After a 10-month national search, the board of trustees of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf has tapped Larry S. Taub as the 15th head of school, succeeding Joseph E. Fischgrund, who will retire after 21 years at the helm.
Taub, who is Jewish, is the first deaf individual in 186 years to head PSD in Germantown.
Along with Taub's appointment comes the change in the job title, from "headmaster" to "head of school."
Taub, 55, who's been deaf since birth, has for the last eight years worked as the superintendent and CEO of the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing/the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf in Falmouth, Maine. He previously spent 25 years employed at the New York School for the Deaf in White Plains.
He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Hofstra University, a master's in education of the deaf from New York University and a Ph.D. in educational administration from Columbia University. A noted presenter on deaf and special-education issues, Taub, along with his wife, Diane, will relocate to the Germantown area after years of living in suburban New York City.
'Bond to One Another'
The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf was founded in 1820, and is the third oldest of its kind in the country and one of three in the Keystone State (the others are located in Pittsburgh and Scranton).
The private, state-chartered school has been at its current site since 1984, and serves about 210 deaf and hard-of-hearing students, ages 3 to 21, in preschool through high school; 65 percent of the student body are African-American, and 20 percent are Hispanic, noted Fischgrund.
PSD also offers a birth-to- 3 early-intervention program, which provides assistance and support to about 40 deaf infants and toddlers and their families. The campus also houses a resource and service center for deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
Fischgrund, 62, who is also Jewish, oversaw many projects in his two decades at PSD, such as a substantial increase in the school's population, a multimillion-dollar capital campaign, and the re-establishment of the high school in 2001, which had been defunct since PSD's move from Mount Airy in 1984. He said that he would continue to be involved in the deaf community and with Philadelphia's Hebrew Association of the Deaf during his retirement.
For students at PSD, language barriers "separate them from the world," explained Taub during an interview conducted in American Sign Language; a freelance interpreter provided both voice-to-sign and sign-to-voice interpretation.
But "here at PSD, we have a critical bond to one another," he added, and share a language, culture and common upbringing.
Taub said that he would like to see more technology-based curriculum introduced at the school. He added that computers — both desk models and hand-held devices — have led to a new portal of communication accessibility for deaf individuals, allowing for greater self-reliance and increased opportunities in the general workplace.
Text pagers, for instance, "give them the same degree of independence as every other child," explained Taub, by essentially eliminating the middleman and allowing deaf individuals to communicate directly with each other and hearing people.
"It's very exciting to be deaf in this day and age," he stated.
Although Taub will not officially succeed Fischgrund until July 1, he has been on campus since March 31, and has been developing relationships with the students and staff to ensure a smooth transition.
Taub acknowledged that while it's still a struggle for those in the deaf community — the new head of school noted that he's had to work two to three times as hard to show his competency to hearing people who hold the same position — he hopes his life experiences will enable him to serve as a role model for students, and that they can "look at me and say, 'If he can do it, I can do it.' "