From the Superintendent

MSD's Colloquium - MSA Accreditation Mid-Cycle
March 16, 2023
Dear MSD Community: 

On Tuesday, March 14, MSD hosted a colloquium as part of the current Middle States Association (MSA) accreditation mid-cycle. The colloquium was designed to showcase our efforts and share its action research processes and progress findings with the MSD community, the public, and MSA representatives who watched the proceedings. Our action research question focused on the use of technology to foster engagement, involvement, education, and collaboration with MSD families to support and enhance student academic achievement.
Throughout the presentation, the following strategies were addressed:
  • Make communication via technology more accessible to parents/families
  • Create a digital family support center
  • Connect all families
  • Create a user friendly digital presence to improve school/home communication
We had various presenters share their findings, including both successes and challenges, related to the use of the aforementioned strategies in applying the following:
  • The use of educational software and apps
  • Implementation of PowerSchool and Schoology
  • The use of various school communication methods to disseminate information to stakeholders
  • The use of digital family newsletters to make connections with families
  • The process of soliciting input on curriculum resources from families
  • Provision of resources and services for families with infants to toddlers
  • Provision of ASL classes for families, both in person and online
  • Parent training series for families with students with additional needs
  • Extended IEP meeting options
  • Mid-cycle survey results and MAP assessment results
This colloquium was also a meaningful way to recognize the hard work and successes of the past several years, which were the direct result of everyone's efforts. While there was plenty of success to celebrate, we also recognize that there were some challenges. Therefore, there is still more work to do. The premise behind the Sustaining Excellence protocol is that a school will use strategic planning and action research as vehicles for growth and improvement in student performance and the school's capacity to effect that growth. MSD remains committed to that premise.
In conclusion, MSD will use the key insights and takeaways learned throughout this process to shape the next steps within the last part of this current accreditation cycle. Please be on the lookout for future communications regarding the MSA accreditation.
If you missed the colloquium, please click here to view the recording. MSA accreditation reports and other relevant documents are posted on the MSD website at
Upon the conclusion of the colloquium, I sat down to work on this letter, and as I did, I received communication from the MSA Office expressing their compliments for the great work that was on display during the colloquium. In that same communication, MSA declared that MSD has met the maintenance requirements for the Sustaining Excellence protocol. This is wonderful news and I couldn't be prouder of the MSD staff, students, families, and community for meeting this goal. This accreditation recognizes MSD's efforts in enhancing its educational programs and services. We remain dedicated to continued improvement and assuring that our students receive the utmost quality of education possible. 
Now that I have summarized the colloquium for you, I would be remiss if I didn't express my appreciation and recognize the hard work and effort required to put together a well-designed virtual colloquium. It was truly a team effort, and I want to commend the MSD team for their dedication and commitment to excellence.
The success of the colloquium would not have been possible without the exceptional leadership of Tara Holloway, who skillfully brought everyone together and maintained close communication with MSA to ensure that MSD remained on track and submitted the required report on time.
Moreover, MSD's high school seniors, Mepper Beshears and Bella Finkle, demonstrated exemplary facilitation skills, keeping everyone engaged throughout the colloquium. Their contribution as student emcees was invaluable to the overall success of the event.
The presenters made time within their busy schedules to be part of the colloquium and worked diligently to compile all of the necessary information. We would like to extend our gratitude to the following presenters:
  • Ann Behm, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist
  • Caitlin Blake, Director of Enhanced Services
  • Tara Duboski Finkle, Family Education & Early Childhood Assistant Principal - Frederick 
  • Patricia Germundson, Elementary Assistant Principal, Frederick
  • Dawniela Halischak, Columbia Principal 
  • Tara Holloway, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
  • Jenna Kuschmider, Curriculum and Instruction Specialist
  • Amy Mowl, Director of Public Relations
  • Deb Myers, ASL Instructor
  • Shannon Negussie, Middle School Assistant Principal - Columbia
  • Patricia Muldowney, Family Education & Early Childhood Assistant Principal - Columbia
  • Milagros Rodriguez-Gonzalez, PowerSchool Administrator 
  • Chet Virnig, High School Assistant Principal 
  • Jessica Willoughby, Data & Assessment Coordinator 
  • Charlene Ward-Marr, Director of Student Support Services
Special thanks to Gabrielle Beaumont for working behind the scenes on logistics and facilitating the webinar, Janna DiBiase for student support, and Milagros Rodriguez-Gonzalez for providing technical assistance.
Kudos to Amy Mowl for the public relations effort as well as putting together the beautiful PowerPoint presentation which made the event cohesive from start to finish.
I appreciate every one of you.

With Oriole Pride, 
John A. Serrano
Invitation to MSD's Sustaining Excellence Colloquium
February 24, 2023
Dear MSD Community: 

The Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD) achieved full accreditation through the Middle States Association using their Sustaining Excellence Protocol on May 1, 2019. This is a significant achievement for our school community and reflects our commitment to providing the best possible education for our students.
As part of the accreditation process, MSD has been conducting a self-study research project to explore how technology can foster improved engagement, involvement, education, and collaboration with diverse families throughout Maryland. This study focuses on language and social/emotional development, academic support, and enhancing student academic achievement.
The Sustaining Excellence Colloquium represents the mid-point in our accreditation process. It is an opportunity to share our progress and findings with the community and receive feedback and support as we move forward.
While we were initially scheduled to present our findings at a colloquium in Spring 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our ability to fully implement our research during the 2020-2021 school year. Fortunately, we were granted an extension and have been able to continue our self-study.

