In Northampton, Clarke Schools celebrate 150 years

  • Diane Gilliland Simon of Concord, a 1969 Clarke Schools alumna, left, greets Jan Gatty of Northampton at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech 150th anniversary event Saturday as Sharon Wade of Saugus looks on. Diane Gilliland Simon of Concord, a 1969 Clarke Schools alumna, left, greets Jan Gatty of Northampton at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech 150th anniversary event Saturday as Sharon Wade of Saugus looks on.

  • George H. Balsley II, a 1965 Clarke Schools alumnus, right, applauds Sept. 30, 2017 during a celebration Sept. 30, 2017 at the site of the original school’s location, 64 Gothic Street in Northampton, to mark 150 years for Clarke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Rodney Kunath, a 1958 Clarke Schools alumnus, speaks Sept. 30, 2017 during a celebration Sept. 30, 2017 at the site of the original school’s location, 64 Gothic Street in Northampton, to mark 150 years for Clarke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The founding stone for what is now Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech is shown at 64 Gothic St. in Northampton, the site of the original school. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Sue Heffron of Sherborn, a 1984 Clarke Schools alumna, second from left, Daniela Ioannides of Methuen, a 1982 Clarke Schools alumna and Sharon Wade of Saugus, a 1980 Clarke Schools alumna, celebrate Sept. 30, 2017 at the site of the original school’s location, 64 Gothic Street in Northampton, to mark 150 years for Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Sharon Wade of Saugus, a 1980 Clarke Schools alumna, right, talks to Jan Gatty of Northampton, director of Child and Family Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech and Smith College lecturer, during a celebration Sept. 30, 2017 at the site of the original school’s location, 64 Gothic Street in Northampton, to mark 150 years for Clarke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Emma O’Neill-Dietel, an alumna of Clarke Schools' Philadelphia campus and a current freshman at Smith College, left, talks to Jan Gatty of Northampton, director of Child and Family Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech and Smith College lecturer, during a celebration Sept. 30, 2017 at the site of the original school’s location, 64 Gothic Street in Northampton, to mark 150 years for Clarke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Reverend Peter Ives, center, offers a benediction to mark the 150th year for Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech Sept. 30, 2017 at 64 Gothic Street in Northampton, which is the site of the original school's location. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Christine Duffy Skwersky, a 1987 Clarke Schools alumna and Interim Chair for the school's alumni association, speaks Sept. 30, 2017 during a celebration Sept. 30, 2017 at the site of the original school’s location, 64 Gothic Street in Northampton, to mark 150 years for Clarke. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Patrick Manseau of Northampton, right, speaks alongside his wife, Lizette Richards, and daughters Lily Manseau, 11, and Ivy Manseau, 2, all of whom wear hearing aids, during a celebration Saturday at 64 Gothic St. in Northampton, to mark 150 years for the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Christine Duffy Skwersky, a 1987 Clarke Schools alumna and Interim Chair for the school's alumni association, left, hugs Marilyn Buuck of Florence, a former Clarke teacher, following a celebration Sept. 30, 2017 at the site of the original school’s location, 64 Gothic Street in Northampton, to mark 150 years for Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. Linda Larkin of Florence, another former Clarke teacher, looks on, at right. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@RebeccaMMullen
Published: 9/30/2017 2:59:31 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Wet weather did not dampen the spirits of the small crowd of educators, parents, students and alumni who gathered Saturday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

The event was held outside the school’s original home at 64 Gothic St., marked by a commemorative stone placed there on the school’s 100th anniversary celebration. In addition to the Northampton campus, which has since moved to Round Hill Road, the Clarke Schools have sites in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Jacksonville, Florida.

The hourlong program included a benediction from the Rev. Peter Ives, a proclamation from Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, testimonies from parents and alumni, a meditation on Clarke’s future from interim CEO Doug Scott and speeches by longtime teachers and administrators Claire Troiano and Marian Hartblay.

“I encourage all residents to recognize the valuable contributions of Clarke Schools to our city, country and the world,” Narkewicz said in his proclamation.

An alumna speaks

Now a Smith College first-year, Emma O’Neill-Dietel started at Clarke’s preschool in Philadelphia but then transitioned into a traditional elementary school. At first, she said, she felt isolated in an environment where she was the only person with hearing loss.

“I felt like no one knew how to help me hear,” she said.

So she reached out to Clarke School administrators who were able to help her teachers understand what accommodations she needed in the classroom.

“Clarke has been with me every step of the way since pre-school,” said O’Neill-Dietel, who is planning to major in English at Smith.

A continued goal of the school is to integrate children with hearing loss into “mainstream” or traditional schools. In the Pioneer Valley, Clarke has partnerships with Hampshire Regional High School and the Leeds School, where students with hearing loss receive support while studying in a traditional environment. Clarke also offers a mixed preschool program where children with hearing loss learn alongside children with typical hearing.

Marian Hartblay, Clarke’s director of early childhood services, said she has seen a “small revolution” in hearing loss education over the 25 years that she has taught at the school. Cochlear implants and new hearing aid technology now provide more options for those who are hard of hearing.

“The outcomes for children are now more amazing than ever,” Hartblay said. “Clarke’s work is to seek possibilities for children who are deaf and hard of hearing.”

A parent’s story

Patrick Manseau teared up when he spoke to the crowd about his experience discovering that his first child, Lily Manseau, was born with a misshapen cochlea, resulting in hearing loss.

“When you’re told that something is wrong with your brand new baby, it causes a lot of anxiety and fear,” he said, remembering the day.

Lily received her first hearing aid at 8 weeks old and began attending Clarke Schools as an infant.

Lily’s mother, Lizette Richards, and her 2-year-old sister, Ivy, are also hard of hearing, while Manseau and Lily’s two brothers, Leo, 8, and Levi, 6, have typical hearing.

Thanks to the integrated preschool, all four children have attended Clarke Schools.

“The Clarke School helped our family learn that hearing loss isn’t bad or good, it just is,” Manseau concluded.

Doug Scott, the school’s interim CEO, estimates that by 2020, about 60,000 children in the U.S. will need Clarke’s services and support — a challenge he called “daunting,” but one to which he hopes the school can rise.

Celebrations will continue throughout the fall, with a 150th anniversary celebration at Union Station in Northampton on Oct. 12. Other events will be held in Dedham on Oct. 26, New York City on Nov. 6, Philadelphia on Nov. 8, and Jacksonville, Florida, on Dec. 9.


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