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Overview of Agency Scope and Functions

The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been established as part of the public education system to serve as a special school in the continuum of statewide alternative placements for students who have a visual impairment. It is also a statewide resource to professionals and parents who serve these children.

Statutory Basis

TEXAS EDUCATION CODE §30.021 - 30.024

These sections of code establish the purpose of the School, its governance by a nine-member board, and specific provisions related to the School's superintendent and its employees.

TEXAS EDUCATION CODE § 30.025

This section establishes the funding sources for the School, including funds appropriated by the Legislature, allocated by the Texas Education Agency, contracts, gifts, and the Foundation School Program.

TEXAS EDUCATION CODE §30.003

This portion of Education Code requires each school district that has students enrolled in the regular school year at the School to share in the cost of the students' education based on each district's total student enrollment and its maintenance and debt service taxes.

TEXAS EDUCATION CODE §30.004

Local school districts are required to provide information about the services available from the School to the families of students who are blind or seriously visually disabled.

INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT (I.D.E.A.): 20 U.S.C. §1400 - §1485; 34 C.F.R. §300.1 - §301 and §104

This federal law and its accompanying regulations require the provision of a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to all children with disabilities in accord with a written "Individual Education Plan" for each student. It also provides for parent participation in this process and guarantees certain due process rights to the student and to the family of a student with a disability.

 TEXAS ADMINISTRATIVE CODE - EDUCATION. 19 T.A.C. §89.240

This particular section of Administrative Code - Education (State Bd. of Education Rules) specifies the functions and admission procedures of the School. 

TEXAS ADMINISTRATIVE CODE - EDUCATION. 19 T.A.C. 61 ff.

The chapters in this part of Texas Administrative Code govern public education in Texas. The School is regulated by most of these provisions because it is part of the public education system of Texas.

Historical Perspective

1856  The School was established by the Texas Legislature as the Texas Institute for the Blind. The original campus was located at present day "Little Campus" of the University of Texas - Austin.

1915  The School's name was changed to the Texas School for the Blind.

1917  The School moved to its present 45-acre campus on West 45th Street in Austin.

1965  The School for Deaf, Blind, & Orphans (Afro-American students) was integrated into the Texas School for the Blind.

1974  A special program for deafblind children was initiated in response to the needs of children affected by rubella syndrome. The program was begun at a separate campus, formerly the Confederate Widows' Mansion, on West 38th in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin.

1975  The Texas Legislature enacted H.B. 1673 adding statewide responsibilities to the School's enabling statutes and mission. Governance of the School was transferred from the Texas Education Agency to a subcommittee of the Texas State Board of Education.

U.S. Congress enacted the Education of All Handicapped Children Act, significantly impacting the provision of special education services to children, guaranteeing a free, appropriate public education to all handicapped children in the least restrictive environment. One effect on the School was an increase in the number of children with multiple disabilities requesting the services of this school.

1981 The governance of the school was transferred to a separate nine-member school board whose members are appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate.

The Deafblind program moved onto the main campus of the School.

1989 The School was given its current name, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in order to reflect more accurately the population it serves.

1990 The School consolidated and expanded its outreach services into a separate division.

1994 Summer school programs were expanded to include multiple sessions with varying focuses and durations in response to needs expressed by the parents and educators of visually impaired children in public schools.

2000 The School initiated a series of new short-term programs during the regular school year. Students who attend their local public school came to TSBVI for week-long and weekend programs to acquire skills in living independently and using specialized computer technology.

Affected Populations 

  • Blind, visually impaired, and deafblind children and youth of school age who are Texas residents;
  • Secondary and elementary school teachers and other professionals throughout Texas in either regular or special education who serve students with blindness and severe visual impairment; 
  • Parents of children with a visual impairment, including children with additional disabilities; 
  • State and local agencies serving children with a visual impairment. (Examples: Local school districts and special education cooperatives, the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , Regional Education Service Centers).

Main Functions: Direct and Outreach Services 

  • To provide, upon request of a local educational agency, a free, appropriate public education for the unique needs of visually impaired children and youth, including those with additional disabilities.
  • To conduct supplemental programs, such as summer and other short-term programs, and to consider information from sources throughout the State regarding the nature of those programs and the needs of students.
  • To provide statewide services to parents of students with visual impairments, school districts, regional education service centers, and other agencies. These services include training, consultation, technical assistance, and developing and disseminating materials such as curriculum, instructional methodology, and educational technology.
  • To provide information related to library resources, adapted materials, current research, technology resources, and methods related to the teaching, assessment, and transition of students with visual impairments.
  • To operate programs for lending educational and technological materials to school districts and regional education service centers.
  • To facilitate the preparation of teachers for visually impaired students by providing assistance to colleges and universities as well as alternative teacher preparation programs.
  • To cooperate with public and private agencies and organizations serving students and other persons with visual impairments in the planning, development, and implementation of effective educational and rehabilitative service delivery systems.
Public's Perception

To the state's educational system, we are:

  • a valuable educational resource for direct services to children with blindness and visual impairment;
  • an expert source of information and training regarding education of students with visual impairments;
  • a source of expert consultation regarding the educational needs of individual children;
  • a significant option within the legally required array of services for blind students;
  • an opportunity for student teachers and interns to acquire the skills necessary to become effective teachers, therapists, social workers, orientation and mobility instructors, and other professionals knowledgeable in the field of visual impairment and blindness.

To blind and visually handicapped youth, we are:

  • a school staffed and equipped to meet their specific needs related to their visual impairment;
  • an opportunity to learn the intellectual, social, independent living, and vocational skills necessary to become independent and effective citizens.

To parents of blind children and youth, we are:

  • a source of information about the impact of vision loss on learning, and the potential educational needs of students because of vision loss;
  • a source of assistance and training in how to enhance the life opportunities for their children;
  • a safe and caring environment which provides their children with their best chance for acquiring the skills necessary to live as full a life as possible.
To the general public, we are:
  • a source of information on blindness and teaching children with visual disabilities;
  • a source of information on where to obtain services related to visual loss;
  • a source of information about the capabilities and needs of blind and visually impaired persons;
  • a well-established, attractive campus which does "good things" for blind children in a caring and non-institutional way; a good neighbor.

Organizational Aspects

Size and Composition of Workforce  

The staff of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is comprised of 428 budgeted full- and part-time positions, totaling 381.87 FTEs. Of the FTEs, 305.43 are classified and one, the Superintendent, is line-item exempt. The remaining 75.44 are teachers, principals, counselors, and other educational positions which, by statute (Texas Education Code 30.024(b)(1)), are paid in accordance with Austin Independent School District pay scales for comparable positions.

Among the classified positions, the single largest staff group (110.83 FTEs) consists of residential instructors. Classified as House parents, these are the staff that provide care, instruction, and supervision of students in their non-school hours. Other classified positions range from nurses to maintenance mechanics, from accountants to technology specialists. Our singe-campus-based workforce is a small community with nearly every occupational field represented.

The ethnic composition of the staff is as follows: White - 74%; Black - 12%; Hispanic - 12%; and other minorities - 2%. Women are 67% of the work force.

Organizational Structure and Processes

The School is governed by a nine-member consumer Board of Trustees which is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the senate. The Board is composed of three members who are blind or visually impaired, at least one of whom has received educational services related to the blindness or visual impairment; three members who are working or have worked as professionals in the field of delivering services to persons who are blind or visually impaired; and three members, each of whom is the parent of a child who is blind or visually impaired, and at least one of whom is the parent of a child who, at the time of the parent's appointment, is receiving educational services related to the blindness or visual impairment.

The Board of Trustees appoints the Superintendent as the chief administrative officer of the School. The Superintendent administers the School's direct service programs through one Principal for Comprehensive Programs, one Principal for Special Programs, a Director of Outreach Services, and a Director of School and Student Services.

In the Comprehensive Program, students are assigned to one of five curricular strands with cross-over occurring among three of these strands. These curricular strands are: (1) Basic Skills: for severely multiply impaired, visually impaired students; (2) Early Concepts: for students under the age of 12, functioning significantly behind their age peers, but with evidence of academic potential; (3) Functional Academics: for students over age 12, who learn academic, domestic, recreational, social and vocational skills through functional, community-based activities; (4) Applied Academics: for students over age 12, with a functional academics with vocational emphasis during high school; and (5) Academic: for students of all ages who are able to follow SBOE essential elements. All five strands are supervised by one principal.

The Principal of the Comprehensive Program supervises both instructional and residential components for the students enrolled.

The Principal for Special Programs supervises all summer programs and develops and provides short-term programs during the school year.

The Director of Outreach coordinates services that are provided to students statewide. These services are provided to parents and professionals through training, consultation, and technical assistance.

The School and Student Services Department provides a variety of educational support functions such as school planning, policy development, admissions, records, staff development, health services, community resource development, and library/media services.

In the area of administrative support functions, the Superintendent supervises the Administrator for Business, Operations and Technology and the Director of Human Resources.

The management style of the School is most accurately characterized as participative. The School has adopted a "site-based decision making" model for planning, implementing, and evaluating its programs. All stakeholders are involved in this process through representation in either instructional programs or the school wide Instructional Planning Council. Additionally, the Superintendent and Principals maintain an open-door policy for all staff.

The School is also assisted in its policy-making activities by an educational policy service provided through the Texas Association of School Boards. This service allows the School to consider the applicability of legally based and model school policies as developed by legal and educational policy experts, then adapt and adopt those that are appropriate.

Geographical Location

The School has a single location in Austin but serves students from throughout Texas. About one-half of TSBVI's students are along the IH-35 and IH-10 corridors; the others' homes are scattered throughout the State. This geographical fact complicates the logistics of transporting students to and from the School, which is especially problematic since the School strongly believes that students attending a residential school should maintain the closest possible ties with their families, and travel home as often as possible.

The geography of Texas also presents special challenges for the School's Department of Outreach Services, the component of the school which provides services statewide to parents and professionals who work with students who have visual impairments, other additional impairments, and deafblind students. A great deal of travel is required for these individuals to benefit from the type of hands-on training and consultation that Outreach Services provides.

A major issue related to the geographic size of Texas is that, in meeting the mandates of our mission, we must send Outreach staff and other professionals to many distant locations in the state. Also, we often must bring parents and their children to our school site. In addition, our weekends home program, which assures the opportunity of every student to return to home and family every weekend, is a vital but expensive part of our program. Therefore, the geography of Texas impacts us in two ways. First, it profoundly affects our staff travel budget, making it difficult, if not impossible, to stay within a travel cap. Secondly, our Weekends Home program is a significant part of our operating budget.

Location of Service Populations

The School performs its mission to students with visual impairments, parents, local school districts, and other professionals throughout the state. Student enrollment in regular year programs, special programs and summer programs represents the entire geography of Texas. Outreach services are also provided on a statewide basis by linking with all 20 of the Education Service Centers. A new initiative is being planned to enhance communication between parents and teachers using teleconferencing equipment. The School's first efforts will be with parents and professionals in Region I Education Service Center, serving the lower Rio Grande Valley.

