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Special School District of St. Louis County
Former SSD Student, Employee
Brings High Expectations

With a résumé that resembles a short novel more than a sheet of paper, there doesn’t seem to be much Ernest E. Garrett III hasn’t accomplished. At age 33, his newest addition to his LinkedIn page might just be the capstone of an already impressive career.

Starting in July, Garrett will become the first superintendent who is deaf of the Missouri School for the Deaf (MSD). With a background that features numerous degrees and a litany of awards and high-ranking posts with local, state, and national organizations, Garrett believes the superintendent position will be a good fit.

“I feel like my diverse academic and professional background have all prepared me for this,” Garrett said. “My previous positions were all relevant and connected in one way or another and brought me full circle.”

Currently, Garrett is the executive director of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and serves on numerous state and national committees and boards. But his early relationship with SSD is one that will not be soon forgotten despite the large-scale acclamations.

Garrett began receiving services from SSD when he became deaf at age 2, eventually finding a home in the Brentwood School District.

“My parents heard about the deaf and hard of hearing program at Brentwood School District,” Garrett said about the program that was designed for all deaf and hard-of-hearing students. “The life-changing meeting happened for me at the Individualized Education Program meeting there. Someone brought up the idea of an interpreter. I didn’t know what an interpreter was, and I said ‘no, thank you.’ But my parents said ‘he will have an interpreter,’ and that was final.”

Garrett remained in the SSD program at Brentwood through his graduation from high school in 1999.

“Ernest was my student when he was in middle school and high school,” said Kathy Williams, who is now an area coordinator with SSD. “He was always a good student; however, his passion to go on and serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing population has been remarkable.”

“At Brentwood, I came to an awareness of who I am as a deaf individual,” Garrett said. “My experiences there helped me see the big picture. All of my experiences since then have helped me get where I am.”

After high school, Garrett earned multiple degrees, eventually finding his calling to become a social worker. After one year at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf, Garrett returned to SSD in 2007 as a social worker.

“School social workers are well equipped to serve the needs of students,” he said. “The challenges that are addressed need to consider the whole child. And I feel with my social work background, I’m motivated and equipped to consider the whole child in my next position.”

Not only is Garrett the first deaf superintendent at MSD, he’s the first African-American superintendent of the school. And he is believed to be just the second deaf black superintendent nationally.

“In the black deaf community, we have few leaders,” Garrett said. “It’s very humbling. I’m very conscious of it and it’s not a position that I take lightly. But it’s really about giving students the ability to succeed. And I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

The Missouri School for the Deaf has a rich history within the state. Founded in 1851, MSD serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and includes vocational training programs as well.

Garrett believes his drive for success will serve MSD as well as it has served him.

“You have to have high expectations,” Garrett said. “I’m a living and breathing example of what high expectations on a deaf or hard-of-hearing child can become. For me, it’s something I always say: ‘Deaf people can. Period.’”
Ernest Garrett
Ernest Garrett

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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