Minutes from Board of Trustees Meeting

September 25, 2020

Conference Call/Zoom



Board Members Participating:  Greg Szabo, Brent Stark, Keri Clark, Reg George, Nancy McDaniel, Dennis Mathews, and Lily Clifton.


Ex-Officio Members Participating:  Jim Eccles (Washington Federation of State Employees Local #1225), Joleen Ferguson (Washington Council of the Blind), Marci Carpenter (National Federation of the Blind of Washington), Stephanie Face (Teacher Representative) 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).


September 25, 2020 – 11am-2pm

Greg called the meeting to order at 11am.  The meeting started with a roll call.


Business Meeting:

Old Business:

*      Approve board meeting minutes of June 19, 2020. Nancy moved to approve the minutes as submitted; Brent seconded the motion.  The minutes were approved unanimously.


Department Highlight (Sean McCormick) (presentation included at the end of the meeting minutes)

*      Scott stated that he invited Sean to the board meeting to discuss the WSSB Reopening Plan and that in local districts, their school Board is required to approve their school district’s “reopening plan”.  Scott asked the board to think about questions and concerns and if this plan resonates with them.  Scott will be taking this information to our local and state health officials to have this same discussion.  Scott does not feel that they will say yes or no definitively.

*      Sean reported that the shift to online instruction and considerations around having students return to campus is a huge lift.  Sean stated that everything is fluid and in draft format due to the changes with the COVID-19 statistics. Sean reviewed the reopening plan (listed at the end of the meeting minutes). 

*      Sean reviewed the COVID-19 statistics regarding where WSSB students reside. 46% of our students are living in counties with high risk activity level.  Scott stated the metrics that Sean is referring to were announced by the Governor and Department of Health (DOH) to guide ‘return to school’ metrics.  Currently, Clark County numbers are trending upward.  There is an equity initiative in the state whereby the goal is to return students to school who are in the high need category.  All school districts in Clark County are bringing in students who are on IEP’s. 

*      Sean stated that we are proposing a staged return of students and currently the WSSB has ‘pre-stage one’ students on campus to receive one to one evaluations. There are also six local students who are in learning support classrooms who are now on campus (since September 21).  The next ‘stage’ will be fourteen of our students who have been identified as not demonstrating growth.  The next stage will be twelve students who have been identified as needing more intensive supports and who have demonstrated limited growth.  The following stage will be the return of ten students who have demonstrated a need for in-person learning and the final stage will be the return of all students in-person.

*      Sean feels that having a staged return plan has been a great learning experience and the WSSB is following the guidelines as prescribed by the Clark County Health Department and DOH. 

*      Sean explained that nearly 50% of Irwin classroom teachers will not be on campus (in-person) due to high-risk accommodations.  Sean stated that this puts us in a position to provide creative instruction and that the current distance learning model will be available for all.

*      Jim thanked Sean and Janet for sending this information out prior to the meeting.  Jim asked if Sean has considered keeping students on campus for longer than normal (Monday-Friday and home on the weekends).  Jim felt this could help with the potential spread of the virus. Sean said this was considered in their initial plan for reopening and that he discussed this with WSSB families. There is also a capacity issue relating to staffing (additional layer of staff to support extended stays on campus).

*      Lily asked if there is a plan for active contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.  Scott stated that the Clark County health officials would take the lead if this should happen and that he and Sean plan to run a simulation of this potential occurrence.  In addition, every staff member and visitor are required to fill out an ‘attestation’ form when they come on campus.  This attestation includes locations they visited on campus and Scott also encourages staff to include the names of other staff members they encounter.  This information is compiled into a database and that information can be used by the Clark County Health department. 

*      Marci said she appreciates that we are taking this approach and appreciates the sensitivity to staff who may be at high risk. 

*      Greg asked what the plan for transportation is for students. Sean stated this is one of the toughest hurdles. The WSSB separated our shared charter bus transportation with the Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth (CDHY) and WSSB will not be utilizing the airlines for transportation.  The WSSB will use the same charter bus transportation company and have determined that we can separate the students, six feet apart which will result in having 14 students on a 54-passenger bus.  This is not a cheap option, but we feel this will help keep students safe.  Wellness screenings will occur before students get on the bus. When local students return via the ESD 112 bus transportation services; their staff will perform the wellness screenings.

*      Jim feels it is very helpful to allow both asynchronous and synchronous options for learning.  Sean feels that teachers bring a lot of wisdom to the table however this is a totally new way to teach. 

*      Last Thursday, Sean spent the day attending classes so that he would be able to simulate what our students learning experience is like. The intent wasn’t to evaluate the teachers, but to see what the experience is like for the student. 

*      Sean stated it is fortunate that the WSSB has provided distance learning to students for the past 10 years; that has given us good information and guidance. 

*      Jim asked if each student has necessary technology and internet capabilities.  Sean stated that every student has internet access and some received hotspots from the WSSB. 

*      Dennis said he is impressed with the presentation and information and where does this go next?  Sean said he is planning to send this information to families of WSSB students.

*      Reg said the concern is the things we don’t have control of relating to the pandemic, i.e. what students do at home (spending time with friends, etc.).  Reg feels that asynchronous learning is difficult as interactions with students are important. Sean thanked Reg for his comments. 

*      Scott acknowledged that things are less than ideal, and we won’t move forward at the sake of jeopardizing anyone’s safety.  Scott is concerned about staffing, i.e. if there are symptoms staff cannot be on campus for 10-14 days. 

*      Scott asked if the board feels we are going in the right direction. Marci said she thinks we are doing the right things and are being flexible.  Reg said it is going to be at least January before the Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) will be going back to in-person services. 