The School will continue to be a partner with universities to recruit and train teachers for the visually impaired in high-need areas of Texas. Currently, TSBVI is collaborating with Stephen F. Austin University through Prairie View College in East Texas and also with Texas Tech University through Pan-American University in the Rio Grande Valley.

The "See/Hear Newsletter" produced by TSBVI in collaboration with Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) is available in Spanish both on the web and in print for Spanish speaking families.

The Outreach Program pays for Spanish or sign language interpreters for workshops that the School sponsors to make them more accessible.

Human Resources Strengths and Weaknesses

We continue to believe that our greatest human resource strength is a staff that is deeply committed to a high quality, individualized education for visually impaired students in the most appropriate setting. The professional staff of the School represents an unparalleled concentration of knowledge, skill, and expertise in the field of education of the visually impaired. Although special education teachers in general and teachers of the visually impaired in particular are in great demand, TSBVI has been relatively successful in attracting professional staff, in part, we believe, because of the reputation of existing staff.

However, the School currently employs 19 teachers who do not hold Texas teacher certification in the education of visually impaired students. This number has increased in recent years because the University of Texas-Austin no longer has such a teacher preparation program, and because the national pool of available teachers continues to shrink every year. Our best solution for this problem is to obtain additional funds to pay tuition, travel, and materials for selected teachers to acquire certification in visual impairments.

Like many other government and service sector employers in Austin, we are experiencing less success in attracting and retaining staff in paraprofessional, clerical, and manual jobs, which is one of our current weaknesses. We are continuing to develop career progression programs (career ladders and paths) for different categories of staff, with the goal of eventually having such a program for virtually every type of classified employee at our school. So far, we have implemented systems of career ladders and/or paths for residential instructors, teaching assistants, maintenance technicians, and outreach staff. We are currently working on programs for clerical support staff, cooks, custodians, and grounds workers. The only barrier to the full and immediate implementation of career progression programs for all staff is limited fiscal resources. We have had to implement these programs in stages as we were able to identify funds with which to do so.

We have both strengths and weaknesses in the area of human resource development. We are continuing to provide regular training in basic areas such as new employee orientation, CPR, defensive driving, and behavior management. We are also continuing to provide a year-long training program on visual impairment for paraprofessional and professional staff who are not certified teachers of the visually impaired. The School is somewhat limited by the fact that we have only one FTE assigned to agency wide staff development. It is often necessary to call on the skills of staff who are not primarily trainers in order to expand the offerings of human resource development.

We are beginning to explore ways to stretch this resource further with technology such as web-based training, interactive videoconferencing, and satellite downlink of training which can be offered live or taped for later training. In FY 1999 we received a Technology Integration in Education (TIE) grant that allowed us to do extensive training of direct care staff in computer applications related to their job functions. The same grant permitted us to build a state-of-the-art distance learning facility.

School wide staff development activities are augmented by regular, specialized training for groups of staff at the departmental level. The instructional and residential programs provide staff development training throughout the school year related to curriculum, instructional methods, and other topics directed at improving instruction and learning

Attracting a culturally diverse workforce at professional and administrative levels continues to be a challenge for TSBVI. A major difficulty in this area is that the largest subgroup of our professional staff is made up of teachers of the visually impaired. The visually impaired (VI) teaching certification is also the credential required for most of the high level administrative positions, yet it is known that there is a very small number of minorities in Texas who hold this credential. Efforts are currently underway, as part of our school's outreach program, to facilitate alternative means to obtain the VI teaching credential, which should make that credential more accessible to all segments of the population. This project's plan includes the strategies of recruiting individuals with culturally diverse backgrounds and involving universities that, historically, have had culturally diverse populations

Capital Asset Strengths, Weaknesses and Budgetary Needs

Facilities, Furniture, and Equipment

The TSBVI campus consists of fifty structures located on approximately forty-five acres of land owned and maintained by the School. The buildings range in size from 80 square feet to 65,960 square feet for a total of 305,674 square feet. The buildings meet the needs of TSBVI in the following areas:

1) classrooms; 2) dormitories; 3) administration; 4) food service; 5) maintenance; and 6) storage.

The greatest weakness of the School's facilities is the age of the buildings. The School has developed a long-range plan for the renovation, repair or replacement of its facilities. The renovation of the first two student dormitories will be completed by May 2000. The 76th Legislature appropriated funds to renovate two more dormitories and construction will soon begin. The School will need to request funds from the legislature for the following projects: continue the renovation of the remaining student living quarters; replace old manufactured homes serving as student residences; replace an aged swimming pool; renovate the School's library and auditorium; repair the maintenance warehouse; repair roofs, plumbing systems, and lighting; expand parking; install curb cuts and ramps; repair sidewalks; and replace two aging vans and a school bus. Long-term needs include the replacement of the following: the largest school building; the elementary residential complex; old furniture in schools, dormitories, parents' visitor quarters, and offices; playgrounds; and automatic doors for fire protection and wheelchair access.

Vehicles

TSBVI owns, operates, and maintains 23 vehicles. Twenty-two are used to transport students and staff for the educational and residential programs. The other vehicle is used for operations functions including maintenance, the warehouse, and food service. Nine of these vehicles are converted to alternative fuels. The School has a long-range plan for the replacement of vehicles used in support of instruction.

The School's vehicles accrue high mileage due to transporting students to and from their homes, and to and from students' work and learning sites in the community. In the coming biennium, four vans or 2 mini buses, and a full-size school bus will be needed for the transportation of students. If new vehicles are not added to the fleet, our ability to meet instructional goals and objectives will be negatively impacted.

Instructional Technology and Equipment

The School possesses a broad array of specialized equipment and electronic technologies to assist students acquire knowledge and skills. Often children are referred to the School in order to benefit from instruction in the use of this specialized equipment. The School also maintains a loan program to provide electronic technology and software to students in local schools as part of the "Technology Loan Program" operated by TSBVI. The 76th> Legislature appropriated funds in each year of the current biennium for the purchase of instructional technology. The need to replace outdated equipment and to procure the latest adaptive technology will continue. The current level of funding will allow the School to accomplish this.

Additionally, educators and parents throughout the state seek information and training from TSBVI in the use of this technology for students with visual impairments. Short-term programs complement the local education program and provide several technology-oriented programs utilizing the expertise, adaptive equipment and network capabilities available at TSBVI. As the school develops internal network and distance education resources, other program offerings are possible.

The School has a continuing need for additional and updated instructional technology to replace outmoded equipment; to secure additional equipment for use by students enrolled in the School; and for students in public schools utilizing the "Technology Loan Program". For the most efficient use and functional application of new software available for students, continued upgrade and acquisition of equipment is necessary. Students need reliable access to electronic and other adapted technology designed specifically for people with visual impairments so that they can thrive in their vocational pursuit. Examples include portable electronic Braille devices with speech and computer output; communication devices for children with multiple disabilities, deafblindness, speech impairments, and other mental or physical disabilities; and closed-circuit television (CCTV) setups that enable low vision students to view regular print, pictures, and other items enlarged on a video monitor.

Technology Staff Development and Distance Education

In fiscal year 1999, the School received a Technology Integration in Education (TIE) grant. These funds procured computers, software, and adapted devices. The grant also funded extensive training for instructional staff in the use of electronic hardware, software, and adapted devices.

The TIE grant also funded the creation of a distance learning facility. The conference center was retrofitted to enable the School to serve its clients throughout the state by way of videoconferencing, web-based training, and other distance education technologies. These capabilities allow the School to enhance the learning of children with visual impairments throughout Texas. The technology allows the School to provide valuable information about curriculum, materials, technology, teaching strategies, and training to professionals, parents, and to other interested individuals, school districts, and agencies. The Outreach department continues to exploit every means possible to educate professionals and provide services to support the local district instructional program. As a member of the Esconett consortium, we have access to other state and university facilities through the Region XIII Educational Service Center in Austin. Such technology can provide information, training and follow-up and also reduce the time and cost of travel.

The School has used the Technology Integration in Education grant awarded by the Texas Education Agency in fiscal year 1998 to develop and deploy distance education programs. The capability of teleconferencing media enables the School to enhance the learning of children with visual impairments throughout Texas. Through this technology the School provides valuable information about curriculum, materials, technology, teaching strategies, and pre-service training to professionals, parents, and other interested individuals by creating electronic links to regional education service centers, school districts, institutions of higher education, and other agencies. Such technology can provide information, training, and follow-up while reducing the time and expense of travel. 

A weakness in the current distance education system is the lack of a statewide uniform standard for schools, service centers, higher education facilities, and TSBVI to communicate directly via teleconferencing. This problem is under study and solutions appear feasible. At this time, it is unknown whether there might be some additional cost to participate in any future statewide teleconferencing and distance education activities.

Infrastructure Technology

Over the past 5 years, fiber optic network infrastructure has been installed in all areas of the 42-acre campus. Network access and the related capabilities such as electronic mail and web access for all staff and students has proven valuable to coordinate the various program components and to integrate our service delivery between departments. Standardization of wiring and installation will provide an easier transition to 100MB networking with greater reliability.

New software is required to support the various functions of the staff and administration in conducting school business. The School's VAX computer system supports e-mail, student records, demographic databases, admissions functions, strategic planning and evaluation. The requirements of state government for electronic documents related to school data, accounting, budgeting, and grant applications require the continual upgrade of equipment and technical environment.

A key element for this planning period is the migration of the software on the VMS-based VAX 4000-200 processor to a Windows NT-based server environment. The school will continue to support servers for networked clients and local area network (LAN-based) applications. Upgrade of the technical environment will be focused on increasing network bandwidth to support to the various distance education and instructional needs. Current migration planning schedules the VAX computer to be de-installed in fiscal year 2003. Software to replace the VMS-based applications is scheduled for purchase or will be developed in-house.

Additional resources will be needed to continue the implementation of the School's Information Resources Strategic Plan. The needs include software development tools, improved firewall protection for security, and software upgrades for routers that handle management software. Additional hardware and software is needed to meet the projected demand for more server capacity, i.e., memory upgrades, processor upgrades, server systems software, and back-up media. Resources are also needed to ensure that there is adequate training for instructional, administrative, and support staff in the use of technology. Finally, there is a need to replace the School's analog phones with digital phones.

TSBVI needs to continue expansion and development of the TSBVI web-site. The school's Web site of (WWW.TSBVI.EDU) has been tremendously successful and is considered one of the best resources for VH education. Many departments, particularly Outreach and Curriculum, use the Web site as a critical element of service delivery. Continued development of the Web site is indicated with expansion of web features to provide information interchange with consumers.

Agency Use of Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs)

The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been making a good faith effort to award purchase contracts to certified HUBs. We are using the automated HUB directory provided by the General Services Commission as the primary reference list to identify minority and women-owned businesses. On every purchase order over $1,000, the School requests at least one bid from a minority-owned business and at least one bid from a woman-owned business. On orders under $1,000, every effort is made to purchase from a HUB, provided that the HUB provides the best and lowest bid.

