WASHINGTON STATE SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
March 12, 2021
Board Members Participating: Greg Szabo, Reg George, Brent Stark, Keri Clark, Nancy McDaniel, Dennis Mathews and Lily Clifton.
Ex-Officio Members Participating: Jim Eccles (Washington Federation of State Employees Local #1225), Marci Carpenter (National Federation of the Blind of Washington), and Stephanie Face (Teacher Representative).
Ex-Officio Members Absent: Joleen Ferguson (Washington Council of the Blind) and Krista Bulger (Parent Representative).
WSSB Staff Members Participating: Mr. Scott McCallum (Superintendent), Sean McCormick (Director of On-Campus Programs) and Janet Kurz (recording secretary).
March 12, 2021 – 11am-12:15pm
Greg called the meeting to order at 11am. The meeting started with a roll call.
Approve board meeting minutes of January 13, 2021. Keri moved to approve the minutes as submitted; Dennis seconded the motion. The minutes were approved unanimously.
Department Highlight (Sean McCormick)
Safety and expanding campus programs:
o Currently, we have 36 students on campus who are joining their core classes via remote learning from their bedrooms in their cottages or other places on campus. Students have the opportunity to join some classes in person (Orientation & Mobility (O&M), Daily Living Skills (DLS), Braille, recreation, etc.).
o There was a brief in-person services closure between Thanksgiving and two weeks after our winter holiday break. Approximately 23 students returned to onsite programs after that time. Since that time, every remaining family was personally contacted regarding sending their child back to in-person services to determine their comfort level. A number of families indicated that they were ready when we were, some families felt it was better to wait until all teachers returned to campus, and some wanted to wait until vaccinations were received. The next step forward in getting students back on campus was March 1, where all students who were ready to return were invited back. The final step will be on April 12 where we are hopeful that all students will be back.
o Safety protocols are in place such as daily screening questions regarding Covid, taking temperatures, etc. In any situation on campus, student groups are 15 or less which has required additional modifications to lunches on campus (lunches are being delivered to three different locations). Due to the students being in different groups, Sean is seeing some changes in student behavior, such as fewer students being on their devices in their spare time and instead, choosing to go outside and interact more with each other.
o Residential Life Counselors (RLC) have been extremely helpful in assisting with student supervision during the day while students are attending classes remotely from their cottage bedrooms.
o Several iterations of schedules (synchronous and asynchronous, remote and in person) have been adjusted as more students return to campus. Sean stated that this has been stressful for people and he acknowledges that.
o Sean feels that after spring break, all but approximately ten students will be back on campus. Sean wants to give kudos to staff for being flexible during this time. Sean stated that Stephanie Face is one of our teachers who has been on campus and has endured the many service delivery model changes.
o Brent asked if the students that don’t plan to return to campus feel that remote learning is a successful model or if their families have some apprehension regarding Covid. Sean stated that there is a mix of both and some families don’t feel comfortable having their child wear a mask. Sean stated that we have two full-time nurses on site to help with processes and safety and that in the coming days, we will be offering free Covid testing for staff as another layer.
o Dennis asked if Sean has received any pushback on IEP services not being delivered. Sean said the issue we are facing now is not having students receiving in-person services while on campus (some teachers are still working remotely). Sean feels we have solid relationships with families. Dennis asked if we have considered any continuing services throughout the summer for students (regular and according to their IEP’s). Sean said extended school services will be offered; two 2-week sessions for recovery and regression for students. During the summer programs, students will stay over the weekends and this will start right after school ends (June 14). This optional program will be open to WSSB students only. Dennis feels this is very prudent and wise.
o Dennis asked if Sean has a checklist for how rooms are to be prepared (self-report by staff or random checks). Sean followed up with teachers to ensure classrooms were prepared for students.
o Keri said following up from the last board meeting, Krista mentioned that students and families were not happy with having to learn from their bedrooms in their cottages while they were on campus. Keri asked if these conditions have changed or will change in April. Sean said April will look like as close as possible to what a true WSSB experience is. Students will navigate throughout the school building throughout the day with safety protocols. Sean said the only exception will be two specific places for students to have study hall or self-directed independent learning time. The isolation factor should pretty much be eliminated for students.
o Jim asked if some of our students find asynchronous learning helpful. Sean said there are a few students find this model to be effective and one of the factors is that there are no distractions. Scott stated that academics are one component of coming to the WSSB and where we struggle is with O&M, DLS, Braille (those things that don’t translate as well via remote learning). Sean said having independent, self-directed learning is important for students who are planning to attend post-secondary programs.
o Greg thanked Sean and leadership of the WSSB for ensuring the safety of our students.
