BESB: BESB Board Members

Department of Rehabilitation Services

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind

Board Members-2014


 

Alan Sylvestre, Chair

Eileen Akers

Christine Boisvert

Roderick L. Bremby, Ex-Officio Commissioner, Department of Social Services

Patrick Johnson

Darcy Jones

Carrie Perry

Elizabeth Rival

Stephen Thal

 Randa Utter

Betty Woodward

 

 

2014 meeting dates (all meetings held at BESB at 10:00 a.m. unless noted):

March 20, 2014

June 19, 2014

September 11, 2014

December 11, 2014

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Department of Rehabilitation Services

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

DRAFT

June 19, 2014

 

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:02 a.m.

 

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman, Eileen Akers, Astread Ferron-Poole (representing DSS Commissioner Bremby), Patrick Johnson, Jr., Darcy Jones, Elizabeth Rival, Carrie Perry, Stephen Thal, Randa Utter, Betty Woodward

 

Members Absent

Christine Boisvert

 

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, Michael Cordero, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor,  Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor,  Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor,  Edward Owens, Vending Facility Supervisor, Dr. Amy Porter, DORS Commissioner, Brian Sigman, BESB Director, Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor, Tina Rafala, State Rehabilitation Council Chair, Lisa Vaughn, President of the Deafblind Association of Connecticut, Robert Martin.

 

Adoption of Minutes

Motion: Ms. Woodward made a motion, seconded by Mr. Thal to adopt the March 20, 2014 Advisory Board meeting minutes as written. The motion carried unanimously.

 

New Business 

Commissioner Porter reported that for the state budget for FY15, DORS did well. The agency received funding for the benefits counseling program and there were no cuts to any of the programs.  The final organizational structure for DORS as developed through the strategic planning process will be implemented shortly. In the new structure, BESB will continue to be a stand-alone Bureau within the Department of Rehabilitation Services. 

 

Mr. Sigman reported that he had received a request from the Deafblind Association of Connecticut for BESB to provide identification cards for clients who are deafblind. Mr. Sigman indicated that while the Bureau cannot create photo identification cards, the Certificate of Legal Blindness can be adjusted in size, and an acknowledgement that a person is on the Deafblind Registry of the Bureau can be added. These letters will be laminated for durability and provided upon request.

 

Program Updates and Performance

For Adult Services, Mr. Lassen reported that the Request for Proposals process has been completed for the Deafblind Grant Program for FY 15.  Outreach activities are on-going.  After a period of adjustment to the upgraded System 7 case management system, the field staff are again meeting best practice standards for contacting newly referred clients. For the past three months, Social Workers had a 7.55 day turnaround, Rehabilitation Teachers had a figure of 13.19 days (despite being short one teacher for most of that time), and Orientation & Mobility had an average of 2.91 days.


In the Business Enterprise Program (BEP), Mr. Owens reported that over this last quarter, a new facility at 55 Farmington Avenue opened.  The facility is doing well. One BEP manager retired in May and a second will be retiring at the end of June. One manager has resigned. This has created job opportunities within the program. Vocational Rehabilitation has provided 6 new referrals. Two of these referred clients have been placed as facility managers to date, 1 is pursuing other interests and 3 others are continuing their training, working towards placement. There are currently 40 locations and 36 managers.

 

Ms. Olson reported that Children’s Services held several Expanded Core Curriculum programs since the last meeting: Teen Escape Day held April 23 at Guilford Community Television, Middle School Field Day on May 9 at Valley Falls Park in Vernon, Elementary School Nature Day held May 27 at Hammonasset Beach State Park, and a Learn-to-Row Day held June 7 in Middletown. In Pre-school there was a field trip to Mystic Village on May 31 and an upcoming event scheduled for June 25 to the New England Air Museum.  The Spring edition of the Children’s Services newsletter was distributed in May and is posted on the agency website.  For the reporting period from March through June, 2014, thirteen (13) Functional Vision Assessments were completed.  The agency is currently recruiting to refill both a Mobility Instructor vacancy and a Rehabilitation Teacher position that focuses on adaptive technology.  There will also be a second Mobility vacancy, as well as an Education Consultant position due to a resignation and a retirement, respectively.

 

Ms. Burgard reported that in Vocational Rehabilitation one of the Rehabilitation Teachers has trained five clients to date on job search sites. Last year, a list of accessible job search sites was posted on the agency website. There was a group training on this topic held at the Bridgeport One Stop Center on April 16 that was conducted by one of the Rehabilitation Technologists. There were 7 participants that attended the training. The next scheduled training will be held at BESB on July 16, for individuals in the Hartford area. A Job Seeking Skills program is being held every week at the Southeast Connecticut Community Center of the Blind, with ten participants to date. Another Job Seeking Skills program has also begun and is being held individually on an on-going basis, anticipating 8 participants in Hartford. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors continue to prioritize job development and job placement outreach to employers.  This goal was met for the quarter that ended May 31 with an average of 2.7 hours per week of Employer Outreach per Counselor. The Android training on the use of Smart phones will take place on July 30 and will be at BESB and also the training will be held remotely for client’s unable to get to the agency. The IOS, Tablet training will take place August 5 at BESB, also providing in person training as well as remotely.

 

Vocational Rehabilitation’s College Counselor did a presentation with assistance from 5 other BESB staff to a group of 14 different college’s disability coordinators on the services that BESB can provide. There was an event on January 9 with a panel made up of four BESB clients who are college seniors or recently graduated students, two disability specialists, and the College Counselor, each sharing their strategies and recommendations for success with college freshman students served by BESB.

 

Voc Rehab State Plan and Proposed Policy Updates for Action

 

Mr. Sigman reported that during the public comment period for the FY 15 Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan and proposed Vocational Rehabilitation policy updates, there was one commenter regarding the State Plan and four commenters regarding the proposed policy revisions. Commenters represented the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, the Connecticut Association of Blind Students, Bureau staff, and recipients of services. All of the public comments were reviewed in detail by the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) at their meeting on June 11 and the SRC passed a number of recommendations on to the Bureau based on these public comments and the deliberations of the SRC.

 

For the State Plan, the commenter noted that the proposed Strategy and Measure for providing a seminar for clients on how to use Social Media to seek employment was too vague and needed more specificity. After discussion, the SRC members decided to amend the Strategy to read:

 

“The Vocational Rehabilitation Program will sponsor a seminar for clients on how to use Linked In and Facebook to seek employment and market their skills to potential employers and customers (for those clients in self-employment).”

 

The SRC members further recommended that the Measure be modified to read:

 

“One seminar on how to use Linked In and Facebook to identify and pursue career opportunities or support a business owner will be provided to clients.”

 

Chairman Sylvestre stated it would be more appropriate to maintain a broader selection of social media in the stated goal due to the constant change in social media.   Mr. Sigman stated that the employee responsible for these trainings was concerned that she could not provide training on all six of the different options that presently exist, and therefore the SRC recommended narrowing it down to the two most frequently used for job seeking and business advertising.  Ms. Utter stressed the importance of providing guidance on security measures while on social media as a part of this training. 

 

MOTION:  Ms. Akers moved, seconded by Mr. Thal to adopt the recommendations as presented by the SRC with the addition of a requirement that the training include security measures while on social media sites.  Motion passed unanimously.

 

Mr. Sigman detailed the public comments that were received regarding the draft policy revisions. One commenter asked that the language regarding commensurate wages for individuals in supported employment be reworded to make it clear that the job had to pay at least the minimum wage. Three commenters indicated that adding in a market survey requirement for consideration prior to developing an Individualized Plan for Employment or Amendment that included graduate school was an unreliable approach to utilize to accurately reflect the advantages for a person who is blind obtaining such a degree in order to compete for job openings. Three commenters stated that the wording regarding funding availability for clients with Individualized Plans for Employment that includes higher education was inconsistent with the Rehabilitation Act and federal regulatory language that addresses how an Order of Selection is applied when insufficient funding to serve all eligible individuals becomes necessary. Four commenters indicated that counting merit scholarships and student loans as comparable benefits toward the cost of higher education was not consistent with recent policy guidance from Rehabilitation Services Administration and should be removed from BESB policy. Four commenters stated that BESB’s utilization of a family contribution towards the cost of higher education should be removed from policy.

 

The Advisory Board decided to take up each of the SRC recommendations separately to give the board members an opportunity to deliberate on each of the sections.