*      Scott thanked Sean for the work he has put into this.


New Business:

Strategic Plan

*      Scott and Greg both thanked Dennis for participating on the Strategic Plan committee.  Scott stated that all administrators with an education background participated on the committee.  A lot of thought went into the process and final document.  Scott said stakeholders were approached throughout the process for their input. 

*      Scott read the language statement that precedes the Strategic Plan:  “WSSB recognizes the evolving and impactful nature of language, especially as it relates to disability.  Our goal is to recognize and affirm all individual identities and personhood through thoughtful use of language.  According to the American Psychological Association’s Publication Manual (2019), “Both person-first and identify-first approaches to language are designed to respect disabled persons.”  Our use of identify-first language throughout the Strategic Plan is intentional.  It is our belief that identify-first language promotes a sense of pride and honors the unique experiences of the individual.”

*      The WSSB is moving away from the term “impaired” as it relates to visual impairment.  This will be replaced by low vision.

*      Scott reviewed the updated Strategic Plan. The WSSB’s big goal by 2035 is: “Every blind and low vision student in Washington has the supports and services they need to succeed.”  Goals:  Identify statewide need for blind and low vision services, expand awareness of and access to blind and low vision services, and expand capacity to improve services for all students. Each goal has a set of three-year objectives and three-year strategies.

*      Scott feels there could be a systematic way to reach all students by using the data gained from our Strategic Plan goals and objectives. 

*      Nancy asked if there is a supporting document or plan. Scott stated he assigned cabinet level members of our team to lead the charge of each specific goal area. They then report back to Scott and the leadership team and then he can report back to the Board with the progress being made.

*      Jim stated in goal two he liked the marketing aspect.  Jim stated, even in Vancouver, some citizens still confuse the two specialized schools. Expanding that state-wide, there are a lot of people who know virtually nothing about our school.  Scott stated blindness is a low incidence disability and for most people, this isn’t something they think about.  Keri feels marketing and awareness is huge and that the board can also assist in helping spread the word.

*      Marci applauded and recognized Scott and the staff for the language piece and for looking at ableism and identity-first language.  Marci stated regarding goal number one and getting good data, does Scott feel like there is a lack of good data or outreach in terms of tribal members?  Scott said that is a very real possibility.  Scott feels the Ogden Resource Center data is the most accurate on record. 

*      Scott said WSSB is teaching a social justice class this year.  The first topic of discussion is identity.  Greg stated he agreed wholeheartedly with what Marci said and has totally changed his mindset with person-first language.  Scott said he is proud that we are leading the charge. 

*      Marci said the term visually impaired lead her to believe that she was a broken sighted person and she doesn’t want students to grow up with that.

*      Lily asked about person-first language and approaching it with equity in mind and asked if there was any legal or government-related terminology that we should be pursing out as far as when the terms are still used vs. when we, as a school or community, are choosing to use the updated term.  Scott stated if someone identifies with visual impairment vs. low vision, he supports them as it is their choice how they identify.  Scott stated that he hopes that this inspires a movement in the schools for the blind community. 

*      Joleen said that over the years, this has been debated, i.e. the debate used to be handicapped or disabled.  Scott said human variation is normal, the spectrum of all life experiences is what’s normal.  Scott feels that our language supports those notions.

*      Keri said that her daughter has some vision, and she appreciates having the term low vision as her daughter does not consider herself blind. 

*      Lily asked if this information is being included in the social justice course.  Scott said he isn’t sure, as this class is brand new. Lily said we all have experienced ‘other-izing’.  Lily said that people of a particular identity can also perpetrate and uphold systems of oppression and she personally has experienced that in the blind and low vision community as well.  She feels it is important as we talk to young people around our own implicit or explicit potential engagement in upholding those systems of ableism. 


Superintendent’s Report

*      Scott asked if there are any questions about his report. 


Ex-Officio Reports:

*      Washington Council of the Blind (Joleen Ferguson):  Joleen stated the WCB will be holding their annual convention virtually (October 29-31).  This is a new endeavor for the WCB and this year’s theme is “Strength Unveiled”.  There will be a first-timers get together, board meeting, speakers who will address accessibility, advocacy, preparing for college, technology, iPhone, smart phones and more.  The WCB will also hold their first ever virtual live auction.  The “big three” will present on October 31 (Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, DSB and WSSB).  There will be a Youth Track, Guide Dog users meeting and an employment panel as well.  Registration can be found at www.wcbinfo.org and the cost to participate is $15 for members and $25 for non-members if you sign up by September 30. Greg said he is enjoying participating virtually at events.

*      National Federation of the Blind (Marci Carpenter): 

o   Marci reported that they held their national convention virtually this year and that they usually have about 3,000 participants; this year there were over 8,000 and that does speak to one of the silver linings of a virtual platform. 

o   The NFB of Washington fall convention will be held virtually, November 6-8.  Marci will forward the link for the registration form which is now available, and the cost is $10. 

o   There are a lot of discussions occurring in the federation right now pertaining to implicit bias, inclusion and cross section of society.  We all carry our own biases, i.e. cane or guide dogs.  One of the things that hit home for Marci in terms of racial injustice is the story of Ron Brown who is an NFB member and O&M instructor who teaches both children and adults.  On two occasions, when Ron was on a route with his students, the students were stopped by police and were asked if they were alright. 

