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Minutes from March 20, 2018/ meeting

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      Iowa Commission for the Blind
      March 20, 2018


      Call to order and determination of quorum.  A meeting of the Iowa Commission for the Blind was called to order at 10:00 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 Elliott, Shawn Mayo, Kandie Thomas, Alex Gillaspie, Lora Van Lent, Keri Osterhaus, Sarah Willeford, Alan Bickell, Tim West, Helen Stevens, Andrew Pulford, Tiffany Bickell, Lois Crozier, Leslie Heinzler, Mike Hoeing, Kim Barber, via teleconference, Rebecca Barloon, via teleconference, and Chuck Gillaspie via teleconference.


      Action Item. Approval of Minutes from December 2, 2017 Meeting. Mr. Van Lent moved approval of the minutes as submitted. Mr. Brems seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.


      Action Item. Approval of ILAC Membership. Mr. Brems moved approval. Mr. Van Lent seconded, and the motion passed unanimously. 


      Action Item. Approval of Draft Pre-ETS Policy. Mr. Brems asked for clarification on why this policy was drafted. Ms. Wharton said that this policy is a result of fulfilling requirements for WIOA. Ms. Elliott said that she would consider this to be a first draft and that it should be updated as the program moves forward. Ms. Wharton said that it will be updated as needed. Mr. Van Lent moved approval. Mr. Brems seconded. There was a roll call vote: Ms. Ryan, yes; Mr. Van Lent, yes; and Mr. Brems, yes. The motion passed unanimously. 


      Action Item. Approval of Draft Terms and Conditions for IDB Sponsored Post-Secondary Education Participation. Ms. Ryan said that this policy spelled out everyone’s responsibilities very well. Ms. Warton said that the main change in this policy is that the Department will pay for a certain percentage of the funding needed for college since many scholarships have rules on what the monies can be spent on in regards to tuition and room and board. Ms. Elliott said that there may need to be exceptions to the reader part of the policy in certain situations. There was discussion on the process of receiving an exception to the policy. Mr. Brems moved the approval of the policy. Mr. Van Lent seconded. There was a roll call vote: Ms. Ryan, yes; Mr. Van Lent, yes; and Mr. Brems, yes. The motion passed unanimously. 


      Public Comment. Mr. C. Gillaspie said that he liked the post-secondary policy the commissioners just passed and that he will reach out with any questions he has. 


      Director’s Report. Ms. Wharton said next week will be the new staff seminar which is a one-week, thirty-hour training for all new staff. She discussed the different items that will be talked about. She stated that one of the projects being worked on is a list of FAQs for the orientation center that will be put on the website and sent out to interested parties. Ms. Wharton said that the Department is actively looking for a new case management system. She talked about the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services agency’s system and that she and other staff have looked into using their system. Ms. Wharton said that the new training space on the west side of second floor is ready for use. She also said that hopefully by the June board meeting she should be able to take the commissioners on a tour of the new spaces. Ms. Wharton stated that the set aside policy for the BEP program was sent to RSA in October and has not been approved or sent back to the Department, and that it is frustrating, but that she will continue to ask them about getting this policy approved. Mr. Van Lent asked what was holding it up and Ms. Wharton said she wasn’t sure. She moved on to the mandated preventing sexual harassment training for all state employees stating that the online class is inaccessible for blind users. She has let DAS know about this and they are working on it. Ms. Wharton had the managers give reports on their respective programs. Mr. Bickell said that in BEP the smaller numbers are not just happening in Iowa, but are happening nationwide. He also discussed the center numbers and said that there are some students on the waiting list that have start dates and in the next month, there will be three students starting. He said that the continuing education for staff has impacted the number of clients that are able to come in for training. Mr. Bickell said that the center has now switched to a communications class, a combination of braille and computers, and it is going well and students are seeing that both are important skills to have. Ms. Stevens said that this quarter has been a productive one. She said that Hanna Geisinger has started as a secretary for the education and training program along with BEP and the center. Ms. Stevens stated that Sarah Baebler started last week and will be a teacher in the field once she finishes her training in the center. She also talked about Matt Nemmers and Zach Ellingson being new teachers, saying that Mr. Nemmers will be finishing his center training soon and Mr. Ellingson is working out in the field now. She said that she will be hiring a fourth teacher and the rehabilitation technology specialist position that is open just had its posting close and she will be working on hiring for that position. She stated that since the last board meeting, there have been two weekend retreats with a third coming up soon. She said that the LEAP summer program starts in June. There was discussion on the summer program. Ms. Stevens said that the future retreats won’t be held at the building to allow for more students to participate in that program as well as leaving open spaces for clients to be in the center for training. Ms. Stevens discussed the inaccessibility of the preventing sexual harassment training and said that Wesley Majerus is working with DAS on getting it to be accessible. She said that she is working on making the loaner pool program more efficient. Ms. Stevens said that over the next few months, the Department will be switching from the Google mail system to the Microsoft 365 system. Ms. Barber shared that Vivian Ver Huel, a former IL teacher, had passed away. She talked about the senior integration program scheduled for April and the different activities that the seniors will participate in. She stated that there have been nine IL clients nominated to be in this program. Ms. Barber said that Susan Howard completed her continuing education training and is back working in the field. She said that Monica Venesky is a new teacher and is in the center for training now. Ms. Barber said there is an IL  teacher position that will be closing this week and the secretary position will close on April 4. She stated that the SILC is seeking council member candidates for a Governor appointed position. Ms. Barber talked about her upcoming trip to California for the AFB leadership conference in April. Ms. Willeford talked about the NLS launching a radio and tv campaign that direct interested individuals to contact NLS via a toll-free number, which is then forwarded to the library here. She said that she has already noticed an increase in phone calls of people who are interested in library service. Ms. Willeford said that the Braille Challenge had a lower attendance, but that it was a successful event with parent sessions, activities for siblings and STEM tables for everyone to check out.  Ms. Willeford talked about the library partnering with the Science Center of Iowa, Drake University, Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council to provide an astronomy program called Touching Outer Space. She gave the details of this event. Ms. Willeford said that the Perowsky Workshop will be held in April. She introduced Lois Crozier as the children’s librarian. There was a discussion on the attendance of the Braille Challenge. Ms. Willeford gave background on the design thinking team and what they are working on now. She introduced the team, Mr. Bickell, Ms. Heinzler, and Mr. West, and talked about the process that they are using for this project. She said that they presented a plan to the staff and students and asked them for feedback on the floorplans. She said that they will continue to take feedback on this until Friday, April 6 and there will be a floorplan by the information desk for people to look at. Ms. Osterhaus talked about the numbers for VR. She said that there are 25 individuals who have completed training and are looking for employment. There are 19 who are in employment. She talked about a portal that clients use to help with their job searches called Career Index Plus. This program provides information about several different areas of career choices. The program has been in use since December and this Thursday, there will be a meeting on how the counselors can continue to use the program to gain more successful closures. Ms. Elliott asked if this was a useful program for those who don’t have a direction in their job searches. Ms. Osterhaus said that it is beneficial for those who do have an idea of what field they want to have a career in as well as those who don’t know. She said that the counselors are working hard to increase the number of clients wanting to enter training in the center. Ms. Osterhaus discussed a pilot service delivery model in which a VR counselor out of the Des Moines office will manage the center student cases. She said that they are reviewing current cases to make sure that blindness issues are being addressed throughout the life of the case. They are also looking at the cases that have closed and are going back and seeing where those clients are now as far as employment and wages. She will also be contacting clients who were closed unsuccessfully. Ms. Osterhaus said that the disability access committees are meeting statewide and the counselors are participating in their meetings. She discussed the upcoming trainings for the counselors. Ms. Osterhaus talked about the training videos that Department staff developed and what they will be used for. She talked about the partnership for services to youth and what had gone on at the last training. Ms. Osterhaus said that Victoria Kollmann retired on February 22, 2018 and she is working to replace that position. She said that the VR secretary position had closed and she will be working on conducting interviews. She also stated that Shannon Myers resigned in early March and she is working to fill that role. Ms. Osterhaus said that the state plan is out and being worked on. Mr. Van Lent voiced his concern at the low numbers of clients in employment. There was discussion on this item. 


