About

Welcome to the The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf! We are a Pre-K to 12th grade school located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. We wish to recognize the responsibility entrusted to us to educate the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Southern Pennsylvania. We value our place in history, and pledge to uphold the legacy as leaders in the field of Deaf Education.

Here at PSD, we are committed to providing a quality education for our students with a challenging, interactive and integrated curriculum, which is aligned with the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards, and each student has an individualized education plan to ensure they stay on track with national standards. Teachers use a fully immersive, bilingual approach to ensure each student attains fluency in American Sign Language and English. We offer a wide range of extracurricular classes as well as leadership and involvement opportunities to supplement every child’s personal development.

We cultivate a dynamic, language-rich environment, which serves as a positive community model for children with hearing loss, and instills a positive self image.

Come join our vibrant community, and share in our legacy!

OUR MISSION

The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf educates students to succeed by recognizing and developing individual strengths, building confidence, collaborating with families and communities in a nurturing, dynamic, and language-rich environment steeped in cultural awareness of Deaf, Hearing, and worldwide diversity.

OUR VISION

PSD empowers children with hearing loss by providing fully accessible services and a quality education so that they can become educated, productive and responsible members of society.

OUR BELIEFS

Language is the key to opening the world of learning to every child.

American Sign Language and English are both essential to students who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing and/ or use cochlear implants or other assistive technology to build literacy and develop understanding and knowledge of the world.

Strategies that enhance and deepen our students’ knowledge include early language development and a language rich environment: sign language, spoken language, speech reading, and other language/communication tools.

All students are capable of setting goals, growing and achieving when guided, nurtured and challenged.

Our students thrive when they have the knowledge and skills they need to self-advocate, pose and solve problems, and become critical and creative thinkers.

Every individual has strengths and the ability to contribute to improve their community and the world. Our students thrive when the communities, which support them, partner with the school.

Our students are prepared for the 21st century by understanding multiple perspectives and valuing diversity.

Board Chair and Head of School

Philadelphia, PA – The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that Melissa S. Draganac-Hawk has officially assumed the role as Head of School and Mark D. Apodaca has been appointed Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Melissa S. Draganac-Hawk, Head of School, brings significant experience and expertise to the post, having served in a number of leadership positions in the field of Deaf Education over the nearly 20 years. Draganac-Hawk has served as Interim Associate Head of School since June 2022, a role she assumed following the announcement of former Head of School Peter L. Bailey’s resignation. Draganac-Hawk has previously held several leadership roles at PSD including Director of Student Affairs and Director of Early Childhood Education. A first-generation American of deaf immigrant Peruvian parents, she is the immediate past president of the National Association of the Deaf, and currently serves as an adjunct professor of American Sign Language at the University of Pennsylvania. She received a Master of Arts degree in Linguistics and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Theater Production & Performance and American Sign Language from Gallaudet University. 

Mark D. Apodaca, Chair of the Board of Trustees, has been in the accounting and finance fields for more than 45 years. He worked at Hughes Aircraft Company, the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, Communication Service for the Deaf, and currently serves as Director of Finance at the New Mexico School for the Deaf. He has also taught financial accounting courses at UCLA. Aside from finance, Apodaca is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian and has served as the official parliamentarian to several nonprofit organizations. Apodaca has served on boards of at least 25 nonprofit organizations since 1983 and is among the core founders of the National Society of Hispanic MBA’s.

Draganac-Hawk and Apodaca’s appointments represent a unique milestone in the school’s history and in deaf education: it is the first time that two Deaf Latinx/e leaders will serve as Head of School and Board Chair. 

Melissa Draganac-Hawk states: “I look forward to working closely with Mark Apodaca to continue providing the highest quality of education for our students, and celebrating our enormously diverse PSD community.”

Margaret W. Steele, immediate past chair of the PSD Board of Trustees, states: “I am confident and pleased that PSD will be in the capable hands of Melissa Draganac-Hawk as Head of School, who I have enjoyed working with during my nine years of service as a PSD board member. Mark Apodaca has been a valued member of our Board and I am thrilled to have him now lead the Board of PSD, an institution I have truly come to cherish.  PSD is in excellent hands with such committed leaders!”

Melissa Draganac-Hawk, Interim Head of School-Elected

Mark D. Apodaca and Melissa S. Draganac-Hawk

Executive Team

Karla Boudreaux
Director of Human Resources

Harriet Nabatesa
Director of Finance

Amy Levine
Director of Institutional Advancement

Elizabeth Knapp
Director of Academic Affairs

Patricia Saar McFadden
Director of Student Affairs

Nick Cartolaro
Director of Operations

Administrative Team

Matt Bujak
Athletic Director

Melissa Keeley
K- 12 Principal

Sarah Ruth McDevitt
Supervisor of Early Education Programs

Kim Stephan
Supervisor of Related Services

Board of Trustees

Mark D. Apodaca
Chair

Alexander Bilus, Esq.
Vice Chair

Michael Greenfield, Esq.
Secretary

Rob Marcantuono
Treasurer

Melissa S. Draganac-Hawk
Head of School

Trustees:

Dr. Beth Benedict

Denise Brown

Roger Brush

James Hinkley

Dr. Elizabeth Moore

Dean Solis

Dr. Benjamin J. Soukup

Dr. Kenneth Veit

Henry Warren

Non-Trustee Officer:

Shannon Farmer, Esq.
Solicitor

Brief History

Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (PSD) was founded in 1820 as the third school of its kind in the nation and has become a leading resource in the field of Deaf Education.

Founded by Philadelphia merchant, David Seixas, the first principal, PSD held its first classes in his private home on Market Street, west of 16th Street.

About a year later, PSD relocated to a building on the southeast corner of Eleventh and Market Streets. The renowned Deaf Frenchman Laurent Clerc, who sailed to America with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, became PSD’s second principal in 1821. Prior to PSD, he along with Gallaudet and Dr. Mason Cogswell, founded the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817.

In 1825, PSD moved to its first official school building, at the corner of Broad and Pine Streets. The site is now occupied by the University of the Arts, and PSD classes were held in what is presently Haviland Hall.

Almost seventy years later, in 1892, the school moved again.  Mt. Airy had a spacious thirty-three acre property. Fourteen buildings were constructed to accommodate all students and staff. PSD resided there for 92 years, until declining enrollment and related economic factors required that the school relocate.

In 1984, PSD purchased its current home, the former Germantown Academy Campus, and completely renovated it while preserving its unique historic character. Many of the buildings on PSD’s Germantown campus have a rich history. Some date from the Revolutionary War times, when the school was used as a hospital during the Battle of Germantown. Six British soldiers are reportedly buried on the campus. During the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1792, both the Pennsylvania State Assembly and the U.S. Congress took refuge in PSD’s buildings. President George Washington also set up a temporary office in the Administration Building and held cabinet meetings there.

After settling down on the Germantown Campus, PSD has continued a tradition of excellence in Deaf Education.