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

Commission for the Blind Meeting Minutes

September 17, 2011

Due to the budget restrictions, this meeting was held by conference call.  The out-of-town members were connected via telephone while the Raleigh-based members met in the conference room of Fisher Building in Raleigh, NC.

Call to Order, Invocation, and Pledge of Allegiance
Chair Butler called the 307th meeting of the NC Commission for the Blind to order at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 17, 2011.  Chair Butler offered the invocation.  The Pledge of Allegiance was recited.

Chair Beth Butler welcomed everyone and 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. 
Chair Butler thanked Allen Casey for his service as this will be his last meeting serving on the Commission for the Blind.
Julie Kagy was appointed as parliamentarian.

Present in the Conference Room:  Eddie Weaver, Mary Flanagan, Lin Taliaferro, Brenda Savage ,Cynthia Speight, Gary Ray, July Kagy,  Dave Arthur, Tom Winton, Dr. Chamblee, Dr. Bernstein, John Marens, and Carla Parker

Connected by Conference Call:  Beth Butler, Erica Nail, Allen Casey, Steve Harris, Senator Purcell, Brenda Montforti, Kim Lambert, Richard Oliver, and Ruth Haines.

Approval of Minutes
A motion was made by Erica Nail, seconded by Richard Oliver, and carried to approve the minutes of the June 11, 2011 meeting. 

Mr. Tom Winton, Exceptional Children’s Division within the Department of Public Instruction, attended this meeting to give the Commission for the Blind an update on legislation and the residential schools.

On June 1, 2011, the three residential schools were transferred to the Department of Public Instruction along with the Early Intervention Program for Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing and also the GMS Preschool Program.  This transfer was enacted by last year’s budget bill, 2010. 

On June 15, 2011, the General Assembly over rides Governor Purdue’s veto and enacts the appropriations act of 2011.  The Department of Public Instruction was directly by the General Assembly to report to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by January 15 about two items:  1) The residential school that the Department has decided to close, and 2) The Plan for consolidating programs from the closed campus to the remaining two residential schools. 

There are five considerations that the decision should be based on: 1) minimization of impact of services to deaf and blind students 2) minimization of cost of modifications of the two remaining residential schools to accommodate students from the closed school, 3) maximization of funds generated or net savings to the State from cost avoided due to the closure of one of the schools in the sale or transfer to another State agency, 4) minimization of required travel for students of the school that is closed, and 5) historical and cultural significance of the school.

DPI has designated the Exceptional Children’s Division to lead this initiative.  The Exceptional Children’s Division has developed a plan.  In this plan, there is a core committee.  Mr. David Mills was hired to be the facilitator of the committee.

The core committee will be obtaining input from various areas—existing reports, residential schools, public, on-line survey, public hearings, etc.  The on-line survey is on the agency’s website and will be up until September 30.  Alternative versions of the survey are available for people who do not have on-line access. 

Three public hearings will from 5:30-7 p.m. and will be held in the town that the school is located in.  The first hearing is scheduled for September 20 in Morganton, the second is scheduled for September 22 in Wilson, and the third will be here in Raleigh at the Avery C. Upchurch Government Building, 224 W. Hargett Street, Room 201 on September 28.  Rules and guidelines are in place for these public hearings.  People will be allowed to speak for 3 minutes.  Written comments are welcome at these hearings.  On the day of each hearing, the core committee will be at each school meeting with administration, student life, and instructional staff. 

The core committee will make a recommendation which school will be closed to the Superintendent and in turn the Superintendent will present the recommendation to the State Board. 

Gary Ray thanked Mr. Winton for his clear and concise report.  Mr. Ray highlighted a couple of items.  The sign-up to speak at the public hearing will be right before the hearing begins and will be first come, first serve.  There will be a limited number of speakers as each speaker will be allowed 3 minutes and hearing is 90 minutes long.  Written comments will be accepted at the hearing. 

It is very important for everyone to participate at each level of the decision-making process. 
The responsibility of assuring that the Core Committee has all of the information that is needed is up to us as this is a massive undertaking.   

Question was asked how many students will this effect.  Approximately 220. 

Question:  Is the process of closing a school within a school system similar to this process?  Often times, closing of a school within a school system has to do with finances and maybe achievement results.  This directive has 5 areas for the core committee to concentrate on.  There is limited data on achievement results for deaf and blind students (deaf and blind students in a residential school versus deaf and blind students in a LEA school).

There was discussion on the EOG testing of students in residential schools and public schools. 