 

On pages 5-6 of the “Proposed VR Policy Revisions FFY2015 State Plan” document, in the section on “Administration of Vocational Rehabilitation Services”, the SRC recommended that the proposed draft policy language be modified to read:

 

Additionally, children who are or were served by the Bureau’s Children’s Services Program on or after January 1, 2010 and who meet the statutory definition of visually impaired may be served by the Bureau’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program.”

 

The SRC recommended a similar modification to proposed new language that appears on page 22 in the section titled “Assessment for Determining Eligibility and Priority for Services” so that it would state:

 

Individuals who are or were served by the Bureau’s Children’s Services Program on or after January 1, 2010 and who meet the statutory definition of visually impaired, with best corrected distance acuity of no better than 20/70 in the better eye as determined by qualified personnel licensed or certified in accordance with state law or regulation may be determined to have a physical impairment.”

 

Mr. Sigman pointed out that the intent of this draft language was to enable current recipients and recent graduates of Children’s Services who are visually impaired to be served by BESB’s Vocational Rehabilitation.  The addition of a date of “on or after January 1, 2010” would enable current transition age students with vision impairments to be served by BESB Vocational Rehabilitation, while closing an unintended ambiguity in the initial proposed policy update language that would have permitted people with vision impairments who were served by Children’s Services many years ago to also seek out BESB Vocational Rehabilitation services and potentially overwhelm the available funding. The SRC members affirmed that the proposed policy change was intended to allow transition-age students who are visually impaired to enter the same Vocational Rehabilitation Program that students who are legally blind enter, but that it was not intended to serve every person who is visually impaired who ever received services through Children’s Services.

 

Ms. Akers stressed her opposition to this policy revision, expressing concern that it could potentially compromise job placement opportunities for clients of Vocational Rehabilitation who are legally blind. She felt that Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors would market these clients to employers over clients who are legally blind as they would be perceived as easier to place into jobs. Ms. Burgard clarified that Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors do individualized job development to seek opportunities for all of the clients they are serving and that this approach does not create a list of preferential clients. Mr. Sigman pointed out that many of the clients who are visually impaired have other, more significant impediments to employment and that it may be inaccurate to portray this entire population of transition-age students as just having a minor eye condition. He further indicated that the federal Standards and Indicators for Vocational Rehabilitation programs for the blind have built in requirements to ensure that clients who are classified as significantly disabled are given the highest priority for services. A client whose only disability is vision impairment versus legal blindness would not meet the definition of having a significant disability. Therefore, serving these clients at a disproportionately higher level would result in failing of the indicator. Lastly, Mr. Sigman indicated that the Vocational Rehabilitation Transition Coordinator is presently prevented from serving visually impaired students and these students cannot participate in the programs that he develops for students who are legally blind. The goal is to create an equitable system where transition-age students with vision impairments served by Children’s Services can benefit from the same programs and services and have the same seamless transition into Vocational Rehabilitation at BESB that children who are legally blind currently experience.  Mr. Sylvestre and Mr. Rival both stated that it may be more of a discrimination issue by employers that results in fewer job opportunities for people who are blind rather than a consequence that would happen by a policy change at BESB that would allow Vocational Rehabilitation to serve children who are visually impaired. 

 

 

MOTION:  Mr. Johnson moved, seconded by Ms. Rival to accept the recommendations of the State Rehabilitation Council to serve clients with vision impairments in BESB Vocational Rehabilitation who are or were clients of Children’s Services on or after January 1, 2010. The motion passed with seven in favor, one no vote and one abstention.

 

On page 21, in the section titled “Time in Status,” Mr. Sigman noted that the newly proposed bill in Congress to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act contains language that would require the Individualized Plan for Employment to be developed within 90 days, while the proposed policy update has 6 months as the new time frame. If the current version of the reauthorization bill becomes federal law, this policy would need to be changed again. SRC members proposed changing the language of this sentence to read as follows:

 

“The IPE shall be developed as expeditiously as possible. Under normal circumstances, sufficient data should be available or gathered to enable the completion of IPE development within a period not to exceed six months or whatever federal law or regulation otherwise requires.”

 

A similar sentence referencing the new proposed timeline of 6 months for development of the Individualized Plan for Employment appears on page 28 in the section titled “Planning and IPE Development.” The SRC members recommended adopting the same wording that defers to federal law or regulation.

 

MOTION: Ms. Akers moved, seconded by Ms. Woodward to accept the recommendations of the SRC regarding the timeline for developing an IPE.  Motion passed unanimously.

 

On page 43, in the section titled “Post-Secondary Training” there is a sentence that reads in subsection (a):

 

No training in institutions of higher education shall be paid for by the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program unless maximum efforts have been made to secure comparable benefits or grant assistance, in whole or in part, from other sources to pay for such training. Grant assistance, for purposes of this policy, refers to basic grant entitlement under student financial aid programs.”

 

Based on recent guidance from Rehabilitation Services Administration and the public comments received, the SRC members recommended that this sentence should be modified to read:

 

“No training in institutions of higher education shall be paid for by the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program unless maximum efforts have been made to secure comparable benefits or grant assistance, in whole or in part, from other sources to pay for such training. Grant assistance, for purposes of this policy, refers to basic grant entitlement under student financial aid programs. Merit scholarships are not defined as grant assistance and shall not be included in any calculation of unmet need. Where such scholarships are designated to a specific category such as tuition and fees or room and board, Vocational Rehabilitation funding may cover the unpaid balance of that category, up to the remaining unmet need and the allowable fee schedule rate as defined in subsection (h) of this section.”

 

In subsection (e) on page 44, there is a sentence that currently states:

 

A client will not be required to apply for funds available to him/her through student loans to meet the costs of training.”

 

The SRC members recommended this sentence be changed to read as follows:

 

“A client will not be required to apply for funds available to him/her through student loans to meet the costs of training, nor will the value of the student loan be included in any calculation of unmet need. In cases where a student voluntarily applies a student loan to the cost of a specific category such as tuition and fees or room and board, Vocational Rehabilitation funding may cover the unpaid balance of that category, up to the remaining unmet need and the allowable fee schedule rate as defined in subsection (h) of this section”.

 

Chairman Sylvestre expressed concern that it needs to be made clear to clients that they are under no obligation to accept a student loan and that if they choose to apply the loan to a particular category that such a decision could lower the amount of BESB funding. Ms. Utter asked how clients would be informed. Mr. Cordero stated that he goes over the entire financial aid process with all clients and this would be added in to the discussion. Mr. Sigman indicated that clarifying language could also be added to the client services handbook. Chairman Sylvestre asked that this also be stated in policy and suggested that the SRC recommendations for this section be modified to read as follows:

 

“A client will not be required to apply for funds available to him/her through student loans to meet the costs of training, nor will the value of the student loan be included in any calculation of unmet need. In cases where a student voluntarily applies a student loan to the cost of a specific category such as tuition and fees or room and board, Vocational Rehabilitation funding may cover the unpaid balance of that category, up to the remaining unmet need and the allowable fee schedule rate as defined in subsection (h) of this section. Clients will be counseled on this policy to ensure understanding that they are not obligated to expend any loan funds to cover costs that would otherwise be paid for by the Vocational Rehabilitation program”.

 

Ms. Rival motioned, seconded by Mr. Johnson to adopt the SRC recommendations regarding the treatment of merit scholarships and student loans, with the Advisory Board’s additional language added in regarding the implications for BESB funding if a student is considering putting a portion of the student loan to a category that BESB could use its funds for. The motion passed unanimously.

 

With these modifications, the SRC members recognized that it may be necessary to modify the current form that BESB sends to Financial Aid Offices for completion or, at the very least, that it will be necessary for Vocational Rehabilitation to adjust the calculations of the Financial Aid Officer to reflect these two scenarios. The SRC members therefore recommended that in subsection (f) on page 44 the words “as determined by the FAO” be removed so the sentence would read:

 

“Financial participation by the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program in the provision of such training will be limited to the amount of the client's unmet need.”

 

MOTION:  Ms. Akers motioned, seconded by Ms. Woodward to accept the recommendation of the State Rehabilitation Council to remove the wording “as determined by the Fiscal Administrative Officer” from the sentence. The motion passed unanimously.

 

In regards to proposed new section (m) on page 46, the SRC members recommended removing the reference to a labor market survey so that this section would now read:

 

(m) Prior to the development of an IPE or amendment that includes graduate or doctorate level education, the Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor shall review and approve the IPE or amendment prior to implementation.”

