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Public Meeting Minutes
Saturday, August 2, 2003
Grand Island, Nebraska
(Meeting is available on tape.)
Call to order and Introductions:
Barbara Walker, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, called the meeting to order. Board members present were: Barbara Walker, Dorothy Westin-Yockey, Bob Burns, Nancy Oltman, and Bill Orester.
Staff in Attendance: Dr. Pearl Van Zandt, Carlos Serván, Bob Deaton, Terry Harris, Candy Laursen, Fatos Floyd, Sheila Gawrych.
Members of the Public: Ardyce Earl, Judy Beck, Howard Simons, Dennis Wright, Tanya Wright, Fritz Yockey, Sibby Lebeau, Roy Hobley.
Announcement Concerning Public Comments and Tapes of Meetings:
Chairman Walker announced that anyone can call the NCBVI office for tapes of Commission Board meetings. Tapes are available at each office site, and draft minutes are on the NCBVI Web page, and on NewsLine ® .
She also announced that, in addition to the time specified for comments from the public, the Chairman will recognize people from the floor for comments throughout the meeting, time permitting.
Minutes of the May 17, 2003 Meeting:
Minutes were approved with one correction. Chairman Walker pointed out that the Board had neglected to include the motion for Dr. Van Zandt's raise in the minutes, since it had been made in Executive Session. It should have been made in the public part of the meeting. Since Chairman Walker did get the language of the motion to the proper people, this mistake didn't cause the raise to be affected, but such a motion should have been made and voted upon in open session. Burns moved, and Westin-Yockey seconded, that the motion and the vote be added to the May 17, 2003 minutes. The motion carried unanimously. Chairman Walker provided a print copy of the language to add to the minutes when they are removed from draft status.
Focus Topic: Nebraska Business Enterprises, Terry Harris, NCBVI:
Since Commissioners had received Mr. Harris's printed report (attached) prior to the meeting, Chairman Walker thanked him for it and opened the floor for questions. After much interaction, the Board requested an update for its November meeting. The Board is particularly interested in follow-up concerning training opportunities for vendors and progress toward making Braille an integral part of both public accessing and site manager inventorying of products.
Since Mr. Harris had other commitments in the afternoon, the topic "Consideration of Set Aside Increase" was moved up on the agenda so that he could field questions from the Board. Mr. Harris stated that during the last BEP Committee meeting on June 6 th, the members voted to raise the set-aside from 12 to 13 percent of their proceeds. Van Zandt explained that this would need Board approval before she could submit an official request for it to take effect. Burns moved to approve the increase. Westin-Yockey seconded. The motion carried unanimously. The next approval needs to come from the Federal level based on figures from the RSA report last year. Van Zandt will write to RSA indicating the Board’s decision and requesting approval. Van Zandt reported the financial impact of the increase would be $3,258.00/year.
Break: The meeting was recessed while everyone brought lunch from the cafeteria.
Report from the Chairman:
Walker congratulated Van Zandt on a great speech at the NFB Convention in her role as president of NCSAB (National Council of State Agencies for the Blind). Walker met with Van Zandt on June 18 th for her evaluation and results were sent to Karen Billings. Van Zandt received high evaluation marks and will continue as Executive Director. Discussion regarding an online application process followed and Van Zandt will check on this and information will be sent to the Board of Commissioners.
Walker expressed concern the Board had received information that there was some money returned for the Transition Grant. Serván explained that the amount returned was from a small grant from Nebraska Department of Education to the Transition Team, for meetings, not services. Use of that money isn't altogether determined by NCBVI. The next request will be for $500.
Walker reported that she had filled out the survey guide for the Client Assistance Program and hoped that focusing on that topic would make it possible to have informed answers for some of the questions for which she had none.
Walker expressed appreciation for knowing that the In-service training grant was approved. She said Commissioners appreciated knowing that there was an interpreter at the proclamation ceremony for Deaf-Blind Awareness Week. Walker thanked everyone involved for making that happen.
