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NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Services for the Blind

Commission for the Blind Meeting Minutes

June 9, 2007

Call to Order, Invocation, and Pledge of Allegiance

Chairman Tom Winton called the 290th meeting of the NC Commission for the Blind to order at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday, June 9, 2007, in the conference room of the Division of Services for the Blind, 309 Ashe Avenue, Raleigh, NC.  Members joined in the pledge of allegiance. 

Tom Winton offered the invocation.

Graham Watt was appointed Parliamentarian. 

The following members were present:  Tom Winton, Debbie Jackson, John Miller, Jay Williams, Kathy Brack, Graham Watt, Kellie Spruill, and Sandy Foster.  **(Kelly was  connected via cell phone late in the meeting as she was delayed due to traffic). 

Others Present:  Dave Arthur, Mary Flanagan, Julie Kagy, Sally Syria, Jan Fesperman, Dr. Bernstein, Dr. Wiggins, Gary Ray, Dr. Fleming, Dr. Gropper, and Carla Parker

Members Not Present:  Stacey Milbern and Anita Heath-Cunningham.

Committee Reports:

Public Relations Committee—No Report

Intercommittee Relations Committee—Stacey Milbern

Stacey Milbern is not with us today as she is in Washington D.C. serving as an intern.  Stacey did send in a report.  Stacey will not be serving a 2nd term with the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC).   The Commission for the Blind does not know how this will impact Stacey’s term with the Commission.  At the last quarterly SILC meeting, members were fully devoted to preparing the State Plan for the Statewide Independent Living Council.

Personnel Development Committee—Tom Winton

This committee has not formally met but continues to be in constant contact with the Visual Impairment Training Program at North Carolina Central University. 

Julie Kagy has also been meeting with Mrs. Wormsley.  They are working together to increase the availability of professional development through the VI Program and co-sponsored by DPI. 

The Vision Partnership has also met.  This is a partnership of OES, DPI, and NCCU.  The goals are being rewritten with an emphasis on recruitment and support of teachers. 

Debbie Jackson added that DSB has been participating in job fairs in hopes to recruit some of the more difficult positions to fill such as Rehabilitation Counselors.  These job fairs have resulted in a couple of interns for DSB. 

Consumer Advocacy and Advisory Committee—Gary Ray

Mr. Gary Ray reported on the Consumer Advocacy and Advisory Committee held yesterday.  Mr. Ray was elected as Chair of the Consumer Advocacy and Advisory Committee and Mr. Tim Jones is now the Vice-Chair of that committee. 

At the CAAC meeting, the CAAC passed a motion regarding DSB’s budget situation at the Legislature.  The CAAC voted to send a memo to the Conference Committee Co-Chairs and Health and Human Services Subcommittee members.  This memo supports the House side of the budget and the new funds will enable the Medical Eye Care and VR Employment Program to increase the Economic Needs Scale.  The CAAC also passed a motion to encourage the Commission for the Blind to take the same position. 

The Governor Morehead School’s status at the legislature was also discussed but no definite details were available so no official position was taken.

The National Library Service for the Blind has a major funding request before Congress to implement the digital talking book program.  The funds are needed to implement the new format player and books and to ensure uninterrupted availability of playback equipment as the digital players and books are made available starting in late 2008.  The House has only approved 7.5 million of the needed $19.1 million requested.  Action is needed by all constituents to encourage the House to allocate the needed funds for this change.   Gary Ray will send information by e-mail to Carla Parker and she will share with Commission members. 

Professional Advisory Committee—Dr. Wiggins

The Medical Eye care Program is operating on schedule.  All eligible applicants have received services. Dr. Wiggins reported and congratulated Dr. Bernstein as he recently became Chairman of the Board for Prevent Blindness North Carolina. 

Before the Director’s Report by Debbie Jackson, Graham Watt reminded the committee of the required Ethics forms that must be completed annually. Chairman Tom Winton also reminded members of the Ethics Awareness and Conflict of Interest order.  If any board member has any known conflict with respect to any matters coming before the Board, please identify the conflict or appearance of conflict and refrain from any undue participation in the particular matter involved.