Key Organizational Events and Areas of Change and Impact on Organization

In the Spring of 1997, TSBVI recognized an urgent need to develop a comprehensive Strategic Plan that would retain and strengthen the School's leadership as we enter the 21st century. TSBVI has been called upon to assume new roles in recent years. The population of blind and visually impaired students is continually changing, as is the capability of local school districts to provide at least a portion of the educational programs for these children.

TSBVI initiated an external administrative audit. The recommendations from this process confirmed our need to embark upon a more comprehensive, ongoing strategic planning process that would serve to guide the School in making decisions now, in planning for the future, and that would incorporate the planning components required of the School as a state agency and as a school. (Agency Strategic Plan, District Improvement Plan, Information Resources Management Strategic Plan, School Technology Plan). We continue to benefit from this process.

The process began with a stakeholder's meeting in July, 1997. Parents, former students, representatives from local school districts, and leaders from TEA joined members of the TSBVI staff in a meeting that explored the future, the potential, and the responsibilities of TSBVI for the coming years. Subsequently, large and small meetings and work sessions have taken place almost weekly, involving all of the TSBVI staff, its Board of Trustees, and external stakeholders.

In August, 1998, we had completed a Strategic Plan that was flexible, dynamic, and defined the immediate future of TSBVI. Many of our changes were reflected in the performance objectives contained in our previous Strategic Plan. Major efforts of this Plan, which has been very successful, included:

  • A commitment, clearly defined in our Plan, to the Core Curriculum for Blind and Visually
  • Impaired Students, including those with additional disabilities.
  • Expansion of career education, including paid employment, on- and off-campus.
  • A vocational program designed specifically for students at the functional academic level.
  • Other programs designed for populations with specific needs, such as daily living skills, orientation and mobility, social skills, and remedial braille.
  • Expansion of services for families with preschool blind and visually impaired children.
  • Further emphasis on assisting local school districts in examining the quality of services they provide children who are visually impaired.
  • Enhance the visibility of TSBVI by celebrating the achievements of our students.

These are ongoing strategies that will be continued in the next biennium. Added to these is the provision for short-term programs during the academic year, an emphasis on long-term facilities planning, additions to summer programs in specific skill-building, and continued expansion of outreach services.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) completed in 1999 between TSBVI and the Texas Education Agency has resulted in a document that will be of great assistance in measuring student outcomes at our school, and that will enable TSBVI to participate in the public education accreditation process.

TSBVI now has two subcontracts with an Education Service Center resulting in a substantial expansion of our roles. We provide an Instructional Materials Center for the entire state; we manage statewide registration of all blind and visually impaired students; and we provide technology assistance for all teachers and parents of visually impaired children in Texas. Our most recent expansion is to assume a major role in the preparation of teachers for visually impaired students. We are working in collaboration with Stephen F. Austin University and Texas Tech University on a project whose goal is to eliminate the shortage of teachers for blind and visually impaired students in Texas.

Fiscal Aspects

Size of Budget and Method of Finance - Fiscal Years 1999 and 2000

DESCRIPTION

FY 1999 Budget 

FY 2000 Budget INCREASE/
DECREASE
 

 


   
OPERATING BUDGET RESOURCES


General Revenue - Regular & Emergency Appropriations

9,998,560

10,255,639 257,079
Educational Professional Salary Increases, Estimated

-

370,000 370,000
Classified - $100 per Month Increase - Article IX, Estimated

-

320,000 320,000
Curriculum Book Sales - Prior Year

-

38,372 38,372
Curriculum Book Sales - Current Year

120,643

140,951 20,308
USDA Meal Reimbursements

77,000

70,000 (7,000)
Medicaid SHARS Reimbursements

100,000

100,000 -
Medicaid Administrative Claims

-

75,000 75,000
School District Travel Reimbursements

-

20,000 20,000
Per Capita Carryforward for Settlements & Judgements

100,000

100,000 -
Per Capita Carryforward - Other

204,538

146,055 (58,483)
Per Capita - Current Year Receipts - Available School Fund

40,251

34,025 (6,226)
Per Capita - Current Year Receipts - Foundation School Fund

28,109

28,109 -
Local District Payments - Foundation School Fund

321,421

328,122 6,701
Technology Allotment - Textbook Fund

4,025

4,025 -
Canteen Receipts

22,000

22,000 -
Vending Machine Receipts

16,000

16,000 -
Health Department Aides

31,668

34,536 2,868
Asbestos Settlement

12,113

- (12,113)
Low Vision Assessment

3,000

3,000 -
Housing Receipts

6,000

6,000 -
Meal Ticket Sales

6,000

9,000 3,000
Magic Years (Day Care) Rental Receipts

3,658

3,658 -
Surplus and Salvage Sales

5,000

5,000 -
Work/Study Reimbursements

3,000

- (3,000)

TOTAL - OPERATING BUDGET RESOURCES

11,102,986 12,129,492 1,026,506
       
CAPITAL BUDGET RESOURCES      
Capital Budget - Technology Upgrades

63,000

63,000 -
Capital Budget - Van Purchase

19,000

17,298 (1,702)
Capital Budget - Lease Payment, Telephone System

35,649

35,486 (163)
Capital Budget - Lease Payment, School Bus

16,000

17,702 1,702
Replace Classroom Floor Tile

98,326

- (98,326)
Remodel Staff Cottage to Group Home

11,626

- (11,626)
Dorms D and E Renovations

1,393,428

- (1,393,428)
Renovate Kitchen and Dining Room

95,000

- (95,000)
Renovate Primary Power Grid

44,000

- (44,000)
Capital Budget - Dorm F Renovation

-

728,166 728,166
Capital Budget - Maintain & Renovate Aging Facilities

-

80,125 80,125
Capital Budget - Technology Infrastructure Upgrade

-

77,500 77,500
Capital Budget - Instructional Materials

-

214,600 214,600
Capital Budget - School Bus & 4 Vans

-

205,000 205,000
TIFB - Technology Infrastructure Fund

-

40,000 40,000
Sale of Ave. A property by TCB

-

400,000 400,000

TOTAL - CAPITAL BUDGET RESOURCES

1,776,029 1,878,877 102,848
       
GRANT AND CONTRACT RESOURCES


Y2K, Article IX Funding

24,200

- (24,200)
Region XIII/Drug Free Schools

800

800 -
T.I.E. (Technology Integration in Education)

530,022

- (530,022)
ESEA Title VI

875

875 -
IDEA-B Formula

56,335

106,930 50,595
CAWF/TCB - Intro to Work

37,435

32,400 (5,035)
TCB - SWEAT

63,894

59,886 (4,008)
TCB - WALIC

32,800

27,744 (5,056)
IDEA-B Discretionary

114,403

17,273 (97,130)
Outreach Conference Accounts

35,000

35,000 -
Region XI Agreement - Statewide Services

313,544

267,977 (45,567)
SSVI Supplemental Services - Outreach

75,377

58,695 (16,682)
SSVI Supplemental Services - Summer School Enrichment

40,000

34,620 (5,380)
IDEA-C Deafblind

302,601

427,619 125,018
Region XI Agreement - Teacher Preparation

312,279

233,484 (78,795)
Research Planning Account

5,168

5,168 -
National Agenda Account

95

95 -
Texas Learning Technology Group

1,592

1,592 -
Junior League

117

117 -
Hoblitzelle FoundationTechnology Loan Account

9,972

9,972 -
Private Sector Technology Loan Account

2,100

2,100 -
Workers' Compensation Account for Federal Grants

3,494

3,494 -
Unemployment Compensation Account for Federal Grants

4,545

4,545 -
TCB Family Training Contract

136,183

139,071 2,888

TOTAL - GRANT AND CONTRACT RESOURCES

2,102,831 1,469,457 (633,374)
       

 

Per Capita and Other States' Comparisons

As compared to other forms of special education programming, including schools for the blind in other states, TSBVI has neither the highest cost per pupil nor the lowest. It provides resources to children in direct proportion to the needs of each individual student. To simply divide the budget for TSBVI by the number of students enrolled in the regular academic programs provides spurious information. Cost per pupil at each school for the blind in the United States is determined by a variety of factors:

  • The characteristics of students served. TSBVI has accepted as part of its mission the provision of educational services to very challenging visually impaired students with additional disabilities. Consequently, the School serves a disproportionately large number of these students. These students require extensive human and material resources.
  • Economic factors of the community. Austin-area school districts have a relatively high salary structure compared to many parts of the State, requiring teacher salary schedules that tend to increase the costs of a school such as TSBVI.
  • The mission to serve as a model program that demonstrates best practices for visually impaired students to others in the State who serve similar students. This mission requires an excellent staff of teachers and support services who provide cutting-edge services to students served in this manner.
  • The age and condition of each campus. A rapidly aging campus requires that TSBVI invest in maintenance and repair to a greater extent than newer campuses.
  • The commitment to serve students through intensive, short-term programming. Maintaining this commitment requires quality, intensive services combined with high levels of transition service training of local education staff.

Other significant costs to the TSBVI budget include:

  • A large summer enrichment program serves blind and visually impaired students who attend local public schools during the regular school year.
  • Outreach services provides indirect services to visually impaired students throughout the state of Texas by increasing the skills of their teachers and parents.
  • Staff development provides training in skills unique to the needs of visually impaired students (including those with additional disabilities) and assures that services provided at the School reflect the most current state-of-the-art interventions. This includes training employees of TSBVI and serving as a professional preparation program for the entire state. The unique nature of the School's student population requires very specialized staff development. Often, this training requires expenditures for travel, conferences, and workshops.
  • Instructional materials and technology for blind and visually impaired students require adaptation by changing print into the appropriate medium or modifying the materials for visual, tactile, or auditory access. The cost of commercially adapted materials is high in comparison to materials for non-visually impaired students. Not all needs can be met through commercial materials; therefore, many materials must be developed by our staff, requiring time and the materials.
  • Curriculum development includes participation by the School's direct-care staff during times that extend beyond their regular hours. The curricula developed are widely used by professionals throughout the country.
  • Intensive, short-term programs, with a very low pupil-teacher ratio, are needed for students with visual impairments who are enrolled in public schools during the regular school year. Nationwide, there is growing evidence that students with disabilities can best succeed in inclusive educational settings if they also have the opportunity to receive specialized instruction in areas specific to their disabilities.

Budgetary Limitations

A major budgetary limitation is the reduction in staff travel expenses mandated by the last legislature. The School will be requesting a waiver from the travel expense limitation for travel directly related to providing services described in the School's mission and strategic plan. Our legislated mission states that the School provide technical assistance and information and referral services for families of, and programs serving, children with visual impairments and children with deafblindness, through preservice, inservice and family services programs. Our Strategic Plan is congruent with this mission. For example, one of our key performance measures is the "Number of On-Site Visits" provided as part of the School's outreach services. An across-the-board reduction to reduce state travel expenditures should not be applied to this strategy, as it is obvious that the two goals are in direct conflict with one another.

