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Minutes from June 23, 2018 meeting

Primary Tasks

    Secondary Tasks


      Iowa Commission for the Blind

      June 23, 2018


      Call to order and determination of quorum.  The quarterly meeting of the Iowa Commission for the Blind was called to order at 10:01 a.m., by Sandi Ryan, with the following members present:  Sandi Ryan, chair, Joe Van Lent, member, and Ryan Brems, member, which was a quorum. Others in attendance: Emily Wharton, Peggy Elliot, Shawn Mayo, Michael Barber, Lora Van Lent, Keri Osterhaus, Sarah Willeford, Alan Bickell, Helen Stevens, Andrew Pulford, Hanna Geisinger, Kim Barber, JoAnn Slayton, via teleconference, Bob Ray, via teleconference, Roger Eggers, via teleconference, and Robin Madison, via teleconference.


      Action Item. Election of Temporary Board Secretary. Mr. Brems moved to elect Ms. Geisinger as the temporary board secretary. Mr. Van Lent seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously.


      Public Comment. Mr. Barber attended the director’s forum on Monday evening and he stated it is very helpful to be able to listen and ask questions about the department. He also stated that with the Gifts & Bequests item being removed from the agenda, He wanted to let us know that he will be seeking an attorney general to look over the ruling as the G&B money is not public funds, but private and he would like to know what the money is going toward. Commissioner Ryan stated we tend to get into long discussions on certain items on the agenda, and it will help decrease confusion if attendees hold all questions until after each speaker is finished. 


      Action Item. Approval of Minutes from March 20, 2018 Meeting. Mr. Van Lent moved approval of the minutes as submitted. Mr.Brems seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.


      Action Item. Approval of Updates to IDB Manual. Ms. Wharton stated she hoped that the format of the proposed changes document was clear and made it easier to understand what changes were proposed and the reason for each change. The changes had been worked on in Managers’ Team Meetings for several months. Input was sought from staff during the process,and a draft was presented to all staff before the all staff meeting on June 8th.  However, some additional changes from the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) were added on June 15th. Mr. Brems asked if any of the changes had been controversial, or caused concern. Ms. Wharton replied that they were not; the most concerning change was the point system for pay raises. In the upcoming year raises will be approved, whereas
      last year they were not. Some clarification was needed to explain that raises are capped at 3%. 1 point in a review is equal to .5%. Mr. Van Lent asked if there would be a Cost of Living Increase. Ms. Wharton replied that there would be a 1% increase, and that would now include the agency directors starting this year, where it had never included them in the past. Mr. Brems motioned to approve the IDB Manual Updates as written. Mr. Van Lent Seconded, and a roll call vote was taken: Ms. Ryan-yes; Mr. Van Lent-yes; and Mr. Brems-yes. The motion passed unanimously.


      Director’s Report. Ms. Wharton explained that the governor’s office asked her to remove the Gifts & Bequests update item from today’s agenda. The primary concern was around the director having discretion to approve up to $2,500. Until the process is reviewed, she will be deferring all requests to the Commission for approval that have previously come to her. Ms. Wharton announced that a survey has been launched to get feedback on a new tagline/logo for the department. The Communication team is a working group comprised of members from each area that works to improve internal and external communication within the agency. The Communications Team conducted a survey that found that overall morale within the agency was rated at 7/10; which is an upward trend. The suggestion for an updated logo/tagline came from the internal survey. The official idea was launched at the All-Staff meeting, and feedback has been received from a designer who would like to design the logo and tagline pro bono. Ms. Wharton will be sending out more
      information and reminders regarding this project. Ms. Wharton stated she is still in the process of interviewing for a new
      executive secretary and hopefully will have one for the next board meeting. Currently, she has been happy and excited to work with LEAP students in their Business Class, where they are using a leadership theme. Ms. Wharton stated she is trying to encourage the program participants to consider opportunities for leadership while learning about interviewing, what it takes to be both a leader and a boss. She is encouraging blind Iowans to speak to our LEAP students about their careers so students can get ideas of career possibilities they may not have thought of before. Ms. Wharton said that at the last board meeting, she discussed the lower attendance at the Braille Challenge, and the lowered promotion of Braille literacy in general. Ms. Wharton clarified that she was not intending to call out any teachers specifically, but to
      draw attention to the skill deficits we are seeing in transition age youth; particularly around literacy. Ms. Wharton apologized if anyone took that personally. She also stated that she had sent out a request to department staff working with youth to gather feedback on what they are seeing in their work.  She compiled the feedback and discussed it with IESBVI Superintendent Steve Gettel. They intend to meet regularly to continue to discuss these issues. Ms. Wharton stated she and other managers have been meeting with IESBVI managers regularly and are continuing to
      address concerns regarding the Braille Challenge. 


      Ms. Wharton stated that Iowa Workforce Development has received findings from the Federal Department of Labor
      concerning the number of local workforce regions in our state. The state Workforce Board put together a committee to work on re-alignment of the local regions. Ms. Wharton is serving on this committee and has sent letters stating that IDB has no funds to contribute to the administration of the local boards and is not required to do so under federal regulations. She wanted to clarify that decreasing the number of local boards does not decrease the number of one-
      stop locations and allows for more resources to be devoted to services rather than administrative costs. 