Director’s Report—Debbie Jackson

Carmen Hooker Odom, DHHS Secretary, will be leaving DHHS late August as she will be moving to New York.  Mrs. Hooker has always been very supportive of DSB’s efforts.   Mr. Dempsey Benton has been appointed to assume this position. 

Renovation Update:  Two projects are underway, 1 at Crockett-Peeler to replace the heating/ac and 1 at Milsap Dorm. 

The Crockett-Peeler project is not progressing as quickly as we had hoped.  Staff should be able to move back into Crockett-Peeler the week of July 9. 

Renovation at the Milsap dorm is progressing very well.  DSB’s goal is have the building completed and bills paid by the end of September.

DSB is now progressing with getting their forms and manuals on-line. 

DSB participated in the NBC 17 Health Fair held at the fairgrounds.  Next year, we hope to join forces with Prevent Blindness. 

**(Kellie Hightower-Spruill was now connected by telephone since the rest of the meeting will involve a vote and will need a quorum).  

DSB had several requests included in the Governor’s budget.  These include a change in the economic needs scale for the Vocational Rehabilitation program, Independent Living Program (under 55), and the Medical Eye Care Program.  It also included case service funds for our Medical Eye Care, Vocational Rehab, and Independent Living Rehab. Program.  It included 9 additional positions for the Independent Living Rehabilitation Program. 

The House approved $200,000 for Medical Eye Care in  case service funds and approval to increase the economic needs scale to 125 percent of federal poverty level.  For the Vocational Rehabilitation Employment Program, $200,000 was approved for case services and increase the economic needs scale to 125 percent of federal poverty level; for the Independent Living Rehab, approval was given for 4 positions and funds to support the positions as well as have a little left over for case service funds.  These were all recurring. 

On the Senate side, DSB did not fair as well.  Approval was given for $200,000 in Medical Eye Care and approval to increase the economic needs scale to 125 percent of federal poverty level.  There was nothing included for the Vocational Rehabilitation Program or the Independent Living Rehabilitation Program. 

A summary sheet was distributed to members which reflect what the House and Senate approved for DSB.  Also, a list of conference committee members and co-chairs for the Health and Human Services was distributed. 

A motion was made by John Miller, seconded by Graham Watt and carried to send a letter from the Commission for the Blind advocating for the adoption of the House budget proposal and included in the budget that is submitted to the Governor.  This letter will be sent to the House and Senate Conference Committee members and co-chairs.  Personal contact is also encouraged. 

As of now, there is funding for NewsLine in the Senate budget. 

Approval of Minutes

Motion was made, seconded, and carried to approve the minutes of March 10, 2007. 

Old Business


New Business

Several terms for members are ending this month and several members are not eligible for reappointment. The members not eligible for reappointment are John Miller, Tom Winton, and Kathy Brack as they have served 2 terms. 

Cheryl Whitley and Russ Stinehour have resigned.  This leaves quite a few vacancies having to be filled.  Debbie Jackson has started making recommendations to the Governor’s Office for appointments. 

Elections:   The floor was open for nominations for the Chair of the NC Commission for the Blind.  Tom Winton nominated Graham Watt for Chair of the NC Commission for the Blind, seconded by John Miller, and carried.  There were no other nominations from the floor. 

The floor was open for nominations for the Vice Chair of the NC Commission for the Blind.  Kellie Hightower-Spruill was nominated but she respectfully declined.  A motion was made, seconded, and carried to defer the vote until our September meeting. 

At the September meeting, committees will also be appointed. 

Adjournment of Commission for the Blind

Following an adjournment motion, a second, and a vote, the meeting adjourned at 11:15 a.m.  The next meeting of the North Carolina Commission for the Blind is scheduled for September 8, 2007, at 10 a.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Tom Winton, Chair, Commission for the Blind               
Debbie Jackson, Director, Division of Services f/t Blind DHHS/DSB


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