 

MOTION:  Ms. Akers motioned, seconded by Mr. Thal to accept the recommendation of the SRC to remove references to a labor market survey prior to the development of an IPE or IPE amendment for graduate school, and to have the sentence read as the SRC has modified it. Motion passed unanimously.

 

In the Procedures Section, for subsection (iii) on page 50 “Bureau Financial Participation,” the SRC members recommended removing the sentence that states:

 

“The amount of financial participation under the Vocational Rehabilitation Program is contingent upon:” and also remove references in item number “1” to funding levels so that it would now read:

 

“Authorizations should be made for only one semester at a time.”

 

MOTION:  Mr. Johnson motioned, seconded by Ms. Woodward to accept the recommendation of the SRC to remove the wording that places contingencies on the availability of funding in this section of policy.  Motion passed unanimously.

 

The SRC members also passed on to the Advisory Board several recommendations for modifications to proposed policy language pertaining to clients who are participating in supported employment.

 

On page 51, in subsection (c)(5) on Supported Employment, the SRC members recommended that sentence 1.(A) be modified to read as follows:

 

“1. Supported Employment means:

(A) employment in an integrated, work setting typically found within a community, with ongoing support services for individuals with the most significant disabilities, where the individual is compensated at or above the minimum wage, but not less than the customary wage and level of benefits paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by individuals who are not disabled, and:”

 

On page 53, in the “Requirements” subsection, item “b.” it was recommended by the SRC members that the sentence should read as follows:

 

“The client is to be compensated at or above the minimum wage, but not less than the customary wage and level of benefits paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by individuals who are not disabled.”

 

On page 65 in Section 14(c), “Additional Requirements for Case Records of Individuals in Supported Employment,” the SRC members recommended changing the language to read in subsection (b):

 

“(b) the individual has achieved earnings at or above the minimum wage, but not less than the customary wage and level of benefits paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by individuals who are not disabled, and has maintained employment for at least ninety (90) days after the completion of substantial services and the transition to extended services; and”

 

On pages 65-66, the SRC members recommended that wording for Section 14 (f) “Supported Employment Closure (Status 26)” be modified to read:

 

“Cases may be closed with this employment outcome for clients with most significant disabilities if the client is working in an integrated employment setting typically found in the community, with extended support services being provided. The individual will have been found eligible for Supported Employment services (see Section 10). The employment goal will be consistent with the individual’s unique strengths, aptitudes, resources, priorities and interests. The client is compensated at or above the minimum wage, but not less than the customary wage and level of benefits paid by the employer for the same or similar work performed by individuals who are not disabled. The client will be working the number of hours that is consistent with their informed choice. The need for extended supports will be of a nature that at least two follow up visits per month are necessary by the provider of extended services to ensure a continued, successful placement. The person will be in an integrated setting where the majority of coworkers are not persons with disabilities and are not paid caregivers. The employment setting must be typically found in the community and the level of integration with nondisabled coworkers must be at the same level that would otherwise be found within the employment setting.”

 

MOTION:  Ms. Rival motioned, seconded by Ms. Akers to accept the SRC recommendations to clarify the language for competitive wages for clients participating in supported employment.  The motion passed unanimously.

 

The Advisory Board members discussed the SRC deliberations on modifying existing policy to remove references to the family contribution toward the cost of higher education. Mr. Sigman explained that language regarding the family contribution appears in both policy and state regulations. SRC members had asked what other state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies across the country do in regards to family contribution. Mr. Sigman referenced a survey that he had conducted previously when the SRC deliberated on this matter and that survey found that out of the 18 (out of 80) agencies that responded, there were 12 agencies that utilize a family contribution calculation and 6 that did not. Mr. Sigman further advised the board members that the SRC members had asked for clarification as to how the family contribution dollar amounts are arrived at. Mr. Sigman explained that a formula is utilized through the FAFSA application process and it is not a BESB formula for reaching this amount. There are two dollar figures that are likely to show up in the family contribution section, one for the student and the other for the parents. Occasionally, there are spouse earnings that also appear on the form if the client is married and the spouse has income. The student earnings would be based on whether the student has income. SSI and SSDI are not considered income and would not be reported on the form. The parental contribution will show up on the form based on their income if the parents of the student are declaring him or her as a dependent on their income taxes.

 

SRC members also had asked what the cost would be to the Vocational Rehabilitation Program if the student and family contribution calculations were removed. Would it put the Bureau into an Order of Selection? Mr. Sigman informed the Advisory Board members that he had indicated to the SRC that for existing clients of the Program, projections estimate that it would cost an additional $100,000 and this would not put the Bureau into an Order of Selection for FFY 2015. Mr. Sigman indicated that for the incoming clients with vision impairments, he had projected an increased cost of $206,000 to bring these students into the BESB Vocational Rehabilitation Program but it is difficult to provide precise numbers based on this population as there is limited existing data to project from. In total, factoring in the inclusion of students with vision impairments, if the family contribution was to be waived, Mr. Sigman estimated that at least $150,000 in additional costs would need to be anticipated. But Mr. Sigman stressed to the Advisory Board that exact projections are not possible at this point given the inclusion of students with visual impairments in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program as of October, 2014.

 

Mr. Norton informed the Advisory Board that the SRC members had also asked what the potential implication would be across DORS if BESB sought to change regulations that would waive the family contribution for clients of DORS who are blind and visually impaired. Would advocacy groups for other disabilities seek a similar change in the BRS regulations and if so, what is the impact on the costs of services at BRS if this were to occur? The members of the BESB SRC felt it would be beneficial to discuss this with the Commissioner of DORS and also with the BRS State Rehabilitation Council since such a change of regulations could impact on BRS as well.

 

Based upon these concerns, the SRC members had asked that Mr. Sigman return to the SRC with detailed financial information based on actual client counts once students with visual impairments are being served by BESB Vocational Rehabilitation. Mr. Sigman agreed to bring this information to the SRC when it becomes available. The SRC would further like to explore with the BRS State Rehabilitation Council and the Commissioner of DORS what the implications would be if such a change were to occur at BESB.

 

MOTION:  Ms. Akers motioned, seconded by Ms. Rival to endorse the decision by the State Rehabilitation Council to table the issue of the family contributions for higher education and revisit it once there is more detailed financial information available and the BESB SRC has discussed this topic with the Commissioner of DORS and the BRS SRC.  The motion passed unanimously. 

 

Ms. Akers pointed out that in the Comprehensive Needs Assessment document there is terminology that is inaccurate as it refers to the total number of clients with visual impairments on the Blind Registry when it should instead be referring to the number of clients who are legally blind. After further discussion on the best approach for correcting this document that was submitted to BESB by the Center for Public Policy and Social Research at Central Connecticut State University, Mr. Sigman agreed to include this observation in the State Plan document that summarizes SRC and public recommendations and make the clarification in that section.

 

Update on Technology and Training Ad Hoc Committee

Ms. Rival reported that the committee’s recommendation was to have the Bureau Consumer Advisory Committee (BCAC) take charge of distributing notifications received from vendors or organizations. The members of the Advisory Board agreed with this approach.

 

Mr. Johnson commended Commissioner Porter for securing new funding to cover the cost of the Benefits Counseling program, particularly in these lean economic times. He stressed the need for continued advocacy to ensure adequate funding for both public and private providers of services to people with disabilities.

 

Adjournment

Motion: On a motion by Ms. Akers, seconded by Ms. Woodward, the meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

 

Next meeting is scheduled for September 11, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

 

 

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Department of Rehabilitation Services

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

March 20, 2014

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:06 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers, Patrick Johnson, Jr., Elizabeth Rival, Carrie Perry, Stephen Thal, Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Christine Boisvert, Darcy Jones, Randa Utter, Astread Ferron-Poole (representing DSS Commissioner Bremby)

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor;  Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor;  Edward Owens, Vending Facility Supervisor, Dr. Amy Porter, DORS Commissioner; Brian Sigman, BESB Director; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Coordinator; Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Motion:  Ms. Akers made a motion, seconded by Ms. Woodward to adopt the December 13, 2013 Advisory Board meeting minutes as written. The motion carried unanimously.

