's schools for the Deaf and in support of Deaf education generally.

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