Review/approve 2021-2022 school year calendar. Scott reported that the WSSB uses the Vancouver Public Schools calendar as a guide and that the only remarkable change to this year’s calendar was surrounding the Thanksgiving holidays as we will plan to shift to remote learning that week, so students are not required to transport to and from their homes quite so much. Scott met with both unions (teachers and classified staff) to review the proposed calendars and there were no concerns brought forth. Nancy moved to approve the 2021-2022 school year calendar as submitted; Keri seconded the motion. The calendar was approved unanimously.
Jim thanked Janet for sending out the accessible calendar version to staff.
Scott said in January, as soon as staff returned following winter holiday break, he and Anne Baker, HR Director started working on getting early vaccination status for our staff through the state. At the end of January, WSSB was able to secure some doses based on the argument that we have communal living. We identified nurses, cottage staff and custodians to get the vaccines first which amounted to 36 doses. Scott made the executive decision to extend the invitation for vaccinations to additional staff if the originally identified staff chose to not receive one. This extended the eligible groups to teachers and teacher aides. However, the challenge resulted in locating a vaccine, not eligibility. Several staff worked behind the scenes to try to find appointments for staff. By early February, the majority of on-campus education staff had access to the vaccine. Since the Governor opened up vaccinations to all educators, they have been easier to obtain.
The WSSB also applied for a grant with the Department of Health (DOH) to develop a website for blind and low vision individuals to obtain resources for vaccinations, testing, etc. We ran focus groups to help with this endeavor. Initial feedback indicated that there is a lot of inaccessible information. Corey Grandstaff, Residential Program Manager has been creating podcasts to be included on the website. The WSSB also hosts a telephone line for assistance. The WSSB worked with the ESD 112 to produce an audio described video for social distancing. Our Learning Independence for Today and Tomorrow (LIFTT) program participants assisted with the video.
The new proposed LIFTT building continues to evolve. Tactile drawings and 3-D modeling is available. Scott is feeling very confident that the project will receive legislative approval this year. One issue that arose was that the project was approximately $2.1 million over budget so a few items had to be eliminated from the proposed building. There is a space for Department of Services for the Blind programs in that building as well.
In February, we partnered with Portland State University (PSU), the American Printing House for the Blind and the Fort Vancouver Historical Site staff for “Mobility Matters.” WSSB students provided a virtual tour of the Fort Vancouver Historical Site. Over 667 people attended the virtual session. WSSB worked with PSU to send out physical artifacts and were able to take the virtual tour with artifacts that were representative of the site. It was great to see our students in this leadership role.
In March 60% of our students are back on campus. Scott realizes this has been stressful for a lot of people. After spring break, all students will be back on campus that choose to be.
Scott said free Covid testing will be offered to staff. These will be offered as asymptomatic only as we do not want any people who feel ill to be on campus. We could get test results as soon as 1-3 days and the tests can be self-administered with trained observers. Keri asked if the tests were for teachers who haven’t received the vaccination yet. Scott said this is for everyone and if you have gotten vaccinated you still can get sick and spread the virus; the vaccine prevents significant complications and death and given that we are residential, Scott wants to be sure that teachers and staff can have that as an extra layer of protection. Our hope is to expand this to students. This is a pilot program that is state funded. WSSB may be able to continue this through the next school year. Camas School District is the only other school in the area who offers this.
Scott stated that someone reached out to request a tactile map of the Irwin building. Scott has asked that we create a welcome packet that would include this information for potential students, enabling them to become more familiar with our school. We also plan to include a tactile description of our state logo and lion logo. Jim felt that this has been an amazing inclusive process.
National Federation of the Blind (Marci Carpenter):
o Marci reported that the NFB has been busy the past couple of months. The NFB normally traveled to Washington DC for a week each year with 500-600 blind people on site to visit congressional members to discuss 3-4 issues. This year, the event was held virtually and over 1,000 people were in attendance. One of the primary focuses this year is the proposed Access Technology Affordability Act, which would create a $2,000 refundable tax credit for blind people for the purpose of purchasing assistive technology. People would have to purchase the item up front but can then file for that tax credit at the end of the year. The NFB attempted to pass this legislation last year and had close to 140 co-sponsors on the bill, however it did not make it through the process. This year, there are 62 co-sponsors in the House and quite a few in the Senate. In Washington state, the following legislators are co-sponsors for the bill: Patty Murray, Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, and Suzan DelBene.
o The NFB national convention will be held virtually and registration is now open at: https://www.nfb.org/civicrm/event/register?reset=1&id=432. There is no cost for the convention and all sessions will be available via zoom with closed captioning available.
o The NFB of Washington is monitoring Senate Bill 5284 which eliminates subminimum wage certificates for persons with disabilities. This bill is moving through the legislative process. Self-advocates from the NFB community and other groups are watching the bill closely.
o The NFB of Washington are still trying to determine if the fall convention can be held in person or if it will be held virtually. Stay tuned for more information.
o The NFB national scholarship applications are open until March 31. There are 30 scholarships available ranging from $3,000-$12,000. NFB of Washington scholarship applications will be out next month.