New Business 

Voc Rehab State Plan for FFY 2015

Mr. Sigman updated the Advisory Board in detail about the Employment Goals and Innovation and Expansion Goals proposed for the federal fiscal year 2015 Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan. Mr. Sigman also reviewed proposed Vocational Rehabilitation policy updates in the categories of Licenses, Tools, Equipment and Stock, Timeframe for IPE Development, and Higher Education that will be presented for public comment in the near future. The State Plan and the proposed policy updates will be the subject of a public hearing in June. Subsequent to collecting public comment, both the Advisory Board and the State Rehabilitation Council will have an opportunity to further revise the documents before submission by the Bureau to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

Mr. Sigman indicated that proposed policy updates in the category of higher education and the category of IPE Development were being presented in response to the most recent RSA monitoring report that requires corrective actions to have the policies conform to the federal Rehabilitation Act requirements. In the category of higher education, RSA has informed the agency that there are no allowable provisions for providing college courses for diagnostic purposes and further there are no provisions for waiving the application for financial aid by the client as this is considered as a comparable benefit that must be considered. In the category of IPE (Individualized Plan for Employment) development, RSA has indicated that no provision in the Rehabilitation Act permits for a longer time frame for IPE development for transition-age students than for clients in general.

Ms. Rival expressed concern that the higher education policy would be changed to remove the option for diagnostic courses that had just recently been implemented with the support of the Advisory Board. Mr. Sigman indicated that he had in-depth discussions with RSA representatives about this but it was their conclusion that the policy needed to be corrected. Mr. Rival further inquired if there were any policies that permitted for placement into jobs at wages less than minimum wage. Mr. Sigman indicated that he would review the section of the Vocational Rehabilitation policies for supported employment and consult with RSA to be sure that if there were any changes that would be proposed to remove any references to wages below the minimum wage that it was a change that would be consistent with the Rehabilitation Act. Mr. Sigman and Commissioner Porter both reaffirmed that the purpose and goal of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program is competitive, integrated employment for wages that are at or above the minimum wage.

Ms. Akers asked that the section of the policy that addresses IPE development include an introductory paragraph on what the purpose of the IPE is and what is included in the IPE.

Formation of an Ad Hoc Committee on Technology and Training Opportunities

Mr. Sigman brought to the Advisory Board’s attention that he receives many requests to distribute information on behalf of other organizations, individuals and vendors. Mr. Sigman expressed concern with distributing information from proprietary vendors who are seeking to sell products to clients. Mr. Thal said that there needs to be a mechanism in place for clients to get this type of information to be aware of the adaptive technology products that are available. Mr. Sigman agreed but stated that he did not believe this to be a role for the Bureau to fulfill through the distribution of for-profit vendor information, as that could be perceived as an endorsement of one vendor’s products over others. Chairman Sylvestre requested the formation of an Ad Hoc Committee to explore the best solution to ensuring that topical information is shared without placing the Bureau in a situation where there could be the perception of specific product or vendor endorsement. The Ad Hoc committee will consist of Ms. Akers, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Thal and Ms. Rival. They will submit their recommendations to the Advisory Board at the June 19th meeting.

Commissioner’s Update

Commissioner Porter reported that the DORS strategic planning effort is well underway and that the proposed organizational structure was previously distributed for public comment. She indicated that overall feedback to the proposed structure was positive. BESB would continue to remain as a Bureau within the Department under this proposal.  Some concerns still exist from members of the deaf community who would prefer a separate Bureau for deaf services. 

Legislative Update

Andrew Norton discussed House Bill 5395, An Act Concerning Aging in Place. That bill, if passed, would allot $5 million in bonding to DORS. DORS would then use the money to fund home modifications and adaptive equipment to help people with disabilities and senior citizens avoid going into nursing homes. This is not a DORS bill; it comes from the Task Force on Aging in Place. The bill may not be successful since it requires such a large amount of money.

Mr. Norton then discussed House Bill 5279, which would eliminate sub-minimum wage jobs for people with disabilities. Such pay scales are allowed under law currently for certain people with disabilities. This proposal is supported by the National Federation for the Blind (NFB) and other advocacy groups.  It is also opposed by some advocates for people with disabilities who worry that there might not be appropriate work or other activities to quickly take the place of the sub-minimum wage work if it is terminated.  Mr. Norton noted that the Labor Committee had not yet passed the bill and likely would not since they are not meeting today and today is their deadline for acting on bills.   Lastly, Mr. Norton discussed Senate Bill 451, a lengthy bill with many sections in the Government Administration & Elections Committee. One of the sections relates to DORS. That section, if enacted, would make clear that the agency may accept gifts of money from private persons and entities.

Program Updates and Performance

Mr. Lassen reported that the RFP process is underway for the Deafblind Grant Program.  Outreach activities are ongoing.  After a period of adjustment to the upgraded System 7, the field staff are again meeting best practice standards for contacting newly referred clients. For the past three months, Social Workers had a 13 day turnaround, Rehabilitation Teaching was 11 days, and Orientation & Mobility was 3 days.

Ms. St. Amand reported that during the recruitment cycle starting December 1, 2013 to February 28, 2014,   71 new volunteer applications were received and processed, 30 are virtual typists working from states throughout the United States and Ireland; 35 have chosen to work with consumers; 2 are from the senior companion program and 4 applied to work in the office.

Mr. Owens reported that the RSA-15 Federal Report on the Business Enterprise Program was completed for federal fiscal year 2013.   For that year, gross sales were $4,784,275, showing a slight decline of 4.8% compared to the prior year.  Average annual earnings increased by 7.2% to $31,268.  Management Services, which is program staffing costs, decreased by $96,743 or 7%.  BEP is currently working in conjunction with Vocational Rehabilitation to get new client referrals into the program.  The program is currently working on the 55 Farmington Avenue cafeteria facility, which is expected to open soon.  There may be an additional opportunity 450 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford. Income from vending machine commissions was $1,946,560 for the year, down slightly from the prior year.  Commission checks to facility managers are issued quarterly, after the third party vendor completes and submit their quarterly report to the Bureau.

Ms. Olson reported that Children’s Services held two Expanded Core Curriculum programs since the last meeting.  A ski day was held on February 1st for members of the Student Advisory Council, and an Olympic Weekend was held at the Channel 3 Kids’ Camp the weekend of February 15-16. The Children’s Services newsletter was distributed at the end of December, and a second one will be distributed in May.  For the reporting period from December, 2013 through February, 2014, ten (10) Functional Vision Assessments were completed.  The agency is currently recruiting to refill both a Mobility Instructor vacancy and a Rehabilitation Teacher for Technology position.  In December, Dennis Gallant left the Technology position to become a Teacher of the Visually Impaired within Children’s Services.

Ms. Burgard reported on the progress in achieving the Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan goals.  One of the Rehabilitation Teachers has trained five clients individually on job search sites to date. Last year a list of accessible job search sites was posted on the agency website. There is a group training scheduled for April 16th that Rehabilitation Technologist Michelle Laramie will lead. The Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor that covers the eastern part of the state conducted a Job Seeking Skills group the Southeastern Connecticut Center of the Blind in New London. The first session took place on March 4th and there were eight participants. This group will be meeting monthly. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors continue to prioritize job development and job placement outreach to employers.   For the second quarter, to date there was an average of 2.38 hours per week. The Education Projects Coordinator in Vocational Rehabilitation organized a mentor event on January 9th with a panel made up of four seniors or recently graduated students, two disability specialists from colleges, and the Vocational Rehabilitation College Counselor. There are 31 clients identified in their last year of high school. Counselors are working on transition plans for those students who are completing high school this year.  The Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling Coordinator position has been filled by Mr. Jonathan Richmond.  He will work on case management as well as employer outreach and will continue to serve as the liaison with BRS on statewide job development activities.

Adjournment

Motion: Mr. Johnson motioned to adjourn.  Ms. Akers seconded. The meeting adjourned at 12:26 p.m.

Next meeting is scheduled for June 19, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

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Department of Rehabilitation Services

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

December 12, 2013

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers, Christine Boisvert, Patrick Johnson, Jr., Randa Utter, Betty Woodward, Darcy Jones

Members Absent

Stephen Thal, Elizabeth Rival, Carrie-Saxon Parry 

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Elizabeth Esposito, Michael Esposito,  Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor;  Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor; Edward Owens, Vending Facility Supervisor; Dr. Amy Porter, DORS Commissioner; Brian Sigman, BESB Director; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Coordinator; Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Motion:  Ms.Woodward made a motion, seconded by Ms. Akers to unanimously adopt the September 12, 2013 Advisory Board meeting minutes. The minutes were unanimously adopted.

