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November 18, 2016

1.   Call to Order

Program Chairperson Lee Sonnenberg called to order the meeting of the TSBVI Board Committee on Programs at 8:05 a.m. on November 18, 2016 in Room 104 of the Main Administration Building 600, 1100 W. 45th Street, Austin, Texas. 

Board members Caroline Daley and Dr. Anne Corn were also present.

TSBVI staff members participating in the meeting were: Bill Daugherty, Superintendent; Sara Merritt, Short-Term Programs Principal; Miles Fain, Comprehensive Programs Principal; Cyral Miller, Outreach Director; Susan Hauser, Director of the Center for School Resources; Ken Miller, Planning, Policy and Procedure Support; Dr. Elina Mullen, PE Teacher; Sue Mattson, Braille Specialist; Mindy Hudson, Braille Transcriber; Susan Houghtling, Director of Planning and Evaluation as well as Matthew and Chris, volunteers from the University of Texas.

2.  Consideration of Approval of Minutes of the September 30, 2016 Meeting 

Dr. Anne Corn moved that the minutes of the September 30, 2016 meeting be approved and Caroline Daley seconded the motion.  All Committee members were in favor of the motion.

3.  Consideration of Approval of Board Policy FFG

Ken Miller briefly reviewed Policy FFG on reporting child abuse neglect, exploitation, and improper child care practice which was proposed for amendment.  The policy deletes the requirement for TSBVI social workers to investigate a report of improper child care; instead, the employee’s supervisor would be responsible for the investigation.  The social worker would still be responsible for investigating reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a student.  New language is added requiring that interviews of a student be recorded by video or audio device.  The process for implementing this requirement has been added to TSBVI’s administrative procedure. 

Mr. Sonnenberg questioned what type of anti-victimization program the school provides for students and Miles Fain responded that individual and group sessions are provided with the social workers primarily being in charge.  One program provided is the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program including Red Ribbon Week that focuses on substance abuse and keeping safe.  Anti-bullying programs are provided including work with Safe Place in Austin in which TSBVI students produce a community action play that focuses on dating and what to do to be safe.  Social skills instruction at the School also addresses relationships and antivictimization.

Mr. Sonnenberg questioned why volunteers or others working under the auspices of TSBVI are not required, as TSBVI employees are, to sign a receipt stating that they have received training on the reporting requirements and a copy of Policy FFG.  Mr. Miller agreed to add language to the policy that includes this requirement.

Dr. Corn moved that Policy FFG be approved with the added language for volunteers signing a receipt of training and receipt of Policy FFG and Mrs. Daley seconded the motion.  All Committee members were in favor of the motion.

Mr. Miller reported that state law requires that Policy FFG be submitted to the Health Commissioner which we have always done.  He added that he has already drafted a letter to the Commission to go along with the policy.

4.   Consideration of Approval of Teacher Appraisal Process and Amendment of Policy DNA – Performance Appraisal:  Evaluation of Teachers

Miles Fain reported that the state has introduced a new recommended teacher appraisal system and Policy DNA has been amended to adapt the School’s existing locally developed teacher appraisal system to meet new requirements.  He explained the required components for the system include student performance based on student learning objectives and/or student portfolios, district-level assessments and state assessments.

Mr. Fain explained that the Board must also approve the actual process for appraisal that appears in Procedure P.2.1.2 – Teacher Appraisal Process.

Dr. Anne Corn mentioned the fact that it is difficult for an appraiser to gather evidence of a teacher’s performance in all dimensions in all domains in the new system, and sometimes the evidence mentioned doesn’t match the domain in the chart.  Miles Fain explained that evidence is gathered by the supervisor in ways other than direct observation, such as teacher self-report and additional observations, through continual evaluation and documentation during the appraisal person.  Miles Fain said that the list of evidence is not meant to be all-inclusive and added that the School looked at various resources in making the chart showing Dimensions and Evidence.  Mr. Fain said that the state system emphasizes documenting evidence specifically. 

Lee Sonnenberg asked about the alternative evaluation and when that would be chosen.  Mr. Fain said that a teacher qualifies for the alternative after a specified number of successful standard appraisals and the teacher must agree to it.  The alternate method includes two walk-throughs rather than a full-blown appraisal on each domain and dimension but is still comprehensive.

Dr. Corn asked how many teachers are currently on an improvement plan.  Mr.  Fain said that currently two teachers are on such a plan and they are both improving.

Dr. Corn said that, during her observations of teaching in Comprehensive Programs and Short-Term Programs, she saw some excellent teaching.  The group discussed the fact that TSBVI has many visitors and it is part of the mission of the school.  Since TSBVI is a model school, we have very high standards for teachers who must commit and work hard in order to be successful as a teacher at TSBVI.

Dr. Ann Corn made a motion to approve the new Teacher Appraisal Process and the amendments to Policy DNA. Caroline Daley seconded the motion. Committee members were in favor of the motion.

5.   Report from Short-Term Programs Principal, Sara Merritt

a.  Summer 2017 programs

Sara Merritt reported on Summer 2017 programs.  Ms. Merritt provided a draft summer programs schedule.  There is a change to two previous programs called “Secondary Enrichment B” and “Life Skills Camp”.  Now the program will be called “Practical Experiences in Expanded Core” and will be classroom-based rather than dorm-based.  There are two new classes called “Deaf-Blind Vocational Programs” that will be coordinated by Kim Conlin, Speech Pathologist and an EXIT Program teacher who works with students with deafblindness.  Ms. Merritt reported that the Texas Workforce Commission may fund the program but added that the School does not want to commit to that funding because the Commission does not know yet what it can spend.

