Welcome to the USDB Advisory Council. The purpose of the Council is to advise the USDB Superintendent and Associate Superintendents regarding the needs of Utah children who are deaf, blind, and deaf-blind. Advisory Council meetings are held at least ten times per year and are open to the public.
Advisory Council Chair
Chair, Karen Harrop
Karen and her husband Robb are the proud parents of four active and busy sons who they are privileged to focus their lives on. Karen was born and raised in Sydney, Australia and moved to Utah in her high school years. While in high school she had the opportunity to work with students with significant cognitive disabilities and knew then that would be her life’s work and passion. She attended Utah State University where she graduated with a bachelors in Special Education and Early Childhood Education. It was during this time that she spent 18 months working with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Riverside, California and Miami, Florida and learned American Sign Language. After graduation, she taught students with significant cognitive disabilities and emotional and behavioral disorders before becoming a coordinator in the Special Education Department for the Ogden School District. During this time she completed a Masters degree in Special Education with a specialization on Autism Education. She is currently the Director of Special Education for Ogden City Schools and is finishing her Ed.S. in Educational leadership. She is thrilled to be involved in the work of improving educational outcomes for all students.
Advisory Council Members
Vice-chair, Jared Allebest
Jared Allebest was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Laguna Hills, California. He went to an oral school at Kaiser Elementary in Costa Mesa. He later attended University High School in Irvine, California which was a magnet school for Deaf and Hard of Hearing high school students. Jared learned ASL at University High and later went on a Sign Language mission for the LDS Church in Rochester, New York. After his mission, he went to Brigham Young University he graduated from BYU with a BA in English. A year later, he attended law school at Thomas Jefferson of School of Law in San Diego, California. He graduated in 2009 with a J.D. and moved to Utah to practice law. Jared opened up his own law practice, Allebest Law Group, and began representing both hearing and deaf clients on a wide variety of legal matter. He specialized in the following areas of law: family law, estate planning, business law, discrimination law and Deaf Rights. He is currently works for Goldman Sachs and is the Co-Chair for Loop Utah, an ongoing advocacy campaign dedicated to educating Utah venues about the many benefits of hearing loop technology, which delivers sound directly to an individual’s telecoil-equipped hearing aid or cochlear implant and gives the Hard of Hearing (HoH) community the enriched experience they deserve in venues across the state of Utah. His passion and interests are advocating for the rights of individuals with a hearing loss, Cross fit, Ultimate Frisbee, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, reading, writing, attending concerts and traveling. He has visited 27 countries around the world.
Dr. Richard Gurgel
Dr. Richard Gurgel graduated magna cum laude from the University of Utah with an Honors B.A. in Biology. He then continued his training by attending medical school at the University of Utah. There he was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society as a junior. Dr. Gurgel did his residency in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. In 2005, ranked as the #2 Otolaryngology program in America according to U.S. News and World Report Best Hospitals and continues to be one of the top five programs in the country. He went on to do his fellowship in Neurotology – Skull Base Surgery at Stanford University. There he was a member of Stanford Society of Physician Scholars and elected fellow teacher of the year for two consecutive years. Dr. Gurgel’s clinical interests include the full spectrum of neurotology, specifically in the care of patients with acoustic neuromas, glomus tumors, and other skull base lesions. He also has an interest in the surgical restoration of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss and auditory prostheses such as cochlear implants. His research focuses on innovations in hearing restoration and medical education. Dr. Gurgel has lived in Germany, Israel, and the Philippines. He is fluent in Cebuano and Waray-Waray (both Filipino dialects). Outside of the hospital, his time is mainly spent with his wife on all activities pursuant to raising five young daughters.
Sterling Hilton received a BA in Economics, an MA in Political Science, and an MS in Statistics from Brigham Young University. He received his PhD in Biostatistics from Johns Hopkins University. He has been a faculty member at Brigham Young University for the past 20 years: 8 in the Dept. of Statistics and 12 in the Dept. of Educational Leadership. Sterling consults on a variety of medical research studies, including cystic fibrosis; however, his primary area of research is in mathematics education and educational systems change. He recently completed a seven year stint as department chair and works with several doctoral students who are examining mechanisms and ways to increase principal capacity to bring about sustainable improvement in student learning. He and his wife, Heidi, are parents of four children and live in Orem. Their youngest has severe vision and hearing loss and is served by the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind. He has served as a member of his children’s schools’ community council for over ten years and is a strong advocate for public education as an institution.
Melanie Hooten graduated from the University of Utah in 2000 with a degree in Environment and Behavior. For 5 years she worked in the Salt Lake City School District working with high risk students and their families. In 2005 she started at the University of Utah, School of Medicine working in the Office of Inclusion and Outreach exposing young students to science and medicine. In 2009 Melanie became a parent to twin boys one of whom is deafblind. She has continuously worked to provide the best educational, social, and emotional support for both of
her boys. She wants both of her children to thrive in their educational and social experiences. Melanie joined the Advisory Committee in 2014.
Philippe Montalette of Utah is a data analyst for Sorenson Communications and has been with the company for over 12 years. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology from the University of Phoenix. He is currently treasurer of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) as 3rd term. He is former president of the Utah Association of the Deaf (UAD). Montalette’s passion is working with and raising funds for various local non-profit organizations like UAD and Sego Lily Center for the Abused Deaf. He strongly believes in partnerships with different organizations. He has enjoyed hosting ASL Films movies in Salt Lake City and St. George for the few years. Montalette, who was born in Paris, France and spent his childhood in New York City and London, England, enjoys traveling, hiking and spending time with his family. Montalette is married to Yvonne; who he met during the early 1980s at NTID and they have three adult children and one grandchild.
Stephanie Morgan was identified as Deaf after she was given a routine screening in kindergarten. She was raised orally throughout her school years. When she was twelve, she started to take American Sign Language community classes. She loved the language and the accessibility and continued to learn and study the language. Stephanie received her Bachelor’s degree in Deaf Education from the University of Utah. She has been a teacher for USDB since 2005. She has been an ASL/English teacher for Jean Massieu School of the Deaf with her experience ranging from 2nd grade to high school. She has also been an itinerant for the Northern part of Utah. She has taught students that use ASL as well as oral students. Stephanie is also involved with the University of Utah Teacher Preparation Program in Sensory Impairments Advisory Committee. She has served as a cooperating teacher for practicum students and student teachers from the University of Utah Special and Utah State University and continues to serve in that capacity currently. She has served as a panel member to provide her expertise to new teacher candidates in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Specialization at the University of Utah. Stephanie has been married since 2005. She has a son and a daughter.
Sundie Goulding received her BS in Psychology at Westminster College , her Master’s in Developmental Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, and her Early Childhood Credential and Deaf-blind Endorsement at the University of Utah. She has a lifelong passion for transforming the lives of children with sensory problems, particularly those children with Deaf-blindness. For over 12 years, she has had the privilege of serving in multiple children with Deaf-blindness and their families for The Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. When not with other families, she enjoys spending time with her own family of three girls! All of which keep her busy running from soccer games to dance performances.
Additional new members: