Message from the Leadership Team

April 14, 2021: The Shooting of Daunte Wright
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
On Sunday, another young Black man was shot and killed by police outside of Minneapolis. The loss of Daunte Wright during an already challenging time is especially significant as we process the emotions of the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
 
In light of this tragic event, MSD's mental health team and Chief Diversity Officer Charity Jackson stand by ready to support students and staff, especially our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students and staff.
 
MSD is also organizing a virtual department-wide assembly for students in Grades K-12 on Thursday, April 15. This will be a space for our students to understand what is happening, ask questions, and process the details and emotions surrounding this event. Led by our school counselors with the support of Chief Diversity Officer Charity Jackson and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Tara Holloway, age-appropriate and developmentally-appropriate visual presentations will be shared with our students. If you do not wish for your child to participate in this assembly, please email your child's assistant principal by 8:00 a.m. tomorrow—Thursday, April 15—requesting to opt out.
 
Our staff also has specific resources about how to discuss a national criss with students. Families and staff members are encouraged to reach out to the mental health team with any questions or concerns. MSD School Psychologist and Director of Mental Health Dr. Joseph Smail is available at joseph.smail@msd.edu to consult and ensure your child has received appropriate support.
 
These can be scary times for both children and adults, so it's important to keep communication open. Talking to your child about acts of violence and terror is never easy, especially if they're feeling confused, frustrated, or at risk. Such conversations can help your child recognize their fears and feel safer by reestablishing a sense of normalcy and security.
 
Here are some tips for talking to your child:
  • Validate their feelings.
  • Be clear, direct, and factual.
  • Encourage questions and don't worry if you don't have answers.
  • Try to be calm but don't hide your emotions.
  • Keep the conversation open.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) have resources for parents and teachers in both English and Spanish:
MSD remains committed to educating ourselves and each other to create a safe and more just world for everyone.
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent 
 
Charity Jackson
Chief Diversity Officer
March 23, 2021: Recent Acts of Violence
 
Dear MSD Community: 
 
The continued acts of violence in our country has left us with heavy hearts. The latest occurrence in Colorado yesterday was the seventh mass shooting in the last seven days.
 
These can be scary times for both children and adults, so it is important to keep communication open. Talking to your child about acts of violence and terror is never easy, but it is necessary, especially if they are feeling confused, frustrated, or at risk about these recent events. These conversations can help your child recognize their fears and feel safe by reestablishing a sense of normalcy and security.
 
Here are some tips that can help when talking to your child:
  • Validate their feelings.
  • Be clear, direct, and factual. 
  • Encourage questions and don't worry if you can't answer them.
  • Try to be calm but don't hide your emotions.
  • Keep the conversation open.
The National Association of School Psychologists provides resources for parents and teachers in both English and Spanish to guide your conversation about violence with your child. These resources can be found here:
We have provided staff with specific resources about how to talk about a national crisis with students and MSD's mental health team stands ready to support all students. Families and staff members are also encouraged to reach out to members of the mental health team with any questions or concerns. Joseph Smail, MSD's school psychologist and director of mental health, is available at joseph.smail@msd.edu to consult and provide support.
 
Standing Together.
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
March 19, 2021: Statement from the Interim Superintendent
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Our hearts are heavy for the families and communities impacted by the recent hate crime against Asian Americans committed in Atlanta, Georgia this past Tuesday, March 16. We are also disturbed by the increase in hate crimes, especially in the past year.
 
MSD has provided teachers and staff with resources to learn about this issue, and they are encouraged to discuss this topic with students. Our MSD counselors and Chief Diversity Officer Charity Jackson have been and will continue to be available for individuals seeking support.
 
All year our community has been living the school's theme of Standing Together. We have been standing together, supporting one another through hard work and hard times, and doing all that we can to learn and thrive despite the challenges we have faced during the pandemic. We need the same devotion to one another when facing bigotry, hatred, and discrimination at any time.
 
MSD remains committed to addressing hatred and racism whenever we are confronted by it.
 
Stay strong and stay well.
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
February 3, 2021: In Memoriam of Dr. David M. Denton
 
Dear MSD Community: 
 
I share with you the sad news that on Saturday, January 30, Dr. David M. Denton passed away peacefully in his home at the age of 89.
 
Dr. Denton served as the superintendent of Maryland School for the Deaf from 1967 to 1992, a quarter century of serving students who are deaf and hard of hearing. He established a preschool system and a system of supporting families that would become MSD's Family Ed program that became a model which was widely copied by other schools in the US and abroad. 
 
Dr. Denton led the expansion of the school including the creation of the Veditz Building and the Benson Gym on MSD's Frederick Campus, which was once farmland, and he established MSD's Columbia Campus, which will soon celebrate 50 years of existence. The Denton Building at MSD's Columbia Campus was named in recognition of his many achievements. 
 
There are a few MSD personnel who still remember the days of Dr. Denton. He had a wide smile and a kind heart. He truly enjoyed people and he loved Maryland School for the Deaf.
 
We offer his family our sympathy, and we remember the life of Dr. Denton with a sense of inspiration: how we live our lives and the work we do truly does impact the world.
 
