WPSD CEO finalist names announced by Search Committee

February 8, 2016

To the WPSD family:

The Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf is pleased to announce that Peter L. Bailey, M.S., Steven Farmer, Ed.D, M.S., and Melissa Watson, M.A., M.S., PhD, are the finalists who are being considered for the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to succeed Donald E. Rhoten, who will step down on June 30, 2016.

For more than 22 years, Mr. Rhoten has made an incredible impact on our organization and most importantly, our students. The entire WPSD Board of Trustees wishes Mr. Rhoten the best of fortune in his retirement. Following the announcement of his retirement in August 2015, the WPSD Board of Trustees retained search firm Littleford & Associates, LLC for assistance in identifying qualified candidates.

In recent months, the Board conducted a series of phone interviews with numerous candidates, completed full-day site visits for six semi-finalist candidates, which have since been narrowed down to the current finalists, who we are now proud to introduce to our community.

Peter L. Bailey, M.S. is currently Associate Executive Director and COO of the Learning Center for the Deaf—the largest provider of educational services for deaf preschool and school aged children in New England—where he previously served as Director of Student Life. Mr. Bailey has a Master of Science degree in Organizational Management and Leadership from Springfield College and his career to-date is marked by a steadfast commitment to deaf education, management and leadership.

Steven E. Farmer, Ed.D, M.S., is currently Director of Student Life at the Tennessee School for the Deaf, where he supervises a staff of 85 and manages a complex independent living curriculum, among other responsibilities. Mr. Farmer has earned a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Tennessee and has a wealth of experience as a leader and educator for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students and teachers-in-training.

Melissa Watson, M.A., M.S., PhD, is currently Operations Director for PAHrtners Deaf—a provider of clinical, cultural and linguistic support for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals—and has recently earned her PhD in Human Services from Capella University. Throughout her career, Ms. Watson has displayed an outstanding commitment to deaf education through behavioral health, counseling and organizational management.

In the coming weeks, we will be inviting the three finalist candidates and their families back to WPSD’s Pittsburgh campus and to its Scranton campus for a series of more in-depth site visits during which they will each meet with staff, students, parents and alumni. To facilitate a final decision, the WPSD Board of Trustees’ Search Committee will be seeking feedback from the Alumni Advisory Committee, Parents Advisory Committee and Staff Advisory Committee.

The Board would like to thank all those who have supported its progress in this search to-date, including Littleford & Associates and all members of the Advisory and Search Committees. We look forward to a final decision and a new era for deaf education in Western Pennsylvania, Scranton and beyond.


Melissa Scheffler
Chair, WPSD Board of Trustees
Search Committee Chair

Search Committee Members:

Denise Brown
Laurel Echavarria
Dean Kartsonas
Angelo Martini Sr.
Chris McCrady
Leo McGowan
Harold Mowl
Grace Shirk-Emmons?

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