Degree to Which Current Budget Meets Current and Expected Needs

General Issues

The current budget is sufficient to provide the present level of services described in the School's mission. This mission includes the provision of an instructional and residential program during the regular school year, and the provision of outreach services throughout the State. Funds for major capital expenditures have been provided for the initial phase of dormitory renovations and for replacement of school buses. The 76th Legislature also permitted the School to request increased funding for instructional technology within its base budget request. This appropriation has been a significant benefit to the education of children with visual impairments, and the School will request that this funding be continued.

Current Program Initiatives

TSBVI is proud of the initiatives it has undertaken by creatively allocating the resources appropriated by the legislature or secured by the School from other sources. These new or expanded initiatives include:

  • Short-term Special Programs provided during the regular school year to meet the special needs of students with visual impairments who attend their local public schools.
  • Extensive staff development provided to teachers in the use of electronic technology applications to enhance student learning [Technology Integration in Education (TIE) grant].
  • Creation of a distance education facility to enhance internal and external staff development, and communication with parents and local service providers. [Technology Integration in Education (TIE) grant].
  • Joint development with TEA of a comprehensive system to measure student learning in fulfillment of a memorandum of understanding directed by the legislature.
  • A collaborative teacher preparation program implemented with Stephen F. Austin University, Texas Tech University, and Region XI Education Service Center to help reduce the state's shortage of teachers for students with visual disabilities. (TEA state-appropriated funds).
  • Curriculum published in the areas of functional academics and career education, and development begun for a braille curriculum.
  • Instructional technology placed in all classrooms for instructional use.
  • Improvement of administrative technology: old hardware and software upgraded, administrative operating systems moved to Windows NT environment, and fiber optic cable installed in additional buildings.
  • Employment of a trainer to support staff development in the use of computer hardware and software.
  • Expansion of the School's web site as a resource for teachers, parents, and other professionals throughout Texas.
  • Creation of a parent education program in collaboration with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , the National Federation of the Blind and the National Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired.
  • Expansion of outreach services for parents with pre-school blind and visually impaired children.
  • Expansion of the Weekends Home Program to include all students and their families.
  • Expansion of career education to include more opportunities for paid employment on and off campus.
  • Expansion of career guidance activities, including teaching students to use the Internet as an information source.
  • Implementation of a community-based program for older students emphasizing skills necessary for working and living in the community (EXIT Program).
  • Expansion of transition services to support students, their parents, local schools, and other community resources in effecting successful transition from TSBVI to their local communities.
  • Implementation of a career ladder for residential instructors, teaching assistants, maintenance technicians, office support staff, and outreach staff.
  • Completion of the total renovation of two dormitories.
  • Replacement of 1 school bus and 3 busettes.
  • Increased recognition for the achievements of our students in the public media.

Degree to Which Current Budget Does Not Meet Current and Expected Needs

General Issues

The basic trend in appropriations for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for the past several legislative sessions has resulted in a decrease in funds available for operating expenses. Operating expenses (e.g. utilities) have increased due to inflation. Salary costs have increased due to a limited implementation of career ladders and merit pay. Program costs have increased to implement new initiatives and to meet the needs of students with increasingly complex disabilities. These are significant, recurring costs that impact future budgets. Any cost increases have to be funded by decreases in funds previously available for operating expenses. 

The limitation on agency appropriation requests to prior-year expenditure levels has resulted in our School submitting an unrealistic base budget with extensive exceptional item requests.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to maintain the aging facilities of the School. One of the School's highest priorities is a commitment from the legislature to provide capital budget funds for the continued renovation of the School's facilities over the next 5 to 7 years. Future planning might benefit greatly from the professional services of a facility planner to assist us in determining which buildings should be renovated and which buildings should be replaced. As a state agency with direct appropriations from the legislature, the School is totally dependent upon funding from the legislature for capital improvement funding. Because TSBVI does not have a capacity to assess taxes, as do public schools, the School is without the authority to issue bonds to build new buildings.

The School has conducted marketing surveys of its customers and stakeholders, both internal and statewide. It is clear that the School needs to initiate both new and expanded programs identified by stakeholders and clients as areas of great need for blind and visually impaired children in Texas.

Based on all these facts, TSBVI has identified 4 major areas in which the School's budget does not meet current and expected needs. They will be presented in our next legislative appropriations request as four exceptional item categories.

Current and Expected Needs - Exceptional Items

Growing Demands for Services:

Short-term Programs

The School seeks to expand an ongoing series of short, intensive classes focusing on specialized areas relating to vision loss. Students attending these special classes at TSBVI will receive instruction in a small number of carefully chosen objectives that include criteria by which student success will be measured. Depending on the subject, classes may vary in length from weekends, to one or two weeks, to a semester. All students will return to their local schools at the end of each short program.

Such programs allow students to remain in their local schools, which is more cost effective; continue to learn the State's general curriculum; and yet still have the opportunity to learn those special skills in the core curriculum for students with a visual impairment. Through short courses, TSBVI hopes to strengthen its partnerships with local schools, so that together, we can fully meet the needs of all visually impaired students in Texas. In this way, TSBVI supports, but does not duplicate, local school services. For many years, teachers and parents have asked TSBVI to develop models for short blocks of instruction coupled with a fast return to the local schools.

TSBVI initiated these short-term programs during the 1999-2000 school year on a pilot basis. The success of this pilot program demonstrates to the School and to its customers that this type of service delivery model needs to be expanded. It is effective and cost efficient. It is increasingly clear to us that this program model may well be one of the most important services that the school can provide now and in the future.

Outreach Technology Teacher

The School has had only one teacher with expertise to assist families and educational programs statewide in the instruction applications of technology since 1990. Since that time, the amount of technology for student use has vastly increased, while comparable expertise of VI teachers has not kept pace. The requests for assistance have overwhelmed the lone Outreach Program teacher's time, forcing delays in assistance, cut backs on training and assessments, and inability to meet in a timely manner the urgent pleas for assistance. An additional technology teacher is needed to meet the needs of the School's constituents.

Reallocation of Residential Instructors in the State Schedule of Classified Positions

The State Classification Office (SCO) is recommending to the legislature that the Houseparent series by renamed Residential Specialist, that the first two levels be reallocated from salary groups A6 and A8 to A7 and A9, and that a fourth level at A13 be added. Should the legislature adopt the SCO's recommendations without providing funds to support these classification changes the School would have to reduce staff/student ratios to inappropriate and unsafe levels to provide these salary increases.

Salary Differential for Identified Direct Care Staff

TSBVI needs the authority and the funds to pay a salary differential. This proposal would allow TSBVI to pay a salary differential of not more than 10% to Residential Instructors and Teaching Assistants assigned to work with students with significant emotional, behavioral, cognitive or physical deficits. This would improve the School's recruitment and retention of staff who work with the most challenging students, assignments which typically have high turnover.

Merit Pay for Classified Staff

TSBVI has long attempted to provide adequate merit salary increases to classified staff without requesting or receiving funds specifically earmarked for that purpose. The State Classification Office has advised the School to improve retention of staff, particularly at lower salary groups, by advancing more staff throughout the range of steps provided by their respective salary groups; however, that is impossible to do without adversely impacting programs unless the School receives separate funds specifically for this purpose. Each year, many deserving staff do not receive merit raises due to lack of adequate funds. With these funds TSBVI would be able to increase the percentage of high performing staff who are rewarded with merit raises and, thus, increase retention. Retention of staff, particularly those staff who provide care of and instruction to students, is directly linked to student success.

VI Teacher Certification Incentives

TSBVI presently has nineteen teachers who do not hold certification in the education of visually impaired students. This number has increased in recent years in part because the University of Texas-Austin no longer has a VI teacher preparation program. The national pool of available teachers continues to shrink every year, and this is reflected in Texas and at the School. Thus, TSBVI employs teachers without certification in visual impairment, and there is no feasible way for the School to require these teachers to obtain VI certification in out-of-town or out-of-state programs. Indeed, it may be useless to try to impose such a requirement on a prospective applicant when the teacher shortage in all areas is so critical. It would appear that our best solution to increasing the number of teachers certified in visual impairment is to provide some incentive for them to complete this certification. The problem could be alleviated if the School were provided the resources to pay tuition, travel, and books for selected teachers to complete certification in visual impairment.

Maintenance and Renovation of Aging Facilities

Facilities and Grounds

The School's aging facilities require a significant infusion of funds in order to provide safe, healthy, and attractive environment to meet the educational needs of students with visual impairments, deafblindness and additional disabilities. There are nine major projects needing additional resources: (1) roof repairs, (2) plumbing improvements, (3) HVAC improvements, (4) grounds improvements, (5) lighting improvements, (6) auditorium improvements, (7) repairs and renovations to the Learning Resource Center (LRC), (8) floor repairs and floor covering for various residential, instructional, and office areas, and (9) expansion of the parking lot adjacent to the elementary school building.

Transportation

There is a continuing need to upgrade the School's fleet of vehicles for student transportation. The fleet has eight vehicles, each with over 100,000 miles. The immediate needs are for a school bus and two vans. These vehicles support the Weekends Home Program and community-based instruction.

Maintenance Management System

The School does not have an automated maintenance management system. All work orders, repairs, inventory and work schedules are managed in a splintered set of manual systems, none of which provides efficient and effective access to critical information. An automated maintenance management system would permit more rapid response and a more accurate inventory and cost savings over time.

Maintenance Staff

Because of the age of the facilities and the changing student population, more maintenance hours are needed to meet the demands placed upon the maintenance department. The additional maintenance hours will allow the School to maintain and renovate the aging campus more effectively.

Renovation and Replacement of Campus Facilities (Phase III)

Remodel Dormitories

The School needs to continue the major renovation of its large dormitories. The two previous Legislatures appropriated funds to renovate three of the six buildings built in 1916. Two are completed; work on the third has begun; and three remain in need of complete renovation. The renovation is needed for reasons of safety, accessibility, and instruction of students.

Replace Independent Living Homes

The School currently has three manufactured homes purchased about sixteen years ago as part of the School's first efforts in creating home-like environments for students. Each of these modular homes has endured the wear and tear of as many as eight teenager residents at a time. These facilities have reached the end of their usefulness as residences for students. Replacement with permanent structures is needed.

Replace Swimming Pool

The School's indoor swimming pool provides opportunities for students to learn to swim, to engage in competitive swimming, to improve their physical condition, and to enjoy swimming for recreational purposes. The pool needs to be replaced. It is over thirty years old, has a water loss problem that has defied repair, lacks access by physically impaired students, and has a ventilation system that has not functioned correctly for several years.

Install Elevator between Two Dormitories

Two of the School's newer dorms do not have elevator access to their second floors, thereby rendering them inaccessible to children in wheelchairs or who have orthopedic impairments. An elevator is needed that would make both floors of each of these buildings accessible.

Construct Storage Building

A new large facility is needed to store equipment and furniture that is needed periodically throughout the year. At present, several smaller storage buildings are used for this purpose; but these units are not adequate to meet the School's changing needs, i.e., short-term programs, seasonal equipment, and furniture designed to meet the needs of children with special physical needs.

Demolish Building

One of the School's original maintenance facilities has deteriorated to the point of becoming a safety hazard. Funding is needed to hire a demolition company to tear down the building. It is anticipated that the area will be used for another purpose as long-range facility planning proceeds.

