The meeting came to order at approximately 10 am on October 22, 2021, via zoom. Present were Superintendent Veith, DHS Chief of Staff Louis Hamer, Advisory Council Chairman Mark Peters, Admissions Kenneth Mansell, Kirsten Krueger, Michelle Clark, Outreach, councilman Aaron Singleton, Lauren.
Mayor Andy Ezard is not available. Aimee told the group Arlana Henley was no longer on the council as she no longer has a child attending ISVI. Aimee explained to Mark he would not be able to vote on issues or even approve the minutes of the last meeting. She told Mark he could do send an email to voting members for approval of the minutes, he said he would do that.
Mark called the meeting to order indicating he would be sending an email for vote on the agenda and previous meeting notes. There is no quorum. There was no conflict of interest.
Kirsten Krueger, EAI of Spec. Ed., 5th year TVI and having done several years of Opening Doors.
Superintendent's Report: Aimee told the group we are in person since July and are doing well. We were on outbreak list once, meaning you have two connected cases and that is all we had. We remained in that status for 28 days because that is the rule and during that time, we did not have any more cases. We are off that status as of the first week of October. We've had one case since, so we are doing well in comparison to other schools who have not been able to get off that list. We don't know if Delta has impacted, we don't that kind of testing. Our students and staff are doing very well wearing their masks. We had a booster clinic October 8th. Over 40 people took their booster and a couple of people started their 1st and 2nd shot as well. We will host that again on the 29th so anyone wanting a booster or 1st, or 2nd shot can get them. By that time the FDA would announce you could mix your shots so if you had Pfizer with us before and you want Moderna as your booster, you can do that. We had a flu clinic on the 20th with ISD and that was well attended so those kinds of things are really going well. Our mitigations still the same as they were before. Still sitting two at a time in the dining room, dining room adjusted a little bit in the last week because they are now serving dinner in the dining room instead of the dorm. Trucking and those kinds of things are impacting us getting food to the dorms and food costs increases, everything is costing more and getting harder to procure however kudos to our Business Office, they keep reaching out and filling our needs. We have yet to want for anything other than chocolate milk. None of the schools in downstate Illinois can get chocolate milk. That was a problem with dairies in the area. A report from Mrs. Morris as far Personnel we've had a lot of movement as far as interviews. We recently had interviews for our Business Office, we had interviews for nurses, we had interviews for residential care workers. We have about five postings we think will be posted in the next week. We have a posting up right for an ISA to replace Mr. Eddy who has assumed Mr. Wright's place October 1st. When we last met there was a backlog of jobs that needed to be filled and we are starting to see movement on those so hopefully we will get some good candidates and get someone in here quickly. We reported last time we were seeking approvals for emergency RCWs, and we were able to get those, we have five people working on emergency so our RCWs can get some relief and they are all catching up very quickly and getting along with the staff. The kids seem to love them. One is one of our board members so if he becomes permanent, he will have to resign. Any questions? Chairman Peters asked if we had been short staffed as the reason for emergency workers? Aimee replied that we had seven openings that had happened, some of them had been since the pandemic. What's unfortunate about that kind of title is that kids must be present to be trained. Our kids were not here until April of last year so we could not post those positions until they were guaranteed kids were here to be sure they would get their training to certify them. That created that backlog of RCWs that needed to be filled.
Chairman Peters said DHS Education Liaison, to which Aimee replied that Kerrie Rawlings resigned her post and currently that position is vacant. She said maybe when Lou talks, he can tell us where we are in this process. Right now, mostly what she would have reported on was the grants being worked on so what I would like to tell you is kudos to Mrs. Carr, she received a $29,950 grant last week from the Illinois Lending Library System, which gives grants annually to schools. We usually get about $750 to $2,000. Last year they had grants specifically written for technology specifically to support students that might need support if we had to go remote or if they significant needs in remote. What we wrote a grant for was to get focus 40's more for our students. We didn't know if our grant would be accepted, it was a little bit outside the box for what the grant was written for. The total you could get was $30,000 and she got almost the max that she could get minus 50 bucks. So, we will be purchasing more Focus 40's for our students. I think when we get those in, we will even have a surplus for kids who need them on campus versus never having enough. So that's a plus, although as soon as the money was released, Focus 40's was out of stock. She's working with the company to see how quickly we can get them. So, that's some of what we are seeing, the unique needs of our kids' companies are struggling to get the parts that they need to make the equipment. It's affecting American Printing House; it's impacting Freedom Scientific. Maybe a little part for those who make the motherboard, maybe they can't get them. Those are the sorts of things that we're struggling to get.
