Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow, Chair
Dan Thompson, Alumnus and former faculty member
Superintendent Serena Preston, ISVI Superintendent
Kris Smith, via telephone conferencing
Lisa McDaniel, SBE Consultant
Aimee Veith, ISVI Education Principal
David Miller, ISVI Vocational Principal
Marsha Schoth, Admissions and Records
Cindy Miller, Low Vision Clinic
Debbie Buchanan, Executive Secretary II
Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow called the meeting to order at which time he called for roll call. Those present were Kris Smith, via phone conferencing; Superintendent Serena Preston; Dr. Goodfellow, President; Dan Thompson, former faculty member and alumnus; David Miller, Vocation Principal; Aimee Veith, Education Principal; Marsha Schoth, Records and Admissions; Gail Olsen, visitor; Lisa McDaniel SBE Consultant; Cindy Miller, Low Vision Clinic and visitor.
Dr. Goodfellow reminded the crowd that the Advisory Council meets every quarter, the third Friday of the 3rd month. He explained that they set the meetings up this way in order to avoid complications and allow for participants to be better able to manage their schedules. He said they need to work toward getting members updated, but they would talk about that later. Dr. Goodfellow called for approval of the minutes and agenda. He asked if there were any questions concerning the minutes or agenda. There were none. Dr. Goodfellow asked if there were any conflicts of interest that needed discussion. There were none.
Dr. Goodfellow noted that reports had been circulated. Superintendent Preston was the first person on the agenda scheduled to report. She asked that she be allowed to go last in order to refrain from reporting on issues the principals would report on. Dr. Goodfellow approved that request.
Kris Smith was the first to report. She indicated she had a lot she wanted to talk about. She said she wanted to update everyone on happenings at DHS. First she wanted to let everyone know that Marjorie Olson had retired at the end of December, that Marjorie was very excited about her retirement, that she had plans to travel and visit grandchildren. We do intend on replacing Marjorie and filling that position but wanting to make changes to the position. Marjorie will help us with training so that everyone is up to date on trainings and grants. I am pressing ahead in her stead. Marjorie is still taking phone calls so that's good.
Recently the Governor appointed a new acting secretary, Secretary Sadler left last Monday. Mel Wright has been named acting secretary. We are very pleased about that. She has not indicated an interest in full time position but she's been with DHS for some time and has a great understanding of DHS. She has also been serving as Director of Development and is well aware of needs here. We are pleased we have someone who we can call on and feel comfortable with. Ms. Smith indicated that they are getting all kinds of requests for budget information. She said no formal decisions have been made and no guidance has been provided for what we will be doing in the new fiscal year. No update on budgets are available but Directors have been in contact with each other on services. Home services does have a projected deficit that we will have to make decisions about or ask for a supplement from the legislature. We are very concerned about that. Ms. Smith indicated that Superintendent Preston does a great job of watching the budget. She indicated there was no word on what to expect with next year's budget. She said everyone has been told to cut any non-essential travel which was specifically why she had not attended today's meeting in person. Travel must be essential. She said they are requesting permission for essential travel and are expecting decisions soon. Everyone is encouraged to do phone conferencing to save our precious GRF funds. This does not affect travel funded by federal funds. ISVI staff members need to insure their requests are doing a job. To clarify Ms. Smith said that travel is a big issue in state government. Ms. Smith said they had received a list of all contracts as part of the Governor's order to review all contracts and we have been told to work as efficiently as possible and nonessential will be decided whether to be continued next year. She said the non-essential spending has been cut in previous administrations and we feel we are pretty lean. We feel we are putting money in important places. We don't think we are spending on non-essential but we have been asked to look at the contracts. Ms. Smith went on to report that they have a new legislative vacancy, that Randy Wells who served in their legislative office has been told his services are no longer needed so he is moving on outside of state government so there is a vacancy and that she would keep Superintendent Preston updated. She said they are very excited about the new Governor and ideas he might do with finances but it was also a time of anxiousness. She said it was not personal, there are a lot of changes taking place in DHS. Some have experience with this and some don't, we have to help them understand. Ms. Smith said she would keep everyone updated on any new employees. She said it was a big time of transition here and within the state. She said it would be difficult until everyone acclimates to their new jobs. At this time Ms. Smith asked if anyone had questions.
Dr. Goodfellow asked that the record reflect that Mayor Andy Ezard is here at which time Mayor Ezard apologized for his late arrival.