New Business 

Lifetime Achievement Presentation

Mr. Sigman presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to the family of Ms. Carol Gillispie in memory and in honor of Ms. Gillispie for a lifetime of dedication, public service, and advocacy on behalf of people with blindness. CRIS Radio is also honoring Ms. Gillispie. 

Commissioner’s Update

Commissioner Porter reported that the initial phase of the DORS strategic planning effort is currently underway.  Staff input is currently being gathered.  By January, the Strategic Plan will be shared with the Advisory Board for input on the Department’s future direction.  The plan will also be shared with other disability groups for their input. A new IT Supervisor has been hired.

Budget Update 

Mr. Sigman reported that through the re-allotment process the federal government has awarded an additional $900,000 to BESB’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program. These funds make it possible to continue to serve all eligible clients into the next federal fiscal year and are also making it possible to provide some much needed equipment to vending facilities operated by clients through the Business Enterprise Program. One new location is 55 Farmington Avenue in Hartford, anticipated to open early next year.  An operator has already been selected for that location.  The increase in the fringe benefit rate costs for this year has impacted on the budget for the Older Blind grant, leaving less funding available than what was previously projected. The pilot project to provide computers with adaptive technology to senior citizens who are blind will therefore need to utilize other funding as available.  The Children’s Services Program is operating on a very lean budget, and other funding will be utilized to balance the budget in this category for the current year.  A letter was sent out to the special education directors advising them that the agency will no longer be reimbursing towns for the cost of TVIs hired directly by the town as a result of a change in State Statutes.  These towns have the option of requesting teacher services directly from BESB. It is anticipated that the agency may need to enter into a fee for service model in order to have sufficient teaching staff to meet the requests for services in fiscal year 2015.

Legislative Update

Mr. Norton reported that the Legislature will convene again in February of next year. This will be a short session as it is the second session of the two-year term.  DORS has only requested permission from the administration to submit one bill in 2014. This bill would permit the agency to charge institutions, agencies and others for Benefits Counseling provided to clients by the BRS division of DORS.  Cutbacks in federal Medicaid and Social Security funding have created the need for this provision.   The bill will be submitted if the Governor’s Office approves the request.  The new Department on Aging has started up within the last year. Former State Senator Edith Prague was appointed to oversee the agency. DORS provides administrative support to the Department including legislative liaison assistance.  The Department on Aging is seeking a bill that would place a check-off box on Connecticut income tax forms allowing filers to donate to Elderly Nutrition programs such as Meals on Wheels.  This program is especially valued because, in addition to the meal received by the senior citizen, the home delivery provides for a visit to make sure everything is all right.  Another bill, which would require financial institutions to report suspected elder financial abuse will be put off and a working group including the agency and the Bankers’ Association will be created.

Mr. Sigman reported on Congressional Senate Bill 1356 that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which includes the Rehabilitation Act. Programs at DORS-BESB that are funded in part through the Rehabilitation Act include the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Supported Employment, the Independent Living Program and the Independent Living for Older Individuals who are Blind Program.  The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) and the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) are both in opposition to the bill, which among other provisions would move the Rehabilitation Services Administration from the United States Department of Education to the Department of Labor. The Bill awaits a vote on the Senate calendar.

A press release was released announcing that Governor Malloy had declared October 15, 2013 as Blind Americans Equality Day in Connecticut (formerly White Cane Safety Day) and also that BESB was sponsoring a White Cane event in West Hartford at Corbin’s Corner on the afternoon of October 15, 2013. 

Program Updates and Performance

Mr. Sigman requested that the Advisory Board members review the emergency preparedness information located on the DORS-BESB website in an effort to communicate the message to those who may need to know this information in the event of an emergency. 

BESB is compiling a summary of residential adjustment to blindness programs for the Vocational Rehabilitation clients to reference when considering this service.  This idea stemmed from the National Federation of the Blind convention in an effort to assist clients in making an informed decision regarding residential programs.  The State Rehabilitation Council is completing their annual report to Governor and RSA. It will be issued later this month. The consumer satisfaction survey completed by Central Connecticut State University has been posted on the agency website. Results showed high levels of satisfaction with Vocational Rehabilitation services and the Counselors of BESB who provide and coordinate these services. Central Connecticut State University will also be conducting the comprehensive needs assessment for the Vocational Rehabilitation program in 2014.  Mr. Sigman acknowledged Jolene Nemeth, BESB Rehabilitation Teacher for compiling a guide on accessible applications for portable mobile devices. This document has been posted on the agency website. Training and information sessions will be held.  Mr. Sigman also acknowledged Rehabilitation Technologist Michelle Laramie for being selected for a fifth year as a presenter at an international conference on adaptive technology.

Mr. Lassen reported that DORS is in the process of expanding services to six additional clients who are deafblind in the current year as a result of funding that was carried forward from the prior year. Contract amendments are proceeding at this time.  Outreach activities are ongoing, and Mr. Lassen reported that the number of outreach activities by staff of Adult Services last year averaged more than one per week. 

For Business Enterprises, Mr. Owens reported that there are currently 43 facilities and 36 BEP managers. A new manager was placed at the Norwalk Motor Vehicles vending facility which was being operated as a satellite. Currently, there are two clients in training. The Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors held their Annual Meeting on Saturday, September 21, 2013. The Committee that will serve during 2014 was elected. BESB Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors Meeting Dates for 2014 are March 11 at 4:30 p.m. (teleconference); June 10 at 4:30 p.m. (teleconference); September 20 at 9:30 a.m. at BESB Office (annual meeting); December 2 at 4:30 p.m. (teleconference).  At the annual meeting in September, representatives of the Department of Labor covered labor laws that all managers who hire employees need to follow. The RSA-15 Federal Report on the Business Enterprise Program is being completed. The results will be shared at the March Board meeting.

Ms. Olson reported that Children’s Services held several Expanded Core Curriculum programs this fall.  Three programs held at the Channel 3 Kids’ Camp included a Sports Adventure Weekend, a Theater weekend and a Girls’ Sports and More weekend.  Additionally, annual College day and White Cane Day events were held.  A total of 7 In-service trainings were held for teachers throughout Connecticut including 2 days of training in working with students with multiple disabilities, 4 days for teachers of school-aged children who read print or Braille, and 1 day for those working with pre-school children. A Children’s Services newsletter will be distributed by the end of December.  For the reporting period from September, 2013 through November, 2013, seventeen (17) Functional Vision Assessments were completed.  The agency is currently recruiting to refill a Mobility Instructor vacancy.  There is a new Teacher of the Visually Impaired starting in December who is currently a Children’s Services Rehabilitation Teacher. 

Ms. Burgard reported on the progress in achieving the Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan goals. One of the Rehabilitation Teachers has trained five clients individually on web based job search sites in follow up to the posting of this information on the agency website. One of the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors will be offering training on resume writing and interviewing techniques and strategies. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors continue to prioritize job development and job placement outreach to employers. One of the Rehabilitation Teachers has taken the lead in developing curriculum options for conducting an on-line training for a group of clients on the use of smart-phone and tablet technologies.  Vocational Rehabilitation’s college Counselor with the assistance of five other BESB staff did a presentation to the Disability Coordinators of 14 different colleges on the services available through this agency. The Education Projects Coordinator in Vocational Rehabilitation is taking the lead on developing and implementing a mentoring program for college students with a focus on connecting freshman students with seniors or recently graduated students who can provide insight and guidance on how to overcome the challenges and obstacles often encountered at college. There is an event scheduled for January 9, 2014.The Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling Coordinator position has been filled by Mr. Jonathan Richmond, a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at BESB.  He will work closely with the vocational rehabilitation counselors on case management as well as employer outreach and will continue to serve as the liaison with BRS on statewide job development activities.

Ms. St. Amand reported that during the recruitment cycle starting September 1 and ending November 30, 2013, 68 new volunteer applications were received and processed, 35 are virtual typists working from states throughout the United States, 17 have chosen to work with consumers; 1 is a certified braille transcriptionist; 1 works in the office; 9 remain in a pending status; and 5 are closed.

Points of the Good and Welfare

Ms. Akers announced that the Lions state convention will be held in February, 2014 which consists of all three Districts.  If anyone is interested in requesting table space, they should contact her.

