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Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) Strategic Planning Underway

Authors: Emily Coleman, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Keywords: strategic planning, stakeholders, recruitment and retention, outreach program, student identification, evaluations, student empowerment, independence, partnering

Abstract: Superintendent Coleman outlines strategic planning sessions that the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) held with various stakeholders and the four priorities that the school will address in the next few years.

In the Fall 2021 edition of TX SenseAbilities, I shared the Vision of TSBVI, which has been slightly modified during our current strategic planning session. The Vision of TSBVI now states, “All Texas students who are blind, visually impaired (VI), or deafblind will be empowered to lead productive and fulfilling lives.” Our goal was to keep a vision that encompassed what we believe about all 11,000 students identified in Texas—and also was easier to remember. A win-win!

In the spring of 2021, we held a variety of meetings with TSBVI staff in multiple departments. During the fall, we facilitated six stakeholder focus groups, including educators, administrators, families, students, and members of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas and the Texas chapter of the American Council of the Blind. After gathering various feedback regarding barriers to education for students who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind, I met with our leadership and Board of Trustees to identify priorities moving forward.

Throughout the vetting process, we identified eleven topics for further discussion, which were further narrowed down to four main priorities to address within the next few years. Our first priority identified was recruitment and retention across the board. From residential instructors at TSBVI to teachers of students with visual impairment (TSVIs) and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS) around the state…we have a lot of needs. This includes seeking additional support for university preparation programs.

The second priority was to grow our Outreach program. About 140 students attend campus full time, another 250–300 attend through short-term and summer programs, and the remaining 11,000 students need support from our Outreach department. Addressing the greatest population of students in our state must remain a priority.

The third and fourth priorities included student identification and evaluations, as well as promoting student empowerment and independence. These clearly align with the foundations of our work. Students need to have accurate evaluations in order to be identified appropriately, which will guide the development of successful educational programs. We also need to empower students to be as independent as possible, which requires constant training of the adults interacting with our students every day. We need to be empowered to raise expectations, too.

I look forward to the coming days of planning and partnering with all of our stakeholders to promote student success. Even during times of change and challenge, we have so much to celebrate. TSBVI remains a leader in the education of students who are blind, visually impaired, and deafblind, and we’re grateful to each of you that contributes to our work.

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