Superintendent Preston said to clarify what Ms. Smith said about travel, an executive order was signed that said nobody was allowed to travel unless it was pre-approved and if they did there would be no reimbursement. Superintendent Preston said that Ms. Smith has had literally thousands of questions and Superintendent Preston said she has composed a list of questions to be sent to Springfield and that all questions should come through her office first. Superintendent. Preston said she understood the order concerning travel pertained to travel paid from the GRF, that most of ISVI's travel was not paid through GRF but rather an out of state fund and that RCW and drivers which are required for any travel they do is already paid by ISVI. She said that at ISVI we have really taken pain staking measures to look at essential and non-essential travel She said bus travel for trips for students throughout the year have already been pre-approved prior to the start of the school year so they are good to go. Superintendent Preston talked about the upcoming IAER Conference, vocational and council conferences and their questions concerning travel had not been answered right away. We submitted questions and Kris submitted to her contact and Chief of Staff and they are answered but they are being paid for with grant money. Kris Smith interjected that federal funding is okay. Superintendent Preston said the next comment she wanted to make is that we must be patient.
Ms. Smith interjected, yes, and to be fair we have got new people coming in and we are finding out that as we always know it is more complicated than it seems. Until you get in the gritty of the program and drill down to the policy someone might say no and we say let's talk about it. We have a new administration and we want to do all we can to support the administration and follow rules as best we can. Don't want something to happen where we said yes and someone else felt differently, we don't want to get anyone in trouble. Just want to do due diligence.
Superintendent Preston said all contracts are being scrutinized, that is everybody, an example of contract would be school jobs like plumbers and electricians. Maintenance can do some but there is a limit so these are under contract. One on one aides are on contract that districts do not have funds available to fund them.
Mr. Thompson stated he understood the new Governor has said that he would be lenient toward direct care services. Ms. Smith said she did not know if that was true or not. We are waiting on direction from the Secretary. Ms. Smith said she would be on vacation next week and next week is our first meeting with Melissa. We will hear more relating to direct care and DHS works. She said other areas were struggling too, especially child care.
Mr. Thompson asked about new textbooks to which Ms. Smith replied she felt that would be considered essential.
Dr. Goodfellow asked if there were more questions of Ms. Smith to which there were none. At that time Gail Olson was introduced. Ms. Olson asked if vouchered staff covered contracts were being reviewed to which Superintendent Preston stated she was advised by Business Supervisor Bill Suttles that they were not. Ms. Smith said that regarding the question of $10,000 remitted vouchers being under review was one she could not answer and said she would have to check.
Superintendent Preston stated once again that any staff that works for her who had questions should ask her first indicating this was not the place for these questions.
Ms. Olson said that they indicated reviewing contracts that would not be continued in next fiscal year, do you mean next year or this year. Ms. Smith said she believed it would be July, the beginning of the next fiscal year, that she was not aware of any changes to this year prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year.
At this point Dr. Goodfellow suggested the meeting move forward.
Education Principal Veith also reported on the student council. She said the students want to align their homecoming with track season which is in the fall. She said they are working on ideas for the next homecoming. Prom is scheduled for May 16th. The theme this year is being discussed. Students would like to have red carpet and dancing. Dan Thompson will DJ the event and Wade Photography will do pictures. The ISVI High School Student Council Walk a Thon was a huge success netting over $1,000 raised.
Vocational Principal David Miller reported that he had been busy updating student IEP's and doing annual reviews. He said things were kind of in a lull right now but would be picking back up from now until the end of the year. He said that a couple of new kids had enrolled while a couple of kids left because they finished their terms. Vocational Principal Miller said that he and Education Principal Veith attended the Blind Vendor's Program, he said he was really excited about what he saw and that they were very generous to our students lending a lot of hope that we might be able to make possible opportunities for our kids. He said there were 15 students actively working on or off campus. We want to change a little to have volunteer where kids will work through steps to get to actual employment We are restructuring. He said they had nearly completed the Perkins grant and would work on the CTEI grant next. Vocational Principal Miller said they would be attending a Career Fair at Lincoln Land College in Springfield. He said they want the kids to see what a full community college life would be like. They will meet with officials so kids can see what it's like to move into community college. He said kids who plan to go to college or enter into a certificate program will attend this event. He said they were looking for ideas for summer camp. He said they were putting together pamphlets for "Westward Adventure". He also reported that a conference was being held in March that he and four staff would be attending. He said they learn a lot at these conferences and these conferences were important for building a team.
