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 April 6, 2018

Call to order:  

Lee Sonnenberg called to order the meeting of the TSBVI Board Committee on Programs at 8:04 a.m. on April 6, 2018 in Room 104 of the Main Administration Building 600, 1100 W. 45th Street, Austin, Texas. 

Program Committee members Dr. Anne Corn and Caroline Daley were also present.

TSBVI staff members participating in the meeting were: Sara Merritt, Short-Term Programs Principal; Miles Fain, Comprehensive Programs Principal; Cyral Miller, Outreach Director; Susan Hauser, Center for School Resources Director; Valerie Perwein, Special Education Coordinator; Courtney Wilson, LSSP; Michael Clinkscales, Social Worker

Consideration of approval of minutes of the January 26, 2018 meeting:  

Ms. Daley moved that the minutes of the January 26, 2018 meeting be approved and Dr. Corn seconded the motion.  Committee members were in favor of the motion.

Consideration of approval of deletion of Policy FP: Student Fees, Fines and Charges:  

Dr. Corn moved to approve the deletion of the policy and Ms. Daley seconded the motion.  Committee members were in favor of the motion.

Consideration of approval of the school’s calendar for 2018-2019:  

Mr. Fain described the proposed 2018-2019 school calendar.  It is similar to last year’s calendar.  It is aligned with AISD calendar as much as possible, with a few differences, for example, the AISD winter break is shorter than the TSBVI winter break.  Ms. Daley asked how students attending AISD schools handle missed school days if TSBVI is on break when AISD is not.  Mr. Fain said that Haley Moberg, TSBVI teacher, works with AISD teachers to arrange for students to complete their work and exams. Next year, the AISD and TSBVI spring break will not align with South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, which might create problems with traffic, airline travel and other issues.  Mr. Fain mentioned that next year, AISD will require TSBVI to pay for students to attend AISD. 

Dr. Corn moved to approve the school calendar and Ms. Daley seconded the motion.  Committee members were in favor of the motion.

Report from Short-Term Programs Principal, Sara Merritt:  

Ms. Merritt gave a report on 2018 summer programs applications.  Applications for summer 2018 have closed.  Short-Term Programs has received 480 completed applications plus 103 incomplete applications.  For the 480 students with completed applications, 359 students were offered a summer programs place. So far, 11 of the students offered places have withdrawn, leaving 348 applicants.  Ms. Meritt predicts that Short-Term Programs may end up serving about 325 students this summer, which is less than last summer’s total of 345 participants. This smaller number of summer student is more aligned with the available summer programs budget. 

One factor in the reduced number of students who are accepted is new Health Center requirements this year.  The new Health Center Director has placed tighter medical restrictions and is requiring families to provide medical action plans for certain medical conditions.  New medical requirements will help in keeping students safe while attending Short-Term Programs, but it is sometimes difficult for families to meet these requirements.  For example, if a family does not have insurance, they may not be able to obtain required medications or medical equipment such as an epi-pen.  TSBVI works with families to help as much as possible to resolve these issues.  The TSBVI Health Center carries out an initial medical review of each student’s information and follows up with phone calls to families.  Based on this, the Health Center approves a student medically if they determine that the student can be served medically on campus.  The Health Center may also make a conditional acceptance of a student, or they may deny a student for medical reasons.

Another factor in reduced numbers is the change that was made for students who have attended the dorm-based Life Skills Camp in past years.  This program became a classroom-based program last year, and some students who were accepted had intensive behaviors that were difficult to manage with available supports.  As a result, the number of students accepted for the program this year has been reduced.  STP staff have now made it a practice to contact these students’ life skills teachers rather than the students’ TVIs, in order to better learn about each student, including evaluating whether the student will be able to be successful at TSBVI, since TSBVI summer programs ratios do not allow for intensive 1:1 behavioral support.  In addition, this year there will be 6-7 deafblind student in a special entrepreneurial vocational program, an increase in numbers from the 4 deafblind students who participated last year.  

Report from Outreach Director, Cyral Miller: 

Ms. Miller reported on major statewide conferences this year.  In the past, her reports have focused more online workshops, so Ms. Miller decided to report on in-person conferences and workshops.  In-person conferences are important since they allow participants to be together in the same place to interact, share, and support each other.  Ms. Daley agreed and described how helpful it is for families to be able to get together and share ideas and support each other.