Teachers (Stephanie Face):
o Stephanie reported that Sean shared the information regarding how the Irwin education/on-campus programs are evolving. Stephanie reported that there is a lot of activity and planning in anticipation of more students returning to on-campus programs.
WSFE Local #1225 (Jim Eccles):
o Jim reflected on the past year, in light of Covid. Jim stated that residential staff are working hard to cover changes and shifts in assisting students. With vaccinations occurring more frequently, the hope is that more groups and activities can return to normal, however the Covid variant strains are also concerning. Jim commented that it is amazing that the school has remained upbeat, working with all groups, taking all possible considerations with different scenarios into mind, and keeping them in play. Jim feels that, as a community, we are all keeping the communication lines open and discussing concerns and as we can to find solutions and move forward. This is a tribute to all staff from top to bottom that we are all working together on this problem and as things change, we sit down to discuss it.
Education Committee: (Brent)
o Brent visited the WSSB campus and was able to see several groups of students and teachers. He is very pleased to be back on campus and is hopeful that we can have meetings back on campus soon. Brent appreciates the work that Stephanie, staff and Sean has done. Brent said his hat goes off to them. Keri said she seconds that.
Buildings and Grounds Committee: (Nancy)
o No report at this time.
Management Committee: (Greg)
o Greg and Nancy will be working on the superintendent’s evaluation.
Legislative Committee: (Marci)
o No report at this time.
Keri would like to discuss possible gardening (horticulture) opportunities for students and the quality of food in the cafeteria and ways we can improve that for the students. Keri would like to discuss this at a future board meeting. Greg offered to meet with Keri regarding this.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 12:15pm. The next Board meeting will be held virtually on May 6 at 7:30pm.
Greg Szabo, Chair Scott McCallum, Superintendent
Board Reports – March 2021
WSSB Outreach team have been rock stars during the pandemic. They have met all the challenges with creativity and flexibility. These people are truly inspiring!
· Almost all Outreach teachers are seeing students in person. Some are seeing all students in person, some are seeing students both in person and virtually and some are only seeing students remotely. This all varies depending on the districts, student and families.
· We continue to have monthly “Outreach Check-In” Zooms. We also stay in contact with each other using Teams and email.
· Joe Dlugo continues to provide support as a mentor for the Stephen F. Austin program around the state. This is the last cohort of the Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) Grant.
· The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has offered to continue the grant funding to support Orientation & Mobility (O&M) certifications. We are teaming with Portland State University (PSU)/Washington Sensory Disability Services (WSDS) to select participants to become O&M certified in Washington, looking for the areas with the highest need. Joe Dlugo will continue to mentor.
· Our work in the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) Workgroup to review credentialing for educators of the blind and visually impaired is complete. We are anticipating appropriate changes to reflect the need of the vison professionals in our state.
· Reimagining Summer Institute (SI) 2021: Sent out a survey to determine the desire to have SI this year, either in person (with CDC precautions) or virtually.
On the horizon:
· Continue working group for Strategic Plan Goal #1: Identify statewide need for blind and low vision services, includes Pam Parker, Jennifer Merry (Director of the Ogden Resource Center), and Sara Zachariah (TVI).
· Blind Youth Consortium meeting set for March 15.
· Pacific Northwest Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (PNWAER) Virtual Conference 2021-March 18 and 19.
· Contracts will be sent to school districts starting April.
Total enrollment: 66
Learning Independence for Today and Tomorrow (LIFTT): 6
Middle School: 18
High School: 42
Number of students currently accessing in-person instruction:
· Middle School: 12
· High School: 24
Number of students currently accessing remote learning:
· Middle School: 6
· High School: 18
This winter has provided the opportunity for students to begin to transition back to in-person learning on WSSB’s campus. After 6 school weeks of offering only remote learning, a small group of 22 students returned for in-person learning during the week of January 18. On March 1, WSSB phased in an additional 14 students. At the same time, nearly all education department staff was required to work on-site and provide in-person services in individualized service areas, small groups, fitness, and learning support classes. Core subject classes are being offered through remote learning using Zoom. This means that students attending on-campus attend remote classes from a cottage bedroom.
Next steps for returning students to WSSB will occur on April 12, when all students will be invited to return to campus and attend all their classes in-person. Preparing for offering in-person classes requires that all classrooms are setup to accommodate students spaced at 6-foot distances and are equipped with technology to allow remote students to access live instruction with their peers. Some classrooms have begun piloting this simultaneous instruction model, including our choir class, which met on campus for the first time in-person all year on March 2.
