Superintendent of Iowa schools for deaf and blind to retire

Critics concerns over Clancy's inability to sign not a reason for leaving, he said

Patrick Clancy's retirement will take effect June 30. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Patrick Clancy's retirement will take effect June 30. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

After spending less than two years as superintendent for both the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School and the Iowa School for the Deaf, Patrick Clancy has announced plans to retire.

The Iowa Board of Regents at its Wednesday meeting will be asked to accept Clancy’s retirement effective June 30 and initiate a search for his replacement.

Clancy, 64, took the helm at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton on Aug. 1, 2008, and then at the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs on April 1, 2012, after former superintendent Jeanne Prickett stepped down.

His appointment to lead the regents’ two special schools was unanimous, but some critics expressed disappointment and threatened legal action over Clancy’s 2012 appointment because he doesn't know American Sign Language. Regents acknowledged those concerns but said they trusted Clancy’s leadership skills and that consolidating the two jobs would save more than $100,000 a year.

Opponents to Clancy’s appointment also complained about the hiring process, saying the board didn’t allow for input from the deaf community.

As regents look to replace Clancy, they will schedule at least two public hearings before February – one at each school – to “elicit comments from the communities on the necessary criteria for the superintendent,” according to the board agenda for this week’s meeting.

The search process also will employ the use of a search committee and a search firm, according to the agenda. A progress report on the search will be submitted to the board at its February meeting.

Even though Clancy entered his current job amid some controversy over his inability to sign, he told The Gazette on Tuesday that those initial concerns had nothing to do with his decision to retire.

“The community has communicated with me very well, and I with them, and it has played no role in my decision to retire,” Clancy said. “It was an issue at the time of the appointment, but the deaf community has figured out that we can communicate effectively.”

Clancy said he worked to bridge the communication gap by taking weekly sign language lessons and by working with interpreters. He also relies some on technology and the written word, Clancy said.

“I am much better in terms of manual communication,” he said. “But it takes time to become proficient.”

Clancy, who has been praised by regents for his leadership skills, sensitivity and experience with special needs students, said he decided to retire to focus on family and other interests.

“It’s that time in my life to move forward to another phase,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed working with the two special school programs, and it’s been good and important work, but there comes a time in one’s life where doing other things with family and friends also is important.”

Clancy said he plans to be done in June, but he can be flexible if the Board of Regents wants him to stay on a bit longer to help with the transition.

During his time as superintendent, the Board of Regents approved a statewide system offering educational services for blind and deaf students at five regional sites – including the existing campuses in Vinton and Council Bluffs.

“It has been a time of change in terms of special school programs,” he said. “Certainly the implementation of a statewide model for the blind and visually impaired is one of the things I am proud to have been a part of.”

Looking forward, Clancy said, he hopes his replacement will continue to raise the bar for special needs students in Iowa.

“I think it should be someone with high expectations as it relates to student achievement and performance of personnel, so that the students get what they need in terms of services,” he said.

Rose Vasquez, a former regent and chair of the search committee when Clancy was hired in 2008, is expected to be named chair of the search committee to find Clancy’s replacement, according to board documents.The committee “will represent the broad interests of both schools, their communities, faculty and staff, and parents of students served by the schools,” according to the board.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.