Superintendent Preston said she would like to add that she was impressed with how Vocational Principal Miller and Educator Christie Best had worked on the voluntary work program and I think it's important this idea of having a tiered program. Vocational Principal Miller said it was one of the many ideas he learned at the Connections Conference. Vocational Principal Miller said that Lincoln Land in Springfield had added on a new addition in the last five years which is a career and technical department. He said they restore everything from color coordinated linens to decorations. They have hospitality and engineering. He said he thought this career fair would benefit a lot of students. Dr. Goodfellow asked what students would be attending to which Vocational Principal Miller indicated it was targeted for 30-31 students that would be going. Superintendent Preston said they were discussing a trip for those who do not get to attend this conference but no plans had been finalized.
Next on the agenda, Parent Association. A written report submitted by the Parent Association was read by Dr. Goodfellow. Superintendent Preston said that the Parent Association provided $50 for a service project. They purchased fleece to make large blankets and then went to a nursing home and gave them to residents.
Superintendent Preston was the next agenda item. She reported that they were still working on filling vacancies. She said a few vacancies for RCW's and in the dietary department had been filled. She further reported that Steve Shive, Maintenance Engineer retired at the end of December and Nick Preston was the new engineer and that they currently were in the process of replacing Aaron Singleton, a guard who had also retired. She said the position is filled by someone but they can't leave their present job yet. Superintendent Preston talked about the budget. She said as far as our local budget we are where we thought we would be. There are some orders that have been submitted to me I am holding onto and other orders we will wait to put through. In the Residential Department we have some activities coming up. One square meets in the cafeteria to plan and prepare a meal once a month. It takes a lot of teamwork and community involvement. They make a menu and grocery list, then purchase groceries to prepare the meal. Superintendent Preston said she wanted to clarify that all menus the students make must be approved by Dietary Manager Cindy Daugherty. Ms. Daugherty has had to make changes to their menus and lists. Superintendent Preston reported that in Maintenance, Nick Preston is the new Supervisor and things are moving along. We had a boiler down during a pretty cold time in the P.E. rooms and it's going to be a problem down the line. One of the main boilers went down but we have backup but it took overtime and supplies, it takes more than one man. Superintendent Preston said she was wake a lot of the night waiting to see if action would have to be taken to move the kids elsewhere. She said the question "what if", "what would we do", was raised but we have had communication with ISD and we both agree we will evacuate to the other school in an emergency. Superintendent Preston asked if there were any questions.
Lisa McDaniel asked Education Principal Veith if they were ready for PARCC to which Educational Principal Veith said they were as ready as they could be. She said she had the rights to order. She said PMP's had gone out. She said they could not distribute them; they have to be transferred to Reuel. She said they had spent hours on PMP. She said they were doing all paper, that they were sitting better than those doing technology. She said she was very concerned for those doing technology. Lisa Mc Daniels said they had been advised to do paper too. Superintendent Preston explained that apparently other districts doing technology testing have had difficulty uploading the test themselves.
Dan Thompson asked about RCW vacancies. Superintendent Preston reported that they still had a position that had been vacant for quite a while and that a couple of people were on leave. Superintendent Preston reported that ISVI is okay with subs at this time but there are still three teaching vacancies. She said they had just that last week got approved a draft for vocational teachers. She said vocational education titles are separate from education titles license. She said that was where they were at but she felt good about that especially after hearing about other districts. She said some rural districts only have one sub and a bigger district in the area only has three. She said she felt we were doing good. She said some of our subs are hitting the 100 day cap for retired teachers that are subbing so things could get tight again before the end of the year.
Admissions Supervisor Marsha Schoth reported that a sophomore from Naperville was looking into ISVI and a freshman from Springfield has applied. In February there would a sophomore from Pekin, a high school girl applying in the fall and a third grader touring from Fairfield. She said she would also be doing exhibits at the AER conference in February.
Dan Thompson asked about the population numbers. Education Principal Veith said there were 68 and 45-50 in the outreach program with pending referrals.
Dr Goodfellow talked about the last meeting and the good comments they received on changes they want to make to the by-laws. He said he and Superintendent Preston had met to finalize the laws. He said he hopes to solidify the changes at the next meeting in April and July's meeting they could work toward getting more members. The changes include changing membership to 10-12 members. He said they hope to change wording from suggesting the board represent 13 different organizations to say "potentially representing 13 different organizations".
Dan Thompson noted that the change of "National Federation of the Blind" was changed to "National Federation For the Blind". Superintendent Preston noted that Dan and Howard also recommended taking out "state board member" as well.
Dr. Goodfellow noted that in addition to electronic attending of the meetings there would be the option of voting electronically in order to meet a quorum.
Education Principal Veith asked if there had been any movement on getting a liaison for ISD & ISVI. Kris Smith said she had submitted a recommendation that the secretary approved before she left. Kris Smith said she would follow up on that.