The direction WSSB is going in to provide more learning in-person for students is absolutely needed for the benefit of our students, staff, and the entire school community. During the first week of March, when a surge of new students joined in-person learning, many of them shared that being back at school was “awesome,” “exciting,” “weird because of restrictions, but good,” and “glad to be back with their teachers, because it’s a lot easier to learn in-person.” The joy is palpable and can be observed through their day in the school building, cottage, and during lunch break when students are playing outside, swinging on the swings, running around the track, and hanging out with their friends outside during their lunch break. It’s clear that students benefit most when they are with their friends, having fun, and learning at school.
Residential: More students returned to the residential setting as of February 1, which means all four cottages have reopened. Students and staff continue to follow Covid protocols in all aspects of programming including recreation activities. In addition, all residential staff are working extra shifts to ensure WSSB students can work from the cottages during the day to zoom into their classes, as well as attend some of their classes in person. Recreation activities on campus resumed in mid-January with Covid protocols in place, students are enjoying being able to access the recreation center and pool. In addition, students are cooking Wednesday night dinner as a team and are learning various other skills of independent living.
LIFTT: LIFTT has been operating with full, in-person service since the beginning of November. There are 6 residents. All residents have been learning and practicing skills of adult independence in COVID times. They are doing an excellent job, and everyone has remained safe and healthy. We have kept the program running continuously since opening in the fall (no closures for the holidays). Everyone – staff included, are getting ready for a break, so we may close for a bit during the traditional spring break time.
The planning for the new LIFTT building remains in process, and Mahlum Architects meet regularly with us during this design phase. All involved are excited and hopeful that the project will continue to be funded and we will have a building for our program and Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) by next year.
Health Center: Nurses are continuing to go to students to deliver medication and administer first aid, which is working well. Nurses are observing whether 6-foot distancing is being adhered to, which reports indicate it is. Nurses will not be hosting any blood drives, dental clinic vans or nursing students at this time.
The WSSB Youth Services Specialist (YSS): The YSS continues to work with the DSB Youth Services Specialists team developing remote school year programming. In late December, the decision was made that all DSB youth service programing would continue to be provided in a remote format through at least August 2021. Remote workshops held this quarter include:
Financial Reality Fair: The non-profit Financial Beginnings Washington facilitated this evening workshop on Nov. 24, 2020. Youth were assigned a career and given a corresponding “salary” to spend. They made simulated budget decisions for their family that included an income earing spouse and one child under age 5. An app titled “Bite of Reality” was used to track spending and budget decisions. Using zoom polling features, youth made a series of decisions about how to budget their monthly income for necessities and optional spending items. The facilitators intentionally tried to upsell the youth into choosing higher cost items, so they would have the experience of revising their spending plan if they ran out of money.
Pilot for Technology Shop: DSB Assistive Technology staff (ATS) facilitated and produced a 6-week training course in using JAWS. In the weekly sessions, the ATS instructed students on topics of JAWS preferences, navigating the desktop, trouble-shooting, and using the Internet for job search. YSS have plans to offer this remote training in the spring of 2021.
Youth e-Newsletter: Two positions were created to develop and produce an e-newsletter for DSB youth services to be written for students, by students. All applicants submitted a resume and cover letter and participated in interviews. Those scoring the highest in the interviews were asked to submit a writing sample and then offered a second interview that focused on desired skills in writing, journalism, working independently. All 8 applicants received feedback about their interviews and 2 youth were selected to participate.
Blind and Socially Savvy: A contract was developed with The International School of Protocol and Blind Savvy USA to provide a soft skills development and leadership training program for youth. Employment related nuances and alternatives are a special focus of the program. Youth receive coaching in the use of social cues and body language, mingling/networking skills, establishing their image both in person and the virtual world, asking for and refusing help in public spaces, navigating low expectations and the opportunity to participate in informational interviews, virtual tours, etc. Youth meet for 4 hours per month from January – June 2021.
Step Up to the Plate: DSB vendor and registered dietician and health coach, Alysse Anderegg, facilitated a 4-session workshop on food preparation skills and nutrition from Dec. 2020 – March 2021. Youth learned about different types of nutrients and how to read and use information on nutrition labels for meal planning. They utilized low tech and high- tech tools and adaptive techniques for efficient and safe meal preparation.
Contractor Partners in Careers provides virtual work based learning and soft skills education 1 time per week for selected WSSB students. Virtual job shadows are planned after school twice per month and short term remote internships are being developed for class participants in their second year of the program.
Contractor Melissa Small has been working with a group of 12 WSSB students with additional disabilities providing work readiness skills training services. Resume development, task kits and informational interviews are examples of the vocational learning experiences provided. Ms. Small is also planning an informational workshop for parents about the Dept. of Developmental Disabilities Administration eligibility and application process in April.