Ms. Akers stressed the importance of educating restaurant owners on the state laws that permit people with guide dogs to enter their establishments, based on a recent experience where she was told to leave a fast food restaurant when she entered with her guide dog.

Attorney Darcy Jones was welcomed to the Advisory Board. She was appointed by the Senate President.  She is currently employed at the State Senate. 

Mr. Johnson announced that he is officially retired from Oak Hill School where he was employed for 11 years. He plans to continue to serve as a DORS-BESB Advisory Board member.

Adjournment

Motion: Ms. Akers motioned to adjourn. Ms. Utter seconded. The meeting adjourned at 11:48 a.m.

Next meeting is scheduled for March 20, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

 

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Department of Rehabilitation Services

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

September 12, 2013

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers, Christine Boisvert, Carrie Saxon-Perry, Stephen Thal, Randa Utter, Betty Woodward, Elizabeth Rival

Members Absent

Patrick Johnson, Jr.

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Carl Noll, SRC Member; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor; Edward Owens, Vending Facility Supervisor; Dr. Amy Porter, DORS Commissioner; Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Coordinator; Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Motion:  Mr. Thal made a motion, seconded by Ms. Boisvert to unanimously adopt the June 20, 2013 Advisory Board meeting minutes. Ms. Akers asked that Mr. Thal’s name be corrected to read “Stephen” for members present and correct Ms. Boisvert to read “Ms.” rather than “Mr. in the first motion.  The minutes were unanimously adopted as corrected.

New Business

Commissioner’s Update

Commissioner Porter reported that the initial phase of the DORS strategic planning effort is currently underway.  A recently awarded grant provided the agency with the resources to start the process.  Approximately 20 DORS employees, representing the various programs within the Department met in August to begin to set the strategic direction for the agency.  The Commissioner will be distributing an initial draft of the strategic map, providing time for clarification and questions, and then creating opportunities for input on the mission of DORS and the Department’s future direction.

Budget Update 

Mr. Sigman reported that last year the re-allotment process through the federal government brought in $2.4 million dollars. This year, through this process, an additional $900,000 has been awarded to BESB’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program.  These funds make it possible to continue to serve all eligible clients into the next federal fiscal year and are also making it possible to provide some much needed equipment to vending facilities operated by clients through the Business Enterprise Program.  The Older Blind Grant will be receiving $100,000 in funding through the Social Security reimbursement process. With the addition of these funds, the option of providing computers with adaptive technology to senior clients who need them to achieve their independent living goals can be considered.  The Children’s Services Program is projected to have a very lean year based on available funding and projected costs.

Legislative Update

Mr. Norton reported that the Legislature will convene again in February of next year. This will be a short session as it is the second session of the two-year term.  Last year, there was a proposal to eliminate the right of BESB clients to operate vending concessions at state parks. That bill was defeated but it could be proposed again.  Mr. Norton will watch out for any similar proposals in 2014.  Because of last year’s attempt and the response by people who are blind, many legislators are now aware of the program and the support it enjoys.

One of the changes that occurred in Senate Bill 853 was to change operational rules over the DORS – CT Tech Assistance Program which would assist people to get assistive technology by lending them money to make the purchase.  

Mr. Sigman reported on Congressional Senate Bill 1356 that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which includes the Rehabilitation Act. Programs at DORS-BESB that are funded in part through the Rehabilitation Act include the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Supported Employment, the Independent Living Program and the Independent Living for Older Individuals who are Blind Program.  There are concerns with some of the contents of the proposed bill as well as concern that no public comment period was provided before the Senate HELP Committee passed the bill out of their Committee. The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) and the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) are both in opposition to the bill, which among other provisions would move the Rehabilitation Services Administration from the United States Department of Education to the Department of Labor.

Program Updates and Performance

Mr. Lassen reported that within the Adult Services Program the contracts for the vendors who provide services to clients who are deafblind have been extended by amendment for one year.  Unused funding from fiscal year 2013 was allowed to be carried over into this fiscal year so it may be possible to add some additional clients to the contracts of existing vendors. The average time for Adult Services staff to contact clients referred for services between June 1, 2013 and August 31, 2013 was 4.69 days for the Program overall, with Orientation and Mobility staff at 5.61 days; Rehabilitation Teaching staff at 2.89 days; and Social Work staff at 5.90 days.  Outreach activities are ongoing.  A new Rehabilitation Teacher was hired in June and covers the Bridgeport area. 

For Business Enterprises, Mr. Owens reported that there are currently 43 facilities and 35 BEP Managers. One manager has retired and the facility at the Federal Building in Hartford will be closing at the end of this week. Currently, there are four clients in training.  The vending facility at the Department of Motor Vehicles in New Britain will be reopening. Another trainee will be taking over the Motor Vehicles vending facility in Norwalk which is currently being operated as a satellite. There are two new referrals to the program who will have their initial meeting shortly. The Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors will be electing the Committee that will serve for the coming year at their meeting to be held at BESB on Saturday, September 21, 2013. At that meeting, two trainings will be provided to all BEP managers. The training topics will include the new business report form for the program and a presentation by the Department of Labor covering labor laws that all managers who hire employees need to follow. Training regarding the allowance of service animals at vending facilities will also be provided.

Ms. Olson reported that Children’s Services held three (3) summer programs.  The “LIFE” Program at the University of St. Joseph, the “Skills for Life” program and the third annual Camp Abilities.  In coordination with the Connecticut Deafblind Project, BESB was able to send two Education Consultants to a week-long training on Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI). This training was an opportunity for these teachers to receive more advanced, in-depth training in how to work with students who have CVI. A Children’s Services newsletter will be published later this fall.  For the reporting period from June, 2013 through August, 2013, no Functional Vision Assessments were completed.

Ms. Burgard reported on the progress in achieving the current state plan goals within the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. All ten Vocational Rehabilitation staff with job development responsibilities have joined “Linked In.” As of September 9, 2013, there have been 22 work sites developed using the paid internship or on-the-job training model, or a combination of both. There is an ongoing job seeking skills support group facilitated by two Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors for individuals that have been displaced from employment.   Each Counselor with Job Placement as a primary responsibility has joined a job developers group in their region. There is a training of the state-wide Job Development Leadership Networks being held at BESB on September 19, 2013.  There are 29 transition students that are anticipated to complete high school this year and the Program is in the process of confirming which clients are going to exit high school this year so that employment plans can be developed. For the 61 clients whose cases moved from referral status to application or closure without eligibility from June through August, 78.7% of these cases were moved within the 60 day policy guideline.

Mr. Sigman informed the Board that during the recent monitoring visit by Rehabilitation Services Administration, there was considerable discussion about moving clients more rapidly into employment plan status once eligibility is determined. Therefore, in future meetings of the Advisory Board, the focus of reporting on case movement will shift over to employment plan development.

Ms. St. Amand reported that individuals and organizations provided over 16,000 volunteer services hours to BESB and its clients in fiscal year 2013.  Volunteers assisted clients with such daily living activities as grocery shopping and reading mail and also helped the Bureau with transcribing books and materials into Braille. The estimated total value of these volunteer hours to clients and the state exceeded $350,000.

Meeting Dates for 2014

Meeting dates for next year were proposed as March 20, 2014, June 19, 2014, September 11, 2014, and December 11, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

MOTION: Ms. Akers motioned to accept these dates for future meetings.  Ms. Utter seconded.  The meeting dates were unanimously accepted.  The Secretary of the State’s office will be notified.

Eye Doctor Reports

Ms. Rival expressed a concern that the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut is receiving an average of two inquiries per week from consumers or parents of consumers who are unaware of BESB services and who were not referred to the agency by an eye doctor, even though there is a state statute that requires such referrals. Mr. Sigman reported that the Bureau did a mass mailing to over 1,000 eye doctors in the state earlier this year reminding them about the statute and including information about agency services to put in their waiting rooms.  Discussion ensued as to whether there was hesitation on the part of some doctors to make referrals due to the requirement of the agency to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles when a person has been declared legally blind. There was a proposed bill in Legislature in this past session that would have levied a fine of $100.00 on a doctor who failed to notify the agency if a person under their care was declared legally blind, but the bill did not proceed to a public hearing. The Advisory Board members did not recommend an action item on this topic. 

Points to the Good and Welfare

Ms. Woodward reported on the proposed fee increase in transit and Para transit services.  Chairman Sylvestre commented that the revenue generated through ridership does not come close to covering the cost of operating the services. Ms. Rival commented how the rising cost of gasoline, maintenance and insurance have all contributed to the reason for the proposed rate increase.