Dr. Denton's obituary was published in The Frederick News-Post this morning. The family plans a celebration of life when it is safe to gather again. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations are made to the following charitable organizations: The Maryland School for the Deaf Foundation, Frederick Coffee Club Fund, and Frederick Health Hospice.
 
Rest in peace, Dr. Denton.
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
February 2, 2021: Planning for Columbia Campus' 50th Anniversary
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
I am excited to share with you that during the 2022-2023 academic year, MSD will celebrate Columbia Campus' 50th anniversary.
 
Debbie Stokes-Hill, a student of Columbia Campus and a member of MSD's graduating Class of 1984, and Michelle Smith-Ailstock, an MSD alumna Class of 1981 and a retired teacher of thirty years at Columbia, have been selected co-chairs of this special milestone.
 
As the planning for the year-long event begins, the co-chairs have rolled up their sleeves and are calling for students, staff, families, alumni, stakeholders, and community members to help make this special celebration a success.
 
Please view this video to meet the co-chairs of the celebration and learn what their plans are as they begin forming committees.
 
 
Please also visit our new webpage at www.msd.edu/cc50/ for the latest announcements. We will continue to update the webpage throughout the year with more information. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the co-chairs via email at cc50@msd.edu
 
We look forward to celebrating Columbia Campus with the community.
 
Onward to the golden anniversary celebration!
 
Dawniela A. Patterson
Columbia Campus Principal
January 8, 2021: Community Announcement
 
Dear MSD Community: 
 
COVID-19 metrics in the state continue to rise at an alarming rate. During the summer of 2020 the infection rate was approximately 2.7%. Two months ago the number had risen to 5.7%. The state average is now 9.31% ... Howard County is 7.6% and Frederick is 10.89%. With these numbers trending upwards, experts believe that we are currently in the worst weeks of the pandemic.
 
Given the current metrics across the state, Maryland School for the Deaf will not open on January 19, 2021, as previously announced. We will continue to monitor the status of this ongoing situation through the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and in compliance with directions from Governor Larry Hogan and Dr. Karen Salmon (Maryland State Superintendent of Schools). We are looking to bring the first small group of students to campus in mid-February. That targeted date is currently February 16, 2021, for students and February 8, 2021, for staff, to prepare classrooms.
 
This postponement applies to athletics as well. Practices for student athletes will be conducted virtually. We will determine soon whether or not there will be any opportunity for participating in what remains of the winter sports season.
 
MSD is providing limited Audiology support on both campuses. And some assessments will be offered on both campuses, as well. Staff are currently coordinating schedules and reaching out to families. MSD will continue to provide site visits for some struggling students. Teachers who wish to work on campus can do so following all established safety protocols.
 
These are very hard times for our nation and for our world. It is exhausting and draining to have been in crisis for what will soon be one year. For the time being we must do all we can to continue to teach and learn and connect and improve through Distance Learning. And we must remain optimistic that with more and more vaccinations and the spring months ahead, better days will be with us soon.
 
Stay safe, all, and stay well.
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
Maryland School for the Deaf
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
December 17, 2020: Announcement -- Chief Diversity Officer
 
Dear MSD Community,
 
It is an honor to share with you that Maryland School for the Deaf has its first Chief Diversity Officer.
 
We congratulate and we welcome Ms. Charity Jackson to MSD. Charity has 17 years experience in the field of Deaf Education. In those years she has both a strong background in Kindergarten through 12 education and in student life in residential schools. She has a BS in Education, an MA in Public Administration, and has been actively involved in the work of equity and inclusion for over five years. Because of her years of experience, her qualifications, and her kind and wise manner, we trust that she will be a listener, a leader, and an inspiration to the students, families, faculty, staff and administrators of MSD.
 
I want to express great gratitude to Shannon Negussie and her interview committee who, since last September, worked hard for many months to find the right person for this position. Thank you all for your excellent work.
 
And I want to thank all who applied for this position. We met some amazing people in this process. I wish all of them the very best.
 
Like the rest of us, Charity will enjoy her holiday break. And then her first day at MSD will be Monday, January 4. She is as eager to meet you as you are to meet her. We will embrace this important work and grow together.
 
Rest well, Charity. And rest well, all. Stay safe. I look forward to working with you in 2021.
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
Maryland School for the Deaf
 
Letter in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
November 12, 2020: A correction to yesterday's announcement
 
Dear MSD Community: 
 
A correction to yesterday's announcement:
 
Because the COVID-19 infection rate is now above 5% in Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan announced tightened restrictions on the state. The state of Maryland did not, however, return to Phase One of the Roadmap to Recovery plan. It was Baltimore City that returned to Phase One. There was some confusion in the media which became my error. I apologize for sending out incorrect information.
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
 
Note: The Spanish Translation is available below in our November 11 communication.
November 11, 2020: Phase One of the Roadmap to Recovery -- Changes for MSD
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Yesterday Governor Larry Hogan announced that in Maryland the COVID infection rate is now over 5%. So, beginning today at 5:00pm, Maryland is returning to Phase One of the state's Roadmap to Recovery which impacts many aspects of our lives.
 