*      Teachers (Stephanie Face):  Stephanie asked if anyone has questions.  Lily said she would love to hear how teachers and staff are doing, how team dynamics are doing, how they are growing with each other in this virtual world.  Stephanie stated they use Microsoft Teams to communicate and that can be overwhelming because in addition to using Teams, they have to check Zoom, the telephone, Skype, etc.  Stephanie stated all of her teacher aides are on campus. Greg said he finds it difficult to socially distance as a blind person and asked how students are doing with that and face masks. Stephanie reported that Sean and Jennifer Langley (Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment) have put markers on the wall to help students socially distance, however with more students coming on campus, it may be more challenging.  Wearing masks have been somewhat challenging for students, i.e. size, fit, etc.  When teachers work with students, face shields and masks are worn and that can be difficult because projecting voices is challenging, especially when social distancing. 

*      WSFE Local #1225 (Jim Eccles):  Jim reported that the Welcome Back Fall Workshop was provided virtually and felt that, for the most part, the whole day worked very well and felt that getting together via Zoom was better than not getting together at all.  Jim felt that getting everyone set-up on Zoom back in March was a good move.  Jim said the big problem for classified staff is working through the 20-hour per work week reduced schedule due to students not being on campus; however, the WSSB signed up for the Shared Work program through the Employment Security Department and that has helped staff to obtain additional wages through unemployment and have also ensured that medical benefits have not been impacted.  Jim thanked Anne Baker, Human Resources Director and the Human Resources Department for all of their assistance in helping staff get through the process. 

*      Parent Representative (Krista Bulger):  Krista reported that this has been a large adjustment and is nothing we anticipated.  Krista said she appreciates all the time that Scott, Sean and all the administration has put forth in keeping staff and school afloat. As parents, some have jobs, some stay at home, some have lost their jobs, and all have had to find their new normal.  Krista stated with the imposed distance requirements that we are not able to gather formally and that Zoom can be exhausting. Krista has spoken to many parents, and considering what we are all dealing with, they are all thankful and happy to be part of the WSSB.  The WSSB has gone to great lengths to keep this as not stressful for the students as they can. To transition to this kind of learning; our students and children have additional challenges to access instruction. Keri said she and her daughter have made some changes, they went to an all online format. Her daughter is doing online classes and the one thing that made her feel good about it, is on the first day, the teacher from the school district, reached out to them.  Her daughter knows that her teacher cares whether she’s doing the work. 


Committee Reports:

*      Education Committee:  Brent said Sean and Scott have done a wonderful job with this everchanging situation.  Scott said we are constantly evaluating where we are.

*      Buildings and Grounds Committee:  Greg said he did see in Scott’s report that there is some painting going on and new landscaping.  Scott said the campus is looking beautiful and we are moving forward with building projects. A decision package was submitted for the new LIFTT building and the kitchens in the four cottages were remodeled.  Jim asked if Scott could mention the topiary and peace pole.  Scott said the topiary was built by our amazing craftsman/staff member Brian Kindblade.  Brian built a frame for the topiary with the letters WSSB. It is located in between the Irwin and Stenehjem building and plants have been planted inside the letters. The Pulliam Peace Pole was built in honor of Lori and Roy Pulliam. Lori has been an employee for almost 40 years and her husband Roy has been an active volunteer, in many capacities, for many years.  The peace pole has the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 12 different languages.  Nancy asked if it would be possible to plant a tree or something in honor of former board member, Berl Colley.  Scott said he would be happy to work with anyone who would like to do something.  Marci and Joleen would like to help with this.

*      Management Committee:  Nancy stated that this is the year for Scott’s performance evaluation.  Greg and Nancy will work together on this.

*      Legislative Committee:  Marci said she would like to take a moment to remember Berl, his passion for the school, his enthusiasm for opportunities for blind youth and adults and share or remember a joyous memory of him. Scott shared that he sat with Berl at a WCB convention and they were eating dinner and talked about a prank he did while he was a student at the WSSB. Berl took a donkey that was on campus and somehow got the donkey to the roof of Old Main.  Jim remembers riding the donkey, Mr. Finnegan, when he attended the school. Joleen said she went to school with Berl and this is the first time she heard the story about the donkey. Greg said he only knew Berl for a couple of years, and he remembers the board teasing Berl about taking cookies ‘for his wife’.  Berl, Joleen and Greg would go to dinner together and got lost in the parking lot at the Black Angus Restaurant.



*      Keri said she knows we are in COVID and everything is different, but she wanted to throw another light on the idea regarding agriculture, gardening and improving food service and menu opportunities for the kids on campus.  Keri said when students get back on campus she would like to see more emphasis regarding this.

*      Joleen suggested we look into how the WSSB handled and weathered the pandemic back in 1918.  Janet and Scott will look through the archives to see what they can find.


There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2pm.  The next Board meeting will be held virtually on November 13 at 11am.




Greg Szabo, Chair                                                                            Scott McCallum, Superintendent



Board Reports – September 2020



Hey 2020-2021 school year, here we come! Outreach is rested up and ready to go. Just like everyone else, we are entering this time with trepidation as well as excitement. This is not what any of us “signed up” for as educators. And there are some good things coming out of this experience:


·         We have a solid team this year consisting of 9 Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs), 6 TVI/Orientation & Mobility Specialists (O&M), 1 COMS, and 2 braillists.

·         WSSB Outreach TVIs and O&Ms contracts have been unusual this year, just like everything else. We have had an increase of districts pull out of or reduce contracts for various reasons. We have had students leave districts and surface in districts across the state.

·         The Stephen F. Austin University (SFA) cohort is going strong with Joe Dlugo’s mentorship. He is doing his mentoring remotely as most of the SFA students are working remotely.

·         The WSSB Functional Vision Learning Media Assessment (FVLMA), which was collaboratively created last year, is now in the hands of the Outreach team. The plan is for Outreach to use it as well as the On-Campus teachers to allow for all WSSB evaluations to be consistent.