1. 2020-21 Operating Budget: We ended the month of January with a 7% variance which is primarily due to savings from not having students/staff on campus e.g. food service, transportation, utilities and those other components affected by the change in service delivery. Moving forward, we will have increased costs for having students on campus with PPE and social distancing requirements. We anticipate consuming any variances.
In Fund 19B, spending is keeping pace with revenue.
2. 2021 Operating and Capital Budget Supplemental: We did not submit any supplemental requests to the legislature.
3. 2021 Legislative Session: The legislature is in session and will end on April 25, 2021. So far, we have received and responded to 10 fiscal note requests compared to 29 last year. They have been regarding: Procurement/Automated decision systems, Cloud Computing Solutions, Remote Working Reimbursements, Zero Based Budget Reviews, Equity Task Force, and Schools/Computers and devices.
4. E-Commerce: We have been working, for almost two years, to get the Ogden Resource Center approved for E-Commerce (the ability to make payments on-line/accepting credit cards). It’s a very simple process for a regular business to accomplish this but when you have state agencies trying to implement these programs, it’s not that simple with all the state requirements. So, it has been a long process, but we are very hopeful we will be able to get all the pieces in place to implement this very soon.
5. ONE Washington: This is the state’s initiative to replace its core financial system that is now more than 30 years old and long due for an overhaul. Expectations were different three decades ago, not to mention technology was too. The OneWa project has the opportunity to modernize the state’s core administrative functions through both innovation and improvements supported by technology. The administrative business functions in scope for OneWa are: Finance, Procurement, Budget, Human Resources and Payroll. Currently these business functions use various systems as opposed to the proposed system where they will all reside within the same financial system.
Things are beginning to move quickly. Weekly and sometimes semi-weekly meetings along with assigned tasks puts an additional burden on staff who already have a full load. Small agencies struggle with these type of projects as opposed to larger agencies. We are hoping that the legislature will provide some funding so that small agencies can get some support.
6. New Hires: The Business Office, like other departments, has faced staffing reductions. We have added programs in the last few years and even though these are collaborative efforts, they do add to the existing workload and keeping pace is no longer feasible. Therefore, we are recruiting for a Fiscal Analyst 1 position with a focus on accounts receivable.
7. 2021 Fiscal Year/Biennium Close: We will begin to focus on tasks and processes for closing our books for the fiscal year as well as the biennium. This is a process with tasks into September 2021; happening in conjunction with working in the new biennium.
8. 2021-23 Budget Allotments: Soon after the legislature ends their session, staff will be expected to provide allotment information for the next biennium by May 2021.
9. Performance Measures: We reported on the following measures for quarter ending December 2020:
#1585 Percent of WSSB high school students enrolled in online classes: 8%
#1586 Braille Distributed on time: 100%
#1590 Pages of Braille Transcription: 38,903
#1591 Training opportunities accessed by individuals: 11,742
#1592 Number of teachers/paraprofessionals taking Braille exams: 30
#1593 Number of students on campus: 67
#1594 Off-Campus Services: 1040
The next reporting period is at the end of March. We will report on those results in the next report.
· Museum Intern – On hold
· TVI – Math Teacher
· Communications Consultant
· Substitute TVI
· On-call Teaching Assistant
· On-call Residential Life Counselor
· HR Managers Meeting – Facilitated by Franklin Plaistowe and Marcos Rodriguez
· Labor Relations Roundtable – Facilitated by (OFM)
· COVID 19 – Reopening State HR (On-going)
· COVID 19 – Risk Management Response (PRIMA)
The proofreading position is still vacant, so the proofreading is being done by contractors, our inmate workers and Jim Eccles from LIFTT.
The prison is moving to a cohort system due to COVID-19. A solution was found to keep our inmate transcribers working full-time.
So far in 2021, the ORC has shipped 886 items to 309 students in 97 districts.
The ORC has been hosting a monthly webinar series on Wednesday afternoons spotlighting ORC services and resources. In February, guest presenters including TVIs from around the state and staff from APH (American Printing House.) The March webinar was presented by Bruce McClanahan and Cecilia Robinson on Assistive Technology.
a. Bob Lonnee, Food Services Manager, has been working closely with Sean McCormick (Director of On-Campus Programs), Jennifer Langley (Director of Curriculum and Instruction) and Corey Grandstaff (Residential Program Manager) to provide food service in such a manner to maintain proper coronavirus safety protocols for all involved. Adaptations include food delivery to a makeshift lunchroom in the Irwin Commons, to the cottages, and soon, to a third lunch room in the Old Main Building cafeteria. The kitchen staff has also been delivering food to some remote students. Lisa Rachetto, Old Main Front Desk person/Buildings and Grounds support, has taken over the FDA reporting requirements for the Food Service program. I have been impressed with the creativity and flexibility of Bob and his crew both in their work schedules, and in their efforts to provide whatever is requested for pandemic protocol reasons.