Report from the Executive Director:
Staff updates : Sheila Gawrych has decided to go to graduate school in Minnesota and her last day is August 15 th. Kelly Coleman was hired as Orientation Counselor in Omaha and will finish Center training August 29 th. Jodi Fraction moved into Kelly’s position. Michelle Nelson was just hired as Support Staff to take Jodi’s place. She has an Associate Degree in Management Information Services. Van Zandt recognized Carlos Servan, as tomorrow is his fifth year anniversary.
Goals & Objectives : The Board of Commissioners expressed approval of the goals and objectives submitted by Van Zandt for the coming year.
Case Services : October 1, 2002--served 710 people in all statuses of VR, 695 in IL. Training Center--At the end of June, 69% employed in their employment goals, 19.5 % still students, 11.5 % not working.
Workshop : Van Zandt presented information on a workshop on public records and open meetings. The meeting will be available on audio-tape along with a manual at a cost of $329. It was general consensus to purchase the materials with the use of In-service training funds.
Immersion Training through RSA : There is a potential for funds making it possible to sponsor immersion training. Van Zandt will submit a proposal, which is due August 5.
Van Zandt also commended everyone involved in arrangements concerning having an interpreter during the Governor’s Proclamation of Deaf-Blind Awareness Week.
She then reported on a situation at Southeast Community College involving a blind student's experience in a sign language class. With both the student's self-advocacy and assistance from Commission staff, the issue is being resolved.
Jobline in Nebraska : Since HHS and Nebraska Department of Labor determined it was used very rarely, it has been discontinued.
WAGES : Another excellent summer experience for teens ended a week ago.
Center : We have developed a backup plan for the Center during weekends. Fatos Floyd has been the only one receiving calls during weekends. NCBVI supervisors and Bob Deaton are now going to provide backup.
Everyone is finding ways to be conservative in spending. Furloughs, not immediately filling Sheila Gawrych's position, using social security funds, continuing third-party agreements, cutting Home Teaching Plus and `Round Tuit for a year and not contracting with a paid NewsLine ® Outreach Coordinator were discussed in this connection.
Basic support case services are 27.5% higher than last year; 11% less than two years ago.
Operations are in good shape because we're always looking at where we can cut expenditures.
Van Zandt reviewed Lynn Melson's suggestions for Chapters 1 & 3. Melson does not believe an additional public hearing will be required if the Board approves changes she suggested. Once the Board approves, the revision will be sent to the Attorney General, Secretary of State, and the Governor’s office. It's still possible that someone else could determine that we need a public hearing if the changes are considered to be substantive. Van Zandt stated that the full text is available on the web site and consumers may request copies on tape, in Braille or in large print. NCBVI will look into providing links to the appropriate Federal Regulations.
Orester moved to approve Title 192 Chapter 1 & 3 as amended. Burns seconded. The motion carried unanimously.
Chapter 2: Carlos Servan is working on this one. He has consulted with Lynn Melson and Kristin Petersen, legal counsel at Vocational Rehabilitation. Chapter 2 governs impartial hearing reviews. Van Zandt will let the Board know if a public hearing is required.
Chapter 4: One of Van Zandt's goals is development of NCBVI workplace policies and personnel policies. This would be another Chapter of Rule. Work was begun on this at the same time Chapters 1 & 3 were being written. A decision was made to concentrate first on service delivery and then on personnel. It is the practice in Nebraska that when an agency is transferred into or out of another, the policies of the former entity are used until those specific to the new agency are in place. What we use now are those carried over from HHS, which were carried over from Department of Public Institutions (DPI). There are a few things specific to the way we operate that can be made different and we need to have our name on them. The groundwork has been laid. We will move ahead from there this year.
We now have 23 on the NCBVI ListServ. Activity level (successful requests): May—2,443; June–2,272; July–2,487. Jim Jirak in Omaha has had some training from Kelly Coleman on websites and is interested in developing his own skills. He has offered to be web master on a volunteer basis. Nancy Flearl and Kelly Coleman will be working with him.
Friends of the Commission Update:
Ardyce Earl asked for an explanation of Friends. Orester said Friends is incorporated as a 501 (C)(3) support organization to provide funds directly to the Commission. Van Zandt said Friends is looking into eligibility for agency staff to make automatic donations through community funds.