Contract with Long Range Facility Planner

In order to meet future needs, it is imperative that the School develop a long-range facility plan. The age of the facilities, the changing needs of the student population, and new program initiatives require the School to develop a comprehensive plan for further renovation or replacement of existing facilities. The School would like to employ the services of a facility planning specialist to assist the School in this endeavor.

Administrative Technology

Application Development Software

Additional software development tools are needed to provide software applications that support major administrative and instructional activities.

Network Maintenance

Wire and cable testing equipment needs to be upgraded. This would enable staff to install, maintain, troubleshoot, and correct problems that might occur with the School's network cable.

Server Upgrades

More server hardware and software are needed for the School's computer server to meet future demands.

Computer Training System

The School conducted an internal audit to determine the needs of all direct care, administrative, and support staff for training in the use of computer technology. The curriculum and trainers are in place. The training facility needs additional hardware and software to implement the needed training.

Digital Phones

The School's telephones need to be upgraded. Existing analog phones are inefficient and do not meet some application requirements. The School's current and expected communication needs require the purchase of digital phones to replace the current analog equipment.

Service Population Demographics

Historical Characteristics

It has only been within the last 15 years that many local school districts have developed the capability of providing services to students who were blind or visually impaired. Historically, TSBVI made its educational services available to blind children, ages 6 to 21, who had no additional disabilities. The population served was carefully selected, leaving the more challenging or complex children with limited, if any, educational services.

Current Characteristics

Today, the majority of blind and visually impaired students in Texas attend local schools. Often, they are enrolled in regular classes with sighted classmates and provided support from a qualified teacher of the visually impaired at the local level. The primary responsibility of TSBVI is to provide educational services to children whose needs cannot be met in their local schools or who need short-term intensive instruction in core curriculum areas. Educational placement takes into consideration the fact that blind and visually impaired children have two areas of need: an academic program that parallels that which they would receive if they were sighted, and a disability-specific program which addresses their unique needs.

The combination of these two areas has become known as the "Core Curriculum for Blind and Visually Impaired Students". TSBVI has the capability to meet all core curriculum needs of blind and visually impaired students, but its best use is to "fill in" the core areas when resources and services are not available locally. This fact impacts greatly on the function of TSBVI. It can meet many core curriculum needs of children either by providing an on-campus program or by sending educators out to districts to help in developing more effective local programs. TSBVI currently carries out its responsibility to all blind and visually impaired children of Texas by offering these two options.

Visual impairment in children is a low prevalence disability when compared to other disabilities. This creates problems with service delivery, since this population needs highly-skilled teachers. Geographic factors affecting services are a major problem since, in a rural area, there may be only one blind child in a 50-mile radius. Even a moderate-sized district with a larger number of visually impaired students will typically find that it has only one or two visually impaired students who can be served together, due to differences in their ages and skill levels.

In recent years, the number of blind and visually impaired children in need of services has increased greatly in the United States because of the profession's ability to measure marginal vision loss and its effect on learning. This need for services is exacerbated in Texas because the state's continued population growth adds to the number of blind and visually impaired children.

Also, it has been found that children who are visually impaired and have additional disabilities need the services of teachers trained in education for the visually impaired. Currently, it is estimated that about 90% of the visually impaired children in Texas have low vision. It is also estimated that about 70% of the children identified as visually impaired have additional disabilities. These changes in populations have had a dramatic effect on educational services. Local school districts only request enrollment at TSBVI for their students when those students require the intense and specialized services of this school. As a result, TSBVI serves the more disabled segment of visually impaired students with additional disabilities. More recently, TSBVI has provided significant resources to address the need for all students to learn the use of technological devices, particularly personal computers.

Demographic Factors and Future Trends

Short-term: Dramatic changes in services to children continue to occur in response to current and anticipated demographic factors. One such factor is the increasing emphasis on inclusion of children with disabilities in regular classrooms. Although there are many benefits from inclusion, one potential harmful effect can be insufficient attention to the disability-specific needs of visually impaired students.

  • In response, TSBVI has redefined much of its curriculum, and local districts are finding it appropriate to utilize the services provided by the School more frequently than in the past. TSBVI has expanded its short-term placement programs in the areas of compensatory skills, disability-specific skills, and career education. There continues to be a dramatic increase in demand for summer programs emphasizing enrichment, social skills development, independent living skills, communication skills, and the applications of electronic technology. TSBVI will continue to receive a substantial number of referrals for children between the ages of 10 and 13, indicating that local districts often need assistance as the visually impaired student makes the transition from elementary to middle school. Many of these students remain at TSBVI for one or two years, then return to their local district with the skills to function in their local secondary school placement. This is presently requiring a level of transition programming that cannot be met with current staffing allocations.

Another demographic factor having an immediate impact on the need for services at TSBVI is the deplorable employment rate of people with disabilities. Specifically, 70% of people with visual impairments ages 21 to 64 are unemployed, and 30% of those who are working are considered underemployed in relations to their qualifications, according to the US Department of Labor based on the 1994-95 US Census Bureau data.

  • In response to this persisting demographic trend, the School has embarked upon an expansion of vocational programs for young persons who have graduated from their local high school and a vocational training program for students with mild additional disabilities.

Statewide demographic studies indicate that the number of non-Anglo school-age children will continue to increase in Texas. The current ethnic composition of the School's student population already reflects a population that is 50.7% non-white.

  • It will be increasingly important that the School recruit and retain staff that reflect the ethnic makeup of Texas. Instructional programs must take into account the needs of children with limited English proficiency. The culture and values of minority groups must be given respect and understanding in the School's instructional and residential programs.

There is also some evidence that the students and families of students enrolled at TSBVI are not proportionally sharing in the current economic prosperity of Texas. Fifty-seven percent of students enrolled at TSBVI meet the financial eligibility requirements to receive Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

  • In response to the needs of students and families with limited financial needs, the School will also need to allocate staff resources to link students and their families to educational, social service, vocational, and medical resources in their communities. This linkage is often vital to make successful transitions for students back to their local communities.

Another current trend is the increased expectation on parents to participate in the education of their children. Parents are expected to actively plan and advocate for their child's educational program, and to understand and secure services for their child in infancy and pre-school years.

  • In response to this need, the School has launched programs to help parents become informed advocates for their children and learn more about the importance of early intervention for their children during infancy and early childhood.
Medium-term: Advances in medical technology will continue to save high-risk infants, resulting in a growing population of children with multiple disabilities. The intensity of disability-specific needs of blind and visually impaired children will require local districts to reconsider their resources in meeting these needs. Local schools will either need to provide more services to children from a teacher of the visually impaired, or consider short-term placements at TSBVI.

In the next 2-5 years, TSBVI plans to address very specific needs with intense, high-quality services to make it possible for students to move back and forth between local schools and TSBVI with much more ease. This process will require further restructuring of services provided by TSBVI. The impact on TSBVI outreach services will be growing dramatically during this time period.

The demographic trend for low employment of individuals with visual impairments was described above.

In 2002, a community-based residential program for post-secondary students is being planned in collaboration with the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) . Its curriculum will concentrate on vocational training, independent living skills, remedial academics, social skills, and orientation and mobility.

Successful transition from TSBVI to students' local programs and communities will continue to be a need. If the results of a needs survey confirm what TSBVI suspects, the School will need to develop a one-year transition program for students moving from elementary school to middle school. Experience suggests that this is one of the most difficult transitions for blind and visually impaired students.

  • In response, the School will develop a one-year program designed to assist students in this transition, and to provide the students with skills in independent living, career education, and orientation and mobility.

The number of young people in Texas with traumatic brain injury who lose their vision as a result of violence and accidents appears to be increasing. These students require very intensive, specialized intervention to address their educational and emotional needs. They need to reacquire the skills to travel independently; to acquire a medium for literacy such as braille; to take care of their daily needs; and to make the emotional adjustment to their new situation.

  • The School can do an exceptional job with many of these young people, but the instructor-to-student ratio must be sufficient to provide an intensive level of education. To be effective, staff will need ongoing in-service education to work effectively with students whose social and emotional behaviors require interventions that take into account the special needs of individuals with traumatic brain injuries.

Special education across the nation will continue to emphasize the integration and inclusion of children with disabilities into the regular classrooms of local public schools. "Inclusive education" for children with disabilities became an exciting trend, beginning about 10-15 years ago. Today, the realities of "responsible inclusion" for children with visual impairments is causing parents and local school districts to re-examine the effectiveness of inclusion without preparation. TSBVI anticipates a gradual, but definite increase in local district referrals as they begin to realize the impact of a short-term placement at our school on the success of inclusive education. Also, when local school districts find that they are unable to meet the educational needs of certain individual students, they will refer the most challenging students to TSBVI for services. The natural effect of this is that TSBVI is increasingly serving students with maladaptive behaviors or a long history of educational failure. All too often, these students have fallen farther behind for several years and need intense remediation. Again, this changing population of students at TSBVI requires small class size and ongoing training for staff.

  • In response the School plans to expand its array of short-term programs during the school year as well as during the summer. By doing so, students can continue receiving the bulk of their education in their local schools and come to TSBVI for specialized instruction in skills directly related to their visual impairment. TSBVI will ask the legislature for additional funds to expand these programs.

The entire United States, including Texas, continues to face a shortage of teachers specifically trained in the education of blind and visually impaired children.

  • The problem is being addressed by a coordinated effort between Stephen F. Austin University, Texas Tech University, the Texas Education Agency, and TSBVI. We are proud to be a part of an effort that, if continued, will assure Texas of an adequate supply of teachers and orientation and mobility instructors for all blind and visually impaired students in the state. Continuation of a three-year pilot, funded by TEA, is dependent on legislative action in the next session.
  • Another major strategy to address teacher training will be the use of distance education technologies. TSBVI is exploring the use of these media to provide ongoing staff development for teachers of the visually impaired, and for orientation and mobility instructors throughout the state.

Long-term: All of the demographic trends and impacts described above will continue to impact the education of visually impaired children in Texas for more than five years. In response to these service population demographics, the School's planning must include the following long-term strategies:

  • TSBVI and local school districts will continue to develop a mutually supportive system. The future will build upon the expertise of TSBVI staff, appreciation of them by local school personnel, and trust in asking for services from TSBVI without any fear that TSBVI has an interest in recruiting students. The TSBVI philosophy supports local school placement for most students, if the required support system is available, and local schools increasingly acknowledge and respect that philosophy. Children are arriving and departing at TSBVI with increasing regularity. TSBVI has developed creative programming that results in a minimum interruption for children in their local schools as they benefit from intensive instruction in core curriculum areas on the School's campus. Education for all blind and visually impaired students is directed toward a productive, fulfilling, enjoyable adult life in a setting that best meets the social, personal, and occupational needs of each individual.
  • In the future, TSBVI will serve students in small "clusters", depending on needs. These clusters will represent specific areas of a core curriculum, and students will receive intensive instruction in only those areas for which there is an assessed need. This core curriculum emphasizes instruction in those areas that address the unique needs and special learning methods of students who are blind, deafblind, and visually impaired, including those with additional disabilities.
  • TSBVI will increasingly become a statewide entity, outreach services will expand, and the possibility of satellite TSBVI centers in other parts of the State will be considered.
  • In the next legislative session, TSBVI will present a long-range facilities planning document that will call for a multiple-phase funding pattern for the replacement and renovation of the campus buildings. Within recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that our buildings, many of which were constructed in 1916, are becoming too expensive to maintain and repair. In addition, the changing population of our students demands that we consider carefully our student needs together with our building needs. Clearly, our current classroom and residential buildings are not in harmony with the needs of our students. TSBVI will be proposing the employment of a facilities planner to assist us in responsible planning for the future.