DHS Chief of Staff, Mr. Hamer. Mr. Hamer reported on the Liaison position. He said when Kerrie left the responsibility went o Janelle Miller and Chrissie Washington. But as of next Friday, Janelle Miller will be leaving the state and moving to Missouri. That hit where we didn't expect to be hit. But we have a resolution to that temporary position, HSP employee that will be moving in Janelle's position, Janelle will train her in Kerrie's position and Title IX responsibilities that Janelle was doing. The OEIG investigations that Janelle was doing I will assume those, and I'll figure out how to get those done. So that's where we are right now. As far as when Kerrie's position will be filled, we have worked the process, we are doing everything we need to get it posted. Our personnel liaison Sherry Bridges is out for a couple of weeks. We hope she's back by the first of November, then she will work from home for two weeks. When she comes back, she will fill us in on where we are in the process of filling Kerrie's position and posting Janelle's position. We also have a Business administrative position that we're trying to fill. Aimee was in on that interview, but we haven't heard anything on that. Aimee, you can probably tell us more about where we are on there. Aimee said all she knew was the interviews were completed now we just must work through the rest of the process. Mr. Hamer said things are beginning to move a little bit. Aimee said she sat in on the interviews of the three nurses that was three days before the business office, the 27th of September, and we got the names on those to hire by October 8th. So hopefully we will have new nurses starting soon.
Education Dept: Aimee said Barbi is out today. Aimee told the group some of the things we are working on in the Education Department, and maybe next time we will be able to have the Lighthouse Team come tell you more about it, we are becoming a leader in ME school, so they are in the process of all the professional development regarding that as well as rolling out the Leader In Me everyday during Advisory period first hour trying to create some of those soft skills from kindergarten level up. We did hire a pre-k teacher in the time since we met. Mr. Lawson did join us about a month ago. We have three of the most adorable pre-k kids and we have an educator for them, and we are rolling out NWEA mapping. We've talked about mapping skills before in Advisory. MAP is another kind of achievement test. We trying to find an achievement test our kids can take in a time frame that doesn't require them to be away from their regular academics for a week to seven days has been a real struggle. There simply aren't tests that are norm to our kids so that we can see where they're functioning compared to their typical developing peers and not take them out of class for 5-10 days because that's counter intuitive. So, mapping we've been watching over the years, I used to give the tests, many schools give the rest, but it wasn't accessible to our kids. But they've made some advancements, so we are going to pilot our first try of MAPPING in the next two weeks. We hope it will take no more than 180 minutes per kid to be able to see about where they are functioning. That's important to know so that we can measure where they are at compared to their peers and more importantly are they advancing compared to themselves. We won't have strong data on that for a couple of years yet, but we will keep you posted and see how it's going. It's always been accessible for our kids with low vision but not for our kids with no vision but in theory now it is more accessible so we will give it a try. When asked how it was accessible, was it accessible by screen reader, Aimee said yes. Aimee explained that the test is supposed to be dynamic, in that it will ask questions and adjust the questions at the proper level of the teste to determine where you are at. To read the test to someone who was blind or to do it by paper braille made the test unable to be dynamic. Now it's supposed to be more dynamic in refreshable braille.
CTE: Aimee asked Rachael Borgman for a quick update. Aimee said the biggest thing we've done is we have opened our work study program and we do have some kids out working. Rachael is having technical issues. Remembering her report, yes, we have 13 students working, 9 off campus and 5 on campus. We have completed domains on twelve new students that have come into school so far this year. We are in the process of their evaluations. The CTEI grant and big purchase was made, Mr. Vredenburgh got a desk. We have a career fair coming up, we will be participating in the Chicago Lighthouse Career Fair coming up. All our students that are juniors, seniors and TLC will be participating in that, it is virtual so students will use their own devices. Aimee said we hosted a Low Vision Clinic that services 27 students. Talks concerning Opening Doors and Summer camp have begun. It has not been determined whether these programs, will be virtual, in person or hybrid. We will make that determination on January 15th. Aimee said we hope we can have some students on campus at those times but the one thing we have learned is that we don't know what the future holds with this virus.
