Positive Attitude No.1

T.E.A.M has been an acronym bandied so long the cliché could probably collect Social Security checks. While that is the motto for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind football program, second-year head coach Christian DeNight has a different definition.

DeNight wants the Dragons to be Tough-minded; Earn it on the field; have Attitudes that are positive and More of the above. “If we become great in that, we will be a good team,” DeNight said. “A positive attitude has to be first. It’s not about size … it’s about the kind of heart and will to develop talent.”

What’s next for the Dragons is confidence they can break their 10-game losing streak. The Dragons scored 40 points in eight games in 2016. With a new offense and a number of returnees who will play on both sides of the ball, the expectation is that winning football will return to Usina Field.

“I think compared to last year and this year, we have a lot of returning players with offensive and defensive experience,” DeNight said. “Last year, we only had one experienced player offensively and defensively.”

On the first day of practice, there were more than 20 Dragons in white helmets working on assignments in the pistol offense. That didn’t include senior running back Ernest Bristol, who will be entering his third year on varsity, and likely play key downs on both sides of the ball.

“It’s a lot more balanced and we’re used to a lot of the rushing game,” said senior quarterback DeanJames D’Angelo. “Now, we have more of a balanced offense and it’s a good one.” D’Angelo fractured his right wrist in October 2015. The initial thought was he would not need surgery, but that plan changed last summer and he went under the knife. He missed the entire 2016 season.

The Dragons were winless last year but lost to Model Secondary 16-14 in September and narrowly lost to the Silent Warriors from the Alabama School for the Deaf 6-0 in October after hardly practicing for weeks due to the havoc Hurricane Matthew caused in terms of logistics and field conditions. As disappointing as the season was, a competitive spring game against Gainesville St. Francis infused belief into the team. The Dragons didn’t win, but a one-point halftime deficit against a fellow North Florida Football Conference opponent was evidence they were turning the corner.

“As players, they didn’t like losing and we talked about that,” DeNight said. “We have to work harder. … It’s time to reach those high expectations. We are competing with other teams and we want to reach that challenge. Last spring, they got it. … We’re going to do a lot better. The goal is to continue to improve. The goal is to win.”

It will certainly help to have nearly a half-dozen returning starters who expect to play on both sides of the football. Liam Von Mahr may be an undersized interior lineman, but the senior from Tampa is a member of the FSDB wrestling team and knows how to leverage what size he has. Right guard Wallace Burrell doesn’t have that issue. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, the senior from West Palm Beach is not only the biggest person on the team, he may have the largest personality as well.

Switching from the veer to the pistol means the Dragons will not be reliant on the running game and not up the creek — or in their case the Tolomato River — without a paddle. “If they win, they will be confident,” DeNight said. “That will raise the bar, the ‘M’ means more, more, more. Against St. France at halftime it was 14-13. You saw the fire in their eyes. We lost the opportunity, but the kids really got it.”

Strength: Coach Christian DeNight said special teams will be an area his team can bring its aggressiveness and improved tackling to the forefront. The coach added senior Samy Vital is someone who can make explosive plays in the return game.

Area to Improve: The Dragons were outscored 281-40 last year and DeNight said a key to turning around their 10-game losing streak is an improved attitude, coming from a belief in their mental and physical capabilities.

Key Returnees: Sophomore Tayshaun Smith plays defensive end and has dabbled at center for the Dragons in fall camp. Senior Liam Von Mahr is penciled in to play right guard and nose tackle. Wallace Burrell is in line to be the right tackle. Meanwhile, Ernest Bristol and Vital are two who primarily played in the backfield last year who will likely play offense, defense and special teams.

Promising Newcomer: Doug Meehan is a senior wide receiver and tight end who will also see time at linebacker. His twin, Darren, is also a new addition.

Conference Outlook: The Florida High School Athletic Association’s new playoff format will have little bearing on the Dragons, as they elected to remain independent and ineligible for the postseason. FSDB remains a member of the North Florida Football Conference. The Dragons’ first game of the season, against Gainesville Oak Hall, will likely be their sternest test. If they can fly with the Eagles, the second year of the DeNight era will be more competitive than the first.