I met with my reopening team today to review what this means for MSD. Here are the immediate decisions we have made:
 
1
Tomorrow we were scheduled to welcome those teachers and classroom personnel who wished to work on campus in their classrooms and offices. Now that is being revisited according to the Governor's announcement and guidance for "essential personnel" only to be on site. We will communicate the specific details about who is considered "essential" in the next few days.
 
For employees who are currently working on campus, your supervisor will soon communicate with you regarding what changes this may mean for you. Until that occurs, you are expected to report to work as usual.
 
2
We were hopeful to bring the first group of students on campus at the start of December. That date is now postponed to January 19, 2021.
 
Until students return to campus for in-person instruction, we will be working on plans to provide site visits for specific students and student groups as long as it is safe to do so.
 
3
We are not able to bring high school athletes on campus for the conditioning and practice necessary for their safe participation in their chosen sports prior to January. We are uncertain at this time if we can participate in the winter sports season.
 
The mission of MSD has not changed. Every one of us at MSD is here for the education, wellbeing and growth of our children. Managing that safety in this pandemic is a challenge. With every change many new questions arise. As ever, I welcome your questions, your concerns, and your wisdom.

So please keep in touch, and we will do the same. We will continue to review our decisions, to make adjustments when necessary, and to communicate openly and regularly regarding MSD's plans for reopening.
 
Stay safe and stay well.
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
 
Letter in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
September 3, 2020: Jennifer Yost Ortiz -- Interim Frederick Campus Principal
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Tomorrow, September 4, 2020, James E. Tucker retires. For the last 28 years he served our community and worked hard to make Maryland School for the Deaf the flagship school that it is today. He has stated publicly a few times, "I hope I gave my best ... I hope I gave my all." For the last decade I have worked very closely with him. And I know the answer to that. Yes, sir, you gave it your all. I respect that, and I thank you for it.
 
Between Superintendent Tucker and MSD's next superintendent, I will be a bridge, serving you and serving this school that I love to the best of my ability.
 
In this year where I will serve as Interim Superintendent, Jennifer Yost Ortiz will fill my role as Frederick campus principal. Jennifer has worked at MSD for nine years, serving for five years as principal of Columbia campus and for four years as Frederick's Dean of Student Affairs. Some duties of the principal and some duties of the Dean of Student Affairs will, for the year, be given to individuals on our leadership team. And when we have hired a new superintendent, Jenn and I will return to our positions. Thank you, Jenn, for accepting this responsibility.
 
This school year we face many challenges. In the last 152 years MSD has seen a lot ... wars, fight for rights, social unrest, economic hardship and even a pandemic. Generations of MSD students and families and staff have stood together. Now in year 153, we will do the same.
 
Stay well. And have a good holiday weekend.
 
Kevin Strachan
Frederick Campus Principal
 
Letter in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
August 30, 2020: Welcome Back to School Year 2020-21!
 
Dear Students and Families:
 
Welcome back! We had hoped that our return to school would also be a return to campus, but to ensure the safety of students, families, and staff, we will begin our 153rd school year together fully virtual.
 
We are excited to announce the 2020-2021 school year theme: "Standing Together".
 
Standing Together
 
Standing Together
The goals we set and the challenges we face as a community become more manageable when we are standing together. What we are working toward is greater than any one of us. We can do this. We are in this together. We are standing together. While we are not all gathered as we would be, we are still working together toward a common goal: to have the best school year yet for our students, families, and colleagues. Let's make our journey together in creating a better, stronger tomorrow.
 
Distance Learning
We are in stage one of our recovery plan. We have worked hard over the summer to continue to build upon the online learning experience from the past Spring. We will maintain a flexible and dynamic virtual learning experience for all of our students. We now have designated teams to support students and families in various ways and have created a one-stop resources and information page on our website for all things distance learning: www.msd.edu/distancelearning/.
 
Black Lives Matter
MSD has recognized the need for a centralized place to educate the school community about the complex and multi-layered journey of the Black experience, past and present. Our Black Lives Matter website was created and developed with the purpose and intention to educate the community about racism and injustice faced by Black people in this world today. Included is a webpage explaining the guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. Relevant to MSD's school community and in an effort to honor transparency, you will find links to reports administered by the six work groups. Please note that this is phase one of development and that additions to the website will be continuous. That being said, please take a moment to visit our resource center designed to encourage reflection and transformation: www.msd.edu/blacklivesmatter/
 
#MSDFirstDay
Share your First Day of School photos with us! Direct Message your images to @MSDorioles on Instagram or email socialmedia@msd.edu and your photos may be featured on our website and social media pages. Use the hashtag #MSDFirstDay and show us how you're celebrating the first day of school!
 
Please don't hesitate to reach out to us and we wish everyone a great school year!
 
Kevin Strachan, Principal, Frederick Campus
Jennifer Yost Ortiz, Dean of Student Affairs, Frederick Campus
Dawniela Patterson, Principal, Columbia Campus
Kevin Strachan
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
Dawniela Patterson
Dawniela Patterson
Columbia Campus Principal
Jenn
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Frederick Campus Interim Principal & Dean of Student Affairs