Parent Association: Aimee said she did have some good news on that. She said Mrs. Wyman took over the group along with Mrs. Howard has agreed to stay on even though her daughter has graduated. We have our first meeting October 5th and another one early next week and will have some virtual ones via zoom. Some new parents attend that we had never seen in a PTO meeting before which was awesome, so we look forward to meeting again. We talked about what we need to do, do we need to do a fundraiser what would it look like, could it be virtual. Because it's looking like having large in person events is still not a going to be attainable this winter. Our largest events were Trivia Night and Quarter Auctions, which were great because kids got to work them but having 200 people in a room may not be our best bet. Everybody had a charge of investigating various kinds of fundraisers that could be virtual and what could we do and still have some impact that the kids could support so they can develop some of those soft skills by being involved in the fundraiser. It will be interesting to see what everybody comes back with. Mark asked about the Quarter Auction ISVI had through Facebook. Aimee said that was one thing they discussed, could we get the kids involved by taking pictures and doing some of those things so they could learn how to run one of those things and how the background worked.
Mr. Mansell: There have been changes to sports schedules. In regarding sports track is finished. We did have some in person events but in the end of we turned the conference meet itself into a virtual event. Too many states were unable to travel even when the school year started until November 1st, so the numbers dwindled. We were able to complete the track season. The next one would have been goalball which already would have been started. We were proactive about it and with four schools unable to do anything until November and some that were kind of iffy, we took that initiative and moved goalball to the spring. We moved forensics up and it is happening as we speak. It is virtual and there is a chance depending on Missouri or Indiana, someone right next to us, wants to come here or we go there for a couple of meets but virtual is where it is right now. Cheerleading and wrestling are at the same time frame, middle of November into January. After cheerleading in January, we are going to be introducing bowling. Bowling this year and next will be as a club. There are 7 NCASB schools that will be doing bowling we will see how it goes. The bowling has been very good, we will be working by ourselves when we are there, there will not be anyone else. We should be able to teach the kids bowling and we will go from there. Swim season will be shortened by about a week and a half so there will be no overlap. Goalball and swimming will overlap. So, we will be creative as we have in the past working with Ms. Ballard and Mrs. Veith and Mrs. Borgman and what we did in the past is three days a week one team would practice three days a week and then the other team would practice. In other words, you go to goalball but not swim or you swim but no goalball. Some Saturdays we will have to practice when we are on campus. But collectively we are not taking something away from a student or asking him/her to choose. We were going to host the swimming conference, but I had that switched in talking with Mrs. Veith explicitly about this as well going forward it was in our best interest to host goalball. I pushed for that, we got it, and we are going to work with ISD across town if everything stays in person the very last weekend in April, we will host goalball conference and all the teams will be staying in hotels. Even if it were not covid usually at least two or three at tops stay on Missouri's campus otherwise they are in hotels so that works in our favor. We are in desperate need of goalball goals. Ours are over 20 years old. Ours have been patched up. Hopefully by doing this we are going to get two new brand new sets of goalball goals for us. Goalball goals, each set, runs between $6 and $8,000. The only cost to us is we might have to pick them up. They are going to deliver them on a bus, and they could fit in a storeroom sometime between January and February. For instance, if we are going to a state that they are going to, we will meet, put them on the bus. Or we may have to send someone to go get them but that's a far less cry than to have to buy these things and will really help the kids in their program. They are in Ohio where they are made. The only other thing in athletics a possibility looking at the schedule and it might be wise as well to move bowling up a little bit, so we don't have three sports at one time. I will meet with administration about this a little later. I think bowling will be something our kids will really enjoy and it's another opportunity for them. Mr. Mansell said athletics is very fluid. Mark Peters said he wished they had bowling when he was a student here, he felt the kids would really enjoy it. Mrs. Veith explained that it might not have been an IHSA sport at that time which is one of the reasons Mr. Mansell started looking into it and see if we would want to adopt it as well. She