The superintendent of the state-run schools for deaf and visually-impaired students is asking the governor and legislators to provide over $200,000 for a new “Regional Academy”. Steven Gettel is the superintendent for what are called the “state special schools” which are the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton.
“This is really a partnership that we’re putting together with first Charles City up in the northeast region,” Gettel says.
Students would come from districts served by two Area Education Agencies — AEA 267 which has offices in Cedar Falls, Clear Lake and Marshalltown and the Keystone AEA which has its main office in Elkader. The $232,500 Gettel’s asking for would finance 30 percent of the academy’s operations. The rest will be financed by general state financial support that will follow the students who enroll in the academy.
“It’s really about getting those kids more time and more targeted instruction from teachers that are qualified to work with the needs that they bring,” Gettel says.
Today, teachers from the two schools for deaf and blind kids travel the state and work with 562 students enrolled in public school districts all over the state. The ultimate plan is to have five regional centers established around the state and Gettel says that would give both teachers and students more classroom time.
“Really what it does is it brings the kids from a reasonable distance to the teachers,” Gettel says. “So instead of having teachers traveling around between schools, using a lot of their time for driving, the kids will come to them and then they will have the quality instruction from that highly-qualified teacher.”
In Charles City where Gettel hopes to establish the first regional academy, blind and deaf students enrolled there would be able to take classes at the community college and find part-time work.
“What we expect is that these kids will be better prepared either for post-secondary education — college — or the workplace and even kids that would have additional disabilities, with that intensive level of instruction there, they’re better prepared to work and live out in their community when they’re finished with school,” Gettel says. “…We know that appropriate education and training pays for a lifetime and that’s what we want for our students.”
Gettel made his comments during a budget hearing in Governor Branstad’s office.