Mr. Thal stated that consumers are reaching out to first responders in his region and that region will become one of the first regions in the country to become certified in the emergency field. 

Mr. Sigman stated that a plaque was ordered to honor Ms. Carol Gillispie for her life time of achievements.  The agency will invite her family members to a dedication in December.

Motion: Ms. Akers motioned to adjourn. Ms. Woodward seconded. The meeting adjourned at 12:00 p.m.

Next meeting is scheduled for December 12, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

 

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Department of Rehabilitation Services

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

June 20, 2013

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers, Christine Boisvert, Patrick Johnson, Jr., Leonard Erazmus (representing DSS Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby), Stephen Thal, Randa Utter

Members Absent

Carrie Saxon-Perry, Betty Woodward

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor; Edward Owens, Vending Facility Supervisor; Dr. Amy Porter, DORS Commissioner; Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Coordinator; Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor

Chairman Sylvestre requested a moment of silence in recognition of the passing of Ms. Carol Gillispie.  Ms. Gillispie was recognized as having served on a number of Boards and Committees for much of her life, advocating for persons with disabilities and blindness. 

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Motion:  Ms. Akers made a motion, seconded by Ms. Boisvert.  The Board unanimously adopted the March 14, 2013 Advisory Board meeting minutes. 

New Business

Commissioner’s Update

Commissioner Porter updated the Board members on the State budget for fiscal year 2014.  The agency received funding for additional positions to further transition administrative support from the Department of Social Services over to the Department of Rehabilitation Services.  Funding for the independent living centers was restored in the budget that was passed. The Department of Rehabilitation Services will be providing human resources, payroll and fiscal support to the Department of Aging.  The strategic planning process will be starting shortly. 

Vocational Rehab FFY 2014 State Plan for Action

Mr. Sigman reviewed the public comments that were received during the public comment period. One comment was in regards to State Plan Attachment 4.11(c)(4) on the subject of utilizing Supported Employment funds. The commenter, who submitted the comment on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, asked that a statement be added affirming the priority of employment for competitive wages. The State Rehabilitation Council supported this recommendation and the wording of State Plan Attachment 4.11(c)(4) was modified to include the phrase “at or above the state minimum wage.” The three other comments received were all in regards to the proposed goals in State Plan Attachment 4.11(e)(2) for the coming fiscal year. One commenter acknowledged the importance of technology for people with vision impairments, but requested no change to the goals. One commenter asked that the bureau establish an objective to develop a presence on Twitter to communicate information. The Council discussed this recommendation but concluded that Twitter is more of a social networking site than a professional organization website. The Council members preferred that staff direct their energies toward the employment specific networking sites such as Linked-In and rely upon the agency website to distribute information to clients. The last public comment received was submitted by the Rehabilitation Technology staff at this bureau. Their comment recommended changing the measure of success for the objective that addresses training clients in the use of internet-based job search engines. Rather than offering two group training sessions, the commenter recommended shifting to a measure that would include two informational group sessions, followed by individualized training. The Council agreed but felt that the measure should include the number of clients that would be trained individually. After some discussion, the membership concluded that ten clients would be an achievable measure.

MOTION:  Ms. Akers motioned, seconded by Ms. Utter.  The motion passed unanimously to adopt the State Rehabilitation Council’s modifications to the Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan for federal fiscal year 2014.

Vocational Rehab Policy on Higher Education for Action

The State Rehabilitation Council has recommended adoption of updates to the Vocational Rehabilitation policy on higher education, with an effective date of July 1, 2013. These proposed policy updates went through a public comment period, and no public comments were received. The proposed policy updates include allowing for the first two semesters of attendance at a State of Connecticut Community College to be “diagnostic” and therefore not subject to the financial aid application process, and also to raise the level of funding for books and supplies from the current funding level of $60.00 per course to $100 per course.

MOTION:  Mr. Johnson motioned, seconded by Ms. Boisvert.  The recommendations by the SRC were unanimously accepted. 

Mr. Sigman announced that Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) will be visiting BESB in the upcoming week. 

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman talked about sequestration and the impact it had on the federal programs administered by BESB. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program received a reduction of $66,000 from last year’s base award amount, but this should not have an impact on services due to the amount of funding the bureau acquired through the re-allotment process last fiscal year. The Older Blind grant received a $25,000 reduction. However, a sizeable donation from the estate of a former client of BESB made to the Independent Living Program will offset this reduction to the Independent Living Older Blind federal grant.       

Legislative Update

Mr. Norton reported that the Legislature has adjourned.   He spoke first about Senate Bill 853, which did pass, and would allow the agency to submit one annual report rather than the three reports currently required – (BRS, BESB and the former CDHI).  Other provisions of the bill raised certain dollar caps in client expenditures.  A $960 cap on certain services provided in BESB's Adult Services program was eliminated. In the BRS program, a dollar cap on wheelchairs and equipment was raised from $3,500 to $20,000 and a cap on adaptive equipment purchases was raised from $10,000 to $120,000.  The bill made certain changes to the agency’s CTTAP loan program which helps clients buy adaptive equipment. The law will now allow a loan to last ten years instead of the current 5-year limit and loans will be available to senior citizens and to the family members of persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

House Bill 6367, the Human Services Implementer Bill, also made some changes affecting DORS. The agency will no longer reimburse towns for the costs of Teachers of the Visually Impaired directly hired or contracted by the town, and the funding for this was removed from the fiscal year 2014 budget. This will take effect on July 1, 2013.

The language originally contained in House Bill 6654 pertaining to the operation of vending facilities at state parks did not move forward. While it passed in the Environment Committee, the language was eliminated in the Finance Committee. This proposal would have removed BESB’s first right of refusal to operate food service and gift store concessions at state parks. BESB currently has operations in three state parks that provide entrepreneurial employment to three individuals who are blind.  Their livelihoods would have been jeopardized had this language become law.

Program Updates and Performance 

Mr. Lassen reported that the contract amendments for the vendors who provide services to clients who are deafblind were extended by one year.  The average time for Adult Services staff to contact clients referred for services between March 1, 2013 and May 31, 2013 was 5.63 days for the Program overall, with Orientation and Mobility staff at 3.63 days; Rehabilitation Teaching staff at 7.88 days; and Social Work staff at 5.12 days.

Mr. Owens reported that during this quarter 2 new BEP Managers were placed and 3 have left the program.  Including the seasonal locations, there are currently 44 facilities and 36 managers. An invitation was extended to BEP to review the opportunity to establish a food service concession at 55 Farmington Avenue in Hartford.  This location has been accepted into the program. It is anticipated to open by March of 2014. Four new client referrals were received from the Vocational Rehabilitation Division. The Administrative Assistant for BEP has retired and the agency is not seeking to refill the vacancy due to the funding constraints of the Business Enterprise Program.  

Ms. Olson reported that Children’s Services held several events since the last Board meeting, including a “Teen Escape” day, a Sports Adventure weekend at the Channel 3 Kids Camp, a Middle School Field day at Sonny’s Place and a Siblings Weekend.   Several teacher training and parent events were included as well.  The Children’s Services Spring newsletter went out at the beginning of May and is published on the BESB website. For the reporting period from March through June, 2013, there were 15 Functional Vision Assessments completed. The average number of days from referral to completion was 34.73 days. For all 15 children, the Functional Vision Assessment was completed within 90 days, representing 100 percent achievement of the best practice goal.

Ms. Burgard reported on the progress in achieving the current state plan goals. All ten Vocational Rehabilitation staff with job development responsibilities has joined “Linked In.”  The counselors will document utilization of activities to outreach to employers on behalf of clients on their caseloads by using this internet-based service.  Eight internships/On-the-Job-Training agreements have been secured to date. There is an on-going job club group run by two counselors for individuals that were displaced from employment, with 6 participants. There was also a job club held in early December, with eight clients participating.  All 10 of the staff with job development responsibilities have joined a job developers networking group in their region. In May, the Northern Job Developers Leadership Network was held at BESB, where bureau staff showcased the assistive technology options available to people who are blind.   

There are 19 individuals completing high school this school year. Of that number, so far 8 clients have an Individualized Plan for Employment completed. For the 37 clients whose cases moved from referral status to eligibility or closure without eligibility status within the past three months, 89% of these cases were moved within the 90 day best practice timeframe.

