President of the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Robert Carter stands in a room on the third floor of one of their buildings that is
President of the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Robert Carter stands in a room on the third floor of one of their buildings that is getting renovated. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer)
Saturday November 17, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing President Bert Carter will be leaving the center next year and the board has begun a nationwide search for a new leader.

Carter has overseen major infrastructure upgrades in his six years at the school and center.

He has also led significant program changes as the Austine School and VCDHH assume a broader role in educating deaf and hard of hearing students, as well as students with multiple disabilities.

Carter is leaving for personal reasons.

"This is a great place to work. It offers a unique service and it has been a very interesting six years," Carter said. "I understood when I was hired that we would be expanding and I think we have been successful in responding to the needs of this community."

The Austine School opened in Brattleboro in 1912 and largely focused on educating deaf children.

As federal special education laws changed in the 1970s, deaf children were mainstreamed into regular classrooms and over the past few decades the Austine School has had to change its focus to survive.

In 1998 the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing was established to provide statewide support for deaf programs, and since then the center has expanded in both its reach and in the programs that it offers.

During Carter's tenure that work has continued.


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In 2010 the center opened the nation's first residential educational program for autistic children who are physically or functionally deaf.

Carter also expanded the school's early education center to allow deaf and hard hearing children to spend time with other students from around the area.

He also helped start a satellite office in Burlington to meet the needs of deaf and disabled students in the most populated part of the state.

"There are more options now for the deaf in education, and all over," Carter said. "We have been able to adopt to that. It is important to be able to stay ahead of the trends."

When Carter was a graduate student he did an internship at a deaf school in Massachusetts.

It was his first introduction to deaf culture and he has spent his entire career working at schools which specialize in deaf education.

VCDHH Board Chairman Tom Sonneborn said the board hopes to find a replacement for Carter before he leaves in June.

Sonneborn said the center will look for someone with a background in education and non-profit management who can continue to help the center grow and adapt to the changing landscape in deaf education.

"With the changing needs of deaf and hard of hearing students and adults it is essential that we identify a leader who can move us forward to meet those needs," Sonneborn said.

In an effort to stay relevant, the Austine School, which is a program at the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, now educates more children with multiple disabilities.

Carter said technology has opened many opportunities for deaf children and adults, and the VCDHH has become a regional and national leader in staying ahead of the advancements and helping children and adults access the latest breakthroughs.

Over the past six years Carter has also led the school to significant upgrades to the 100 year old campus.

Almost $9 million in energy upgrades and infrastructure improvement have been completed during Carter's tenure.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.