History of SWCED

Student using sign language.

The Concept

In 1974-75, Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf (RDSPD’s) were being established across the state of Texas in the public school setting. Dorine Cunningham and John Butler (Texas Education Agency Services for the Deaf/Hard of hearing) helped to establish 18 programs (RDSPD’s) for the deaf in the North Texas Region. (Abilene to Texarkana) During program reviews, Dorine and John had many teachers tell them that they did not have any real staff development opportunities specific to working with students who were deaf and/or hard of hearing. Their teachers also wanted to meet and share with other teachers from different programs to get new ideas. Dorine and John, with these needs in mind, came up with the concept of an annual regional conference for the personnel in the North Texas Region. Sharon Tallet (Mesquite RDSPD) agreed to become the fiscal agent for this conference and the RDSPD’s were allowed to use IDEA funds to pay for their expenses to attend the conference. The first regional conference was held in a local hotel conference center in the fall of 1976. As the years rolled on more and more personnel from other regions began attending the conference and a decision was made to change the regional conference to one big conference for all personnel working with students who were deaf/hard of hearing in Texas. The last regional conference was held in the North Texas Region in 1983 and the first Statewide Conference was held in 1984.

The Founders

During this time, it became “obvious” to Laura Lott (Longview) and other key stakeholders that a “statewide voice was needed for educators and parents of the deaf” in Texas. An organizational meeting was held at the Callier Center in Dallas and officers were elected for a new statewide organization, T.A.P.E.D. or Texas Association of Parents and Educators for the Deaf. Laura Lott (Longview ISD) became the first President of T.A.P.E.D. and Sharon Tallet (Mesquite) became the Vice-President. Along with Dorine Cunningham and Joe Burkes (both with TEA), Arlene Stein (Dallas ISD), Jean DeSalle (who became the Treasurer of T.A.P.E.D.), and Dianne Fisher (Birdville ISD) were driving forces behind this new organization and its membership. One of the first goals of T.A.P.E.D. was to support the notion of a Statewide Conference where stakeholders from across the state could come together. Sharon Tallet, as Vice-President, was put in charge of the very first Statewide Conference in 1984. Somewhere, during the next few years, the Statewide Conference became the T.A.P.E.D. Statewide Conference for the deaf.


This conference has enjoyed the support of numerous agencies and their representatives throughout the years. The Texas Education Agency, Division of Services for the Deaf supported this conference up until 1995 when decentralized deaf services and TEA regional offices were closed. In 1988, Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) and Educational Service Centers (ESC’s) were co-sponsors of the Statewide Conference and, in the ensuing years, the Department/Division of Rehabilitative Services (DARS) became an active co-sponsor of the Conference.

Since the beginning of the Statewide Conferences, each sponsoring agency has had equal representation and has contributed to bringing in outstanding state and national presenters to the Statewide Conference. No other conference has had the support of such a wide variety of stakeholders involved with children who are deaf and or hard of hearing in the state of Texas. These stakeholders have helped to form the planning committees and have given up their own work and personal time to put on highly recognized conferences year after year.

Recognizing Leaders & Scholarships

Additionally, during these conferences, outstanding leaders working with students who are deaf/hard of hearing are recognized. More importantly, scholarships are given to deserving students who are deaf/hard of hearing from across the state. In recent years, scholarships have been given to Interpreters and Teachers pursuing certificates and/or degrees in the fields of Interpreting and Deaf education.

Sponsor Agencies

The sponsoring agencies/programs of the Statewide conference include T.A.P.E.D., ESC’s, R.D.S.P.D’s, T.S.D. and Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). Representatives from these agencies/programs make up the Statewide Conference Planning committee.

The Planning Committee

The Statewide Conference planning committee has always been a TEAM to reckon with. Their commitment to this conference has continued throughout the years and the excellence we have in deaf education in the state of Texas is due, at least in part, to the excellence in staff development provided to parents, educators, interpreters, and other stakeholders through the Statewide Conference! We would like to thank our sponsors for their ongoing support of this outstanding Conference!

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