·         Sara Zachariah, TVI/COMS from Issaquah School District, has been joining Outreach meetings. She is currently working on an Admin/Principal Certification at Seattle Pacific University. She will be completing some of her required hours in the WSSB setting.


On the horizon:

·         Council of Schools and Services for the Blind (COSB) Leadership Institute and American Printing House for the Blind (APH) Annual Meeting will be held virtually this year, on October 6-9.

·         Sean McCormick (Director On-Campus Programs), Scott McCallum (superintendent) and Pam (Director of Outreach/State Vision Consultant) will be participating in a Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB) Workgroup to review credentialing for educators of the blind and visually impaired (BVI) starting in October through December.

·         TVI Round-Ups will be held this year virtually. Plans are in the works now.

·         Working group for Strategic Plan Goal #1: Identify statewide need for blind and low vision services, includes Pam Parker, Jennifer Merry (Director Ogden Resource Center (ORC), and Sara Zachariah.



On Campus

Enrollment: 61


Starting the Year with Distance Learning

As a specialized residential school program, WSSB holds an elevated responsibility for the well-being of our students.  WSSB’s programs are an alternative school option for students instead of their neighborhood school program. Reasons students come to WSSB include the need for more individualized-intensive services related to a blind or low vision student, a broader range of academic and non-academic learning opportunities, a community of students and staff dedicated to cultivating skills for greater independence, and empowerment through social emotional learning and relationship development.  Students maximize educational benefits through in-person instruction at WSSB’s campus. This is the main reason WSSB offers a residential program for students to attend from all regions of Washington and Oregon.


The spring 2020 distance learning was a necessary safety response that removed the residential component from our instruction and put our school in the same situation as many public schools.  This illuminated the major challenges with delivering instruction in areas that require in-person, hands-on learning for many of our students.  Moving instructing from in-person to online is a major compromise of the integrity of our instructional program effectiveness yet it does not remove the core what makes WSSB effective.  The knowledge, skills, and high expectations of WSSB staff are the heart of our student-centered approach providing instruction and supports to benefit students.  These qualities are unchanged and cannot be uprooted from any crisis impact to our school.


Moving forward, WSSB is committed to supporting our students with academic and social emotional learning while keeping them safe.  While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten our communities, we will be weighing the benefits of in-person instruction against the potential risks.  We recognize the great risk, educationally and for student well-being, of not having students walk through the school doors each morning to experience meaningful connections and a sense hope that in-person learning provides alongside other students and supportive adults.  WSSB’s strength comes from the community of our staff, students, and families that helps us persevere.


Shifting Our Approach

As we begin this school year, some key priorities that are at the forefront of the on-campus program:

·         Health and Safety

o   Safe reopening plans and protocols for staff and students on-site while prioritizing the students with greatest need for in-person learning

·         Grading Practices

o   Equitable feedback and assessment of learning using standards-based grading

·         Technology for Distance Learning

o   Use of Google Classroom learning management system, communication tools, and digital collaboration

·         Pedagogy Shifts

o   Implementing project-based learning to promote rich learning experiences for students through process, collaboration, and choice




Learning Independence for Today and Tomorrow (LIFTT):

LIFTT is excited to welcome seven students this year to our transition program. Due to LIFTT not reopening in person as of this time, staff have received 50%-hour reductions and are currently accessing the Shared Work program. LIFTT staff are being utilized to support engaging with participants in a virtual format, and LIFTT hopes to reopen in person this fall based on health department guidelines. LIFTT has also worked to put together a plan for ensuring participant safety due to COVID-19 once participants are back on campus.


Youth Services Specialist (YSS):

The YSS worked with the Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) YSS team this quarter to re-create summer programming in a virtual format.  To incorporate youth voice in the development of content focus areas, the YSS team designed and distributed a survey in late April (via Survey Monkey) to all blind and low vision youth known to DSB between the ages of 14 and 21.


To best maintain youth attention, virtual sessions were planned to last no more than 2 hours. To make this possible, the topic areas were divided into 6 separate tracks that would take place on different days of the week between 1-3pm.  The program was scheduled for 5 weeks from July 6–August 7, 2020.  A total of 33 youth registered for the program, choosing to participate in 1-5 tracks each.


YSS developed curriculum materials and coordinated with contractors, non-profit agencies, WSSB staff, peer facilitators and community business partners to provide much of the program content.  The contributors include Jack Straw Cultural Center, Financial Beginnings, Partners in Careers, NW ADA Center at the University of Washington, a wide variety of successfully employed blind and visually impaired adults in 5 career sectors, Melissa Small of MJ Small and Associates, WSSB’s LIFTT Program Director and 2 youth peer facilitators.


DSB staff assisted with creating advertising for the program, testing accessibility of software, websites and forms, distributing loaner devices to youth who needed them to participate and securing Zoom licensing so that YSS would have an accessible platform to use for the program


The YSS created a list of Zoom commands and shortcuts for access users on Mac and PC devices and developed “Zoom Etiquette” for use in the program.  An optional orientation to Zoom workshop was held on June 30 for youth who had registered for the program.


The Virtual Summer Program that was developed included the following 6 tracks:

1.      Telling Your Story (with Jack Straw Cultural Center): Using music and readers theatre to promote self-advocacy.

2.      Financial Literacy (with Financial Beginnings): Topics included- choosing a financial institution, financial goals, wages and taxes, budgeting, credit, loans and insurance, money safety and identity theft.

3.      Career Exploration (with Partners in Careers and NW ADA Center): Topics included – career exploration groundwork: interests and values, learning with informational interviews, resume writing, preparing for an interview and ADA protections in the job search process, mock interviews and feedback.