      CFO’s Report. Mr. Pulford said that as he reported at the last meeting, in the accounting department he and one of his accounting technicians recently worked to get clearance and training on making Social Security Ticket-to-Work Cost Reimbursement claims. Since he last covered this in December, they have made some significant strides and feels they are close to making the first claim. He said it would be a varying income stream, but he estimates it could add a six-figure sum a year in SSA reimbursement program income could be added. He stated that he has already reduced the state appropriation by $19,720 as shown in legislative bills as the amount the Department will need to not spend to help the state balance the budget for the remainder of FY18. This cut is proposed to be carried forward to the FY 19 state budget and thus hold the budget status quo. As Mr. Pulford previously reported, the personnel costs are trending lower than budget as there are still open positions. Currently, he said the Department is looking at ending the fiscal year at around $5.1 million rather than the shown $6.3 million budgeted. He stated that for the budget items Utilities and Reimbursement to Other Agencies, he took money from each of these due to needing to fully fund the positions the Department is authorized for. He said that in looking at that he can safely forecast the Department won’t spend all of the funds budgeted for Personnel nor for Aid to Individuals. These will allow those categories to fall more in line with the percentage of fiscal year completed. He stated when the budget cut becomes official he will revise the budget in the state accounting system to both account for the appropriation reduction and also reallocate some of the expenses so all of these categories look more reasonable. Mr. Pulford said that the budget of the gifts and bequests fund, as of February 28, was $2,577,571.05, with revenue for FY18 to date at $33,545.77 and expenditures at $38,124.10. Ms. Mayo asked for clarification on the expenditure on the line item for the AGs office. Mr. Pulford explained that that is a new line item and each state agency pays that item whether or not they use the service. Mr. Pulford gave an update on the elevator project that was started and there was an MOU with DAS due to the dollar size of the project. Only one bid was submitted for the design and was considered egregiously high by DAS as it was nearly 50% of the budget when they typically see the 10-20% range. He spoke with the contact just yesterday afternoon and he said that DAS is going to work with the contractor who won the capitol complex contract for year 2020 upgrades and will try to roll the IDB project into that. There was discussion on this item.  


      Time and Place of Next Meeting. Mr. Van Lent moved that the next meeting be held on Saturday, June, 23, 2018 at 10:00 am at the Department. Mr. Brems seconded and the motion passed unanimously. 


      Consideration of Closed Session. Ms. Ryan had Ms. Bickell read the paragraph from the Code of Iowa, Section 21.5. Mr. Brems moved to adjourn to closed session. Mr. 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 12:34 pm. The meeting entered open session at 12:57 pm. 11) Mr. Brems moved that the case from the closed session be referred back to the Director for due diligence. Mr. Van Lent seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

      Adjournment. Mr. Brems moved adjournment. Mr. Van Lent seconded and the motion passed unanimously. The meeting concluded at 1:03 pm.


      Respectfully Submitted,



      Sandi Ryan, Chairperson                        

      Commission for the Blind   


      Tiffany Bickell

      Secretary to the Board/Administrative Assistant

      Department for the Blind