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In Attendance

Name Representing
Beth Freeborn Parent
Bill Daugherty TSBVI
Brent Pitt TEA
Chrissy Cowan Mentor coordinator
Cyral Miller TSBVI
Donna Sanders District administrator
Edwina Wilks District  - dually certified
Emily Leeper TAER – O&M Division
Frankie Swift Universities - SFASU
Gwynne Reeves ESC  - Dually certified
Jayme Wratchford ESC  - VI certified
Jill Brown District  - VI certified
Julie Prause District  - VI certified
KC Dignan Coordinator
Kate Hurst TSBVI
Kellee Costello District  - dually certified
Marjie Wood District O&M specialist
Mike Lyssy Parent
Nora Griffin-Shirley Universities – TTU
Olga Uriegas VI Network
Olivia Chavez American Council of the Blind
Renae Shepler District – VI certified
Rona Pogrund Universities – TTU
Suzy Scannell ESC  - VI certified
Virginia Haas District administrator
Tricia Lee ESC  - VI certified

Unable to Attend

Name Representing
Barry Stafford Universities - SFASU
Carol Hoover District  administrator
Debbie Louder ESC  - VI certified
Dixie Mercer Universities - SFASU
Donna Glover District O&M specialist
Linda Johnson DARS/DBS
Mary Dell Donelson District administrator
Melinda Loyd District  - VI certified
Michael Munro Universities - SFASU
Pat Boyd District administrator
Twinkle Morgan ESC  - VI certified


Update from November 2009 meeting and related topics

November meeting

During the November meeting a list of action items was developed.  The current status of these items were reviewed.  
The following items have been completed:

  • Sharing the PowerPoint presentation with ESCs and then to special education administrators.
  • Meeting with the director of the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA)
  • Developing a fact sheet about ‘growing your own’ VI professional
  • Acknowledging new VI professionals and those who have recruited VI professionals
  • Including interview questions for candidates seeking VI positions in the 2nd edition of the Administrator’s Toolbox.

The following items have not been completed:

  • Develop a series of single page fact sheets to be distributed by ESCs to special education administrators
    • This was started during the current PPAG meeting and will continue
    • In addition to fact sheets for special education administrators, documents for candidates, parents and HR specialists will also be developed.
  • Submit proposal to TASPA for their conference
    • Too late for submission, will reconsider for next fall.
  • Working with SBEC to continue to examine the rigor of the certification exams
    • On-going issue to continue to be investigated by universities and TSBVI
    • Rona Pogrund met with SBEC about data being reported by SBEC which continues to be significantly undercount actual university completion rates.
  • Provide data to inform legislative actions
    • No requests have been received.
  • Develop recommendations for incentive pay for those who become TVIs
    • Deferred for economic reasons.
  • Approach TAER about supporting recruitment efforts
    • Deferred to the next TAER Board meeting in the fall of 2010

Job fairs

This year we participated in 16 job fairs around Texas.  Most of them had volunteers from ESCs and districts.  All contacted report that this was a very different year.  There were many more people who presented themselves as interested in VI and/or had some knowledge of the area and many more who (likely due to economic reasons) were interested in making a change and exploring other options.

Summary of Need

Among the most striking findings in this year’s annual review of VI professionals in Texas were the following:

  • The number of VI professionals overall was up 12.7% since the previous year (2008)
  • Attrition within the past year decreased.  This is in line with data reported from other organizations including AARP and other organizations that specialize in human service professions.
  • The cultural diversity statewide increased in every category, but is not keeping pace with the diversity of the students in schools.
  • Excluding one region which has made a major service delivery change, the number of new positions hit a historic low.

Enabling advocacy and developing fact sheets

KC presented information about the nature of advocacy and how to develop an advocacy-oriented message.  Additionally, guidelines for taking the information and applying it to the development of fact sheets was shared.  An outline of that information is attached.

The PPAG was presented with seven domains and four possible audiences for the fact sheets.  Information about each domain and each audience group was developed by the group.  The group then self-divided into areas of interest and started developing six fact sheets.  The topics of the fact sheets included the topics listed below.  The intended audience is listed in brackets “[  ]”.

  • Tips for becoming a VI professional (2 different ones) [for candidates]
  • Value of a braille transcriber [for special education administrators]
  • Value of, and tips for completing a caseload analysis (2 companion sheets from the same group) [for special education administrators]
  • Differentiating TVIs and O&M specialists [for special education administrators]
  • Differentiating deafblind interveners from other paraprofessionals [for special education administrators]

Each of these initial fact sheets will be developed further by TSBVI staff and PPAG members.  Upon completion they will be sent to a sample of the target audiences for review and revision.

Among the common themes that were generated during the presentation and feedback period was expanding the intended audience.  It was commonly held that all of the fact sheets intended for administrators should also have a companion sheet developed for parent (with equivalent information but from a parent’s perspective).  Additionally, it was thought that the sheet differentiating TVIs and O&M specialists should be made available to, and appropriate for general and special education classroom teachers.

Future fact sheets intended for parents should be available in English and Spanish.  Fact sheets will be developed to be distributed in electronic and hard-copy versions.


The following ideas were generated for dissemination and will be considered in the final dissemination plan.   These are listed in random order.

  • Add all fact sheets that have been developed to the 2nd edition of the Administrator’s Toolbox
  • Submit to AERBVI for inclusion on their website and to various AER-hosted listserves
  • Send to TASPA and other administrative professionals organizations such as TCASE and TASA.
  • Share with parent organizations
  • Get into teacher lounges
  • Roll out over time; don’t wait for all to be done, or swamp the audiences
  • Get an advertising agency or university graduate student in design to advise or help design
  • Promote these materials via TETN

Emerging issues

The PPAG members were asked to identify emerging issues of relevance to this group.  They were also asked to relate why it is of importance and/or concern.  Each of the topics was explored briefly by the PPAG.

