WASHINGTON STATE SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
January 13, 2021
Board Members Participating: Greg Szabo, Lily Clifton, Keri Clark, Brent Stark, Dennis Mathews, and Nancy McDaniel.
Board Members Absent: Reg George
Ex-Officio Members Participating: Jim Eccles (Washington Federation of State Employees Local #1225), Joleen Ferguson (Washington Council of the Blind), Stephanie Face (Teacher Representative), Marci Carpenter (National Federation of the Blind of Washington), and Krista Bulger (Parent Representative).
WSSB Staff Members Participating: Mr. Scott McCallum (Superintendent) and Janet Kurz (recording secretary).
January 13, 2021 – 7:30-8pm
Greg called the meeting to order at 7:30pm.
Approve board meeting minutes of November 13, 2020. Janet noted that there was a suggested change (typo) to the minutes that were sent to the Board for their review. Nancy moved to approve the minutes as amended; Brent seconded the motion. The minutes were approved unanimously.
Scott reviewed the following:
Scott welcomed everyone and reported the following:
o In November, the WSSB welcomed some students back to campus; the remaining students continued to receive remote instruction. Scott and Sean McCormick (Director of On-Campus Programs) met with the Department of Health (DOH) and Clark County Public Health (CCPH) representatives prior to the Thanksgiving break with the intent to discuss the increase in Covid cases locally and statewide. At that time, health officials expressed their concern with the WSSB continuing residential placement of students. Shortly after that meeting, Dr. Melnick, the local county health official, reached out to Scott to let him know that he strongly suggested discontinuing on-campus programs, revert back to remote learning, and reconsider opening the campus to students two weeks after the winter holiday break.
o In December, the Governor’s proposed budget was released which included funds for the continuation of the new Learning Independence for Today and Tomorrow (LIFTT) transition building. Scott stated that meetings with staff and Mahlum Architects, Inc. has been an incredible and inclusive experience. Scott feels that this is in part due to Chris Downey’s (blind architect) input. At this time, the WSSB is now waiting for the House and Senate budget to be released to see if the project is included in their proposed budgets.
o In December, the WSSB was awarded a small contract with a marketing firm (through DOH) to aid in providing and sharing information via a website (www.BlindCovid.com) related to Covid resources for blind and low vision Washingtonians. The website will include information regarding locations for testing and vaccinations as well as information to address challenges with transportation, shopping and socialization. Currently, WSSB has staff who are hosting focus groups to determine information that will be on the website.
o January has been a busy month. One highlight is the current meetings that have been occurring with the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB), Pam Parker, Director of Outreach/State Vision Consultant, Sean McCormick, Scott, and WSSB Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), Amanda Rodda regarding the revamping of educator licensure standards for Orientation & Mobility specialists (O&M), braille assistants and transcribers. The work has been completed and the PESB will now be sending their recommendations to their board for approval and adoption.
o Brent Stark, board member and Project Director at the Washington Sensory Disability Services (WSDS) has been instrumental in helping to secure funding from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), along with the WSDS to support any certified teacher who wants to obtain their O&M credential through the Portland State University program. Limited spots each year will be available, though it remains unclear exactly how many spots will be available and for how long. The TVI program was offered for 5 years; we are hopeful that we will be able to offer the O&M program for 5 years as well. This year marks the completion of a similar effort for TVI’s through Stephen F. Austin University (SFAU). Joe Dlugo, WSSB’s Outreach TVI and O&M was the mentor for this program.
o Last week, Scott and Sean met with representatives from the DOH and CCPH to present our reopening plans so that we can get students back on campus. Both entities were in agreement and we will welcome back twenty-two (22) students to campus on January 18. The LIFTT program has been in operation since October, primarily due to the fact that the participants do not travel back to their homes on the weekends and they also committed to staying on campus throughout the Thanksgiving and winter holiday breaks to lessen the possibility of being exposed to Covid.
o Scott has been meeting with state officials regarding obtaining Covid vaccinations for WSSB staff. The first staff who are being recommended for vaccinations are our nursing staff and the drivers (volunteers) who would transport students home in the event they get ill. Custodians, teachers and staff who work directly with students be in the next priority group to receive vaccinations. The goal is to get these staff vaccinated in January/February.