b. Mickey Marshall, Custodial Supervisor, has been working with individual staff members all around campus to make sure they have the right PPE and cleaning supplies always stocked, and she and her crew have been helping to rearrange furniture to maintain pandemic protocols. Up to this point the custodial load has been reduced with the nature of remote teaching. We’ve used this time to perform some deeper cleaning projects, to go through custodial spaces with a “spring cleaning” mindset, and to work with custodians interested in learning to perform more routine maintenance in such areas as lighting, plumbing, ceiling, and flooring, and casework.
c. Regarding HVAC, we have recently changed the air filters, so as students and teachers return in greater numbers, we will have the cleanest filters possible. During the remote work pause in full occupation here, I have been checking functionality on our systems, making sure computer-controlled devices are doing what they are designed to do. Several times I have been asked if we had adequate airflow to remove aerosols associated with the transmission of COVID-19. Short answer: yes, we do. Our systems are designed for a minimum of 5 air changeovers per hour, so five times per hour the air of a room is cycled through filters while a varying percentage is replaced with fresh air. This conforms to current pandemic standards as set by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers). Finally, on request I have worked with individual staff members to help them feel more comfortable in their space, either by teaching them about the systems, or by altering things for their needs.
2. Old Main Building Roof project is our last 2019-2021 biennium capital project. We are first in line when the Spring weather permits a two-week rain-free window. I anticipate we will be complete before June 30, 2021.
3. A few other near-term potential expenditures from Buildings and Grounds:
a. $11,000 for a Club Car Carryall 300, an electric utility vehicle to replace a 30-year-old diesel Toro mower John modified for use. The Toro is in mid-stages of dying and can only be serviced in Wilsonville.
b. The City of Vancouver is beginning to require storm water drain inspections and maintenance. Our system, now approaching 20 years old, will need some cartridge filters replaced and the basins vacuumed out. Bids so far have been about $8,000, and I am looking into self-performing the cartridge replacement. Our system link here:
c. A new fire marshal finds new issues. We have 34 expired exit signs in Old Main. These are powered by radioactive material. These signs cost $100 each to dispose of, and $550 each to procure new. If we went this route the cost is $22,000. I am seeking bids to hardwire new LED exit signs, or to replace others, where appropriate, with photoluminescent devices.
d. Birds and squirrels have damaged the EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finish System) details on both Old Main and the Irwin Buildings. We’ve trapped out squirrels and installed sonic devices and fake owls. A bid to repair the damage is $13,000 and does not include a necessary 60’ boom lift rental. We would rent the lift (approx. $5,000) and perform other maintenance while we have it, however EIFS is apparently very difficult to repair. Only one company thus far have I found to submit an estimate.
4. In November 2020 we received a letter from Department of Ecology calling for review of our pending water rights application to use the water from our well. The water rights application was made to the Department of Ecology in August of 2008. Many other well owners received this letter. Apparently, Ecology is now moving on decades-old temporary permits. We do not know where this will lead – will we be able to use our well water as we do now, strictly to irrigate, or will need to hook up to city water for irrigation? A requirement of this next step is a mitigation plan. Not sure what that is, exactly. We are awaiting further instruction from Ecology.
The WSSB Birth to 3 Program continues to provide support services to families virtually. It has been a very positive addition to our menu of services! We expect virtual home visits will continue as we will begin to implement a hybrid approach to early intervention services with a combination of virtual and in person for all families. We are following Washington State’s Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT’s) guidance on re-entry to in-person visits and also each individual’s agencies re-entry plans as a contracted service provider. We believe that a hybrid approach is best as it will not only reduce our travel costs, but also increase our efficiency and effectiveness of services to families through use of the coaching model of service delivery. Our staff has participated in many training opportunities on the coaching model, which is an evidence based best practice in early intervention programs.
The enrollment to our Birth to 3 Program fluctuates every month as children are identified and then move out of program, typically at 3rd birthday but also for other reasons. Since July 2020 we have an average of 83 children with 91 in August and 67 in November. Our referrals per month have an average of 6 with 10 referrals in July and 4 referrals in December.
As mentioned in the last Board Report, DeEtte is focused this year on targeted child find activities in collaboration with Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families/ESIT program as well as our partners at WSDS which includes the Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth. We have completed the update to the Three Prong Approach to Vision and Hearing Screening and it is now with ESIT waiting for final approval and branding. Trainings with individual agencies continue as they are requested, and the latest training was conducted at Children’s Village, the early intervention agency for both Yakima and Kittitas counties, on March 4. Future activities include creating a recorded module series that will live in the ESIT training portal where early intervention providers, such as intake coordinators and family resource coordinators, can be trained spontaneously without DeEtte doing it live. DeEtte has proposed this training as a session for this year’s Infants and Early Childhood Conference (IECC) which is the first week of May of very year.