said I think we are seeing a movement across the nation of sports associations trying to make sure they have something for everyone, not just the four main sports that we are all used to. Mark asked about how the game of bowling would be accessible to the students for them to get the full experience, would they have bumpers. Mr. Mansell said right now one would have bumpers and one would not. He said they would also incorporate mats into it and the scoring also had four other sets of mats for lanes and pins donated to our school for PE. It's also important get them to understand how to keep score and where the pins are located. Having them in the school we can walk up totally blind or with little vision where they are located what it's called and get some semblance. As far as the bowling alley itself, just like we tape the goalball court, we can tape the bowling floor so they can feel where they are in relation, if you go there with sight, you will have the little arrows and see here's where I am at, we can do that like we do the goalball court so they can feel it and they can roll that ball. Mark asked if they would have the sound effect of the bowling to which Mr. Mansell said yes. He said if we were going to the bowling alley with sight and the bowling alley was full that could impact that. He said we will be there for an hour each time we go, and we will have the whole bowling alley to ourselves. So, they will be able to hear much like goalball let them roll it, let them hear it hit the net they will hear those pins go. We will try to spread them out over multiple lanes, it will be an introduction to them. Mr. Mansell said he had talked to a lot of the students, most of them have not bowled. Mr. Mansell said whether they have a physical, visual, or cognitive disability, this is something they can do and enjoy. He said it is a skill and when they leave here and go on as an adult, bowling is something they can do, they can keep score. Bowling is good exercise, socialization, interaction and if they can understand the concept then they will say yeah, I'll go bowl. For some of the kids the sound will echo more so ear plugs work.
Residential: Malinda Pollard was not available. Aimee said what she would say is that the dorms are pretty much set up how we said they would be. She said the only trouble we are seeing with having to keep the kids further apart is that it is starting to impact Admissions in the ebb and flow of who we can take in and making sure they can fit in in the right pod age wise. We have a couple of young boys looking at Admissions right now so what is it we can do to create a space for them with single bathrooms and all these things to match covid. She does have several emergency workers as well so taking on new Admissions when you have emergency employment as opposed to permanent is a concern of hers and well thought out so at this time, we are kind of in a holding pattern with a couple of little boys that would love to come to ISVI. We are going to just wait and see what those covid mitigations look like for us in January so maybe we can look at admittance for some of those second semester, but all those things must be weighed out equally to see what the needs are at this time and making sure everyone is safe. That's our biggest struggle right now. As far as the kids in the dorm and recreation all those things are going along as thought things were normal. They've had some Halloween things, unfortunately one of the bigger things was cancelled due to weather. It's either been 110 or 50 degrees and raining so that as been a struggle but other than that Mrs. Kidd has been very creative in the things, she's been able to do for the kids and she continues to keep them very busy, and the kids are ok with what's going on. All the furniture in the dorms has been replaced with a wipeable leather like covering and all the newer stuff was put in Unit18, so Unit 18 has new furniture as well but not wipeable but it's all brand new because we bought it just before covid hit. Kids did go back to the dining room for dinner as was reported earlier but we do plan to keep breakfast in the dorm if we can because it's made their mornings go so much smoother, their behaviors have been so much better in the mornings, everybody's day just gets off to a better start. So, Mrs. VanRee is looking at something other than throw away items to take food back and forth at breakfast. It's more work on our dining rooms staff but it's made an impact on the kids, and we are looking at that environmental impact of if we continually use the throw away items. It's not environmentally or fiscally sound. We want to mindful of our students' skills of not using knives and real plates, cutting their own food. We must be mindful of them not taking a step back. Aimee said she will be interested in seeing what Mrs. VanRee finds with transporting foods that we can keep clean and do it with the staff that we have. Aimee said right now we have 32 residential students, which is 12 more than we had at the end of last year which is why it's a little more difficult to keep things clean and mitigated and all the things we are trying to do to make sure everyone is safe.
Becky Patton joined the group.