2017 Schedule
Aug. 28 at Gainesville Oak Hall*
Aug. 31 vs. Daytona Beach Halifax
Sept. 14 vs. Merritt Island Christian
Sept. 21 at St. Johns Country Day*
Oct. 5 at Harvest Community School
Oct. 12 vs. Gainesville St. Francis*
Oct. 21 vs. Alabama School for the Deaf
Oct. 26 at St. Joseph*
Nov. 2 TBA

2016 Results | Record:
Aug. 25 vs. Gainesville Oak Hall L 56-0*
Sept. 10 vs. Model Secondary School for the Deaf L 16-14
Sept. 15 at Somerset Academy L 27-0
Sept. 22 vs. St. Johns Country Day L 27-8*
Oct. 3 vs. Daytona Beach Halifax Academy L 40-12
Oct. 22 at Alabama School for the Deaf L 6-0
Oct. 27 vs. St. Joseph L 47-6*
Nov. 4 vs. Maryland School for the Deaf L 62-0

Read original St. Augustine Record story by Will Brown (August  28, 2017). 

About FSDB
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.

 

Greetings from the FSDB President

Welcome back!  This summer is coming to a close and we at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) are all busy preparing to welcome new and returning students and their families for the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

View ASL Translation of Greetings from the FSDB President.

The Deaf Department underwent a number of forward-looking policy and program enhancements during the 2016-17 school year which will continue in the 2017-2018 school year, including:

  • Instructional Focus – Recently updated policy clarifies that our priority is for deaf and hard of hearing students to be linguistically competent in both American Sign Language and English, regarded as separate and equal in importance. Classroom instruction is based on the individualized needs of students and their Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs).
  • Shortened Timelines and Expectations for Staff Fluency – Recently updated ASL policy now expects all newly hired instructional/academic staff members who work directly with deaf and hard of hearing students to achieve the required skill level standard for their position within one year of employment. We continue to monitor closely the skill standards associated with current staff members/positions. Their skill levels are evaluated using the Sign Language Proficiency Interview: ASL.
  • ASL Skill Standards – As of the 2016-17 school year, a majority of instructional/academic staff members who work with deaf and hard of hearing students (137 or 90%) have met or exceeded the ASL skill standards required for their specific positions, e.g., Intermediate Plus, Advanced, Advanced Plus to Superior Plus. They are encouraged to continue to improve their skills. Of this number, 14 (10%) are expected to reach their skill standard within one year’s time.
  • Expectation to Sign at All Times – We continue to stress the importance of open and accessible communication, to maximize access by and respect for deaf and hard of hearing students, staff, parents, and campus visitors.
  • Hire of ASL-English Specialists – Two deaf staff members with specialized experience were added to work closely with and provide support to instructional/academic personnel and students.
  • Professional Development – Instructional and academic personnel receive ongoing inservice training on effective use of ASL and English in the classroom. This training is supplemented by the provision of focused training videos developed by the ASL-English Specialists.
  • ASL Program Expansion – We have increased and will continue to increase the number of teachers and ASL classes available to staff members. Community ASL classes are also offered.

The Blind Department also underwent program enhancements during the 2016-17 school year which will continue in the 2017-2018 school year, including:

  • Blind K-8 School – The Blind Elementary and Middle Schools merged to improve program efficiency and service delivery.
  • Assistive Technology Focus – Two assistive technology instructors were added to work with students and academic staff in the Blind Elementary/Middle School.
  • STEM Focus – A new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) class focusing on coding and robotics is now available for Blind Department students who excel in math and science. Intensive math classes are also being offered.
  • Braille Specialists – The role and responsibilities for the Blind Department’s three Braille Specialists now include targeted instruction and interventional support for specific grade level teams.
  • New Unified English Braille (UEB) Code – Blind Department instructional/academic staff members are required to take a specialized UEB course based on the newly enhanced and adopted braille code that will be used worldwide in English-speaking countries, in order to teach both the code and all associated content matter to their students who read in braille. The course can take up to one year for completion. Course completers must successfully produce materials in the new code to demonstrate competency and pass requirements for certification.
  • Music Program Enhancements – New classes have been added in band, guitar, music theory, and music engineering. A volunteer braille transcriber now works with the Music Director to assist with braille music production.
  • Braille Transcribers – Volunteers who are also certified braille transcribers are continuously added; this allows for increased Braille Production Center capacity. Heavy-duty braille and tactile graphic embossing equipment at the Center also generates various forms of tactile graphics for classroom use.