Technological Developments

Impact of Technology on Current Agency Operations

Instructional Technology:

The impact of electronic technology in the education of students with visual disabilities is obvious throughout the School's campus. One cannot visit a TSBVI classroom or living facility without observing the significant role that technology has come to have in the education of students. Although this is true in most classrooms in Texas, it is especially true at this special school. Computers not only are used for enrichment and motivation, but also to provide basic access to instructional materials, reference sources, and to materials previously only available in print. Desktop computers, laptop computers, peripheral devices including speech output and Braille output devices, have given blind students the opportunity to access instructional materials on a level with their sighted peers.

Technology is used to help TSBVI meet the challenge of providing students with equal educational opportunities. To accomplish this goal, instructional technology staff must not only remain apprised of developments in technology as they pertain to the general education population, but they must also provide training for students in issues related to specialized access technology. This effort requires a broad knowledge base to serve students who may have one or more physical, sensory, cognitive, or language impairments. The technology needs of these students range from basic communication and socialization needs to vocational, telecommunications, and college preparatory training.

Infrastructure Technology:

Extensive use of electronic messaging and an enhanced voice mail system have provided opportunities for more efficient communication within the School and to parents and professionals seeking information or technical assistance from the School. Because TSBVI is a 24-hour, residential school, staff work varying schedules over a large campus. The use of electronic mail has greatly improved communication in support of services to students in our on-campus programs and to students, parents, and professionals supported by our outreach services. Members of the School's Board of Trustees, who reside in various parts of the State and significant distances from the School, regularly use electronic mail to enhance their effectiveness as knowledgeable and effective board members. As older applications such as the Student Database software are re-written as web-deployed applications, then new levels of standardization and agency coordination are possible.

The deployment of an Intranet has made improvements in campus communications, documentation, and planning coordination through development of a common facilities calendar, routine publication of telephone numbers, meeting minutes, forms, and similar materials. Continued development of the Intranet is indicated to promote inter-office communication and standard publication of information.

Teachers need effective documentation support tools that are accessible within their classroom. A primary area of development has been the IEP Progress Notation, grade reporting, and scheduling system called the "Teacher Solution". This application was written in conjunction with the instructional staff using the Filemaker Pro development software. This software was chosen for its ease of use and rapid development features. As more areas of the campus become networked, deployment of network-based applications has become more feasible.

Distance Education:

As the Outreach department offers more diverse services to more individuals, the reliance on technology increases. Deployment of new information over the web has been identified as a key need to use limited staff resources effectively. Use of Distance Education is a fundamental aspect in future program planning. Courses offered by distance education will include Foundation of Visual Impairment, Math Materials and Methods for Teachers of VI students, and Abacus Instruction. These courses are examples of how these emerging technologies may provide new methods for service delivery.

TSBVI's Web site (www.tsbvi.edu) continues to expand TSBVI's information services. The World Wide Web has provided a unique opportunity for the School to broaden and increase service delivery with minimal additional expenses compared to conventional support methodologies. Quick and efficient distribution of profession-specific information to an expanded group of parents and professionals has proven extremely helpful.

Impact of Anticipated Technological Advances

Instructional Technology:

The increased sophistication of assistive and adaptive technology allows students with visual impairments, including those with additional disabilities, to access information in a variety of ways. However, assistive and adaptive technology require continual revision of equipment and skills competence in hardware and software designed for use with special populations.

Technological advancements are changing the face of education through the use of telecommunications and multimedia technology. These advancements are allowing students to control the learning process through creative means of expression and information gathering. One of the greatest challenges at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired is to provide students with visual and multiple impairments a means of access to these technologies so that the same kinds of learning opportunities available to sighted students can also be available to them. There are many specialized products currently available that allow students with these impairments to participate in the educational opportunities afforded by advancements in technology. The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired's commitment to serve as a statewide research and demonstration facility requires that the School consistently do the following: (1) evaluate technological advances, (2) determine the most practical and functional technological systems for use with this population, (3) create and establish standards for teaching and integrating technology into the educational setting, and (4) provide technical training, curriculum, and support to professionals.

Infrastructure Technology:

Continued upgrade of the School's local area network has significantly improved the functionality and application of the School's desktop computers. Access and interaction with Internet resources has provided new dimensions for classroom and residential instruction and communication/support to local independent school districts. As staff gain skills, new initiatives and applications are innovated to improve services to students, families, and other professionals. In anticipation of higher bandwidth requirements, networking equipment is to be upgraded to switch-based network technology.

The desktop computers on campus have been upgraded to eliminate 486-class computers. Continued upgrade is needed to meet the technical demands of adaptive software and equipment Technical developments are closely monitored to ensure our use of computer environments that reflect those of other schools and businesses. The development of a consistent development architecture based on industry standard products is important to enable maximum accessibility for individuals with visual impairments, maintain platform independence, and ensure compatibility with future technology innovations and development. Given these design goals, new software systems will be written as web-deployed applications using Java Servlet technology using IBM's DB2 database management software. All future development will be within this software environment to advance the use of object-oriented programming to maximize platform independence and long-term supportability

Distance Education:

As technology advances, the School's commitment to serve as a statewide research and demonstration facility becomes more critical. Our role to evaluate new technologies oriented toward the individual with visual impairments and our participation on standards bodies to create and establish textbook and electronic publishing standards are two primary leadership areas that have significant impact to the state and nation. Development and documentation of techniques for use with new technology and technical training support to professionals who work with individuals with visual and/or other impairments are a continuing program initiative. Innovation with new network-based deployment will continue.

Degree of Agency Automation and Telecommunications

The School owns a Legacy VAX 4000-200 computer system that has been undergoing a phased migration as applications for office automation, student demographics, registration tracking, library circulation, work order management, inventory management, student trust fund management are moved to the NT-based Server environment. The reporting and expenditure transfer for accounting functions that were written on the VAX as an internal user of USAS are in the process of conversion to the DFAS/GFAS system supported by Northrup Grumann to change the agency to a reporting agency to USAS.

Approximately 300 individuals access the system by networked desktop computer (350) or laptop computers. Workstations are connected via TCP/IP transport over Ethernet. The Digital PathWorks LANmanager networking environment has been replaced by Windows NT networking. The network is configured to provide file sharing and networked printing services for both Macintosh and PC clients. Both PC and Mac clients share all networked printers by use of the Adobe Postscript driver standard. Fiber optic cable segments are in place between the major computing centers on campus with networking to all buildings of campus to be deployed in FY2000. The School is a member of the CapNet network and granted an Internet domain address of TSBVI.EDU (192.188.148.x) in 1992. Currently, six servers support the various functions such as web-hosting (www.tsbvi.edu) Web-based distance education, video-conferencing, resource sharing, application server, and Intranet applications.

New network installations in the residential area (made possible by a grant from the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund) have been installed using 100MB Cisco Switches over unshielded twisted pair wiring. Older 10MB router-based network components will be replaced by the switch technology on a graduated basis. The technical standard for the network deployment is 100MB to the desktop so that any client endpoint on campus can be the source of video conferencing or to meet other high-bandwidth requirements. Long-term plans include deployment of Gigabit backbone segments to prepare for anticipated capacity requirements and to provide the most reliable and supportable campus environment possible.

Communication routing for TSBVI is provided via the Telecommunications Division of the General Services Commission. All access and report/mail delivery to the USAS, USPS, and other state and federal computer facilities is provided through this link. Through our participation in the Esconnett, the school uses a second T1 circuit to Educational Service Center XIII to provide client internet access as well as to route all video protocols.

Economic Variables

Identification of Key Economic Variables

There are two key economic variables for TSBVI to consider. The first is the impact of the economy on the lives of blind and visually impaired adults, and how our educational program reflects this impact. The second variable is how the general economy impacts on the capacity of TSBVI to carry out its mission

Extent to Which Service Populations are Affected by Economic Conditions

Blind and visually impaired adults are traditionally unemployed or underemployed. While there are no specific data available, the general consensus of experts in rehabilitation is that unemployment among blind adults has hovered around 75% for the past 40 years. TSBVI emphatically states that this is unacceptable, and that education must own at least part of the responsibility for this tragic level of unemployment. We are now restructuring our vocational program, both philosophically and programmatically, in order to address this economic fact. TSBVI is capable of carrying out its mission only to the extent that funds from the State are available to purchase services, materials, and equipment. Thus far, as we identify new areas of need for TSBVI, we are in a pattern of "add-on", not "replace". When we add services, such as technology instruction, we do not eliminate another program. This means attempting creative ways of providing additional services without additional resources. The specific needs that are growing, such as vocational training, technology instruction, education of children with severe multiple disabilities, are expensive to add or enhance. Outreach services, the most rapidly growing, in-demand" service, is seriously under-staffed.

There are three factors that are commonly mentioned as inhibiting the ability of the blind or visually impaired person whom society may believe ought to be working. The first is discrimination among employers. This has long been believed to be the major barrier to a higher rate of employment among visually impaired persons. However, as inclusion of persons with disabilities increases at a dramatic rate, the very presence of this population in our society and in our communities would be expected to have an impact on the attitudes of employers toward hiring persons with disabilities. There is some evidence that this is true. If there continues to be a need to educate employers about the capabilities of blind workers, then TSBVI will work with other agencies and consumer groups in an effort to heighten the awareness of employers.

The second assumption made about what impacts the employment of blind and visually impaired persons is the preparation they receive in school that would lead to appropriate job readiness and work skills. This topic has two dimensions. The first is the personal characteristics and skills of the blind applicant. Often employers have stressed their concern for such issues as "...what is the personal appearance of the blind worker?...", or "...will the blind worker get along socially with other employees?...", or "...how will the blind person get to work and find his/her way around?...". The second dimension is work skills and work experience. While the latter will add considerably to the "hirability" of a blind applicant, many employers express more concern over the former concern. Thus, the opportunity to work for a blind or visually impaired person may be most often impacted by dress, grooming, and social and mobility skills.

There may be another factor that affects employability, and that is academic skills. Recent surveys conducted by national organizations confirm the fact that most blind persons successfully employed in competitive jobs are highly literate. This finding needs to be qualified by the fact that many of the graduates of TSBVI do not, nor will they ever, have traditional literacy skills. TSBVI has the philosophy that literacy may be obtained through a variety of methods and at a wide range of competency. Most graduates of TSBVI will consider employment opportunities that do not have a high level of need for reading and writing in print or braille. This means that traditional "academic skills" will not be a factor in their employment. The kinds of positions that would be most appropriate for the majority of TSBVI graduates need to be further identified, studied, and tried. TSBVI commits itself to this task.

