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

Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Minutes

March 11, 2010

Due to 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

Chairman Gary Ray called the meeting to order at 1:10 p.m.  Introductions were made.  Invocation was offered by Ricky Scott. 

Present in the Conference Room--Voting members were:  Gary Ray, Kathy Davis, and William Tubilleja.  Reporting entities were:  Mary Flanagan, Julie Kagy, Carl Keehn, Barbria Bacon, Ricky Scott, Andrew Strickland, and Annalise Stalls.  Interested parties in attendance were:  Karen Clark, Lawrence Carter, Beth Harris, and Herb Pickell.  Carla Parker and 2 sign language interpreters, Mike Cordin and Melisssa Hasson, were also present.

On the conference call—Voting members were:  Raquel Martin, Allen Casey, Tim Jones, Connie Alexander.  Interested parties were:  Eddie Weaver, Debbie Jackson, Kathy Brack, Tommy Jenkins, Beth Butler, and Senator Purcell. 

Presentation of the Proposed GMS Model (Barbria Bacon)—A proposed model for services to visually impaired children across the State has been developed to assure all needs of all children are being met.  A Power Point presentation demonstrated the 7 districts that were reviewed.  A chart of how many visually impaired students in each district that is being served and how many students that are not being served was presented.  A breakdown is below:

District K-12 VI Receiving Services VI No Services
Asheville 190 51
Charlotte 537 149
Fayetteville 290 72
Greenville 254 86
Raleigh 427 68
Wilmington 165 49
Winston-Salem 388 38

Total population is 2,251 students with 513 receiving no services from DPI. 

In 2008/09, 113 VI professionals were employed in LEA’s.  Fifty-Eight counties do not employ visually impaired professionals.  The current GMS Outreach model is primarily consultation.  In 2008/09, there were 1,833 consultations, 11 students received direct service, and 18 attended GMS short-term program. 

The proposed on-campus and statewide service model would be comprised of 5 areas:  Statewide Cooperative, Specialized Curricula Program, Consultative and Diagnostic, Professional Development Center, and an Instructional Resource Center.   

The proposed model designates 2 regions—Region 1 will be comprised of Asheville, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem; Region 2 will consist of Fayetteville, Greenville, Raleigh, and Wilmington.  Each region will have 3 clinical low vision teachers, 12 teachers of the VI, 5 Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and 2 Assistive Technology Specialists.  These teachers will be dual-certified. 

The proposal will partner with the other services already available. 

Any comments or suggestions should be sent to Gary Ray and Mr. Ray will forward onto Mrs. Bacon.

Senator Purcell commented that the deadline for any legislation is shortly after they convene which is May 12. 

Old Business

Future of the Residential Schools:  Last September, the CAAC voted to take up the issue of the future of the residential schools.  In December, the CAAC voted to recommend to the Legislature that the residential schools for the blind and deaf be moved out from under OES and DHHS and be set up as a separate LEA.  This bill would probably be planned for the next year’s long session.

Initial discussion has begun with legislators.  At this time, we do not need to take any additional action.  Communication with advocates in the deaf community continues.

Delay in Naming DSB Director:  Mary Flanagan gave an update regarding this delay.  Mrs. Flanagan is going on 6-months as DSB’s Acting Director.  Interviews were held in January and February.  The interview committee is now narrowing down the selection to final candidates.  The candidates will be interviewed by the DHHS Secretary.  Then a candidate will be recommended to the Governor. 

Gary Ray has shared with the Secretary the CAAC’s concern about the length of time it has taken to name a Director. 

New Business:

A motion was made by Tim Jones, seconded by Connie Alexander, and moved for Gary Ray to communicate with the Director of the Governor Morehead School its appreciation to the staff for the excellent job they are doing to educate visually-impaired students. 

Schedule Change at the Residential Schools for the Deaf and Blind—As part of the budget process, OES and DHHS, indicated that $200,000 needed to be obtained from the 3 residential schools.  The school governance directed that the change come from the school schedule.

The Governor Morehead School currently has enrolled 53 students with 30 of those going home on the weekends. 

The past schedule for the residential students brought the students in Sunday afternoon late and then returning them home on Fridays after lunch.  In an effort to obtain the $200,000, a decision was made to start bringing the students in on Monday morning and extend each school day. Then send the students home late Friday afternoon.  Some of these students are coming from Brevard, Charlotte, and Hickory.  This means some students are leaving their homes as early as 3 a.m. on Monday’s so they can meet the bus. 

Three areas are of concern:  1) Health and safety of the students and teachers (traveling very early in the morning and at night); 2) Education (leaving home as early as 3 a.m. to get to school); and 3) quality of life (parents who have a blind/deaf child and a child going to public school, strains the family of trying to get their children to school).

A number of organizations have come out with a position in opposition of this schedule change.

The money is being saved by cutting the hours of employment for residential life employees.   