      Ms. Wharton had the managers give reports on their respective programs.

      Mr. Bickell stated the Administrative Rule for BEP has still not been approved by RSA. BEP has been asked to provide vending services at a facility in the department of corrections, and it is a good foot in the door to hopefully expand that later on. Mr. Bickell said that we have drastically cut costs in the BEP under Director Wharton, and we are looking to fill another field position to work alongside Tim Wigans.
      Mr. Bickell stated that a student graduated yesterday from the Center, one more will graduate next week, and more students will be starting in July than what is stated on the Board Report. Mr. Bickell stated he is making sure that students leave the center with a plan for finding work or continuing their education. He is taking time to sit down with students to create a plan if needed. He stated that he is completing paperwork to hire a jobs class and life skills instructor. Mr. Bickell discussed what this position would entail. There was then a discussion about the difference in whatVR covers with students versus the teachers in the Center. Ms. Elliottt asked if Mr. Bickell could state how long it has been since we made the request for BEP set-aside approval. Mr. Bickell said it hasn’t been a year yet, and it was last October that it was sent in. Ms. Elliot asked where the new facility was in the Department of Corrections. Mr. Bickell responded that it is the Fifth Judicial District, and all buildings are in the Des Moines area, with two residential facilities. Ms. Elliot then stated she had heard the DOT has a 30-year plan for closing up to 11 rest areas, and asked Mr.
      Bickell if that was true. Mr. Bickell responded that he was not immediately concerned, since the comment period extends into September 2019. Ms. Elliot moved on to state that tours are dramatically up, and that deserves to be praised. Mr. Bickell responded that was due to Ms. Osterhaus and her staff. There was more discussion on counselor and Center responsibilities in regards to creating plans for next steps after center training. Mr. Barber asked, regarding BEP, how many operators we have, how many locations, and what the average income currently is. Mr.Bickell stated income is in the low $40,000’s, and confirmed that number has dropped. He stated we have 2 trainees, and 18
      vendors. We currently have 20 facilities, and 2 are temporarily assigned. We are having some difficulty finding vendors willing and able to provide the hands on training for new trainees. Trainees are completing the Hadley program in addition to the hands on training. 

      Mr. Brems requested a short break. The meeting recessed at 11:11 a.m.
      The meeting was called back to order at 11:29 a.m.

      Ms. Wharton mentioned there is a current opening for an Industrial Arts Instructor, as Ric is looking to retire in January and we are looking for an overlap position. Mr. Van Lent asked, regarding BEP, why sales keep going down in the last 3 years. Mr. Bickell stated sales are going down and vendors are not in line price-wise. We have been pushing them to take that into consideration. Mr. Bickell stated they are slowly getting there, and it is a nationwide issue that BEP is an overall shrinking program. Ms. Stevens stated we finally received approval for migration from Google to Office 365 and Craig Johnson has been handling that. The switch will occur June 24, but no changes will be noticeable externally. Our next project will be migrating staff from Windows 7 to Windows 10. As Ms. Wharton mentioned, LEAP is well
      underway with 14 students, and it has been fun to see the program grow this year. Ms. Elliot asked if we have students
      come back for a second year. Ms. Stevens replied that most have been here before for LEAP in prior years. Mr. Van Lent asked where the kids were staying, and Ms. Stevens stated they were in apartments at GrandView University. 
      Ms. Barber stated she attended the AFB Older individuals who are Blind leadership conference in Oakland, CA. She was able to share information about our regional cluster model and there was a lot of interest in the subject. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Community Living (ACL) increased Part B (younger blind grant) funding. Iowa received a total of $27,694 which was split with the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), Iowa Centers for Independent Living (CILs), Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services Independent Living program (IVRS
      -IL), and Iowa Dept. for the Blind (IDB) IL program. Our IL program receives approximately $57,796 annually for our Part B funding. The additional amount IDB will receive is $4,648.00. IL teacher regional service areas have been changed as a result of adding our newest IL teacher, Monica Venesky. In addition to the service region change, all teachers are
      now implementing the new regional cluster model across the state. The implementation of the regional cluster model has been discussed with the commission board this past year. IL teachers have notified all clients of this change and have explained the value of the model. To date, there have been no objections voiced by any program client. A second round of interviews is being held June 25th for the IL Secretary vacancy, with interviews for a new Independent Living Rehabilitation Teacher being held on July 2nd. Ms. Osterhaus stated she traveled to San Antonio, TX and presented information regarding use of integrated resource teams in serving VR clients, our leadership and participation in the
      disability access committees in the local regions and about our work on the Training Videos we developed in partnership with the Workforce Innovation and Technical Assistance Team. She was able to network and gather information and ideas to discuss with team and managers here for possible changes in how we provide services. Ms. Osterhaus stated she hired Darci Clark as a new Secretary 1 and Darci completed center training last week. Two individuals, Gloria Graves and Shatai Joiner, are completing Rehabilitation Counseling Internships with us this summer. Ms. Osterhaus stated she is in the final stages of hiring for the vacant vocational rehabilitation counselor position, and the employment
      specialist position has recently closed.  Ms. Osterhaus stated The Rehabilitation Act calls for each state's vocational rehabilitation agency to periodically develop a comprehensive statewide needs assessment. Our plan will be due in 2020 and we are making plans to have a final draft of a state plan to commissioners by December of 2019 to ensure that both the commission and stakeholders have an opportunity to review and make comments prior to the deadline. 

