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Fall 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By William “Bill” Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract: Superintendent Bill Daugherty discusses future planning for TSBVI and invites dialogue with stakeholders on this topic.

Key Words: William Daugherty, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, blind, visually impaired, deafblind, future planning, collaboration, partnership

The Texas School for the Blind and Visu-educators and blind adults, among others. ally Impaired (TSBVI) is in the middle of so This statewide system in Texas is widely much change with its construction project regarded as the best in the country, and that it makes us think a lot about the future moving forward we all sure want to keep it of the school. By the time all the building that way. TSBVI is very well resourced by is over, we will have sat at 1100 W. 45th the state legislature, but these resources Street in Austin for about 95 years. So what are far from infinite and there is constant does the next 95 look like? A picture from vigilance from our lawmakers to ensure the original 1916 construction shows men that there is real value for every tax dollar and mules standing in the blazing summer they invest. So in thinking about the future, heat. It looks almost unbearable, and the we have to think beyond simply adding new mules speak to a bygone era. A picture programs and services as a way to grow from three months ago shows men toil-the school’s mission and effectiveness.

ing in the exact same spot in 105 degree weather. I TSBVI Outreach Services stood there too, and it was indeed almost unbearable. So maybe 95 years from

and Summer and Short-Term Programs grew out of needs expressed to us by now is not a future so fan-the ISDs as ways to protastic that all of our troubles have been solved by invention and technology. Maybe vide additional supports to students who attend their local schools. These initiawe are still in the business tives have been successful of educating kids with visual impairments, and if so, what parts of what we do by any measure, and that’s a good thing because they require a significant part of now will still be relevant to the school’s resources to Texas, and what parts will not? operate. Now we see these fine programs as foundational parts of our service Breaking that long view delivery system, and we will down into decades, we at continue to grow and refine

TSBVI are trying to think how our school them and do more with them. But to “do can make its best contribution to the state more” by adding major new programs such as a whole over the next 10–20 years. TSB-as these is not likely in the near term. The VI sees itself as but one part of a statewide discussion we are beginning to strike up with system that includes the ISDs, ESCs, TEA, stakeholders right now is how to do more DARS/DBS, the two universities, and all of by leveraging the potential of the statewide the advocacy groups representing parents, system as a whole. Terms like cooperation, collaboration, choice, role release, partnerships and parental involvement define the leveraging as I intend it here.

We all recognize that among the 8000+ students in Texas that there are students who are underserved. Sometimes we think of these as individual kids, and sometimes we think of them as groups. The recent surge in advocacy for students with deaf-blindness by parents and educators alike is an example of an underserved group for which new service delivery supports like interveners are coming on strong. I have to think that among every age group and among every group of learner types—on grade level, not on grade level, multiply disabled, etc.—there are underserved children. What TSBVI is trying to figure out is how we can do our part, and perhaps immodestly, say how we can provide statewide leadership, to ensure that all students have a state-of-the-art education in both the core and expanded core curriculum. Our school somehow has to go about this in a smarter fashion, because as I said before, just adding on and funding new programs is unlikely.

Here are two things I believe many of us think we know on this topic right now. First, students come to our campus or our staff comes to yours only because those of you in the ISDs ask for it. This simple formula covers about 99% of what we do. Second, there are students at TSBVI now who would be best educated in their local schools, and there are students in the ISDs now who really need the intensity of specialized services TSBVI offers. In some important ways both of these groups of students end up being underserved, and this applies to all type of learners.

In the ISDs it seems that the major challenge is time. Itinerant TVIs and COMS are spread thin to say the least. At TSBVI we have the time in comparison to the itinerant model, and often our big challenge is how to ensure that the intensity of services we provide leads to learning and skills that can be generalized to the next environment after the three years that is the norm for students enrolled here. That next environment is never a campus full of specialists who have teaching access to the student for upwards of fifteen hours a day in classroom, community, and residential living instruction. Both educational settings—the ISDs and TSBVI—are searching for ways to address these two challenges. Kids attending local schools now often have locally developed summer and after school opportunities to fill in some of the gaps created by the time crunch. ISDs continue to inform us about the types of outreach, summer and short-term programs they want from TSBVI. TSBVI continually strives to zero in on the reasons for enrollment at our school, and on the readiness of each student and of the “next environment”, be that the ISD or post-school experience, to be a successful match.

As TSBVI looks forward to the next two decades with a desire to do its part—one part among many—in moving the entire statewide agenda in the direction of continuous improvement, we want to engage all stakeholders in an honest and open planning process about our school’s future within the context of the 8000+ kids and their widely varied educational needs. If that process can look at the statewide system as a whole, rather than a loose amalgamation of individual organizations, Texas will stay at the forefront of what is best for all of the students we serve. Please let us know what’s on your mind regarding this broad topic; I am always available at . We’ll soon be approaching many of you in a more formal fashion on the topic to hear your ideas and issues on how to guide our system as a whole moving forward, and how to best partner with you on your local efforts to make your district or region reach the goals you went into this field to accomplish.