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Pacific Rim Summit

Summary

On May 20-22, 2015, pepnet 2 hosted the Pacific Rim Building State Capacity Summit in Hawaii for representatives of the Pacific Rim islands that are under U.S. jurisdiction. This was the 6th in the series of Summit meetings, funded through the U.S. Department of Education, that focused on enhancing successful postsecondary outcomes for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. This Summit provided participants from seven Pacific island entities with an opportunity to review critical issues, exchange information, and consider strategies to support programs and services that increase the number and proportion of students who continue past high school and complete postsecondary programs or become employed.   

Participants

Pepnet 2 staff worked closely with colleagues in the region to identify stakeholders who might participate in the Summit. Thirty-six participants attended, representing American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Hawaii, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau.

Diverse teams are both valued and necessary for change to occur.  In the planning process, pepnet 2 staff worked closely with several colleagues to ensure that the team members represented a variety of stakeholder groups, including educational administrators, vocational rehabilitation personnel, parents, transition services staff, postsecondary program professionals, and community members. Through the process of identifying participants, the group recognized that the broad range of services that are available on the United States mainland are not necessarily available on each island entity.  Therefore, the teams were more homogeneous than the 50-state teams; the teams from the island entities generally included educators, educational administrators, parents, and vocational rehabilitation personnel. Some entities had transition staff or postsecondary program personnel to include, but these services were not available in each entity.

Agenda

The Summit provided information to help teams develop a working plan to address issues relevant to each jurisdiction. The agenda included content sessions as well as large and small group discussions that addressed the barriers and success factors that comprise a positive transition to postsecondary life. There was an opportunity each day for each team to work together.

Needs and Resources

The island entities face significant challenges when trying to address the needs of children with low-incidence disabilities. The population of students who are deaf or hard of hearing is extremely small in this region, and many students do not have deaf or hard of hearing peers in their communities.

At a very basic level, language development and communication are critical concerns as educational programs struggle to provide qualified personnel to serve in remote areas. As young adults leave high school, there are limited resources available to support them during this transition. Due to the small population of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing in the region, students and families lack sufficient role models to support dreams of seeking career training or pursuing postsecondary education. For students with disabilities, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, it can be a significant challenge to find gainful and satisfying employment. 

Each island entity had the opportunity to discuss their resources and needs. The broad range of services that are available on the United States mainland are not necessarily available on each island. The lists below show some examples of what was identified during these discussions.

Existing Resources

Needs Identified During the Summit

Parent networks / Parent Teacher Associations

Additional training for parents

Initiatives created to increase qualifications of teachers to the B.A. level

More qualified deaf educators and interpreters available in K-12 programs

Deaf educators and day school programs available in some communities

Additional programs (e.g., World Deaf Teach) available across the region

Basic ASL and  exposure from interpreters

Continuation of ASL courses for teachers, interpreters, families, and community members

Good relationships and collaboration between agencies

Ongoing professional development for staff

Technology introduced in some programs

Additional use of technology (ALDs, iPads, etc.)

Some MOUs at community colleges to provide access for students with disabilities

More post-secondary options for education and job training for youth

VR services or community job placement available in some entities

Additional opportunities for job training and placement services

Community organizations that can become part of transition activities

Strengthen relationships with general education programs and chambers of commerce

 

Next Steps

At the close of the Summit, a colleague commented, “You see one island, you see one island. Each entity has their unique language and culture; yet, the entities have common needs for more information, evidenced-based practices that are culturally sensitive and relevant, and opportunities for resources to reach, via virtual and on-site, the Pacific region.  There is an island family understanding and commitment to maximize resources in the region given the limited resources available to each island.” 

Teams left the Summit with 1) ideas of what could happen when they returned home, 2) at least two things they could do within one month, and 3) some ideas about how the region could work together on common goals.  All of the islands recognized the value of sharing information and resources with administrators, colleagues, and families upon returning home.  In addition, they indicated that other efforts to increase professional development opportunities, such as annual meetings, use of technology to provide training, and the development of a cohort approach for deaf educators and interpreters, should be considered.

Recommendations for pepnet 2 Actions

As a result of the Pacific Rim Building State Capacity Summit, the pepnet 2 team recommends the following actions:

  • Pepnet 2 will send resources and materials to the participants.
  • Pepnet 2 will consider establishing a collaborative agreement with an organization within the Pacific region that can serve as the primary point of contact between pepnet 2 and the island entities.
  • When appropriate, information about the activities of this group may be shared with other projects (TA&D network and other OSEP initiatives) to foster collaboration and reduce duplication of efforts.
  • Pepnet 2 will work with the islands to provide resources and services through the use of technology when possible, since Internet access is not as reliable on all the islands.
  • Pepnet 2 will invite stakeholders from the islands to participate in a pilot QuickClass specifically designed for this group.