      Ms. Willeford stated she provided guidance on digital book delivery and shifting staffing at the National Library Service
      Conference in Nashville. The library will have a NLS consultant visit on July 24th to check out our library. Right now, the library is in the middle of the Great American Read program, which is a list of 100 titles people felt should be read throughout the summer. At the end of the season, you can go online and vote for which book
      should be the Great American Read. There is a list of titles on the old switchboard desk in braille and print, and one can vote as often as one likes. Ms. Willeford stated the books are being provided to patrons 10 per cartridge, and over 70 people have signed up for this program. The Great American Read will be picked in October. Ms. Willeford shared information on a new family program, “SOAR Saturday”. The program will begin September 22nd from 9:30 a.m. –
      2:00 p.m., and will include a story trail using the skywalk, with one page of the story posted ata time along the trail to read as you walk. After this activity, Blank Park Zoo will be bringing in animals to show the group. Ms. Willeford stated she is writing an RFP for RFID tagging, to improve efficiency in checking books in and out and generating patron booklists. This will be useful for digital, large print and braille books, and will make inventory much more efficient. 
      Ms. Willeford reported on behalf of the Design Thinking Teams. She stated the first floor design is in the phase of getting cost information together as well as getting the audio duplication area moved closer to the mailroom to improve efficiency. The design thinking team working on 2nd Floor South is still working through possibilities for the space. In the meantime, the space is being used for Business Class and lunches for LEAP students and large meals for students in the Center. Ms. Wharton added they are taking time in making decisions so the final decision will be beneficial for the agency as a whole.


      CFO’s Report.  Mr. Pulford stated, with regard to SSA reimbursements, he has made significant strides, and was able to
      file the first batch of claims.Unfortunately since we were dealing with the older cases that were already started in the processing cycle, SSA rejected all claims. A second batch was filed at the end of May, including resubmitting those that were rejected due to timeliness issues. We are waiting to hear back on the status of those claims. DOM closed the budget system on June 15 and is scheduled to do their review and due diligence through early next week where it will get its approvals or questions come back to the agency and then loaded into the State’s I/3 system next weekend.
      Mr. Pulford stated in future years he would ask the board consider doing a FY2019 budget review at the June meeting rather than the September meeting as the budget prep is done at the end of May/beginning of June. Mr. Pulford stated in regards to the budget comparison distributed with the Board Packet, the budgeted expenditures were reduced to match the reduction in the state appropriation. When this was done a couple of expenditures were adjusted so that analytically speaking categories would fall within expectations. The Personnel Services category continues to trend lower than budget as we are still working to fill positions, and more positions have been vacated and are waiting to be filled. The fiscal year will end at around $4.9 million rather than the $5.1 million projected at the last meeting.
      Mr. Pulford said that the budget for the Gifts & Bequests fund, as of June 22nd, was $2,587,665.21 with revenue for FY2018 to dateat $56,717 and expenditures at $50,704. Mr. Pulford reported the elevator project was revived about a month ago. A second introductory information meeting was held, offering the opportunity to bid on the project. This time DAS included a longer project window and we got back 3 bids. Bidding closed on June 21st and Mr. Pulford along with Mr. Bickell and Mr. Randy Walford will review and score the proposals along with DAS and their project manager, Ryan Companies. We are optimistic and excited for this project to move forward.


      Time & Place of Next Meeting. Mr. Van Lent moved the Commission meet on Tuesday, September 4th at 10:00 a.m. Mr.
      Brems seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously.


      Consideration of Closed Session. Ms. Ryan had Ms. Geisinger read paragraph 1a from the Code of Iowa, Section 21.5. Mr. Van Lent moved to adjourn to closed session. Mr. Brems seconded the motion. There was a roll call vote: Ms. Ryan, yes; Mr. Van Lent, yes; and Mr. Brems, yes. The motion passed unanimously. The meeting entered closed session at 12:19 p.m.   The meeting entered open session at 12:44 p.m.  


      Mr. Brems moved that the request from closed session be approved. Mr. Van Lent seconded and a roll-call vote was taken. Ms. Ryan, yes; Mr. Van Lent, yes; Mr. Brems, yes. The motion passed unanimously.


      Mr. Brems moved the meeting adjourn. Mr. Van Lent seconded and the motion passed unanimously. The meeting
      adjourned at 12:46 p.m.

      Respectfully Submitted,   

      Sandi Ryan, Chairperson

      Commission for the Blind

      Hanna Geisinger
      Temp. Secretary to the Commission/Secretary
      Department for the Blind 










      Approved Minutes 7-23-2018.pdf



























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