4.      Oh! The Possibilities - Adult Career Panel: Panels in the areas of Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), legal and advocacy, arts and entertainment, health and medicine and self-employment will share their career paths and experiences.

5.      Let’s Talk About It Social Hour (with peer facilitators): Peer facilitated discussion of the 5 H’s – Hard Times, High Times, Hobbies, Heritage and Heroes.

6.      Career Education and Work Readiness for youth with additional disabilities (with Melissa Small):  Topics included – strengths and abilities, career interests, employer expectations, employee expectations, interviewing and an optional guardian/caregiver DDA education/resource component. 

Once Summer program reporting was completed, YSS began working with the DSB YSS team to develop virtual academic year programming.  In August, Survey Monkey was used again to determine youth interest areas and availability.


YSS worked with the DSB contracts specialist over the summer to revise and renew the contract for WSSB students with Partners in Careers (PIC).  PIC will continue to provide work based learning and soft skills education virtually.  When the school year began, YSS began working with WSSB staff to coordinate work readiness training services for students with additional disabilities.  These services will be provided by contractor Melissa Small.


Health Center:

Due to on-campus students starting remotely, nursing staff has had 50%-hour reductions and are accessing the shared work program.


The health center is communicating with Pacific University regarding the Dental Mobile van visits. Pacific University is ready to resume visits and has decreased from 2 patients on the van at once to one patient on the van and are following standard Covid safety measures.  The health center will discuss resuming WSSB student visits with admin team.


When more staff and students return to campus the health center will investigate bringing the blood mobile back to campus.


The health center has been working with residential staff to distribute health center paperwork to student families as well as are calling, emailing and sending voicemail messages to families who do not have complete health center paperwork.


The health center has updated all first aid kits, disaster bags and updated med cabinets in the cottages. The health center has also worked to make campus AED's accessible for blind/low vision staff. The health center provided CPR/First aid AED training to 4 staff following very safe Covid protocols. In addition, the health center continues to work on updating old health center policies and creating new policies/procedures. Nurses are a part of the WSSB back to school planning team.



This summer, the residential cottages underwent an extensive kitchen remodel which included the following: new ranges and wall ovens, dishwashers, kitchen flooring, removal of overhead cabinets between the living room and kitchen to open the space for supervision, adding cabinets where our old computer areas used to be, upgrading sinks and faucets in the kitchen, and adding dimmable LED lighting. The new cabinets will better support students, so they can access needed cleaning supplies while cleaning their rooms, as well as provide a space to store necessary dishes students use while setting the tables. In addition, the residential department has put together steps students and staff will take to ensure safety of all due to COVID-19 once students are back on campus. Due to instruction for on-campus programs starting remotely, all residential staff have had 50%-hour reductions and are currently accessing the shared work program. Residential staff are currently being utilized to provide extra support to students through tutoring and doing Independent Living Skills (ILS) lessons over Zoom. In addition, residential staff are being utilized to support through driving materials to students weekly, driving for low vision O&M instructors, and cleaning cottages after construction has finished so they are ready when students return.


Recreation and Volunteers:

The recreation department has put together steps students and staff will take to ensure safety of all due to COVID-19 once students are back on campus. One of these steps is volunteers will be utilized over Zoom but will not be on campus at this time to support WSSB programs. Due to instruction for on-campus programs starting remotely, our recreation and volunteer coordinator has had a 50%-hour reduction and are currently accessing the shared work program. WSSB is offering some recreation programs over Zoom including a book club, creative writing class, etc.



Business Office

1.      2019-20 Operating Budget (Fiscal Year 1):  Our annual year-end close was completed and our financial disclosure forms have been submitted. 


The total expenditures in each of the funds were as follows:

General                                        $8,851,999

19B                                                 $1,425,391  (Revenue: $1,530,041)

03K-LNI Retro Refund           $    11,312

Capital                                          $    44,101

Betterment                                $      4,451

Braille Access Center             $  477,318   (Revenue:  $514,446)


The carry forward balance in 19B was $3,467,440


2.      2020-21 Operating Budget (Fiscal Year 2):  In response to the state economy and financial outlook, the Governor directed state agencies to reduce budgets based on savings from mandated furloughs and no general increases for non-represented and exempt staff.  We received a reduction of $147,000.


August books closed, and expenditures are in line with allotments.


3.      2021-23 Biennial Operating and Capital Budget:  We have submitted our operating request for the appropriated amount of $25,063,000.  We did not submit any decision packages requesting additional funding.


We have submitted our capital request for the construction of the Independent Living Skills Center (LIFTT) for $8,816,000 and $675,000 for campus preservation.


4.      Safety Net:  We submitted a safety net grant application for over $400.000 and received $144,000.



Human Resources

New Hires:  

·         Carmina Harrington -  TVI

·         Kaitlin Dittmar - On-call Teachers Aide (TA)



·         Residential Life Counselor (RLC) - Graveyard

·         Substitute TVI

·         On-call TA

·         On-call RLC


Trainings/Functions Attended:

·         HR Managers Meeting – Facilitated by Franklin Plaistowe and Marcos Rodriguez

·         Labor Relations Roundtable – Facilitated by (OFM)

·         COVID 19 – Reopening State Human Resources

·         Shared Work Program – Employment Securities Department (ESD)



Ogden Resource Center (ORC)

The ORC continues to serve our customers during these challenging times. Kandi Lukowski is continuing to work full-time in the office to continue braille production and answer the warehouse door for deliveries. She is also pitching in as needed on campus to help with mail and other campus activities. Ian Goodrich is working on campus for Facilities 3 days a week and at the ORC for deliveries, warehouse duties and inventory 2 days per week.


