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Winter 99 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Superintendent's Corner

By Phil Hatlen, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

I am asking all readers to seriously consider our request in this column. We need input from parents, teachers, administrators, in-state and out-of-state readers as we continue to chart new directions for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This issue of See/Hear has a survey form as an enclosure. I urge you to thoughtfully consider the questions on this survey, fill out your answers, and mail it back to me. I thank you in advance for your continued interest and support for our school

TSBVI has three primary services it offers that are designed to impact the instructional services for blind and visually impaired students. They are on-campus school year services with a residential option, summer programs, and outreach. We have worked hard in recent years to refine and expand our Outreach services, often based on recommendations from professionals and parents throughout the state. We believe that Outreach is alive and well; in fact, a dynamic, thriving service from TSBVI. We have also worked hard to expand our programs in the summer. In a few short years, we have gone from a few programs for a relatively small number of students to, for the past two summers, 13 different programs attended by almost 300 students. While summer programs will certainly continue to be refined and improved, we are pleased that our emphasis on this service has been so well received by teachers, parents, and our other colleagues throughout the state.

Now we are poised to take a good look at our school-year on-campus program. We want to be certain that we are meeting the needs of students from throughout the state with our various programs. We are not convinced that we are doing all we should be doing during the academic year. We are really not concerned about the numbers of students on our campus if all students who could benefit from our services are receiving them. As you know, we offer five different curriculum areas for students: basic skills, functional academics, elementary concepts, applied academics, and academics.

We have learned a lot about the potential needs of blind and visually impaired students in the past few years. Many of their instructional needs are not academic, nor are they developmental, but rather relate to Core Curriculum areas that local school districts, due to time constraints, may have a difficult time in addressing.

Other schools for the blind have developed a variety of approaches to offering on-campus educational services during the school year that would least interfere with a student's program in her/his local school. As an example only, I want to briefly describe a new educational service offered by the Kentucky School for the Blind. They decided, after surveying teachers from all over the state, to offer short-term classes for local school students. They now have four six-week sessions during the academic year, in which 15 students from local schools are enrolled. The students participate, as needed, in four courses of study during the six weeks: orientation and mobility, braille, technology, and independent living skills. The students bring their academic textbooks with them and are tutored while at the school for the blind so that they do not fall behind in their regular schoolwork. We hear that this program has been very successful, but we really don't know if something similar is needed in Texas. It is one of many options that we are beginning to seriously consider.

As TSBVI considers potential new roles, in harmony and collaboration with local districts, we have taken some time to consider what we currently have to offer. In the coming issues of See/Hear, I will discuss in detail the curriculum strengths and program strengths of our school. In the meantime, I ask you to please let us know your thoughts and ideas about future directions for TSBVI.

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Last Revision: September 4, 2003