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

Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Minutes

June 12, 2009

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 1:05 p.m.

Present in the conference room were:  Debbie Jackson-DSB; Mary Flanagan-DSB; Ron Eller-CAAC and Council of the Blind; Julie Kagy—Department of Public Instruction; Dwight Pearson—Office of Education Services; Kathy Davis—AER; James Benton--Raleigh Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities; Lawrence Carter—GMS Alumni; Ricky Scott—GMS Alumni; Vicki Smith—Disability Rights NC; Sandy Scarlett—UNC Ophthalmology; Carl Keehn, Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped; Gina Powell—Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped; Maria Spaulding—Deputy Secretary at DHHS; and Carla Parker—DSB.

On conference call were:  Beth Butler—Commission for the Blind, Tommy Jenkins—Commission for the Blind, Steve Walker—CAAC and Lions Foundation; Tim Jones—CAAC and Elected Committee on Vendors, and Ann Avery—CAAC and North Carolina Association of Workers for the Blind.   

Ron Eller offered the invocation.

Approval of Minutes

A motion was made by Ron Eller, seconded by Kathy Davis, and carried to approve the minutes of the March 13, 2009 meeting.

REPORTS:

UNC Ophthalmology—Sandy Scarlett

Sandy Scarlett, Development Director at UNC, has been meeting with DSB, OES, NCCU, etc. to gather information about services offered in NC to low vision clients.  Ms. Scarlett’s department at UNC has developed a 4-page document that doctors can give to their patients that list resources, contact names, phone numbers, etc.  Their goal is to provide low-vision patients with information on how to access resources that are available in North Carolina.   Ms. Scarlett welcomes any ideas/input on how to partner with other agencies to help low vision clients meet their needs. 

Deputy Secretary at DHHS—Maria Spaulding and OES Director—Dr. Dwight Pearson

Deputy Secretary Spaulding and Dr. Dwight Pearson thanked the committee for inviting them to attend this meeting and welcomed any questions.   They explained that DHHS has been very busy trying to meet the appropriated State totals requested by the legislators.  The requested reduced funding will impact services offered in North Carolina.   

Chairman Ray explained the purpose of the CAAC.  The CAAC is a state mandated organization and one of its purposes is to advise the State on matters affecting the blind in NC.  Mr. Ray questioned why DHHS had not asked this committee about the closing of the Governor Morehead School.  Ms. Spaulding responded that in an effort to satisfy the legislator’s needs in a timely basis, many entities had not been contacted.

With the budget crisis and the need to cut services, the legislature recommended to close the Governor Morehead School and move those students to the School for the Deaf.  It cost about $30,000,000 a year to operate these 3 schools (GMS, School for the Deaf in Morganton, and School for the Deaf in Wilson).  DHHS is being requested to cut its budget by $2.8 billion. 

Dr. Pearson pointed out that one of the reasons that the focus is on the residential schools, is the source of funding--about 99% of the funding for these schools is State appropriated.  On an average, it cost about $100,000 a year per student for education at a residential school.  To educate a blind child in a public school, the cost is approximately $26,000. 

DHHS was asked to come up with several options.  DHHS recommended if one school is kept open, keep GMS open because of its centralized location; if 2 schools are kept open, keep GMS and the Eastern School for the Deaf open.  DHHS provided objective, factual information to the legislature.   An extensive detailed plan for each would need to be written if approved.  The proposal that DHHS submitted to the legislature was not enacted.  The legislature proposed closing GMS and the students transferred to the Schools for the Deaf. 

The CAAC wants to do what is best for the blind children of NC and that would not be closing GMS.  The Federation of the Blind of NC believes that GMS should not be moved or closed. 

Chairman Ray opened the floor up to others in the room to ask questions and make remarks: Ron Eller, President of NC Council of the Blind, states the Council stands behind GMS and it should not be closed.  Question was asked how many students at GMS could be mainstreamed—that would take time to determine, need to look at their IPE. 

Ricky Scott, GMS Alumni, opposes closing GMS. 

Mr. Scott asked when the options were presented to the legislature, did the number of students enrolled GMS effect their opinion.  Dr. Pearson disagreed with this understanding—in sound school planning, the population of a school is not taken into consideration.  Geography and potential for long range planning is taken into consideration. 

