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!”


Founded in 1820 as the third school for the deaf in the United States, PSD provides tuition-free education to more than 200 children from birth to age 21, offering an all-inclusive bilingual curriculum in which American Sign Language (ASL) and English are recognized and taught as distinct and equally essential languages. PSD’s mission is to educate students to succeed by recognizing and developing their individual strengths, building confidence, and collaborating with families and communities in a nurturing, dynamic, and language-rich environment steeped in cultural awareness of Deaf, Hearing, and worldwide diversity.