Our monthly “Talk O Tuesday” Family Resource Night is becoming popular and very effective in supporting families of children aged birth to 5. We have conducted 2 sessions so far with 7 families attending live in January and 6 families attending live in February. These sessions are recorded with personal family information edited out and posted on the WSSB YouTube site. For our January session on statewide services, we have had 81 views. February’s session on expanded core curriculum will be posted soon. Future topics include early literacy in March, O&M in April, and parent advocacy with Washington Partnership for Action, Voices for Empowerment (Project PAVE) in May.
Each month I will provide, in bulleted format, a list of the more significant activities of the Superintendent’s office. For each month, I will describe a highlight or two in more detail. If at any point you would like more information or have questions, please do not hesitate to call, email, or schedule a time to meet in person. I want to make sure that you have the information that you need to advise and guide what we do to meet the needs of students who are blind or low vision throughout Washington State.
January 14: WSDS meeting
January 15: Educator professional growth workgroup meeting with the PESB
January 15: ESD 112 Regional superintendents meeting
January 18: Educator and workforce subcabinet-legislative meeting
January 19: Meeting with blindcovid.com committee
January 19: Executive and small agency cabinet meeting
January 20: Meeting with Anne Baker, HR Director regarding vaccine distribution
January 20: LIFTT schematic design meeting
January 21: Meeting with superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired regarding potential collaboration
January 22: Martin Luther King Jr. day virtual assembly with WSSB students
January 26: Meeting with ESD 112 staff regarding blindcovid.com video
January 27: Small agency cabinet forum
January 27: Monthly disability policy consortium meetings
January 28: Meeting with WSSB leads regarding Strategic Plan goals and outcomes
January 28: Meeting with Lighthouse for the Blind staff regarding collaboration opportunities
January 29: Meeting with staff from Imagination Video Books regarding accessible children’s books
As planned, about 25 students were welcomed back to campus beginning the week of Martin Luther King Jr Day. WSSB is not the same without students and having some students is definitely a welcomed change. As has been the case since the summer months, I continue to meet with local health officials and area superintendents weekly. As predicted, the number of COVID cases rose significantly after the Thanksgiving holiday and throughout the winter break and began a significant decline about two weeks after the conclusion of the winter break. WSSB facilities crew have provided critical supports through altered cleaning routines, building and installation of barriers, and constantly readjusting school furniture. They have also helped manage the significant levels and types of PPE available on campus.
Throughout the month of January, Human Resources Director, Anne Baker and I met with a variety of state officials to advocate for WSSB campus education staff to have priority access to the vaccine. Eventually our efforts proved somewhat successful, however, a finite number of staff were allowed to be provided letters stating they would be eligible for the vaccine. The overall number of staff provided priority access were based on specific duties of those staff as determined by state officials. These staff originally included our nurses, cottage staff, custodians, and one-on-one student supports, totaling 36 individuals. Identified staff were issued letters stating that they should be allowed to access the vaccine as soon as appointments were available. While a few staff were able to access the vaccine in late January, most were not able to make their first appointments until February. If identified staff declined the opportunity or were able to access the vaccine another way, letters were extended to our most vulnerable education staff not included in the original effort (mostly teachers and general teaching assistants). Ultimately, nearly all on-campus educators were provided justification for priority access to the vaccine. Securing an actual appointment proved to be an entirely different challenge for many staff.
February 1: Educator and workforce subcabinet-legislative meeting
February 2: OSPI statewide COVID updates and collaboration webinar
February 3: Meeting with shop stewards of the Washington Federation of State Employees regarding draft 2021-2022 school year calendar
February 4: Meeting with architecture firm regarding LIFTT building
February 8: Educator and workforce subcabinet-legislative meeting
February 9: Listening sessions with WSSB staff
February 10: Council of Schools and Services for the Blind (COSB) national webinar regarding mentorship
February 10: Small agency cabinet forum
February 11: WSDS meeting
February 11: Meeting with staff from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) regarding an upcoming presentation on remote instruction and assessment for blind and low vision students
February 11: Meeting with Anne Baker and Mary Sarate, Director of Business and Finance regarding fiscal note reporting and submission
February 11: Meeting with Greg Szabo, board chair, regarding March board meeting agenda
February 12: Meeting with shop stewards of the Washington Public Employees Association regarding draft 2021-2022 school year calendar
February 12: LIFTT project design meeting (room data discussion)
February 15: Educator and workforce subcabinet-legislative meeting
February 16: Meeting with the BADIE (Benefits of Audio Description in Education) committee
February 18: Meeting with Jennifer Merry, Director of the Ogden Resource Center regarding the Washington Correctional Center for Women braille program
February 23: CCSSO’s winter collaborative conference/attend sessions and presentation
February 23: OSPI statewide COVID updates and collaboration webinar
February 23: Conference call with Kathryn Thrasher regarding blind hockey
February 24: CCSSO’s winter collaborative conference
February 24: Small agency cabinet forum
February 24: Monthly disability policy consortium meetings
February 25: CCSSO’s winter collaborative conference
February 25: Meeting with Anne Baker, Sean McCormick and the education and residential staff regarding reopening plan
February 26: Mobility Matters (collaborative event with PSU and WSSB)
February featured several highlight-worthy efforts. With the aid of a small grant through the Washington Department of Health, WSSB launched BlindCovid in an effort to provide blind and low vision Washingtonians access to accessible information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted a variety of focus groups with blind and low vision adults across the state to inform our efforts. Those efforts included the creation of a website ( ) populated with accessible resources and information, an access phone line, an ongoing podcast, and a video about the effort and how to maintain appropriate social distance as an individual who is blind or low vision. The video is still in production at the time of this writing. The video feature participants from the LIFTT program and is being produced by our friends ESD 112.