We are fortunate that our prison program has remained open. The prison has implemented social-distancing, so we are back up to a full crew each day. Recently one transcriber was released, and we promoted an apprentice to full-time. We currently have 16 full-time transcribers and 4 apprentices. Due to COVID-19, we are unable to hire more transcribers or apprentices from the general prison population at this time. We are able to meet our deadlines and are still accepting new braille projects for the school year.


We had Quota Funds left so were able to purchase more copies of popular items such as Smart Braillers and restock our Consumables on the ORC shelves. APH is able to ship directly to homes of students and/or teachers. Since June, 593 items have been shipped to 214 students around the state.


The LEGO kits from APH have been popular and the ORC is shipping to teachers for students to use. The first round of LEGO kits are currently gone and we will be getting more in a few weeks.


Due to disruptions with the United States Postal Service (USPS), Free Matter shipping is currently taking approximately 6-8 weeks to arrive.



Buildings and Grounds

1.      The Cottage Renovation Project should be done by now. This was a project fraught with little problems, like unexpected incorrect wiring, appliances not fitting, rotted plumbing, and, all new flooring arriving out of square from the factory, so it couldn’t be laid down. We picked flooring from a different manufacturer, which added a couple weeks. In the end, though, I feel we will have achieved our goals of better functioning kitchens with modern, accessible appliances. Thanks to Corey Grandstaff, Residential Program Manager, for making many trips to the appliance store to scout out and approve accessible appliances.

2.      We are hoping to go to contract soon for the $225,000 capital project refurbishing the roof of Old Main. This will be an add-a-layer system with a 20-year warranty, to include both seismic “bookends” and the south portico. Crossing fingers that this can get done before the rains return.

3.      After a Covid-related delay of delivery, we have finally installed the Pulliam Peace Pole across from Ned’s Shed. John Fleming, maintenance and groundskeeper, has created a nice landscaping composition around it.

4.      Between the Irwin School and the Stenehjem Gym you may see Brian Kindblade’s (Plant Mechanic) handiwork in the topiary creation we made as a screen to the electrical box. We’re looking forward to the plants filling in the letters WSSB.

5.      Ian Goodrich, who typically works in the ORC warehouse, has been working a couple days a week painting the first-floor walls of Old Main. We will continue with painting, including touching up the wood trim and doors, as time moves on.

6.      The installation of 16 more card access points on Old Main interior doors went well. We’re making long term plans for more as it greatly simplifies access and reduces key security vulnerabilities.

7.      Approximately $50,000 was spent upgrading the HVAC controls software and hardware systems throughout campus. This brings us into modern times, and into the future. I expect to have more reliable controls, and a system easier to monitor and interpret. We also installed three circuit meters which will allow us to graph minute-by-minute electrical use in Stenehjem, Old Main, and Irwin. Meter data can be used to seek energy consumption efficiencies. 

8.      We are just about to submit our Capital Projects decision package to the Governor for consideration in the 2021-23 Budget. Regarding ongoing preservation requests, though still contemplating strategy as of this writing, we’re considering requesting for $250,000 to refurbish or replace the roof of ORC; $200,000 to change Irwin School lighting to LEDs; $225,000 to replace embedded plastic drain at pool with removable stainless covers, and coat pool deck with a Stonhard product similar to what we put on the Old Main Kitchen floor.

9.      Ongoing I expect to continue to check our life safety and HVAC systems device-by-device, thus confirming correct system functionality. Also working to institute a Preventative Maintenance approach to HVAC Systems. We’re getting there, one boiler water chemistry check at a time, one rooftop exhaust fan after the other.




The WSSB Birth to 3 Program continues to provide our support services to families virtually.  It has been a very positive addition to our menu of services! We expect virtual home visits will continue until January 2021, then we will begin to implement a hybrid approach to early intervention services with a combination of virtual and in person for all families.  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.


Now that state funds for early intervention services are being “flowed” directly to Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF)/Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) rather than through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and school districts (as of September 1), our contract with DCYF/ESIT has been extended to include “enhanced child find activities”.  This includes monitoring vision screening procedures in all counties, assisting agencies in documenting identification of children with blind/low vision in the data management system (DMS), and tracking the accessibility of responsive specialized services (TVI).  We have been doing this all along, but now we have more of a direct partnership with DCYF/ESIT and their authority over requirements.  This extended contract and these deliverables are in direct alignment with WSSB’s new strategic plan and we are excited to do work that is meaningful for all, especially the children. 




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 visually impaired throughout Washington State.


June 22:               Review LIFTT building proposals/ meet with staff regarding LIFTT project

June 23:               Strategic Plan – planning session

June 24:               Meeting to discuss Stephen F. Austin University (SFAU) Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) program

June 24:               Review LIFTT architect scoring

June 25:               COVID-19 reopen planning meeting with administrators

June 25:               Provide opening remarks for Northwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA) fundraiser

June 29:               COVID-19 transportation meeting for shared bussing options with Washington Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth (CDHY)

June 30:               Statewide COVID updates and collaboration zoom meeting



COVID-19 certainly left a mark on the 2019-2020 school year.  All things considered, I am very proud of the way the WSSB community responded to the changes that our response to the pandemic required. The graduation ceremony posed a fitting and heart-felt tribute and celebration of our graduates. Unlike most years at this time, the campus this year remained unusually quiet as nearly everyone had been directed to work from home.  Each week, I walked the campus and checked every building to make sure they remained secure and safe. No security compromises were identified.


A June highlight included the review and scoring of architectural firms submitting proposals to design and construct our proposed new building project for the LIFTT Program and offices for the DSB. Nine submissions were received from firms throughout the Northwest.  Lori Pulliam, David Zilavy, and I all contributed to the scoring exercise. The bidding process requires scores from two representatives of the Department of Enterprise Services (DES) and an outside architect. Scores were totaled, and the top three scoring firms will be interviewed and scored to select the winning firm. Each of the firms brought something different to the table and I am excited to work with any of the top firms who submitted a bid for this project.