Superintendent Preston asked if ISBE Special Ed had made any move to appoint someone to the Advisory Council to replace council member Todd Williams. Kris Smith said she had not heard anything but would reach out to ISBE and ask.
Dr. Goodfellow spoke about how to get the meetings back on track. He talked about the number of members in each group and how terms of each representative should be set forth in order to have experienced members at all times. He said when a person leaves the group for whatever reason they should be quickly replaced. He said currently they have members still in their terms. He said he thought bylaws should be changed to serve two consecutive terms. He was hopeful all current members would ride out this cycle because he did not want to have to replace everyone all at once. He said he would circulate the draft by email between now and the April meeting. We will make every effort to get a quorum and to have this in place in April. He said that once it was done in April, they would reach out to members to see what accommodations need to be made for the sake of the Advisory Council
Superintendent Preston introduced Gail Olson. She said she did not know Gail would be here. She said she was hopeful to get a brief explanation of her program at the next meeting. Ms. Olson said they have a new program through ISU. She said it is funded through a grant. Ms. Olson said they have started recruiting for July and are taking applications now. She said Mindy Ely is the Coordinator and she is the Co-Coordinator. She said she would be present for April's meeting. Superintendent Preston said she was very pleased with this program. Ms. Olson said if this week's emails were any indication of interest they would have no problem.
Cindy Miller, Low Vision Coordinator reported that ISVI and ISD started working together sharing services for our students that have hearing and ISD that have vision eligibility. She said there are several conditions that make dual impairments. We are cooperating in this program. She said she goes to ISD to do exams and our kids go there for audiology and she also comes here and shares her equipment and we share our equipment with them. She said they are sharing training as well. Mrs. Miller said they recently completed screenings for all students this year. She said ISD had 15 students that were visually impaired and we have 6 students that are hearing impaired. She said she believed both schools were doing good things for their kids. Superintendent Preston said that we help get broken glasses fixed, that Lesly is available for minor repairs without having to send them in. She said ISVI has a contract with a local ophthalmologist they send their broken glasses out to. Low vision shares their TVs and Mr. Strader goes to ISD and does some training and their personnel has done some training with us. Dr. Goodfellow remarked that this was great and we are a leader in this. Mrs. Miller said that ISD had a full time vision person but she retired and they were unable to get a part time person. Then a student had vision needs and they started coming over here. She said the superintendents agreed they could share some services and it all just evolved. Superintendent Preston said there were just a few students who have really needed more minutes of vision needs than we could provide. Ms. Miller indicated there was actually only one student that needed more than she could provide. Dr. Goodfellow asked if this practice was informal or under contract. Superintendent said it was an informal practice. She said everything depends on meeting our needs first but we do what we can. Dan Thompson expressed concern about the affect sharing services, though he liked the idea, impacted the position that needed filled at ISD. Education Principal Veith stated that that position is still available and still needs to be filled, they just cannot find anyone to fill it. Mr. Thompson said he just didn't want to lose that position.
Dr. Goodfellow said that some months back ISVI was approached by others trying to work with legislature to force some rules past leaders for those hired at the school. ISVI and our AC didn't really take action on that and we really felt comfortable not taking action. A decision had to be made in a very quick timeline and they were uncomfortable with the process. He said they did not want to do anything that would have a negative effect on the school and they have distanced themselves from that project. He said there was a lot of speculation that we would benefit from that, maybe, but maybe not. He said they would not rally their support for the project and as it turns out it was not very effective. Ms. Olson said it is a very slippery slope attaching your name to things. You have to be careful giving your name to things. Dr. Goodfellow said they want to make positive changes, that they need to be cautious. He said it happened so quickly they did not engage this group. He said he did not think with the new governor that this was a time to rattle cages. Dr. Goodfellow said he did not regret their decision at all. Superintendent Preston pointed out that the school has a legislative department that we need to work with. Those things need to go through them. Kris Smith said she felt they handled things very well. She said she also approved with their wanting to sit down and talk about staff and discussing these issues. She said we should work with our legislative office and to her knowledge this group had not requested a legislative meeting.
Mayor Ezard reported that Congressman Davis would be speaking with the Governor and that ISD and ISVI were high on his agenda. Mayor Ezard said he is well aware of ISD and ISVI and will keep us on his radar. The congressman has toured the campus and would like to meet Serena.
Dr. Goodfellow said the next meeting of the Advisory Council is scheduled for April 24th. Educational Principal Veith extended her thanks to Kris Smith for all she does. The meeting was adjourned by Dr. Goodfellow at 11:54 a.m.