Ms. Merritt said that there are challenges to getting staff to work in July, especially on residential shifts since people want to go on vacation.  She added that she would like to have these 9.75 month staff changed to a 12-month flexible schedule.

Mr. Sonnenberg encouraged Ms. Merritt to bring a proposal about that to the Finance Committee so that it can be considered in the future.

The deadline for receipt of summer school applications is February 14 through an all online submission.  The School has not been receiving as many applications for SWEAT and WALIC work programs because of the number of new opportunities statewide.  Ms. Merritt added that, for programs that receive more applications than the number of openings available, priority is given to those students who have not attended any other TSBVI programs during the year.

6.   Report from Comprehensive Programs Principal, Sara Merritt

a.  Coding Club update

Mindy Hudson introduced Chris and Mathew, computer science and electronic engineering students from the University of Texas who described activities of the TSBVI Coding Club, an after-school club.  Board members were provided with a handout that explained the work of the TSBVI student Coding Club and the areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum that were supported by their work. 

The volunteers explained that students learn how to navigate software while learning basic programming language.  Students are broken into two groups – one considered novices with little or no experience and the second group considered to have some experience.  Novice students use Quorum computer language which is the only one developed with individuals with blindness or visual impairments in mind.  More advanced students use Python or C++ to program.

The volunteers demonstrated a Lego Mindstorms robot that students programmed to bark like a dog, wave its arms and move towards any perceived movement.

The group discussed the possibility of Short-Term Programs offering a coding program in the future.

Dr. Corn suggested sending articles about the program to the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation.

b.   Student fitness data

Dr. Elina Mullen handed out a Fitness Gram statistics report related to student fitness for the past school year.  She explained that heights and weights are taken at the beginning and ending of the school year.  The report included information on body mass index averages by student age and sex.  It does not look at individual students but is a global look at fitness.  However individual student reports are sent to the student’s family.

Dr. Corn asked about students’ weight, and whether the expected growth for children was considered.  Dr. Mullen said that this was considered when compiling the data.  There was a discussion of methods that help students maintain a healthy weight.  Dr. Corn asked about programs that support posture and flexibility for students.  Dr. Mullen described how these issues are built into PE classes.  Dr. Corn asked what other teachers are doing.  Mr. Fain said that OTs and PTs support this effort and there has been an increased focus on this with teachers.  Dr. Corn reiterated how important it is for teachers to focus on students holding up their heads, facing the speaker, and mentioned other behaviors such as rocking. Teachers need to feel comfortable reminding students about this.  Ms. Merritt said that focus on this has to be balanced with a teacher’s relationship with the student and with focus on developing the student’s self-esteem.

7.   Report from Outreach Director, Cyral Miller

a.  New resources to support Nemeth Code

Cyral Miller reported on new resources to support Nemeth Code and explained that she wants to emphasize the collaboration between the school and other organizations.  The collaboration on Nemeth Code is a good example of this collaboration.  The transfer to UEB has created a contentious discussion about what to do about the math code.  There has been a problem in the past in both teachers and students learning Nemeth code due to limited time being devoted to training it.  Often students are not taught Nemeth code, or even good math instruction, due to the teachers’ lack of knowledge in these areas.  The change to UEB led to good discussions about math instruction in general during statewide meetings.  The result was a commitment in Texas to develop resources in this area.  TSBVI started to develop a book, “Nemeth at a Glance.”  This book is still in draft form, but the final version will be coming out soon (hopefully December or January).  All TSBVI Departments participated in the development of this book. The book includes organization of Nemeth code aligned with the TEKS and includes an evaluation of Nemeth reading and writing.  The index includes commonly used terms that helps the teacher find the correct math terminology that they may not know. 

Caroline Daley stated her pleasure at how the book emphasizes collaboration between the math teacher and the TVI. 

Dr. Corn asked if there is a braille companion book available for persons with a visual impairment and Ms. Miller responded that lots of time has been devoted to make sure the book is fully accessible.

Comprehensive Programs and Outreach teachers are doing training around the state entitled “Who’s Afraid of the Nemeth Code.”  To do the training, TSBVI is teaming a math teacher and a TVI, to get both perspectives on teaching math and Nemeth skills.  There is hope that this training can be developed into an online course.  There are also some short 2-5 minute Nemeth-teaching lessons so that teachers or students can learn in short sessions or refer to it when they have a question.  These modules are in Google Classroom – eventually there will be around 50 of these mini-lessons that will be shared for free online, so anyone can use the resources.

Ms. Miller reported that TSBVI is hosting the POSB Math and Science and Math Teachers’ conference next year.  There will be amazing national experts attending.  Right afterwards, the participants will be able to go to San Antonio for the national math teachers’ conference.

8.   Discussion of Strategic Planning Process

Mr. Daugherty explained that the Board met yesterday to discuss a strategic planning process and timeline.  There is a legally-required sequential cycle that must be followed by TSBVI.  TSBVI will develop a group of 15-20 representative stakeholders to go through a day-long strategic planning process next summer.  The Board would be in mostly a listening role for the first day.  The second day, the Board would follow the same strategic planning process in an active role focusing on eight total areas - four that are student/families/ISD/ESC related and four related to Outreach, student learning, quality of transitions, graduates and employment issues.

Mr. Sonnenberg said that this will be an annual cycle that will allow Board members to more actively participate in the process and Dr. Corn added that the Board will focus more on what Education Code is asking them to do.

9.   Adjournment

Mr. Sonnenberg adjourned the meeting at 9:57 a.m.