Lawrence Carter asked if OES would be standing on the side of not closing GMS—Ms. Spaulding responded—The reason we are all here is because the State is in a major deficit and is not receiving sufficient revenues to be able to operate as it did in the past.  Chair Ray stated the Federation for the Blind of NC will not allow the State to balance its budget on the backs on blind children.  Ms. Spaulding replied the budget will be balanced by all of us—Medicaid recipients, other divisions, reduction in contracts and purchases, reduction in State employee’s salaries in May and June, and a reduction in all state services.  Ms. Spaulding also stated that whatever happens will be studied in much more depth before any type of action will take place. 

A motion was made by Tim Jones that the CAAC make a resolution stating their opposition of closing of the GMS.  A second motion was not made.  Motion fails.

Kathy Davis remarked that the services accessed by both the hearing impaired and visually impaired are currently located in Raleigh.  Ms. Davis is concerned that the quality of education will decline and the students will be socially isolated. 

Tommy Jenkins remarked there would be no financial gain  to operate 2 schools—first, isolation of a small number of children; 2nd, double your staff at both schools (teachers for the blind and teachers for the deaf).   If a choice must be made, it would be more beneficial financially, to consolidate into one school—the Governor Morehead School. 

Ann Avery opposes closing Governor Morehead School for the Blind. 

Ms. Spaulding offered her assistance in working with the CAAC in whatever the legislature decides. 

Chairman Ray explained that an amendment to the bill was passed last night.  Parts of the amendment were read aloud:   The amendment established a Joint Legislative Task Force on Educational Services for the Deaf and Blind.  The Task Force shall be composed of 9 voting members, three of who shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, three of who shall be appointed by the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, and three of whom shall be appointed by the Governor.  For the purposes of providing expertise and advice to the Task Force, the following members shall be appointed by the Governor to serve as ex-officio, nonvoting members:  2 educators certified to teach deaf children; 1 educator to teach blind children, and 1 graduate from each of three residential schools.  The Governor shall appoint the chair of the Task Force. 

The entire amendment and pages 100-101 of the budget bill will be e-mailed to each CAAC member. 

Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped—Carl Keehn and Gina Powell

Carl Keehn--The prelaunch is in the midst of the final test of the new digital player.  A few problems were identified —delivery of the machines, cases that the books are shipped in, labeling issue with the ink wearing off.  Books on cartridge should start arriving mid July.  The number of machines that will be produced during the first 4 months have been reduced from 26,000 to 23,000.  North Carolina has received its standard machine and advanced machine which is being used for training purposes.  A supply of blank cartridges has been ordered and should arrive at the end of June.  The National Library Services does require that veteran’s are the first priority to receive the machines. 

Gina Powell—For the first time in approximately 18 years, NCLBPH will hold a summer reading program for their child patrons.  Along with NC Symphony, there will be an “instrument petting zoo” where the kids can hold, feel, and play each instrument.

A summer reading outreach event for the Clayton Public Library will be held.

The 50th Anniversary of the Library will be held Thursday, September 17. 

Ms. Powell has attended and will be attending a number of outreach events in the coming months. 

Question was asked if the Library provided braille calendars—No, they do not but information can be provided on where to obtain a braille calendar. 

Department of Public Instruction—Julie Kagy

DPI is still working with OES on the study that began more than a year ago that was reviewing residential schools.  Gary Ray has sent out the Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) report.  The Governance Report has not been received. 

The Governor's School of North Carolina is a six-week summer residential program for intellectually gifted high school students, integrating academic disciplines, the arts, and unique courses on each of two campuses (Meredith College in Raleigh and Salem College in Winston-Salem).  This year a blind student from Durham was nominated and accepted to the Governor’s School.  DPI and GMS were contacted on how to make materials accessible for this student. 

Division of Services for the Blind—Debbie Jackson

DSB is in the process of getting some of their services exempt from the economic needs test; specifically, the purchase of assistive technology and the purchase of books and supplies for students who are in training programs.  DSB has recovery money to make these purchases.  In obtaining this exemption, DSB is approaching this two-fold.  One way is preparing a special provision to be part of the budget bill.  A second approach is to have a rule change with the Administrative Procedures rules—this is a fairly lengthy process.  In order to change the rule, a public hearing must be held and is scheduled for June 30.  If the public hearing takes place, information will be sent to the Commission for the Blind members and the Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee members. 