Aimee told Becky where we were in the meeting. Aimee went on to tell the group that she and Becky's office along with their attorney had met previously about how to create an environment to bring in some younger kids since they might be living with older kids more than we like in a normal year, but we also want them to have access to their education. So, it's really going to come down to are the parents going to be ok with the fact that their 8 year old may be living in the same dorm but not in the same room with a 15 year old. Becky asked if Aimee was able to get any more clarification on that? Aimee said yes, what we were looking at was how the rules had been set in the past, they were set based on Illinois State Board of Education Class Ages, so you can't have more than a four year gap if you are in middle school and below in a classroom or more than a six year gap if you are middle school and above in a classroom age gap. However, that's for a classroom, not a residential setting so when you look at that in comparison to the rules in a residential setting if you were our oversight, we provide everything that we need in those so we were going with a higher standard because we could but we may not be able to maintain that in covid and give everyone their own bathroom and these kinds of things and we also don't want students out there in a pocket of our state being underserved if we have beds open. So, that's where we are, we are going to have to present it to, we have one parent right now, maybe two and say ok, this is the pod, and we are going to have to staff it, which is part of an earlier conversation, we have some new RCWs coming in. So, we will be able to provide more staff even though it's not necessary according to the rules, just to do what's best that we think for our students, and this would be a short term resolve. We are looking at the ages of our students as they ebb and flow this likely won't be a problem next year. Mr. Mansell has been working the afternoons in Admissions and Records in who is coming in for tours and those kinds of things, we are getting a lot of high school age boys and we will be able to keep them in a bedroom by themselves, but the trouble is shared bathroom space. We are certainly meeting all regulations currently.
Aaron Singleton, a past ISVI Security Guard, asked Aimee if there was going to be a guard placed at the front desk. He said he had been asked that question by others. Aimee asked if he was referring to where Darrell used to sit. He said yes. Aimee said we did investigate that, but it would be a security guard now. She said the position Darrell had been no longer a position. Aimee said she was in talks with the security guards here at ISVI and they kind of staled out because they were unwilling to change what the current schedules were. She said to add a person you have to change some schedules. She said honestly, she had not gotten back to that. She said the current people must be willing to change their schedules to have someone here during the day. Aaron asked what about having someone their part time? Aimee said she did not know, she didn't know if there even was a job description for that right now, which would have to be created. She said she was not opposed to coming back to talks with that union, but the union did not like the schedule that was offered. She said ultimately, it's management's decision but we also wanted some buy in from them because if you change someone's lives what kind of worker will you have if they didn't want that. So, we were trying to give them a little time to come to the realization what's best for the school. But ultimately, we would just do what's best for the school. Michelle Clark asked about Darrell's old position saying it was a part of the work study program. She asked what about creating a job for some of the students. She said maybe not security but like a receptionist a couple of hours a day. Aimee said we would still have to have a job coach for that position because Darrell acted as that coach. I've also talked to Mrs. Anderson about things like that. Do we create that space, could that student create like a shredding shop. They would have a couple of shredders; they would be answering the phones while shredding so they would be busy instead of sitting there for two hours and they never answer the phone. But we must find out if there is a job coach availability. She said she did think that space would be amazing for just that purpose to which Michelle Clark agreed. Aaron Singleton said before Aimee the Principal had a swat team came through and they announced themselves as someone else, Darrell had no vision, they walked around campus, nobody asked them who they were until they come into the guard area and the ground crew area, and we asked who they were, and they said we were the first to ask them anything. Aimee said that was bought up as a concern with Jacksonville PD and lockdowns that with all the bells before you even the sighted people didn't question. She said through the trainings she believed there had been improvements upon that, but I agree there needs to be safety wise, and we do have a CDB grant starting very soon to update our cameras. We could get someone much like ISD has, someone who can watch cameras all the time and answer the phones and direct people where they are supposed to go then that person could take one of our work study kids and support. Again, it's back to those conversations with the union about schedule change. Aaron said that person at the front office must be someone with vision. Aimee said she thought with school safety that would be a necessity.