These are just a few of the many areas on which we are working with students, staff, families, alumni, donors, and the community to ensure that every student succeeds and is included at FSDB!

Again, welcome back!

Dr. Jeanne Glidden Prickett
President


About FSDB

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.

FSDB Police Meet Different Challenges Of Work

Policing a school for the deaf and blind has its challenges. Police Chief Jerry Chandlee, 45, of The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, walked into the department’s conference room last week during a tour of the department. He pointed out four cameras in the room, where interviews are conducted for criminal investigations. When a deaf person is being interviewed, at least one certified interpreter is required to be part of the process. The cameras track the conversation and the sign language. “We make sure that we are capturing all of the interpretation,” Chandlee said.

FSDB’s police department meets the needs of the hundreds of students who attend the school’s 80-acre campus. While officers find unique challenges on campus, they are able to build rapport with students and keep them safe. They also learn what not to do.

During field training, Officer David Moore, 31, of Flagler County, learned a big tip for communicating with students who are deaf or hard of hearing: Whenever possible, do not use a pen and paper to communicate. “Worst case scenario, I can go to pen and paper,” he said. “But I don’t like to do that.” Students who are deaf might get frustrated if an officer hands them a pen or paper, Chandlee said. They are, after all, at a school tailored for deaf and blind students. Officers are encouraged to achieve intermediate skills in American Sign Language by their fourth year with the department, Chandlee said.

Catherine Arasi, director of Interpreting Services for FSDB, said there are eight certified interpreters on staff at the campus. Interpreters are there during criminal investigations to assist police. A team of two interpreters is preferred to ensure accuracy, and because the process can be exhausting. “It’s very rewarding in some situations, but it also can be pretty intense,” Arasi said about interpreting. “It can be very intense and very emotional.”

The police department employs a chief, a lieutenant, eight other sworn officers and 10 support staff members. In 2013, Officer Kelly Thomas was awarded the School Resource Officer of the Year award at the Florida Association of School Resource Officers conference. The Office of the Attorney General of Florida created the award.

Moore has been an FSDB campus officer since 2012, and has picked up some basic sign language skills, he said. Using sign language whenever he can helps him build rapport with students. Another way he builds relationships is by showing interest in what the students are doing. He goes to sporting events on campus such as goal ball. Goalball is a team game for the blind or visually impaired. Players try to hurl a ball about the size of a basketball with bells inside into the other team’s net. Defenders try to hear the ball coming and block it from the goal. Moore goes to the games because he wants the students to know he cares, and that he is there for them. “It means the world to some of these kids,” he said of his interest in them. Fostering relationships with students is important, Moore said, because students learn to be comfortable with him and confide in him if they need to.

The school cares for children as young as 3 years old and offers continuing education for people up to 22, Chandlee said. The students all have some form of infirmity, and determining whether or not a child should be charged with a crime is one of the biggest challenges. The goal is to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the child. “They may not even (know) that it’s against the law,” he said.

Chandlee has been leading the department for several years and said that there are new things coming. Officers hope to be able to use a civil citation program — an alternative to prosecution — beginning this year. Juvenile Civil Citation Coordinator is one of Moore’s duties. He also is a field training officer, the evidence and property room custodian and follow-up investigator, and he is assigned to the Jacksonville Regional Child Abduction Response Team. He also teaches courses to students such as internet safety. In addition, he patrols campus and watches students, and he makes sure the blind don’t get lost on campus. Moore came to FSDB after spending time as a police officer and several years as a Flagler County deputy on road patrol. While on the road, he dealt with stabbings, domestic violence and other situations where people were at their lowest points in life. He was ready for a change. “I get to see the positive side. Here I get to see the kids smile,” he said.

Moore said his role for students is not only protector, but also mentor and counselor. One of the best parts of his job is being able to have a positive influence on students. “To know that what I’m doing makes a difference in their lives,” he said.

Read original St. Augustine Record story by Sheldon Gardner; photo by Daron Dean (March 24, 2014).

About FSDB
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.