Parliamentarian Julie Kagy stepped in indicating that Gary Ray is reporting as a member of the Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee and not as a member of the Commission for the Blind.  This time is dedicated to Mr. Winton’s report and this is not a time for long discussions.  Mrs. Kagy also indicated that if the Commission members feel differently they can certainly over-ride this decision.  No members commented differently. 

Committee Reports:

Public Relations—No Report

Inter-Committee Relations—No Report

Advocacy—No Report

Personnel DevelopmentJulie Kagy
The NCCU Program is now serving 45 students.  This includes their TVI, O & M, and VRT Programs.
The functional braille program is being developed which is a professional manual to teach functional braille to students that have not been considered to be able to learn braille but through the functional approach they can.  A grant was written by Julie Kagy and Dr. Wormsley and accepted by the Department of Public Instruction.  They are currently recruiting teachers with students that meet the criteria. 

As there are many new reappointments and this is the first meeting for them, new members have not been appointed to Committees.  Eddie Weaver and Chair Butler will meet before the next meeting to appoint members to various committees.

If members have a particular committee they would like to serve on, please email Carla Parker.  An orientation for new members was requested. 

Director’s Report—Eddie Weaver
The funding for the Medical Eye Care Program has been replaced and back to the original amount.  The Program is now providing eye exams, glasses, and medications, as well as some emergency services. 

We have been in a hiring freeze since March.  Hopefully some of these positions will be filled in the very near future.  Mr. Weaver thanked everyone for stepping up to the plate and taking on additional duties.

Services for the Blind did not have any reduction in service dollars; however, the Department did have a demand to reduce cost by $7.6 million.  Services for the Blind’s share was approximately $121,000.  Because of that we did lose 4 vacant positions. 

The Executive Order 85 is still in effect and will take effect in July 2012.  The only possible change would be with legislation and the consumer groups.  Eddie Weaver and Marie Spaulding have met and will be meeting again about how 3 Divisions would be consolidated.

The Leadership team of DSB has chosen to participate in Executive Leadership Training offered through TACE (Technical Assistance and Continuing Education).  Through their assistance, DSB is in the process of developing a Strategic Plan to guide us through the next several years.  Field supervisors will also be involved.

In the summer, the Rehab Center sponsors a youth program.  This year 28 students participated and was a big success. 

Mr. Weaver will follow up with the Governor’s Office as to the status of our pending Commission for the Blind appointments.

DSB has an employer video and will be linked to our website.  This video provides very good information about working with Services for the Blind as a consumer and as an employer.

BEAM training for all employees has begun.  Positive feedback has been received. 

Mr. Weaver did speak at the American Council of the Blind and the National Federation for the Blind. 

The VIP Fishing Tournament will be held October 17-20, 2011.

Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee—Gary Ray
For the new members, the CAAC meets the Friday before the Commission for the Blind that meets on Saturday.  Mr. Ray welcomed the Commission for the Blind members to participate in the CAAC meetings.

The Governors Executive Order 85 which states if the legislature takes no action by the end of the short session, DSB will be merged with Vocational Rehabilitation and Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Merging this agency will mean the end of acceptable services to the blind and visually impaired of NC.  We will be trying to get the Governor to rescind that particular section of the executive order.  Also, we will try to get a bill introduced to the legislature specifically negating that particular part of the executive order. 

The Governor issued a list of Boards and Commissions that the she wanted the legislature to review and eliminate.  The Commission for the Blind is on that list.  This is separate from the State Rehabilitation Council. 

Professional Advisory Committee—Lin Taliaferro
The Medical Eye Care Program’s budget was returned to its original amount, $2,313,334.  Effective August 16, the Medical Eye Care Program started providing eye exams, glasses, and eye-related treatment and surgeries of an emergency nature, and certain medications.

As of August 31, encumbrances were $16,121. 

Effective October 1, Medicaid will no longer cover routine eye exams, refractions, and visual aids for people 21 years of age.  DSB will be meeting to discuss the impact this will have.

Old Business:
None

New Business:
As this is Allen Casey’s last meeting, we need to elect a new Vice President.  Julie Kagy nominated Richard Oliver.   This motion was seconded by John Marens and accepted.  Mr. Richard Oliver is now the Vice-President of the Commission for the Blind.

Mr. John Marens thanked Gary Ray for his invitation to the National Federation meeting. 

Adjournment of Commission for the Blind

The Commission for the Blind adjourned at 11:45

 

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