Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Colorado's School For The Deaf And The Blind finances, future in turmoil


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The superintendent of Colorado's School For The Deaf And The Blind, and a former employee there, have different opinions about the school's finances and its direction for the future.

Patricia Jackson, a teacher and supervisor at the school until her retirement in 2003, said she has kept in touch with current employees and is getting information from them about the school's situation. She says current employees will not talk publicly out of fear of punishment.

Carol Hilty has served as the school's superintendent since 2005. On Monday, Hilty confirmed she met with her staff last Friday and told them to prepare for the possibility of cutbacks and layoffs. However, Hilty and Jackson differ on how real that possibility is.

Jackson said the school expects a budget shortfall of between $600,000 and $1.8 million next year, and she wants to know why. Jackson also said Hilty and her top administrators should take salary cuts before eliminating programs and laying off employees.

Finally, Jackson expressed skepticism about a $10 million project to renovate the School For The Deaf's Gottlieb Building. She questions the cost, the source of funds and the logic of a project that would benefit only 50 of the school's 220 students.

Hilty responded by saying than any budget deficit would depend on whether the state reduces funding for education in 2011, and that it's too early to specify how extensive cuts would be. Hilty also said the renovation project is being financed by a grant, and that the building ultimately will be used by all students.

The Colorado School For The Deaf And The Blind opened in 1974