o Jim added that in the current LIFTT offices, there are two large braille/tactile maps for the proposed LIFTT building. Jim commended the architects for the effort they have put into making this accessible. Jim stated to be able to familiarize himself with the project in this way has been great. Scott said that accessibility is one of the core values of our agency and he has also requested getting them in 3D as well.
o Jim thinks it is important to point out the amazing maturity level of the LIFTT participants. Asking 18-20-year-olds to give up Thanksgiving and winter holiday breaks with their families is difficult, but the LIFTT participants were committed as they wanted to ensure that the LIFTT could remain open. Scott said he admires their commitment to improving their skills and growth.
o Greg said he was excited to see the stuff that Sean, Pam and Scott were working on relating to O&M certifications. Scott said Joe Dlugo has been a critical piece of being a mentor and new O&M specialists must have mentors in the new program.
Education Committee (Brent-Chair)
Buildings and Grounds Committee (Nancy-Chair)
o Scott received a phone call from Kirk Adams, President and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Kirk connected Scott with a person from Google who is working on technology that would enable a blind or low vision person to use their smart phone to follow a ‘line’ on a track so they can walk or run independently.
Management Committee (Greg-Chair)
o No report at this time.
Legislative Committee (Marci-Chair)
o No report at this time.
Krista shared that there are a lot of parents and students who are anxious to return to campus when it is safe to do so and when it looks and feels like school. Krista is happy that some students are coming back to campus soon. Krista wants to reach out to parents to see about setting up a virtual meeting for parents of students who are coming back on campus.
Krista said DeEtte Snyder, WSSB statewide Birth-3 Coordinator, hosted a ‘family resource night’ (virtual meeting) called “Talk-O-Tuesday”. Krista was invited to this meeting and 5-6 families of Birth-3 blind and low vision children were in attendance. Representatives from the Northwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA), Department of Services for the Blind (DSB), Washington Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL) and WSDS attended the event to provide information regarding their programs and services. One parent shared that they weren’t aware that WTBBL was a free service and was excited to learn that. Krista shared her contact information, so she could assist with information, chat, or be a liaison as these parents are in the beginning phases of their journey.
Scott said he wants to acknowledge what Stephanie and Krista said and he also wants the students back on campus. WSSB staff have been in communication with families and they have heard, resoundingly that parents and students are ready for students to come back.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 8pm. The next Board meeting will be held virtually on March 12, 2020 at 11am.
Greg Szabo, Chair Scott McCallum, Superintendent
Superintendent’s Report – January 2021
Each month, I will provide a list of the more significant activities of the Superintendent’s office. Each month, I will describe a highlight or two in more detail. If at any point you would like more detail, 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 youth who are blind or low vision throughout Washington State.
November 16: Meeting with Washington Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth (CDHL) regarding reopen plans
November 17: Benefits of Audio Description in Education (BADIE) committee meeting
November 18: Listening sessions with WSSB staff
November 18: Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA) superintendent component meeting
November 19: Learning Independence for Today and Tomorrow (LIFTT) building – design and program meeting
November 19: Meeting with Washington State University (WSU) regarding the museum project
November 19: Meeting with American Printing House (APH) staff regarding AIRA pilot
November 20: Labor/management communication meeting – Washington Public Education Association (WPEA) and WSSB
November 20: All staff “Friends-giving” game night (zoom)
November 23: Meeting with Department of Health (DOH) and Clark County Public Health (CCPH) regarding reopening plans
November 24: Meeting with the President of APH and superintendent of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
November marked the return of a small number of residential students to the WSSB campus for the first time since March of the previous school year. While these efforts were successful in that no known virus transmission occurred on the WSSB campus during this time, we had planned not to bring any residential students back to campus for the shortened week of school during Thanksgiving. As you are also aware, during our meetings with DOH and CCPH in advance of Thanksgiving, we were advised to discontinue residential programs between Thanksgiving and the new year, with additional consideration focused on the two weeks following the break. Following the recommendation from CCPH and out of an abundance of caution, in-person programs were discontinued until the week of the January 18 pending support from state and local health officials.
