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 June 1, 2018

Call to order:  Joseph Muniz called to order the meeting of the TSBVI Board Committee on Programs at 8:56 a.m. on June 1, 2018 in Room 104 of the Main Administration Building 600, 1100 W. 45th Street, Austin, Texas. 

Board Member Mary Alexander was present.

Program Committee member Lee Sonnenberg was not present.

Newly appointment board members attending the meeting were:  Dan Brown, Julie Prause, Brenda Lee.

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; Shelly Allen, Residential Director; Debra Sewell, Curriculum Director; Cyrenna Villegas, Procurement Director and Notary.

Other attendees:  Newly appointed board member Dan Brown’s family: Liz Brown (wife), Sarah Lujan (daughter).

Oaths of Office for newly appointed board members:  Mr. Muniz administered the Oath of Office to three newly appointed Board members: Dan Brown, Julie Prause, and Brenda Lee.  Cyrenna Villegas notarized the oaths that they signed.

Mr. Muniz requested that a photographer be available at the Board meeting to take a publicity photo of the new board members. 


Consideration of approval of minutes of the April 6, 2018 meeting:  Mr. Muniz explained that the members of the program committee who were present April 6 are not present today.  Mr. Muniz moved that the minutes of the April 6, 2018 meeting be approved and Ms. Alexander 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 Short-Term Programs (STP) attendance, including written reports.  This is the first year that a student from every region in Texas attended Short-Term Programs.  STP has made extra efforts to connect with students, families, and local district staff in regions that have had lower STP attendance, in order to encourage more students from those regions to attend STPs.  Tours have been provided so families and students can see Austin and the campus.  Ms. Merritt said that consideration was given to offering a local STP class in other regions, but it was determined that this still would not be convenient enough for students in the region to attend.

Distance learning programs have helped increase the number of students who were served by STP.  These programs have allowed students to get help quickly for specific problems and questions.  Also, local students’ Teachers of the Visually Impaired have been able to participate with their students.  The Texas legislature funded a distance learning staff position, which has really made a difference in STP’s ability to deliver distance learning programs.  Mr. Brown asked if distance learning class offerings will be expanded.  Ms. Merritt said that TVIs in the state are being surveyed in order to identify needs, and technology has been the identified need up to this point.  She has a goal of teaching a class for credit, but there are logistical issues to be overcome.  Mr. Muniz said that the board would be very interested in STP offering a distance credit class. 

The STP attendance numbers increased significantly this year.  Ms. Merritt reported both duplicated and unduplicated attendance counts.  Duplicated count is the total number of student attendees at all programs (each time a student attended any program is counted, even if a student attended multiple programs).  For 2017-2018, the duplicated count is 312 attendances.  Unduplicated count is the number of different students who attended Short-Term Programs (each individual student is counted only once, regardless of how many programs the student attended during the year).  For 2017-2018, the unduplicated count was 170 students.  The counts combine both distance learning programs and on-campus classes.

Ms. Merritt briefly reviewed details of attendance by program.  Weekend classes and classes with fun themes (such as “Iron Chef” and “In the Driver’s Seat”) were better attended than more academic classes.  Short-Term Program collaborated with Outreach to present five separate programs this year.  STP provides transportation for students during the school year, but they do not provide transportation for summer programs.  Ms. Lee mentioned her experience that students can be encouraged to attend STP through interactions with Outreach staff and by attending fun programs first. 

Ms. Merritt described summer programs that will be happening this summer.  There are several one-week programs that allow students and families who haven’t attended before to come for a shorter time to see how it goes. 


Report from Comprehensive Programs Principal, Miles Fain:  Mr. Fain gave a report on the School Health Advisory Council’s activities and recommendations.  He introduced Shelly Allen, who is Chairperson of the School Health Advisory Council.  Mr. Fain introduced Debra Sewell, Curriculum Director, who is also a member of the council.  The only other staff who is a council member is Elina Muller, PE teacher.  The rest of the council members are parents, since parents are required to be the majority of the members.  All schools are required to have a School Health Advisory Council, primarily to get input from parents, staff and students to promote student health.

Ms. Allen discussed the council’s activities.  All items on this year’s Action Plan were accomplished.  A challenge for council meetings is the distance of parents from the school.  There are five parent members of the council, who represent a cross-section of parents from across the state.   Council meetings take place through conference call. There are six meetings per year, and usually only about two parents are able to attend each meeting.    The council provides newletters and other information to parents.  There is a Health and Wellness Fair during Parent Weekend.  The committee collects data on student health, such as student heights and weights at the beginning and end of the school year. 