DPI, NCCU, OES, GMS and DSB are involved in an effort to get a text book brailling program through the prisons in place in NC.  DOC was interested in this a couple of years ago.  If this goes forward, a training program will be set up at a prison designated by DOC where the inmates will learn to transcribe and produce braille textbooks.  These textbooks would then be purchased by DPI, GMS, and possible other school systems outside the State. 

DSB will take some cuts with the budget but the budget has not been finalized and passed yet so it continues to change daily.

Proposed cuts for DSB are reducing operating costs, positions (vacant positions), Independent Living Rehabilitation Program—this is not recurring, and some State money in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

Lions Foundation—Steve Walker

No Report—Question was asked about enrollment at Camp Dogwood this year?  Enrollment is down this year—Murdoch Center was not able to enroll because of travel restrictions.  Transportation remains to be an issue. 

Disability Rights NC—Vicki Smith

Disability Rights NC is the protection and advocacy system for the State for all people with disabilities. Although, the General Assembly can legislate that money not be provided to schools; however, the State of North Carolina, through DPI and other entities, must implement the IEP of its children based of their individual needs.  Disability Rights NC will assure that each child has an appropriate IEP and each child receive appropriate education.

North Carolina Council of the Blind—Ron Eller

The NC Council of the Blind is preparing for its State Convention September 25, 26 and 27 at Holiday Inn Crabtree.  The National Convention will be held July 4-11 at Orlando, Florida.  The Council had a very successful legislative session in Washington, DC. They continue to pursue the quiet car situation. 

North Carolina Association of Workers for the Blind—Ann Avery

NCAWB will have their meeting July 17, 18, and 19.  This is their 100th year.  New officers will be elected this year. 

North Carolina Association for Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired—Kathy Davis

The NC Chapter, in response to an increase in membership dues, will draft a resolution and forward to the National organization.  The resolution will state that NC opposes an increase in membership dues. 

NCAER is also working on a draft copy of a proposal which opposes the closing of GMS. 

National Federation of the Blind—Tim Jones

Tim Jones received an e-mail that Metro-Lina Association that they will provide transportation to Camp Dogwood for a $5 donation.  This offer is for Mecklenburg, Iredell, Union, and Cabarrus Counties.  The Commemorative Louis Braille Coin is now available at www.usmint.gov .  $10 of that charge will go to Braille Lilteracy. 

The National Federation of the Blind Convention will be held July 3-8, in Detroit, Michigan.  State Convention will be at the Holiday Inn Crabtree, September 11-13. 

Elected Committee of Vendors—Tim Jones

Ron Eller and Jim Hitt attended the Washington Fly-In.  This is where vendors from across the country go to Washington to let Congress know more about the Randolph Sheppard Program and Act.  Eighty vendors attended. 

The Elected Committee of Vendors is working on a statewide agreement with the US Postal Service. 

Old Business

None

New Business 

Tim Jones made a motion that the Chair of the CAAC develop a proposal opposing the closing of GMS, opposing the merger of the closing of the 2 schools, and clarifying the details.  A copy of this proposal will be sent to the Commission for the Blind requesting their support and the final proposal will be forwarded to members of the General Assembly.  Ron Eller seconded this motion. 

This must be prepared quickly.  Chairman Ray and Carla Parker will work together on this Monday morning, June 15.  Before this proposal is finalized and forwarded to the legislature, the draft will be e-mailed to each member for their approval.  For members that do not have e-mail, Carla Parker will call them and read it to them. 

Elections:

Motion was made by Tim Jones for Gary Ray to continue as chair, seconded by Kathy Davis.  Motion was made to close the nominations and elect Gary Ray as Chair.  Motion was seconded by Ron Eller and carried.

Tim Jones is the current vice-chair.  Mr. Jones declined of any nomination.  The CAAC thanked Mr. Jones for his years of service.  Motion was made by Tim Jones to nominate Ron Eller as Vice Chair.  Motion was made to close the nominations and elect Ron Eller as Chair.  Motion was seconded by Kathy Davis and carried.  

Chair Ray thanked Secretary Spaulding for her participation at this meeting.  Mrs. Spaulding again expressed her willingness to assist the CAAC in any way she can.

Ricky Scott requested to be added as a reporting entity. 

Adjournment

Following an adjournment motion by Ron Eller, seconded by Kathy Davis, and carried the Consumer Advocacy and Advisory Committee adjourned at 3:15.

The next CAAC meeting is September 11, 2009.

 

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