July 1:                   COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

July 2:                   State-required furlough day

July 7:                   Interviews (3) with potential architects for the LIFTT building

July 8:                   COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

July 8:                   OSPI Special Education reopening meeting

July 9:                   Meeting with Executive Director of the Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB)

July 10:                 State-required furlough day

July 13:                 Phone call with WSSB alum

July 14:                 OSPI’s statewide COVID updates and reopening school’s webinar

July 15:                 Strategic Plan – planning session

July 16:                 Meeting with staff at DSB regarding LIFTT/ Transition programs

July 17:                 State-required furlough day

July 20:                 COSB summer board meeting

July 21:                 Pacific Foundation for Blind Children (PFBC) monthly meeting

July 21:                 Meeting with staff at Department of Health and CDHY regarding COVID-19 and impacts on the residential program

July 22:                 Strategic Plan – planning session

July 24:                 State-required furlough day

July 28:                 COVID-19 ‘safe start’ plan/review

July 28:                 Strategic Plan – subcommittee meeting

July 28:                 OSPI’s Statewide COVID updates and reopening school’s webinar

July 29:                 COVID Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

July 29:                 Strategic Plan – subcommittee meeting

July 31:                 OCB meeting and executive session



July seemed filled to the brim with weekly, and often daily meetings about COVID-19. Every week, virtual meetings were held to discuss our plans and response to the pandemic.  I regularly met with local and state school leaders, health experts, state government officials, as well as superintendents from other schools for the blind around the country to discuss our options for the school year that lay ahead. In addition, and as we moved into this next fiscal year, the state announced furlough requirements that would impact a number of employees of WSSB. The furloughs are an early attempt to address the impending budget shortfall we are facing.  Many of us are required to furlough one day per week in July and one day per month during the months of August through November.


The highlights of July include the ongoing efforts related to the LIFTT Project. The top three architectural firms were selected and offered an opportunity to present and interview with the selection committee.  The interviews and presentations were scored, and the project was offered to the highest scoring firm, Mahlum Architectural Firm out of Portland, Oregon. Mahlum also brought in the services of Chris Downey, a blind architect out of San Francisco and recently  featured in a 60 Minutes news story. Chris recently completed similar and related projects with the South Dakota School for the Blind/Visually Impaired and the San Francisco Lighthouse.  We will be seeking the funding for this project through the decision package process.  As of this writing, we have submitted our request to the Governor’s office.  The total cost of this project is anticipated to be nearly nine million dollars.


August 4:             Strategic Plan – planning session

August 4:             Washington Public Education Association (WPEA) shop steward and management meeting

August 4:             COVID-19 reopen planning meeting with administrators

August 5:             COVID Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

August 5:             Safety table-top exercises (live scenarios when students return)

August 6:             COSB board meeting

August 6:             Meeting with the superintendent of the Texas School for the BVI

August 7:             State-required furlough day

August 10:          Meeting with Human Resources manager to discuss staffing for 2020-2021 school year

August 11:          COVID-19 meeting with Clark County Superintendents to discuss transition metrics

August 11:          Executive/Small Agency Cabinet meeting

August 11:          OSPI’s statewide COVID updates and reopening school’s webinars

August 12:          COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

August 12:          Meeting with administrators regarding reopening plan

August 13:          Strategic Plan wrap-up meeting with facilitator

August 13:          COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz Superintendents meeting with the health department

August 13:          Meeting with the superintendent of the North Dakota School for the Blind

August 17:          Meet with administrators regarding annual Fall Workshop/In-Service with all staff

August 19:          COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

August 20:          Meeting with Human Resources Manager to discuss staff reduced hours/impacts

August 24:          Strategic Plan committee meeting – review final document

August 24:          Emil Fries endowment funds grant advisory committee meeting

August 24:          COVID-19 meeting with Clark County Department of Health and CDHY

August 25:          All-staff welcome back fall workshop/in-service

August 26:          COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

August 26:          Meeting with board chair, Greg Szabo (review agenda)

August 27:          Pacific Northwest Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (PNWAER) board meeting

August 31:          Website redesign meeting



August is often one of my favorite times of the year because I have the pleasure of welcoming staff back to campus and know that students arriving is usually right around the corner. This year, due to the pandemic, we welcomed staff back via zoom.  The day was filled with the usual excitement and positive energy; however, in-person greetings were replaced with promises to engage in the future. Overall, the virtual welcome back festivities proved to be an inclusive and successful format to welcome everyone back and deliver pertinent information.  During the welcome back event, a significant amount of time and energy was placed on sharing information about our response to the pandemic and how each staff member can keep themselves safe and healthy as well as support the safety and health of others.  As a matter of practice, all staff, students, and visitors on campus will be required to complete daily health attestations.


The strategic planning committee continued their work throughout July and August, completing the drafted strategic plan about a week before we welcomed staff back.  Members of the planning committee presented the freshly minted strategic plan to all staff. Strategic plan implementation efforts are currently underway.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dennis Mathews for his significant contribution to our strategic planning efforts.  Dennis represented the board of trustees throughout the deliberative process. Thank you, Dennis.  I look forward to sharing the details of our 2020-2023 Strategic Plan with the Board.