Introduction to the Intervener Team Model – Outreach has presented similar training locally at service centers, and Outreach plans to beef up the regional model in the future. The advantage of doing this statewide conference is to get a larger group together so that teams of people with similar students can be grouped together to share ideas and learn together. A tour of the TSBVI deafblind program at TSBVI was included in this conference.

Southwest Orientation and Mobility Association (SWOMA) – This is a regional O&M conference that was started many years ago.  The last 5 years, TSBVI has taken on greater leadership, in collaboration with a regional committee.  This year’s conference was held in the Houston Service Center right after Hurricane Harvey, so planning for it was especially difficult.  There were 101 participants. 

Advanced DeafBlind Practitioner – Since there is not yet certification for teachers of deafblind, this annual 1-day conference is designed simply for knowledgeable teachers of deafblind students.  There were 91 attendees. It was presented by Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk.  Dr. Zeedyk stayed after the conference to work with 9 families with deafblind childen who have intensive behaviors. 

2018 International Orientation & Mobility Online Symposium

Texas Focus – The conference was successful, but TSBVI had to work hard to get teachers to attend, since financial and administrative supports for teachers to attend conferences has become more limited across the state. 

Low Vision: Supporting Students with Albinism – This is an exciting conference coming up in May.  There will be experts from around the country and from TSBVI. 

Report from Comprehensive Programs Principal, Miles Fain:  

Mr. Fain introduced Special Education Coordinator Valerie Perwein, LSSP Courtney Wilson, and Social Worker Michael Clinkscales.  Together they gave an update on social-emotional learning for TSBVI students.  This kind of instruction for students is important to support the school’s goals for student safety and students’ social-emotional health. 

Ms. Perwein said that lots of schools are looking for social emotional learning for their students.  TSBVI has always been a leader in teaching in this area.  Recently the piece of it related to technology has become more important.  TSBVI is now training teachers, residential staff, and student about digital citizenship using a free curriculum from Common Sense Media, which TSBVI has adapted for use with our students.  TSBVI’s goal is to fit in instruction in this area for all students at every developmental level, so every student can build skills for healthy use of technology.

Mr. Clinkscales described group sessions with students that have taken place once per month after school during residential hours that covered topics such as cyberbullying and risky online relationships. The sessions included the opportunity for students to use technology to answer questions and to be engaged, which enhanced the expereince for them.  Peer mentoring by EXIT students for 11th and 12th grade students has also been used very effectively.  The group has been creating parent information handouts as well.

Ms. Wilson observed that staff and students have responded very well to this instruction, and students have been very interested.  There has been a high level of participation by students and good interactions between different levels of students.  Future instruction will expand topics, and additional information will be provided to parents.  Staff will receive additional training on how to respond to subtle harrassing situations by students.

Mr. Fain and Ms. Perwein discussed dorm rules that require students to leave their devices in charging areas outside their bedrooms overnight. Parents have been supportive of this and other technology-related rules for students.  The school recognizes that parents and students need ways to stay in touch while students are so far from home, and rules regarding technology use and availability take that into account. 

Ms. Merritt described her experiences with Short-Term Programs students’ use of technology that is based on what is happening for them in their district classrooms.  Short-Term Programs students do not attend TSBVI for long enough periods of time for TSBVI to effectively address inappropriate use of technology by students.  Since students often use technology devices for magnification and for other school-related purposes, rules about it must be individualized.

Dr. Corn asked if TSBVI has experienced incidents of students getting in trouble online.    Mr. Fain said that there have been several incidents which were handled individually with students.  School responses often included having the student talk to a counselor and having the student meet with Mr. Fain in order to get a confiscated personal device back.  He said that having students check in devices at charging stations at night has helped. Teachers have been setting firmer limits on inappropriate technology use and monitoring students’ use of technology more closely. 

Ms. Daley described how she has used a Disney Circle app to manage group access to the internet, and something like that might be helpful for TSBVI to look into. She asked if TSBVI instruction includes information about legal ramifications. 

Mr. Clinkscales  and Ms. Wilson said that sessions have included discussions of legal issues and discussions about news stories that students have heard, which helps the instructor clear up confusion about what every day actions are legal and illegal.  The curriculum program offers helpful statistics and information about who predators can be, including a student’s age group peers.  The curriculum is very student-friendly and interesting for students.  


Ms. Daley made a motion to adjourn.  Dr. Corn seconded the motion.  Mr. Sonnenberg adjourned the meeting at 8:52 a.m.