December 2: Mobility matters meeting with Portland State University (PSU) and WSSB staff
December 2: Small Agency Cabinet Forum re collaboration and technology
December 4: ESD 112 legislative forum
December 7: Meeting with Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) staff regarding credentialing for educators of the visually impaired
December 8: Meeting with Joy Harris, Executive Director of the Council of Schools and Services for the Blind (COSB) regarding distance learning
December 8: OSPI statewide COVID updates and collaboration webinar
December 9: Regional special education administrator meeting with NWESD
December 9: LIFTT building meeting – floor plans and landscape
December 11: Meeting with Dean Stenehjem regarding online learning
December 14: Governor’s budget preview meeting
December 14: Washington Sensory Disability Services (WSDS) meeting regarding Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI) and Orientation and Mobility Specialists (O&M)
December 15: LIFTT building meeting – update with alumni
December 16: Meeting with Greg Szabo to review board agenda
December 16: Meeting with Office of Financial Management (OFM) fiscal analysts regarding Governor’s budget proposal
December 17: WSSB students winter showcase and social
December 18: Meeting with ESD 112 superintendent, Tim Merlino regarding new guidance
December 21: Meeting with WSSB HR director regarding vaccination distribution plan
December 22: Attend online WSSB Outreach holiday extravaganza
The Governor’s proposed budget was announced in December. WSSB sought funding for the continuation of the LIFTT Transition Center capital project. Governor Inslee has proposed the requested $7.636 million for the construction phase of this project. Governor Inslee also included the funding necessary to complete the design process of the LIFTT Transition Center. The LIFTT Transition project also includes about 2000 square feet (an entire floor of the building) for the Department of Services for the Blind’s regional office. Once complete, we plan to move DSB to the new building and move components of the museum to the current space in Old Main currently occupied by DSB.
WSSB was recently awarded a small contract with a marketing firm to aid in providing and sharing information related to COVID for blind and low vision Washingtonians. We have created a website () to serve as a hub of information. We are seeking information from focus groups to inform our efforts. We aim to provide information about locations for testing and vaccinations in each county as well as information to address challenges with transportation, shopping, and socialization. If you have ideas, please send them to .
January 5: Meeting to discuss Department of Health (DOH) grant (blindcovid.com)
January 5: Meeting to discuss remote education access for blind and visually impaired students with Kathleen Airhart, Program Director-Special Education Outcomes, Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO)
January 5: Meeting with staff from the DeafBlind Project regarding funding/budget
January 6: Meeting with staff from Microsoft regarding technology education and literacy in schools (TEALS) program
January 6: LIFTT building meeting – exterior
January 8: National Board Certification and deaf education and teacher of the visually impaired endorsements meeting
January 11: Education and workforce subcabinet meeting with governor’s office
January 12: Meeting to discuss Department of Health (DOH) grant (blindcovid.com)
January 13: LIFTT building meeting – schematic design discussion
Happy New Year! Behind the scenes there has been a lot going on. WSSB leadership have been in ongoing discussions to improve and align licensure standards for teachers, O&M specialists, braille assistants and transcribers. This has been a collaborative project with the Professional Educator Standards Board (PESB).
Additionally, WSDS has solidified funding for a project to assist current Washington teachers wanting to pursue certification as an O&M specialist through the Portland State University program. WSSB continues to work with WSDS to lead this effort and provide ongoing professional mentorship to each program participant. This year marks the completion of a similar effort for TVIs through the Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas. We are incredibly thankful for our partnership with OSPI and the ongoing work of the Washington Sensory Disability Services.
The most exciting announcement, however, is that we will again be welcoming students (residential and day) back to the WSSB campus beginning the week of January 18. Sean McCormick (Director of On-Campus Programs) and I met with health officials from CCPH and DOH on Friday, January 8 to discuss moving forward. After presenting our plans for a safe return to in-person services, we received the support from each of our partners in this work from DOH and CCPH. We are extremely excited to begin phasing students back to on-campus programs at WSSB.
Finally, I have been working a variety of leads to advocate for access to the vaccine for all WSSB staff. At the time of this writing, we remain hopeful that our nurses and ill-student drivers (volunteers) will have access to their first round of vaccine within a couple weeks. I have advocated that our agency be recognized as congregate living and a school with the hopes that WSSB student-support staff have expeditious access to the vaccine. We are working with ESD 112, CCPH, school district superintendents, and state agency leadership to secure access to the vaccine for WSSB staff. I am hopeful that WSSB student support staff will have access to their first round of shots by the end of the month.
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