Herb Pickell commented on the position that the deaf community holds regarding the schedule change.  The deaf community is very actively involved with their opposition of this change.   The deaf schools have lost 11 positions and other staff have had to fill in.  This is causing morale problems.  One problem is OES’s negativity regarding the performance of all 3 residential schools.  Where is the support that should be provided to the 3 schools??  Why do students and direct service providers have to take the cut?? The Deaf and Blind communities should be given an opportunity to review plans before they are implemented. 

A request was made to vote on the schedule change by secret ballot.  This is difficult since some members are on conference call.  Julie Kagy volunteered to leave the conference room while the vote takes place.  Barbria Bacon and Beth Harris also followed. 

A motion was made by Tim Jones, seconded by Connie Alexander, and moved that the CAAC take a position that opposes the recent schedule change at the residential schools for the blind and deaf in North Carolina because we believe there are health, safety, education and quality of life issues.   Motion passed.

Tim Jones had to leave the conference call at this time.

Merger Issue:  Mary Flanagan has met with the Deputy Secretary concerning this matter.   According to Maria Spaulding, there are no plans for a merger at this time.  DHHS is looking at each agency to see where money might be saved.  DSB and DSDHH administrative areas have already been merged.  DSB, DSDHH, and VR are in the process of jointly purchasing a new case management system.  The Governor’s Plan does consist of looking at streamlining state government.  DHHS raised the question would it be advantageous to consumers if we were under one agency--That is a definite “No” and would be the worst case scenario.  So at this time, there are no plans for merger. 

A motion was made by William Tubilleja, seconded by Kathy Davis and carried that the CAAC believes that the State of North Carolina has done as much merging and cooperation as can be done in order to maintain independent and appropriate service delivery agencies for the blind and deaf.  Motion passed.

Division of Services for the Blind—Mary Flanagan

DSB has hired 2 full-time temporary transition positions.  These positions are funded by recovery money.  Ms. Tannis Steele is located in the Greenville District Office and Dr. Michael Milapovich is located in the Asheville District Office.  They will be visiting school districts meeting with EC Directors, teachers, parents, and professionals. 

The Medical Eye Care Program is very much a core part of DSB’s mission statement.  This program is state-funded.  Last year because of budget restrictions we had to limit services.  As of February 22, DSB will be increasing services again.

Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped—Carl Keehn

Upcoming Closing Dates:

Friday April 2 – Good Friday
Monday May 31 – Memorial Day

Digital Transition:

As the NLS has shown that they are able and prepared to ship digital machines and cartridges on a regular basis, we have been able to plan our digital service with increased confidence.  We have served all our centenarians and veterans and have fulfilled nearly the entire waiting lists for both standard and advanced machines.  As a result we have begun offering standard machines to new patrons and have begun offering standard machines to our present patrons as they call.  Those patrons interested in advanced machines still need to be added to the request list as the number of interested patrons outnumber the number of available advanced players.

When we began offering digital service, we limited patrons to a single digital book at a time, due to the limited collection.  As the collection has grown, we have been able to increase the maximum number of books from 1 to 3.

Presently, we have over 2,000 standard and advanced machines distributed to our patrons.  We have over 1,570 digital titles with in excess of 14,700 items.  In addition we are seeing a steady increase in the number of North Carolina patrons who are registering for the NLS download service.  In February, our patrons downloaded nearly 2,700 books or magazines from BARD.

LBPH:

In December I had reported how we had lost 2 ½ positions due to various causes.  We were able to hire a new person for our circulation unit; he will start on Monday March 15.  We are in the process of preparing the paperwork to recruit a person for our patron processing unit.  Should we receive approval to fill the position, we hope to have a person in place by May.

As a result of staffing shortages and the increased workload of the digital transition, we have had backlogs in both the public services area and in the inspection of returned materials in the circulation unit.  Our Public Services Librarian has been working closely with the reader advisors to streamline the processes and ensure that our patrons continue to receive timely service.  The new hire in the circulation unit, as well as an aggressive recruitment campaign for volunteer inspectors should help clear up the backlog in materials inspection.

The outsourcing of a portion of our Braille service is working well.  In October we entered into a contract with the Perkins Library in Massachusetts, to provide backup service for our Braille patrons.  Our first invoice for service came in well under budget. We are still able to support most requests through our local collection.  Those requests that we need to forward to Perkins are filled quickly enough that our patrons are apparently noticing no delay in receiving their Braille materials.

The Department of Cultural Resources has begun preliminary planning for a new State Library building.  The new facility would be across the street from the present facility and would share the site with a planned visitor’s center.  The new facility would enable the LBPH to move downtown and would allow us to better serve our local patrons, with a reading room as well as program facilities.  It would also place us in a very visible and active area with the Governor’s mansion, State Capitol, Museum of History and the Legislative building all within a block of us.  State Library and LBPH staff have met with the architectural firm responsible for designing the visitor’s center and have provided them with an orientation to the services that we provide and that the new facility would need to support.  Presently the project is not funded.

For the second year, the LBPH will be participating in the Statewide Summer Reading program.  We were very pleased with the response to last year’s program.  Our outreach librarian has been participating in the two Eastern Summer Reading program workshops, leading a session on programming for children with disabilities.

