Clarke names new president and CEO

  • BRUCE SKYER SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/21/2020 7:35:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Recently, a new leader took the reins at the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, which has one of its five locations in Northampton.

Bruce Skyer became president and CEO in late August, and he hopes to help keep Clarke going into the next century. “That would be my hope, my legacy 10 plus years down the road … to know that Clarke is strong and will be around for years to come.”

Currently, Skyer works out of his home in Trumbull, Conn. He has been in the nonprofit sector since 2005. Previously, he worked as CEO of Child First and CEO of the National Kidney Foundation.

“I’ve had a variety of titles,” Skyer said. “The underlying theme has been instituting the infrastructure, the organizational structure, and the wherewithal to strengthen mission-based organizations.”

Skyer replaces Doug Scott, who is retiring and becoming a member of the board of trustees, according to a statement from Clarke.

Amid the pandemic, a shift in leadership is one of many changes Clarke has seen. After the organization’s eight-year lease ended at Leeds Elementary School in the spring, Clarke moved its K-8 program out of the building and now has its kindergarten through sixth grade at the Clarke School on Round Hill Road and seventh and eighth grade at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton.

Preschool is operating under a hybrid model this fall in Northampton.

“Probably around 90 percent of parents of our preschoolers hoped for at least some in-person instruction this fall,” said Marian Hartblay, director of early childhood services in Northampton.

Like other schools, Clarke closed in mid-March and pivoted to remote learning.

“It was certainly not something we planned on,” said Hartblay.

But, Clarke had already been providing services over the phone for years before the pandemic.

“Deafness is a low-incidence disability. So is the profession. There are fewer programs that specialize in education for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. So we looked at it as an opportunity to provide better access to families outside of our immediate region,” Hartblay said.

Preschool students just started coming back in-person. “It was joyous, actually, this week to see them here,” Hartblay said last week.

K-8 students started the year remotely and some students are learning in-person but most are remote. When it comes to remote learning, on top of issues with access to internet and computers that students everywhere are experiencing, there are other challenges.

“Children and students with hearing loss, we have that additional access issue. Do they have auditory perception?” Hartblay said. “How do we monitor and kind of moderate and mediate so that only one person is speaking at a time?”

Clarke focuses on spoken language and does not teach American sign language. Students use technology such as cochlear implants and hearing aids. Specific technologies, such as remote microphones, are used to help with remote learning, Hartblay said. In person, masks with clear windows or a shield can be worn, but “it impacts the auditory perception — it’s harder to hear,” Hartblay said. Audiologists work with students to “optimize that access for every student.”

Skyer praised the teachers and staff for adapting “to what is a very unfortunate situation. But they are still educating these children and these children’s hearing and speech skills are still growing … Thankfully,” he said of the teachers and staff, “they figured it out.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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