The third assumption made concerning the alarming rate of unemployment of blind and visually impaired adults is that Supplementary Security Income (SSI) and other sources of "welfare" act as a disincentive to seeking employment. When one adds up the dollar amount of SSI, plus benefits, it is not difficult to understand the lack of incentive among blind persons to accept entry level positions that may not have health and other benefits. There are two prevailing positions among professionals concerning social welfare for blind persons. One is that it is more expensive to live in this sighted world as a blind person, and that SSI merely "levels" the resources needed to live at any level of comfort. The second position, of course, is that the blind person has little, if any, incentive to go to work if it, in the final analysis, means

a reduction in personal income. TSBVI is committed to instilling a work ethic in its students that honors either paid or volunteer efforts that benefit others. Only through embedding this ethic among our students will they be able to find satisfaction and fulfillment as adults.

Expected Future Economic Conditions and Impact on Agency and Service

Populations

The greatest economic factor affecting the population served by TSBVI is employability. The workforce environment increasingly requires that prospective workers have the technical skills necessary to be employable. Literacy and the skills to live and travel independently are also prerequisites for blind people to be able to obtain and hold jobs. The programs of the School will need to continue to emphasize these skills. TSBVI is developing its vocational program to directly address projections for future employment in Texas. TSBVI has reorganized its career education program so that all students will receive extensive learning experiences designed to prepare them for the labor market of today and tomorrow. As presented above, we are also considering the development of a post-secondary vocational training program for students that graduate from their local schools but are not prepared for employment.

Future economic conditions of the State will certainly impact TSBVI. The school has carefully and prudently examined its budget, redefined its various roles, reallocated resources, and is now using its resources in creative and conservative ways to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired students throughout Texas. As new and innovative programs are considered, it has become increasingly apparent that there are limited resources to provide vital new services. We cannot reduce or eliminate services now being offered and still meet the needs of Texas stakeholders. Any changes in use of resources now would seriously deprive current students of state-of-the-art instruction. The School's current budget does not allow TSBVI to effectively address portions of its mission. Current level funding, or a reduction in funding, will seriously impair the School's ability of to meets its obligation to visually impaired students.

Agency Response to Changing Economic Conditions

For the past four years TSBVI has continually searched for internal ways in which it can change, because we responsibly and prudently use the State's resources allocated to us. As program needs changed and expanded, we first sought ways to handle newly identified needs and increasing costs by reallocating existing resources. We now come to the legislature, confident in knowing how we must expand and change in order to meet the current needs of blind and visually impaired students, and confident in knowing the resources that we must have in order to fulfill our mission.

Impact of Federal Statutes/Regulations

Historical Role of Federal Involvement

Since 1976, the most significant impact of federal involvement has been the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), previously called the Education of All Handicapped Children Act. The requirements of this law, and the processes required to implement it, have affected TSBVI greatly. Direct participation by parents and local school staff in the educational process, and the requirement of an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for each child have positively affected programming for students while requiring increased time and attention from staff and administrators.

In addition to its impact on programs, instructional planning, student assessment, educational placement, and due process rights for parents, this law has also provided the School with some funding, most notably those allocated to operate the statewide Deaf-Blind Program. The School has been the primary source for the delivery of these services in Texas since 1973. This source of federal funding has provided a high quality outreach program to local districts and families.

Also, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has made available to the School some federal IDEA discretionary funds awarded to Texas for statewide priorities. These funds have been used for several programs: a technology loan program for students throughout the state, replacement of reduced funds for deafblind outreach programs, and a subcontract to TSBVI to perform specific statewide functions previously performed by the TEA prior to that agency's mandated decentralization.

Description of Current Federal Activities

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was re-authorized and amended by the U.S. Congress in 1995. Congress has upheld the right of all children with disabilities to a continuum of placement options, including schools such as TSBVI. Federal and Texas statutes, rules, policy statements, and case law continue to make it clear that special schools like TSBVI continue to be the "appropriate" and "least restrictive environment" for some visually impaired students. TSBVI is an essential placement option within the Texas public education system.

The School continues to participate in the Medicaid reimbursement programs for specific reimbursable expenditures. These include portions of school health and related services (SHARS) provided directly to students, and certain administrative overhead costs (Medicaid Administrative Claims).

The federally funded Free and Reduced Lunch Program also provides funds which offset the state's cost in providing meals to students enrolled at the School. All residential students at TSBVI are eligible for this program because they are in a state-operated, residential, educational program.

Anticipated Impact on Service Populations and Agency Operations of Future Federal

Actions

With the reauthorization of IDEA and its accompanying federal regulations, the Federal Department of Education has clearly and decisively declared schools for the blind as a necessary and viable placement option.

Other Legal Issues

Impact of Anticipated State Statutory Changes

  • The limitation on travel expenses required by the current Appropriation Act continues to have a negative impact on the School's ability to perform its mission as established in Education Code, particularly as the mission related to providing outreach services to parents and professionals throughout the state.
  • All state agencies have been assigned financial responsibility for a portion of Workers' compensation and for unemployment insurance claims. This responsibility could add a serious fiscal burden on the school.
  • TSBVI and TEA have jointly developed a Memorandum of Understanding required by the Texas Legislature. This agreement will shape accreditation standards, evaluate student learning, and determine the extent to which the School will participate in the statewide Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS). These are positive developments, but they continue to require significant expenditures of time to accomplish.

Impact of Current and Outstanding Court Cases

TSBVI has no current or outstanding court cases.

Impact of Local Government Requirements

None

Self-evaluation and Opportunities for Improvement

Meeting Legal Requirements, Serving Critical Populations, Achieving Accreditation and Recognition 

Legally Required Services

TSBVI is established to provide appropriate educational services to school-age children with significant visual impairments who may have additional disabilities when the local or regional programs cannot meet the educational needs of those students. There are 6,602 children with blindness or visual impairment geographically dispersed throughout Texas. TSBVI may be called upon at any point in the educational careers of these students to directly serve them in the School's regular school year program, in a summer program, or in one of the new short-term programs. In addition to direct instruction of students, the school is also established to be a statewide resource for the education of blind and visually impaired children who attend their local public schools. TSBVI continually evaluates the effectiveness of its programs and the satisfaction of those it serves. Evaluation is conducted by performance measures, internal audits, customer surveys, and comparisons to other states' schools for the blind.

Accreditation

TSBVI is accredited by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) as a special school within the Texas public education system. The School and the TEA have jointly developed and approved a set of Academic and Program Excellence Indicators to measure student learning and program effectiveness at TSBVI. These indicators have also been incorporated as measures in the School's "Agency Strategic Plan". These Indicators serve as a corollary to the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) benchmarks and accountability standards applied to all public schools in Texas, and are a component in determining the accreditation status of the School.

Attainment of Performance Objectives

The School has met or exceeded most of the outcome and output measures set forth in its Strategic Plan and Legislative Appropriation Request as submitted in its quarterly reports to the LBB and GOBP. Specifically, the School achieved or exceeded 10 of the 13 outcome measure projections set for fiscal year 1999, an approximate 77% achievement rate. An 11th outcome measure fell slightly below the School's projection, but within the accepted 5% variance rate. The following information details the School's performance in areas critical to the School's mission:

Student Learning. The School has exceeded its projections in the areas of student learning as reflected by improved student achievement in their individual education plans (IEP's), grades, and successful transitions to local programs.

Customer Satisfaction. The School exceeded its projections in the following areas:

-Ninety-seven percent of parents, students, and local schools expressed satisfaction with student progress during the regular school year.

-Ninety-eight percent of all surveyed customers expressed satisfaction with the personnel and services provided on-campus and in Outreach Programs.

-Ninety-nine percent of teachers, parents, and other service providers rated TSBVI Outreach services as having improved instruction and services for children in local programs.

Program Evaluations

TSBVI evaluates the effectiveness of its programs through both formative and summative evaluations. Specific Action Plans are developed to accomplish the Strategic Plan. Formative evaluation is conducted by documenting progress on the specific Action Plans at specific intervals. Summative evaluation is conducted annually by the School's Board of Trustees and administration based on attainment of objectives in the School's Strategic Plan.

Audit Reports

The School has conducted several internal audits. The internal auditor develops an annual audit plan in close collaboration with the Board of Trustees. Recent audits have focused on the School's legal compliance with statutory requirements for special education, property management, effective time usage, vocational programming, and the efficiency of purchasing procedures.

Comparisons with Other States and Industry Leaders

As part of its benchmarking process, TSBVI has collected data and compared its performance to that of schools for the visually impaired in other states. In every category regarding parent satisfaction, TSBVI is rated equal or superior to the composite data on all other schools for the blind. In the case of parent satisfaction with programs and services, 94% of TSBVI parents were positive, a figure equal to other schools. TSBVI significantly exceeded its peers in the area of competitive employment for its graduates.

TSBVI has pioneered the role of schools for the blind as a statewide resource. Other states have long envied and now are beginning to emulate the comprehensive outreach programs provided by TSBVI. The School's curriculum has been published and adopted by other schools for the blind, local school districts, and university teacher preparation programs. Nearly 9,000 copies have been purchased within the past twelve months. The School's summer programs have long been a model for the country, reaching out to students who attend local public schools during their regular school year sessions.

The School's self-evaluation process has also led to a significant programmatic change as a result of comparison with other states' schools for the visually impaired. The School has initiated short-term special programs during the regular school year for students who attend public schools. TSBVI has looked at models for this service in other states, adapted a Kentucky model, and implemented two short-term special programs in the current 1999-2000 school year. Local school districts, parents, and students have welcomed this new area of programming at TSBVI.

Overall, needs assessments gathered for the Outreach program reflect a high level of satisfaction with the range of services provided by this program, and a continuing desire for more assistance. Consumers need information provided in a variety of formats, languages and media. The sheer size of the State of Texas limits opportunities for face to face interaction and makes isolation a major concern. Parents and blind and/or deafblind students are eager for opportunities to meet others with similar needs and issues. For professionals and families, there is a desire for general training on the impact of visual impairments and deafblindness and for individualized answers to more specific questions. In person conferences and consultations are rated consistently as very helpful, and there is also a growing demand for products accessible at the moment a need arises, as through WEB sites, videotapes, booklets and pamphlets, and computer disks. The Outreach Programs are continuing to diversify the materials used for packaging information and training in order to most effectively meet statewide requests.

Performance Benchmarking

Benchmarking Process

The School engages in internal benchmarking and industry benchmarking. Internal benchmarking relies primarily on the School's evaluation of its outcome, output, and efficiency measures. Examination of output and efficiency measures has allowed the School to re-allocate some resources to initiate or expand services.