  • More dual certified personnel
    • The concerns are that the model may not serve students well; it may have an effect on retention, administrators may be unclear about unique supervisory issues, it may increase the difficulty of single certified VI professionals to find jobs.
  • O&M certification source
    • Traditionally states (and other hiring bodies) have only accepted O&M certification from ACVREP.  However there is a new certifying organization.  There is a national movement to broaden the requirements for certification so either one could be accepted.
  • ACVREP new certification rules
    • The new certification requirement for O&M specialists, rehab therapists and clinical low vision specialists does not require that the candidate have completed an AER-approved program.  It still requires that the applicant have completed a university program and hold a bachelor’s diploma.  This is an issue for Canadian programs that do not grant bachelor degrees.
  • Availability of jobs for those who have completed VI programs in Texas
    • Many students are not getting to work in VI due to the economy and education cutbacks.  It is expected that this may continue for 2-3 years
  • Braille examinations for new VI teachers
    • NFB is encouraging states to adopt the national braille transcribers’ examination as the standard exam for those who have completed TVI training.  The concern is that this is far beyond the scope and competencies needed for TVIs.
  • Educational requirements for VI paraprofessionals
    • The question was asked whether we need VI-specific training for VI paraprofessionals.  Additional questions were asked about whether the courses offered by Hadley would meet the needs.  Olivia Chavez will make inquiries.
  • TEA is looking into requirements for electronic textbooks and whether the accessibility guidelines are being followed.
  • TTU needs a person to supervise interns in the TVI program.  This person (likely who is retired) will be responsible for making 1 visit to each intern during the semester.  The ESC members said they would extend the word.
  • Getting enough continuing education units necessary for O&M evaluation
    • O&M specialists are reporting that there are problems getting sufficient CEUs for re-certification.  Many are not give release time and/or contracting staff must take time off from working with clients.  O&M specialists may be lost due to difficulty getting re-certified.

Program updates


  • SFA has had 42 VI students. 15 students in Beaumont have completed their program, 27 students statewide.  They also have 14 O&M students.
  • 29 new TVI have started this summer; plus 14 new O&M students (6 of which are funded by the rehabilitation grant)
  • Debbie (Nelson) Cady has been hired to teach at SFA.
  • Bob Bryant is officially retiring.  SFA is looking for someone to teach O&M.  It is a tenure- track position.  A master’s degree is required, but not a Ph.D.

Texas Tech

  • The number of students attending TTU has increased by 150% since Rona started at TTU.
  • There are 129 TVI and O&M students in the program.  40% of them are not on a grant.
  • Dr. Amy Parker has been hired this year.
  • The Sowell Center is changing its name to “The Sowell Center on Sensory Impairments” and now has Facebook and Twitter pages.
  • Nora has passed her AER review exam.
  • A new national program to train doctoral students in sensory impairments (not just VI) has started.  TTU was not able to get any students approved in this first phase of the program.
  • The Texas Developmental Disabilities Council has approved a grant for TTU called “Project Ideal”.  This project focuses on inclusive strategies for university faculty.   They are developing internet modules which include videos and are looking for excellent teachers (VI and classroom) to be included in the training.  The website for the project is:
  • The annual Sowell Center lectures will be November 13.  The topic will be completing FVEs and LMAs for students with visual and significant multiple disabilities.


  • Three mentor centers and mentor training were successfully completed this year.
  • Robbie Blaha and Chrissy have been piloting a new deafblind mentor program.  Six individuals have participated.  Amy Parker (from TTU) helped with training in early May.  Robbie Blaha will be a statewide deafblind mentor consultant.
  • Next year, due to budget cuts, TSBVI will not be able to assign mentors to those who are in their first year of coursework and do not have a caseload.  Those who do not have a caseload will get a mentor the next year.  Those who do have a caseload will continue to be the priority for assigning mentors.  All are eligible for the mentor centers, regardless of they have a caseload or not.


  • The AERBVI conference will be in July in Little Rock Arkansas.  It will have the O&M conference-within-a-conference and should be excellent.
  • In the past 2 years AER has worked hard to have a balanced budget.  This has helped AER to survive the recent 7% reduction in membership.


  • TAER sponsored a great conference in San Antonio in April.
  • The TAER website has been revised.
  • The next TAER conference will be in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  However, no dates or specific locations have been determined.


  • ACB has “revived” the Braille Revival League.  They are establishing local “cells” of 6 people and will sponsor a “braille bowl” at TSBVI in spring 2011.

Other statewide VI-related events

  • The annual SWOMA conference will be in Corpus Christi in January.
  • ESC 10 and TSBVI are sponsoring a statewide braille literacy conference in Garland (at the convention center) on November 3-4, 2010.

Regional events and news

Below is information shared by ESC consultants.  Unless otherwise stated, please contact the ESC or the VI consultant at the ESC for more information.

  • ESC 13 will be having a workshop on chemistry for TVIs and science teachers.  The workshop will be led by Cary Supalo.  It will be on October 13.  Mr. Supalo is a doctoral student in chemistry who is also blind and active in issues related to making science accessible for those with visual impairments.
  • ESC 4 is sponsoring well-known deafblind expert Barbara Miles on October 3 and 4 in the Houston area.
  • ESC 4 is sponsoring Phil Schweigert.  Dr. Schweigert is an expert in communications for student with severe multiple disabilities, including those who are deafblind.
  • ECS 6 is sponsoring well-known deafblind expert Barbara Miles on January 10 - 11 in the Huntsville area.

Next meeting

The 2010-11 meetings will be held on the second Tuesday in November and May.  That would be:

  • November 9, 2010
  • May 9, 2011