CCCBSD – The beginning

This is where it all began…Beverly School for the Deaf was established in 1876 through the hard work of William B. Swett, making it one of the oldest schools for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the United States. Swett, a Deaf man, was determined to bring education to the Deaf children of eastern Massachusetts. In 1879, Swett, William Barley, and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Gallaudet incorporated the school as The New England Industrial School for the Education and Instruction of Deaf Mutes (also The New England Industrial School for Deaf Mutes). Gallaudet and his family were the founders of the American Asylum at Hartford for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, now called American School for the Deaf, which was the first educational program for the Deaf in the country.

William Swett raised the money to purchase the piece of property along the tidal waters of the Bass River in Beverly where the school is still located today. When the school opened it was a family affair; Swett was the Superintendent, his wife, Margaret, was the Matron. Their daughters, Nellie and Lucy, were teachers and their son-in-law, John Bowden, was foreman of the Industrial Department.

The first year, students were taught trades like farming, carpentry, chair-caning, and homemaking in a residential setting. They grew most of the school’s food, reducing costs, and did many repairs themselves. In 1880, the education department opened and the number of students began to grow. Thirty students crowded the dormitories and classrooms and more classrooms were needed. During the period, the oral method of teaching along with speech and lip reading was the recommended method of education for deaf children.

In 1922, the school’s name was changed from the New England Industrial School for Deaf Mutes to Beverly School for the Deaf. This name change reflected a decreased focus from an industrial/trade school to more academic setting as well as recognition that students could develop oral language skills. The school also became one of the first organizations in the State to register as a non-profit when that designation was created by the government that same year.

Over the years, the original farm buildings were torn down and more modern structures erected. The Vaughan Building housed a dormitory, kitchens and dining halls. The Vaughan Building was named for trustee May Vaughan following her death from pneumonia. The funds for the building were raised by Samuel Vaughan who took her place on the board. The family continues to be involved in the school. The multi-function Burnham Gymnasium Building (named for Mrs. C. Boardman Burnham) also housed the home economics classroom, woodworking shop, and printing shop when it was first built. The oldest building still standing is the Life Skills Center, formerly the caretaker’s cottage, which is a model home used for teaching living skills. The newest building is the Wales Classroom Building, which was named after a long-time (30+ years) board member and Trustee, Helen Wales.

In the 1970s, the school expanded its mission from serving Deaf, Hard of Hearing and communication-challenged children to also accepting hearing and deaf children with learning and developmental disabilities.

In 2004, the school began an expansion of its services to students with Autism, Developmental delays and other disabilities under the umbrella of communication challenges. In 2007, after nearly 15 years, the use of Signed Exact English (SEEII) was switched to American Sign Language (ASL) in supporting the visual communication needs of students. Then in 2008, the organization formally changed its name to The Children’s Center for Communication. Beverly School for the Deaf continues to remain an integral part of the school’s mission.

Today the school continues to expand its services to meet the needs of Deaf, Hard of Hearing, hearing, developmentally delayed, and communication challenged students both on campus and in the community. Our commitment to creating communication independence among all Deaf, Hard of Hearing and hearing children regardless of their abilities is our number one priority.