The Board expressed its appreciation for receiving minutes of Friends meetings, and considered requesting treasurer's reports as well. Hobley, a member of the Friends Board said this is not an inordinate request. He will raise the issue at the next meeting.
This summer, a young blind man is working in the NIS office helping to identify snags. Progress is being made. The go live for procurement was delayed from August 1; accessibility issues played a definite part in the delay. We are being taken seriously now. Limited training has begun for field support staff and supervisors to begin learning the basics. Once it gets closer to being implemented, Jonathan Ross and Bill Brown will train staff using screen readers. The biggest barrier is the use of PDF (Portable Document Format) files.
Walker expressed concern about the wording used this past year with regard to the confidentiality of comments. The language "Your comments will remain confidential and, if sent to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, will not be seen by anyone except the Commissioners" caused us a dilemma in the handling of suggestions. It would be more reasonable to let people know that we will pass relevant information to appropriate people, but will do so without revealing the sender. This would fulfill the Board's intention in creating the survey.
Suggestion Box: Van Zandt reported that, after much discussion, it was determined that this will be fulfilled by a URL on the web site for staff only, accessible with a password. Anonymous suggestions will go to the Chairman of the Board. Currently, the only item there is the suggestion box. It may be possible to have the evaluation and survey forms done that way, but a way would need to be devised for making it possible only to submit one per person.
Walker expressed appreciation for the effort of all in making this possible. If it becomes either unnecessary or problematic, will do away with it or rethink it.
Comments were made concerning the vending program, the vitality of the North Platte District, home teaching plus, NFBN Senior Division raffle, commendation for the awesome task of Commissioners, minimizing bureaucracy, and encouraging consumer input.
Consideration of Set Aside Increase:
Election of New Officers:
Burns moved that Walker be elected Chairman. Oltman seconded. The motion carried unanimously. Burns moved that Orester be elected Vice Chairman. Westin-Yockey seconded. The motion carried unanimously. Orester moved that Burns be elected Secretary for Executive Sessions. Oltman seconded. The motion carried unanimously.
Materials for New Commissioners:
Public Meeting Law was sent to Oltman as a new member. Otherwise, she has read material from the web site.
NewsLine ® Contract:
Suggestions for Developmental Disabilities System Grant
Proposal: Although this particular grant application was due July 25 th, it was put on the agenda to encourage discussion for future opportunities. Deaton said it is one of those competitions which occurs every 6 months. After some discussion, Walker thanked Deaton for continuing to work on new ideas.
Confidentiality: Walker received a call from Larry Mackey on the morning of August 1, with a follow-up e-mail that evening, which she read to the Board. He requested that the Board "review all paperwork, policies, and procedures concerning confidentiality at NCBVI." Van Zandt will send any documents that deal with confidentiality to the Board.
Other Business: Burns announced that September 20 th is the date for the Omaha White Cane Banquet. He gave details, including that half of the proceeds go toward NewsLine ® . He encouraged Commissioners to attend.
Focus Topic for Next Meeting:
CAP (Client Assistance Program)--Vicki Rasmussen.
Location, Date and Time of Next Meeting:
Burns moved that the next meeting take place on Saturday, November 22 nd, at 9:00 a.m. in Lincoln at the Medical Center Stephen Carveth Building. Orester seconded. The motion carried unanimously.
Request from Commissioner Westin-Yockey to Discuss Confidential Matters-- Walker stated that, although the Executive Session item was on the agenda, Public Meeting Law requires a vote for that purpose. Burns moved to go into Executive Session. Orester seconded. The motion carried unanimously.
Executive Session Commenced--3:40 p.m.
Open Meeting Reconvened--4:37 p.m.
Burns moved to adjourn the meeting. Oltman seconded. The meeting was adjourned at 4:38 p.m.
Nebraska Center for the Blind has been approved by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB). This approval is granted only to those Centers that meet strict standards for high quality services, uphold a positive philosophy of blindness and high expectations, adhere to Structured Discovery instructional methodology, and are dedicated to assuring genuine Informed Choice for all consumers. The Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired adheres to these standards of quality assurance in every area of its service delivery.