TSBVI has only limited ability to affect students’ diet and fitness while students are on campus.  Students return home frequently, and diet and exercise at home might be very different than on campus.  Students are free to have food delivered to campus and they may choose less healthy options.  Food deliveries are made to the front of the campus, where TSBVI security staff can meet them.

On campus, TSBVI doesn’t provide or sell unhealthy food for students for snacks or in vending machines.  The school has increased the quality and variety of food provided to students on weekends.  Cheryl Austin, Residential Teacher, has helped create a healthy menu for students and residential staff to cook on weekends.  The cafeteria is not open on weekends, but the new menu includes fresher ingredients and more healthy choices.  During the week, the evening meal in the cafeteria is not a reimbursable meal, as lunch meals are.  In the past, many students have not enjoyed the evening meal provided in the cafeteria and instead have chosen to order food from off campus.  This year, a salad bar is provided in the cafeteria for the evening meal, which many students enjoy and therefore choose to eat on campus.  Evening residential staff are also able to buy salad bar at a low cost, which helps the physical and mental health of staff, as well as students. The health of staff is also supported by things such as staff being able to use campus recreational facilities (such as pool, track, and gym) and to participate with their students in classes such as yoga. 

Yanni Crespo, Health Center Director, plans for nurses to be more involved in student education for health topics next year, both during the school day and during dorm time.  Ms. Crespo already does training for staff to be med sponsors and diabetes training for staff and students.  Ms. Crespo supports students in learning self-medication, which is excellent life training for students.

Consideration of approval of “UnHushed” sexual education curriculum:  Ms. Sewell discussed sexuality education for TSBVI students.  This curriculum topic is important, but it is sometimes difficult for staff to deliver and for students to receive.  For middle school and high school students, sexuality education takes place during health classes, during EXIT classes, and in small groups outside scheduled class times.  The campus currently uses parts of the FLASH (Family Life and Sexual Health) curriculum and  the PAPA curriculum (a TEA parenting curriculum).  The new UnHushed curriculum will also be used if approved.  Ms. Sewell briefly reviewed topics covered in the UnHushed curriculum.  Emphasis during TSBVI sexual education instruction is on students knowing how to be safe, how to make wise decisions,  and how to protect themselves when dating, as well as learning about healthy relationships and knowing who to talk with about issues and questions.  State law requires that abstinence be emphasized in the curriculum.  Curriculum guidelines recommend or require that a counselor be present when sexual education is taught.  In Comprehensive Programs, a TSBVI counselor either leads sessions or attend sessions led by teachers.  In the future in Short-Term Programs, counselors will also be included when sexuality education takes place.  When issues come up during sexual education sessions that counselors must address with students, the counselor reports important issues to the Principal and/or notifies the student’s assigned counselor.  Sometimes things come out that staff must report as possible abuse or neglect to authorities, according to TSBVI policy and procedure.

Ms. Alexander moved to approve the UnHushed curriculum.  Ms. Lee seconded the motion.  Committee members were in favor of the motion.


Consideration of approval of recommendation of the Instructional Materials Committee:  Mr. Fain reported that no new instructional materials were adopted by the State Board of Education for the 2018-2019 school year, so no new instructional materials need to be adopted by TSBVI.  TSBVI plans to continue using instructional materials adopted by the board in April 2017. 


Report from Outreach Director, Cyral Miller:  Ms. Miller gave an update from Outreach.  There are lots of changes in Outreach coming up.  There are several Outreach teachers retiring.  Also, Ms. Miller is stepping down from the Outreach Director position, and interviews to hire a new Outreach Director are taking place now.  Ms. Miller will continue part time to support the new director and to help with projects. 

Ms. Miller reported that everything Outreach does has online and in-person elements.  New online modules, such as those for reading and literacy, are being developed and posted continually.  Other areas that have both online and in-person elements include active learning, low vision, teacher of the deafblind.  New staff who are being hired to replace retiring staff will create new modules and trainings.  The Foundations of Visual Impairment modules are being posted.  Online offerings are available both in Texas and across the country.  These are all national resources.  Outreach frequently collaborates with service centers and other campus programs to create modules and to sponsor conferences.  Ms. Miller mentioned that low salaries for Outreach staff are obstacles to hiring the best new people. 

Adjournment:  Ms. Prause made a motion to adjourn.  Ms. Lee seconded the motion.  Mr. Muniz adjourned the meeting at 10:01 a.m.