Governor Morehead School—Barbria Bacon

The 150th Celebration of the Arts will be held April 24th.  Eastern Music Festival is April 30 and May 1.

Graduation is scheduled for June 10.  Everyone is invited.

GMS received its recommendation for an accreditation from Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

GMS hosted the Braille Challenge with 21 students.  It was very successful.  All GMS winners will be rewarded with a Louis Braille coin. 

Department of Public Instruction—Julie Kagy

It is time to register for American Printing House funds.  The current allocation per student is $334.01.  Based on the 2009 count, there are 1,096 legally blind students enrolled in public schools in NC.  In private schools or being home schooled, there are 401 students. 

Mrs. Kagy has met with staff from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic to assure audio text books are available.  Another provider, BookShare.org, of audio books will also be available.

A committee of visually impaired, hearing impaired, and DPI staff have met over the past 6 months and worked with staff of OES, as directed by the legislature, to develop a proposal “Plans to Achieve Efficiencies of Scale to Assure the Appropriate Education of Students with Visual or Hearing Impairments”.  In January, NCDPI presented its response to OES.  Report has not been returned.  It will need to go to State Board of Education for its approval.  Chair Gary Ray requested that the CAAC review this proposal before it goes to the legislature.

Governor Perdue has signed a proposal for a prison Braille program to be developed in NC.  The Scotland Correctional Institution will house this program.  Inmates will be providing Braille transcription and large print through the Prison Braille Program. NCCU and DPI have committed to provide equipment for this project. 

Beth Harris, Director of NCCU, reported that NCCU continues to offer a Master’s Program for teachers of the visually impaired, orientation and mobility specialists, and vision rehab teachers. NCCU is looking for more applicants to the O & M and VRT Program.  There is a grant for these two categories. 

Prevent Blindness North Carolina—Raquel Martin

“Vision Service Plan” program which is available for Pre-K through age 18.  This program covers an eye exam and a pair of glasses.  A social security number is required. 

The “Donor Dot Program” caters to the Pre-K through age 18 as well as adults.  Eligibility for both of these programs is based on annual income (no more than 250% of the federal poverty level).  No social security number is required for this program.

“Healthy Eyes” provides free eye wear.  Eligibility is based on annual income being no more than 250% of the federal poverty level and the prescription must not be over 2 years old. 

Legislator—Senator Purcell

Senator Purcell thanked the group for all of the information which was provided.  Please keep in touch with him if anyone should have any concerns.

Disability Rights NC (DRNC)—Annalise Stalls

A disability forum was held in Chapel Hill.  All disability groups were invited to attend and have a cross disability coalition.  Findings were disability groups have more in common than they are different with budget concerns being a main concern. 

On July 26, 2010, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be 20 years old. In recognition of the gains made in eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities over the past 20 years, Disability Rights North Carolina is asking businesses, organizations and local governments in our state to adopt a Proclamation of Recommitment to the mission of the ADA.

NC Association of Workers for the Blind—Connie Alexander

The 2nd Board meeting within the year is scheduled for tomorrow, March 13, on the Governor Morehead School campus.  The upcoming convention is planned for July 16, 17, and 18.  A “Christmas in July” sale will be held to raise money for GMS.

North Carolina Council of the Blind—Allen Casey

A legislative seminar in Washington was held 3 weeks ago.  Members had an opportunity to meet with the new RSA Administrator, Renee Rutledge.  Presentations were on a number of topics including accessible format for books, healthcare reform, passage of HR734—the quiet car, and HR571—vehicle donation deduction. 

The ACB national convention will be held in Phoenix on July 11-16 and the NC Council’s convention will be September 24-26. 

AER—Kathy Davis

William Tubilleja will be attending the International AER Conference in Little Rock.  Membership is currently at 100.  The annual board meeting will be held during the VI Conference on March 27.

Governor Morehead School Alumni—Ricky Scott

The GMS Alumni Association will be participating in graduation activities at GMS.  A couple of scholarships will be provided.

The National Youth Leadership Conference in sponsoring its weeklong event which will be held on the GMS campus August 1-6. 

The GMS Alumni Association will be holding its annual convention the weekend of August 6.

National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina—Gary Ray

North Carolina sent 8 people to the Washington Seminar.  We met with the NC delegation in Congress.  Our issues were:  Quiet Car Legislation, Blind Consumer Bill of Rights, and changes to the SSDI laws to allow blind workers to return to work while gradually reducing SSDI benefits.

Our National Convention is scheduled in Dallas, Texas, over the 4th of July week.

Our State Convention is scheduled for September 10-12, 2010 at the Ramada Inn Burlington.

The NFB of NC has taken a position against the recent schedule change at the 3 residential schools.

The NFB of NC has taken the position that no further merging of VR services for the blind and deaf in NC should be done.  We strongly believe in the existence of separate and independent service delivery agencies.

The NFB of NC continues to support changes in the governance of the 3 residential schools.

Adjournment

The CAAC meeting adjourned at 3 p.m. 

The next CAAC meeting is June 11, 2010.

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