Old Business: Legal updates and covid. Aimee said she had already told everyone where they were at with covid 19, we had our booster clinic, about 77% of our staff are fully vaccinated at this time and when I 77% of staff that's the contractual staff as well as regular staff, that's a really good number when you look around the state. Some places are sitting in the 30's, some hospitals are sitting below 50% so we are doing quite well with that. As you know if you work in a school setting in Illinois you must either have had a vaccine or submit to testing weekly. So, we have testing weekly in place for those who don't choose to have the vaccine, those are going well. We are still using Favorite Contractual Nurses for that most of the time so you can get a test here if we are open 24-7 in Unit 18. On the weekends when we are not open there is no testing, but it would be the Monday morning before the kids return and they start testing again on Sundays. As far as legal updates that's the biggest update since July, it's an executive order that anybody who works in a school setting must have the vaccine and prove it or submit to weekly testing. The age of 22 had passed but we had talked that it was coming. So, now you can stay in school until you are 22 if your 22nd birthday was not before the first day of school so for us the first day of school is usually August 16th. If you are 21 on August 16th you can complete the entire next year and not have to leave on your 22nd birthday. So that is going to impact positively about three of our kids next year so some of our parents were very happy to hear that. We have two that will be staying this fully year because of that too. Another thing that passed is if your school was not in session more than three months consecutively during covid, which would have been us, you could return for this entire school year. None of the student that that happened to want to return. They had either already moved into a group home setting or moved on to a four year college. So, for us, we had kept a very robust remove program going and so while they could have done that none of them chose to do so because they had gone on to their next step. NCASB has pivoted as well. Many of our other sister schools in other states have had that for several years already, the 22 law, so the NCASB has adopted it as well.
New Business is election and meeting of new officers and e-learning review. Mark Peters said if we can't do elections let's just skip to the e-learning review. Aimee told the group said our plan has been approved by the ROE and all parents have been notified. We have done a e-learning mock day in school so if we were to have inclement weather or can't come back to school for some reason, like gas leak or no heat, then we could call an e-learning day instead of an emergency day. We can only use e-learning in place of any one of our five emergency days which we still have on our calendars. I think our students and staff are ready. They did remote very well so I have no doubt that if we must call an e-learning day for whatever reason we will do fine with that. In e-learning we still must provide two and a half hours of education whether it be synchronous or non-synchronous, it could be in a google classroom. Teachers are working on how we will deliver that if we call it. So, they've all been reminded on home goings to take home their computers. We had a little test on that with staff because on Columbus Day weekend there was no impending threat of storms. They were good to remind students to take their computers home but forgot themselves. We had a pipe burst so we had to turn water off to the building so we stayed home remote for your in services so that was a learning curve for our teachers. But they were able to pivot and use their own devices or come in if they wanted to for their laptops or work in another building where there were restrooms and water. Mark asked if teachers were using laptops or desktops. Aimee told the group that teachers were given laptops when they were purchased recently and still have desktops in the classroom in case a student needs a laptop. Some of the teachers use desktop as everyday computers and may use laptops to show students something at their desk. Many of them two or three screens as well. Mark asked how kids were adapting to laptops and smaller screens. Aimee said they were doing well, and they do have access to desktops with bigger screens in the event of eye fatigue. Aimee said the bigger issue was teaching them how to care for the laptops, remembering to plug them in, caring for them and remembering they are not free and if you damage it there are consequences for your actions. That's the same pain that other schools have faced that have gone to one to one.
Mark said he did not have anything to report on from the Alumni. Aaron Singleton reported that the Lion's Club would not be having their fruit sale this year because of the produce in Texas and everywhere else has gone bad and if we get anything like from Washington it would tremendously higher, no trucking. It's bad, we can't get produce in the boxes we used to, they would come in bags, and we would have to figure out how to sort them and then keep it safe due to covid. Aaron said there would be something in the paper soon. It's just something that's happened. Everybody looks forward to it but that's what's happening now. Aimee asked if there would be some sort of alternative fundraiser to take its place, but Aaron said they were good right now. That money we raise from that goes towards the kids, but we do have a cushion, so we won't be depriving kids of what we normally do for them. Aimee said trucking is what has impacted the produce deliveries as well, they simply can't get drivers. The group talked about the labor shortage. Aimee said she saw in other states where McDonalds was offering $21 an hour and every place, they went to had hiring signs everywhere. Mark asked about the Low Vision Clinic in March. Aimee said she thought it would be March 7th and 8. Mark asked about Blind Vendors, whether we would be doing that this year, to which Aimee said yes. They reached out to Malinda, looks like we do it on campus this year, so far so good. They have been emailing back and forth on what they want to do. Aaron said his son was wanting to get toy donations to the Low Vision Clinic and he would let ISVI know as he learned more. The meeting adjourned at this time.