I am excited to announce that we will present our findings to the community on Tuesday, March 14, at 1:00 p.m. during our Sustaining Excellence Colloquium. This event will be virtual via Zoom Webinar, and I encourage everyone to attend. Please register online to receive the webinar link.
For more information about our accreditation with the Middle States Association, please visit
Thank you for your support of Maryland School for the Deaf. We are committed to providing the highest quality education to all our students, and the Middle States Association accreditation process is an important part of our commitment to continuous school improvement.
John A. Serrano
90-Day Entry Plan
February 9, 2023
Dear MSD Community: 

The intention of this letter is to share with you what you can expect of me within my first three months as superintendent. It is important that you have an overall idea of what my priorities and key focus areas will be for the next three months. By the time you read this and watch my video, I will have been at MSD for two weeks. I cannot begin to describe the amazing warm welcome I received from MSD students, staff, and families. It was indeed an inspiring experience that strengthened my commitment and resolve to ensure that I succeed in my role as superintendent. I'd like to recognize the many staff members who have been instrumental in preparing for my arrival to ensure a smooth transition. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I recognize that my arrival has brought a new level of excitement and hope for the present and future. I am committed to building upon this positive momentum to take the school to the next level. My commitment to the MSD community is to learn as much as possible to support the school's success and make informed decisions to better serve the school. Everything I do at MSD will start with this guiding principle—what is in the best interests of the students?
The following are my three key focus areas which I will then elaborate on:
  • Onboarding
  • Community & Stakeholders Engagement and Relations
  • School Operations and Processes
  • As a new staff member of the MSD community, I will undergo the onboarding process that is required of new staff members, including completing the required trainings and becoming familiar with essential processes and protocols.
  • Settle in my new offices on both the Columbia and Frederick campuses, which includes establishing work procedures and routines to allow me to work effectively on both campuses.
  • Become familiar with the various buildings, departments, and their functions on both campuses.
Community & Stakeholders Engagement and Relations
  • Attend and participate in scheduled legislative hearings concerning the MSD budget. I had the opportunity to attend my first Operating Budget hearing with the Senate during my first week, in which the Chief Financial/Operating Officer and myself testified on MSD's behalf.
  • Develop and establish positive relationships with key legislators and state constituents that have a vested interest in MSD and give them the opportunity to learn more about MSD to ensure they continue to support full funding of our school.
  • Identify internal and external stakeholders that are essential to the operations and support of MSD and create opportunities to meet with them. Examples of external stakeholders include but are not limited to parent/staff associations, MSD Foundation, American Federation of Teachers union representatives, Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), the state counsel's office representing the school, etc.
  • Work closely with each member of the school leadership team, including both campus principals, the Dean of Student Affairs, Human Resources Director, and the Chief Financial/Operating Officer.
  • Identify opportunities to engage with various members of the school community and learn more about the highlights, opportunities, and areas of growth for the school. 
  • Visit all departments and buildings on both campuses. My goal is to conduct frequent, brief visits and attend school events to meet as many MSD students, staff members, families, and community members as possible.
  • Develop and strengthen a working relationship with the Board of Trustees leadership and the board members to identify key board priorities for the year.
School Operations and Processes
  • Review the current leadership structure and decision-making processes and how the decisions are communicated and implemented. 
  • Become familiar with policies and procedures in all aspects of school instruction and curriculum, operations, personnel, and student life.
  • Educate myself in fiscal operations, budget planning and facilities/maintenance including familiarizing myself with state regulations concerning school funding and capital projects.
  • Review and become familiar with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work that MSD has done over the past several years.
  • Understand and become familiar with various professional development opportunities and training requirements for MSD staff. 
These three key focus areas are critical to helping me establish the direction that will guide my decisions on how we will move forward together in elevating MSD to the next level.
Lastly, my commitment is to establish ongoing and transparent communication with the MSD community. Be on the lookout for future communications from my office.
Again, thank you for warmly embracing and welcoming me into the MSD community.
With Oriole Pride,
John A. Serrano
Message from Incoming Superintendent John A. Serrano
Hello, my name is John A. Serrano. (Sign name JA) It is a tremendous honor to be selected as the next Superintendent of MSD. I am also the first Latinx superintendent to lead MSD. I am humbled and honored to be appointed. I want to thank the MSD Board of Trustees, the superintendent search committee, and the MSD community of students, families, staff, teachers, and friends for their support. I must also thank my family for their support.
I look forward to working with you, and I am committed to hitting the ground running when I start on Wednesday, January 25. I intend to start with legislative work, making connections with community stakeholders, and ensuring we end this school year on a positive note. See you later!
Go Orioles!