Industry benchmarking is a new effort of the School in collaboration with other schools for the blind throughout the United States. TSBVI is an active member of the Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB), a national organization of residential schools for blind and visually impaired students. COSB has begun the task of developing baseline data on all schools for the blind in the U.S., in order to provide both composite data and information on how schools compare to one another. Thus far, data from demographic studies, customer satisfaction (parents) surveys, and student learning (employment) have been collected, analyzed, and compiled. TSBVI has met or exceeded the composite scores of those schools for the blind participating in the national study and benchmarking process.

Performance Measures Identified as Agency-Level Benchmarks  

Agency Goa1 1: Students who are visually impaired or deafblind will demonstrate the skills and knowledge to lead vocationally, personally, and socially satisfying as demonstrated by academic success and successful transition to the community.

Benchmark 1.1: Percent of students progressing at a rate of 1.0 or higher in each of the core curricular areas in which they receive instruction. This benchmark serves as a measure of the effectiveness of the School's programs and as a key element in determining the School's accreditation status within the states' public education system.

This benchmark links to the state-level benchmark, "Percent of students who achieve mastery of the foundation subjects of reading, English language arts, math, social studies and science".

Benchmark 1.2: Percent of students graduated from TSBVI within the past five years who are currently employed. The employment rate for individuals with disabilities is about 30% nationally: the School's employment rate for graduates is currently 41%.

This benchmark links to the state-level benchmark, "Percent of high school graduates employed or enrolled in post-secondary education".

Agency Goal 2: Families, professionals, and paraprofessionals will have the knowledge and skills necessary to improve educational programming and other services for all Texas students who are visually impaired or deafblind.

Benchmark 2.1: Percent of families, professionals, and paraprofessionals rating as very satisfactory or above the improvement of their knowledge and skills as a result of the services or products received from TSBVI.

There is no specific state-level benchmark that corresponds to this School benchmark. However, this benchmark reflects the statewide emphasis on customer satisfaction with agency services.

Agency Characteristics Requiring Improvement

The following characteristics are those that the School is committed to improving:

  1. A clear, well-articulated understanding among Education Service Centers, local school districts, and TSBVI regarding the strengths and limitations of all service delivery systems for education of blind and visually impaired students in Texas.
  2. A higher, more positive profile of TSBVI in the State.
  3. Completion of the School's project to develop a balanced curriculum that meets the individual needs for each student and includes the expanded core curriculum to include the unique skills of learners with a visual impairment.
  4. A program that clearly addresses identified needs of students and works diligently to return children to their local schools as soon as possible.
  5. The expansion of the Outreach Program with the capability of impacting on the education of every blind and visually impaired child in the State.
  6. A career education program that assists every student to make informed career decisions, and that prepares students for immediate employment or advanced vocational training.
  7. Salaries for residential instructors and other instructional staff that are high enough to attract and retain quality employees.
  8. Further expansion of short-term programs during the regular school year as well as in the summer.
  9. Active involvement of local districts and parents in maintaining a sense of responsibility for residential students at TSBVI.
  10. More opportunities for student integration with non-disabled peers.
  11. Expansion of technology available to students and training of staff in instructional and administrative technology applications.
  12. A long-range plan that will provide physical facilities that are in harmony with the needs of our students.

Key Obstacles

Human Resources: A shortage of well-trained professional educators skilled in working with the special needs of visually impaired children.

Environmental: Our rapidly aging campus is in desperate need of renovation and replacement of buildings within the next five years.

Cultural: The still persistent social and cultural beliefs of general society that blind individuals cannot be successfully employed in real and competitive jobs. The unemployment rate, and the underemployment rate, of visually impaired individuals is much too high.

Fiscal: The School has continued to expand its functions in light of its legally mandated mission without a corresponding increase in funds to continue to implement and expand these programs.

We will no longer be able to do this.

Geographical: Many blind children live in some of the more remote, rural areas of Texas. It is difficult for students enrolled at the School to get home more frequently than once a month. It is costly in terms of time and travel for outreach staff to respond to requests for services within the boundaries of Texas.

Travel caps imposed by the state that disregard our state-wide obligation to provide services, and that do not acknowledge that most of our travel funds are generated by federal grants.

There is no systematic, funded project designed to inform and educate parents and guardians about the educational and developmental needs of blind and visually impaired children.

There is no standard by which the quality and appropriateness of all local school programs for blind and visually impaired students are measured.

Opportunities

TSBVI has defined and nurtured its role in the education of all blind and visually impaired students in Texas. We have a two-fold responsibility: to our on-campus students and to all other students being served in local districts. TSBVI has very carefully allocated resources for both of these tasks, and we are meeting these two responsibilities very well. The Legislature defined our role concisely, and left little room for interpretation. As a result, the legislative mandate for the services we provide and the needs of blind and visually impaired students are closely aligned. We have the opportunity to provide vital services to a population that needs these services.

Our opportunities are great, including:

A large, well-maintained campus that provides TSBVI with the facilities to carry out its current tasks and has the potential to house additional services. Action by the last legislature provided TSBVI with much-needed funds to renovate and repair its aging campus. However, additional funding will be needed so that we may continue to have a safe and home-like campus.

An outstanding professional staff, constituting the greatest concentration of expertise in education of children who are blind and visually impaired in Texas. Most recently, this expertise has been expanded in the areas of serving children with additional disabilities and in technology instruction. TSBVI has become recognized nationally for its expertise in these two areas.

A committed and excellent support staff. Every TSBVI employee knows that she/he is employed in order to serve children, whether the job is preparing meals, providing physical therapy, or mowing the lawn.

There is a climate at TSBVI that encourages personnel to explore, create, and accept new challenges. All staff are urged to participate in decision-making and to assume shared responsibility for our efforts.

TSBVI is a recognized leader in technological development, both for its staff and for students.

Recent advances in technology have the potential to open unlimited professional and personal doors for blind and visually impaired persons. We are providing our students with instruction in state-of-the-art technology.

TSBVI is committed to the philosophy that, when possible, blind and visually impaired children should be educated in their home schools while living with their families. Therefore, we take very seriously our role of providing intensive services in needed educational areas in order to enable children to return home as soon as possible. Also, through our Outreach Program, we are able to offer technical assistance to local resources that often results in quality local services.

TSBVI and the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) share a common interest, good working relationship, and geographic proximity. This interagency partnership has created the opportunity to provide the best transition services to young people preparing to leave school and enter the world of work and independent living. We are developing an even closer working relationship with TCB so that our students will receive the best preparation for adulthood from us, and then, as necessary, take full advantage of appropriate services at TCB.

The citizens of Texas, through their elected legislators, have demonstrated a commitment to quality education for blind and visually impaired children at TSBVI. This is evidenced by the continuing strong fiscal support for our school by the Legislature.

TSBVI recognizes its responsibility to provide our students with opportunities to interact with non-disabled peers, and we have developed a community program that brings sighted children onto our campus for social and recreational activities, as well as provide opportunities for our students to access community activities off-campus.

Our curriculum department has published curriculum guides and other documents that greatly enhance the education of children on our campus and throughout the state. TSBVI is known nationally and internationally as the source for the best curriculum materials in the world.

The TSBVI web site has become a vital tool for the TSBVI staff, educators and administrators throughout Texas, and colleagues and parents throughout the world. For the month of November, 1999, the TSBVI web site received over 28,000 visits, including over 600 from foreign countries.

Working with Local, State, and Federal Entities

TSBVI will work with state agencies such as the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, the Texas Employment Commission, and the Texas Mental Health and Mental Retardation Department to assist in locating and delivering services to the students served by TSBVI. The School will also continue to access resources to the above agencies in order to enhance services to their students/clients.

TSBVI will work with local school districts and local Education Service Centers throughout the state to develop an appropriate, individualized educational program for each student. TSBVI is mandated by the Legislature to provide services to all blind and visually impaired children in the state. This requires that the School maintain and nurture effective working relationships with local school districts and Education Service Centers. An increasing number of staff development activities are the result of collaboration between TSBVI, ESCs, and school districts.

Our work with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has resulted in two contracts, currently administered by ESC Region XI, that provide TSBVI with the resources to provide many services that enrich the educational programs for all blind and visually impaired students in the State.

Federal funds continue to provide the state and TSBVI with the resources necessary to coordinate state-wide programs and services for deafblind students.

Key Community Resources Available

The School has initiated a program to obtain more community resources to assist the School in its mission. A volunteer program has been significantly expanded and improved. An existing staff position has been reassigned to obtain grant and funds from both public and private sources. Community businesses in Austin and service organizations throughout the State are now much more involved with and contributing time and other resources to education. The School will need to continue to increase its efforts to solicit and obtain such support from external sources.

Meanwhile the School will continue to avail itself of the excellent resources of the Austin community. These include the Austin ISD which has long been a partner in providing opportunities for students at TSBVI to attend academic classes in regular public school settings. Students from the University of Texas-Austin and Southwest Texas State University continue to volunteer and provide opportunities for TSBVI students to participate in social activities in the community. Service organizations such as the Austin Founders' Lions Club, the Texas National Federation of the Blind, the Austin Council of the Blind, church groups, corporations, and individuals continue to provide their time and some funds for special activities. Finally, there are the ample and unique community resources of the city of Austin and its environs that are much used by the School's students for recreation, cultural awareness, employment, and gaining consumer skills.

TSBVI now works with the Austin area Junior League, whose volunteers are currently providing recreational opportunities for our students, as well as recording recreational reading and transcribing braille.

Employee Attitudes Regarding TSBVI

The fact that TSBVI is considered a good place to work by most staff is evidenced by the low number of internal grievances and externally-filed complaints that we experience. By far the majority of staff who resign do so for personal reasons not related to the job, and many departing staff members comment in their resignation letters on the satisfaction of working with students and their own growth while working here. Staff take pride in the work that they do with students, and even staff who don't work directly with students often get involved in student activities or attend student events. On the other hand, direct care staff in particular have expressed frustration about doing difficult work with sometimes very challenging students without what they consider adequate compensation or recognition.

Although the staff has expressed some appreciation for the career progression programs that have been implemented so far, they want us to do more to address pay issues, and we are making the following attempts to do so: (1) We have submitted a proposal to the State Classification Office to replace the Houseparent class series with a Residential Specialist/Residential Manager series that will raise starting salaries by one pay group. (2) We are also seeking legislative authority for an assignment differential so that staff assigned to the most challenging students can receive more pay regardless of classification or merit step. (3) We are submitting an exceptional item request to fund merit raises for more deserving staff.

Staff morale has been identified as a priority in the School's strategic planning process. During the previous and current school years, we have had a morale task force made up of representatives from all of the school's departments. This group has been responsible for several concrete accomplishments; for example, the task force obtained administrative approval for residential staff to acquire lockers in which to secure their personal belongings while at work. It also served as the vehicle to gather input from all staff on how the school should allocate merit pay.

The School is also committed to involving staff directly in planning and budgeting. TSBVI has implemented a site-based decision making process. Through this process, staff participate in evaluating programs, establishing goals, providing suggestions for staff assignments and staff development, developing curriculum, and providing input for budgeting and school organization. The instructional staff also directly participated in developing the School's Professional Development Appraisal System (PDAS) by which instructional staff are evaluated and held accountable.