September 1:    LIFTT architect meeting with Department of Enterprise Services (DES)

September 2:    COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

September 3:    COSB board meeting

September 4:    State-required furlough day

September 9:    Meeting to discuss SFAU TVI program

September 9:    COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

September 9:    Fall Workshop/In-Service follow-up meeting

September 10:  Annual Combined Fund Drive leadership breakfast

September 10:  Washington Sensory Disability Services (WSDS) meeting

September 10:  Meeting to discuss proposed LIFTT building

September 15:  Meeting with APH regarding product obsolescence

September 15:  PFBC meeting

September 15:  OSPI’s statewide COVID updates and collaboration webinar

September 16:  COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

September 17:  Conference call with Dacia Johnson, OCB Executive Director

September 18:  ESD 112 regional superintendents meeting

September 23:  COVID-19 Clark/Cowlitz County check-in

September 25:  Board of Trustees meeting



Typically, this part of the update highlights the changes brought to our campus when students

decorate our hallways, classrooms and cottages. This year, as you may expect, has required a more

cautious approach. As of this writing, we continue to operate remotely for most students and staff.

While staff are welcome on campus, many continue to choose to work from home.  Some staffing

challenges may be realized as we begin to transition students back to campus. Supervisors are working

with employees and Human Resources to address staff safety concerns as they arise and in

anticipation of more students coming to campus.  We are welcoming a small group of students back to

campus the week of September 21 after being delayed a week due to poor air quality from wildfire

smoke. We are working with local and state health authorities to identify when it is safe to have our

students return to campus. Like most school districts we have a staggered response plan that is

dependent on a variety of variables and metrics.  However, our plans remain flexible to meet the

needs of students and families and we intend to maintain remote access options this year, even as we

transition back to in person services. If the metrics continue to evolve in the right direction, we hope to

welcome students back to campus by early October. At this point, my fingers are crossed.



Department managers and administration team meetings

PFBC meetings

Executive and Small Agency 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

Washington Sensory Disability Services meetings




WSSB Reopening Plan (presented by Sean McCormick, Director of On-Campus Programs)

September 25, 2020


Core Purpose: To empower blind and low vision individuals to reach their full potential

Core Values:  Student Centered, Equity, Accessibility, Relationships, Continuous Improvement


Current Risk Level of Student by County COVID 19 cases as of 9/23/2020


Source: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/what-you-need-know/covid-19-risk-assessment-dashboard

*state level data may not be as up to date as local county DOH websites


High Risk - Greater than 75 cases per 100k over 2 weeks

        28 students

        Counties: Clark, Chelan, Yakima

Medium Risk - 25 to 75 cases per 100k over 2 weeks

        25 students

        Counties: Cowlitz, Multnomah, Pierce, Yamhill, King, Snohomish, Mason, Columbia

Low Risk - lesson than 25 cases per 100k over 2 weeks

        6 students

        Counties: Thurston, Skamania, Douglas, Wahkiakum


46% of students living in counties with high risk activity level


Goal Right Now: 

Students get the supports and services they need to be successful in their learning wherever they are.

Staged Return of Students for In-Person Learning


Right Now:

Pre-stage 1

        Students for 1 to 1 evaluation

        6 local students in learning support classrooms (semi self-contained)

        O&M in Vancouver area - outdoors

        Some independent living skills 1 to 1 on-campus


Next Stages:

Stage 1: 14 students identified not-demonstrating growth from spring data

Stage 2: 12 students identified needing more intensive supports, demonstrating limited growth

Stage 3: 10 students demonstrating a need for in-person learning

Stage 4: Return of all students in-person


Reopening Proposal

        Online/Distance learning course delivery for entire school year for most students

        4 priority stage levels for in-person

        Pre- stage 1 (on-campus now)

        Stage 1, 2, 3

        Stage 4 Return of all

        Potential Stage 1 students to begin November 2

        No official date has been set, this is an estimation

        The timeline for each stage will be determined upon successful return of previous stage

        Consideration for stage 2 date will be determined once in stage 1


Proposed Format for Return via Cohorting:

        Students participate in online learning for most classes from personal office space

        Residential - Cottage bedroom

        Day - office space in a designated classroom

        Students may receive in-person learning at Irwin School for most intensive IEP areas in 1 to 1 or small group setting

        Learning support classes

        Independent living skills

        O&M, braille, assistive tech


        OT/PT services


Rationale: Nearly 50% of classroom teachers will not be in-person due to high-risk accommodations


The Upside

        Learning will occur at school with personalized supports

        Majority of students will not need to wear masks during online learning

        Group living skills and social experience with peers in cottage

        Cohorting of cottage, potentially as a household (waiting for DOH feedback)

        Flexibility to attend residential program or not does not impact access to courses

        Consistent format for instruction for most students (if home or on-campus)

        Flexibility to utilize cottage as home environment

        Tailored supports in areas students have been missing since March


The Downside

        In-person instruction is limited to intensive need areas

        Limited to majority of learning inside cottage

        Exposure to classes in-person with a variety of students limited to online

        The full WSSB experience isn’t as full

        Students may feel confined or limited

        Being in-class with peers doesn’t have the same experience

        Potential for feeling institutional

        If exposure to positive occurs, cohort returns home


In a Nutshell

        Distance Learning Model available for all

        Staged return of students based on needs (data-driven)

        Most students accessing distance learning from personal office space

        Cottage bedroom (residential)

        Dedicated classroom w/ small cohort

        Specialized instruction face-to-face for some areas


        Small group with safety protocols

        Distance learning via


        Google Classroom

        Approach includes



        Tiered supports via Zoom or in cohort groups in-person

        Working from school or home will have same access to instruction


Ongoing Questions:

        How soon should WSSB progress with each stage of returning students?

        What’s missing from the proposed framework that needs additional consideration?

        How else can we minimize risk, recognizing that there is no zero-risk scenario?