The LIFFT program building design effort continues. We have worked with the architects to provide staff and stakeholders with a variety of tactile architectural drawings and models printed on our 3D printer at the school. The current state of design is undergoing a value-engineering evaluation. We learned very recently that the design effort is significantly over budget and cost cutting opportunities are being evaluated. The priority for the project is a facility for the LIFTT program, however, an entire floor has been dedicated for Department of Services for the Blind (DSB). If necessary, we will consider major reductions for the significant amount of space provided to DSB.
In late February, WSSB participated in a collaboration with PSU, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, and the APH to offer a “virtual fieldtrip” of the Fort. Participants of the virtual fieldtrip were provided tactile maps, a sampling of artifacts, and a collaborative tour experience. WSSB teachers Steve Lowry and Jeff Bowler played a significant role in planning and facilitating this experience for nearly 500 individuals across the nation. WSSB students lead the tours along with experts from the Fort. Our students were very well prepared for this leadership opportunity and represented themselves and WSSB with amazing skill and pride. It was an awesome experience for everyone involved.
March 1: Educator and workforce subcabinet-legislative meeting
March 1: Meeting with Rebecca Pizzitola, Program Manager, Health Commons Project, regarding Covid testing at WSSB
March 4: COSB board meeting
March 4: LIFTT building meeting regarding engineering update and project goals discussion
March 10: Small agency cabinet forum
March 11: WSDS meeting
March 12: Board of Trustees meeting
March 1 marked our next step in welcoming students to campus and providing an increased level of in-person supports and services. About 60% of our students are now on-campus daily. Students on campus are set to receive all IEP-specific services, ELL services, small groups, tutoring, and fitness class with their teachers in-person. A few other classes such as music are also being piloted fully in-person. We expect that all students will be welcomed back to campus and that all coursework will be offered with their teachers in-person no later than the Monday following Spring Break (April 12). We do expect that a small number of students will choose to stay remote and we have purchased technology to help facilitate teacher’s ability to provide simultaneous in-person and remote coursework. Every student whom I have had the opportunity to speak with on campus has expressed such joy and appreciation to be back on campus and meeting in-person with their teachers. This is definitely the highlight of the year so far and I am excited to bring back more students.
Finally, we have applied and been accepted into the school COVID testing program offered through the Department of Health. The initial effort included 13 districts statewide. I submitted our application the same day Governor Inslee spoke about this effort alongside the Superintendent from Enumclaw, one of the original pilot districts. On March 1 we met with our project coordinator from Health Commons Project to begin to determine how this program will be rolled out at WSSB. We expect to offer self-administered PCR tests to all WSSB staff each week. The tests will be completely voluntary, and all staff must be asymptomatic to be on-campus. The current program does not include testing of asymptomatic students, however that could change as discussions are currently underway at the state level. This effort is completely funded by the state. WSSB health center staff will play a lead role in facilitating this effort. Our hope is that such an effort will provide an increased level of comfort to staff and families that WSSB is a safe place to be for all students and staff. We hope that WSSB will be able to implement this program in advance of the planned and full return in April.
Meetings with department managers and administration team
Executive Cabinet meetings
Goal Council meetings
Clark County and Regional Superintendent meetings
NWABA Board meetings
UEB committee meetings
Oregon Commission for the Blind Board meetings
Washington DeafBlind Advisory Council meetings
We continue to monitor legislative efforts and respond to fiscal notes sent to the agency. Currently, there are no proposed bills that will have a significant impact on the agency. At the time of this writing, no major discussion related to the capital budget have been conducted by the legislature. We remain confident that our LIFTT project will be funded this session. If funded, the project is scheduled to begin July 1, 2021.