In Volunteer Services, Ms. St. Amand reported that during the three month period March and May, 2013, the Volunteer program received and processed 39 new applications for volunteer positions.  Of those, 16 volunteers were assigned as virtual typists and 14 were assigned as companion volunteers.

Points of the Good and Welfare

Chairperson Sylvestre acknowledged the loss of Ms. Barbara Bostwick, the Director of Southeastern Connecticut Community Center of the Blind.  It was recommended that the agency bestow a lifetime achievement honor in the memory of Carol Gillispie and obtain a plaque to display in the board room.

Mr. Thal updated the members on his ongoing efforts to train first responders across the region on techniques for assisting people with disabilities during times of emergency.

Motion: Ms. Akers motioned to adjourn.  Mr. Johnson seconded. The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.

Next meeting is scheduled for September 12, 2013 a.m. at BESB.

 

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Department of Rehabilitation Services

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

 March 14, 2013

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert,; Patrick Johnson, Jr.; Carrie Saxon-Perry; Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Stephen Thal

Randa Utter

Leonard Erazmus (for DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby)

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor; Edward Owens, Vending Facility Supervisor; Dr. Amy Porter, DORS Commissioner; Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Coordinator; Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor; Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate; Dianne Weaver Dunne, Executive Director of CRIS

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Motion:  Ms. Akers made a motion, seconded by Mr. Johnson and the Board unanimously adopted the December 13, 2012 Advisory Board meeting minutes. 

New Business

Commissioner’s Update:

Commissioner Porter updated the Board members on the progress that has occurred in building the infrastructure of DORS.  Recent hires include a Human Resources Specialist, Payroll Officer, Fiscal Manager and an Associate Accountant.  Employees who currently report to work at the Sigourney Street location will be relocating to a state-owned facility in Hartford.  BESB will remain in the current Windsor location. The Commissioner reported that once the budget for fiscal year 2014 is passed, it is hoped that DORS will be able to add additional staff positions to continue building the infrastructure of the organization. Commissioner Porter reported that the agency was awarded a $50,000 grant to assist with strategic planning activities for DORS. Chairman Sylvestre will be participating in an upcoming meeting of all grant recipients in April. 

Continuous Improvement

Mr. Sigman reported that the programs at BESB continue to focus on standards of performance and best practice, using the federal performance measures as the guide for achievement.  Mr. Sigman further reported that several of the federal performance measures are annual and that reporting on those particular measures would occur at the March Board meeting each year after completing of the federal reports for the programs. Chairman Sylvestre stated that Rehabilitation Services Administration measures of performance would help to ensure that BESB remains responsive to the needs of the community.  Chairman Sylvestre stated that his involvement in the upcoming strategic planning meeting of all of the grant recipients will serve as an opportunity to learn how other states have conducted their initiatives. He looks forward to the Board’s active participation in the DORS strategic planning process.

Outreach

Chairman Sylvestre brought to the Board’s attention Mr. Thal’s recommendation that BESB take a larger role in public relations outreach. Mr. Thal also suggested that BESB hold another technology fair. Chairman Sylvestre pointed out that public relations is a very large task for direct service staff to undertake and he expressed concern that it would divert their time away from direct service to clients.  Commissioner Porter offered the Connect-ability newsletter that BRS distributes on a quarterly basis to employers and service providers as an opportunity to share information. Ms. Akers asked if it would be possible for a volunteer to take on the role of coordinating public relations outreach if staff are not able to absorb these activities. Mr. Sigman said that the volunteer would need to have public relations and outreach skills to take on such an assignment. Mr. Sigman pointed out that BESB has continued to do focused outreach, such as a mailing to more than 1,000 eye doctors across the state for Low Vision Awareness Month in February. He also mentioned that Oak Hill does technology fairs each year and that it would be a more efficient use of time to partner with them to help inform the public of their technology fairs. BRS is planning to have a technology conference next year and BESB will be on the planning committee for this event. Ms. Marsha Brown of Adult Services shared plans for a series of seminars with service providers of individuals who are deafblind in the coming months. Mr. Sigman stated that outreach needs to be done in a way that delivers the desired results for the cost and time impact, such as reaching potential clients and family members who may be unaware of services. Continued participation at health fairs, conferences and senior centers are approaches the agency is consistently using.

Mr. Lassen reported that one group of newly-hired New Haven-area Connecticut Transit bus drivers was trained in blindness awareness in December and a new group of Hartford-area drivers was trained in February.  Staff in Adult Services presented programs at a total of six meetings of four low vision support groups in the last quarter.  One staff member trained staff and residents at the Atria Assisted Living facility in Rocky Hill and another trained residents at a senior housing complex in North Haven.  In New Britain, Hispanic teaching assistants at New Britain High School were informed about the support services provided by Children’s Services and Adult Services.  A group of five Adult Services staff conducted a training program on blindness awareness (including sighted guide technique) to forty day-program staff at HARC in Hartford.  Rehabilitation program supervisors at Manchester ARC and at Riverside Healthcare (a skilled nursing facility) were trained in blindness awareness.  One of the Orientation and Mobility instructors made a presentation on these services at Brookfield High School.  A mailing to all Connecticut eye doctors included the updated eye report and a current description of services available from the Bureau.

Deafblind Technology Grant

Ms. Brown reported on the CT Tech Act Project’s deafblind technology grant, made available through the National Deafblind Equipment Distribution Program (NBEDP). The goal of the program is to ensure that people with combined hearing and vision loss have access to telecommunication devices and the training necessary to use them.  The application process is open to Connecticut residents who are deafblind and meet the income eligibility guidelines.  Additional information can be obtained by visiting www.cttechact.com/att or by calling 860-424-5619 (voice), 860-424-4839 (TTY) or 800-537-2549 (toll-free). BESB is partnering with audiologists and senior centers to promote awareness of the grant. Two mailings have gone out to date to clients on the BESB registry of individuals who are deafblind.  Forty-five individuals have inquired about this program in response to the outreach activities. Eleven individuals who have submitted applications have been found eligible for services to date.  

Independent Living Support Groups Update:

Mr. Lassen reported that every Low Vision Support Group facilitator in the weeks leading up to the printing of the 2013 large print calendar was contacted to ensure that BESB was providing accurate, up-to-date contact information for clients and their family members or friends interested in finding out more about any of the twenty-eight such groups that meet in twenty-three Connecticut cities or towns.  

Independent Living Program Performance

Mr. Lassen reported that the average time for Adult Services staff to contact clients referred to services between December 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013 was 3.63 days for the Program overall, with Orientation and Mobility staff at 1.79 days; Rehabilitation Teaching staff at 3.21 days; and Social Work staff at 5.34 days.

In federal fiscal year (FFY) 2012, there were 781 clients served in the Older Blind Program. For that group of clients, independent living skills were achieved or maintained for 67.87 percent of clients who received orientation and mobility instruction, 73.63 percent of clients who received instruction in communication devices and techniques, and 81.4 percent of clients who received assistive technology services. For clients under age 55 who were served in the Independent Living Program, there has been a steady upward trend in the number of clients served, and the number of independent goals achieved. In FY 2010 there were 261 goals achieved for 310 clients; in FY 2011 there were 550 goals achieved for 330 clients and in FY 2012 there were 627 goals achieved for 378 clients.

In Volunteer Services, Ms. St. Amand reported that during the three month period between December and February, there were 32 new applications for volunteer positions received. Of that number, 16 have been assigned as typists, 1 has been assigned as a Braille transcriptionist, 1 has been assigned as an assistant in preparing outreach materials for the deafblind technology grant, and 7 volunteers have been selected to work with clients directly. There are 4 applications pending review and 3 have been closed.

Business Enterprise Program (BEP)

Mr. Owens reported on the comparison between the FFY 2012 RSA-15 report on the Vending Facility Program to the FFY 2011 report. Gross sales for all operations increased 1.6 percent to $5,027,933 in FFY 2012. The average vendor annual earnings dipped by 3.3 percent to $29,164 in FFY 2012. The median annual income declined slightly, by 0.5 percent to $22,242. The vending facility managers employed 77 individuals in FFY 2012, 15 of whom also have a disability. There were 46 facilities managed by 42 entrepreneurs in FFY 2012. Program income and expenditures both decreased in state fiscal year 2012, compared to 2011. In 2011, program income from all sources was $2,060,644 and expenses were $2,470,908. In 2012, program income was $1,993,693 and expenses were $2,279,034. 

Currently, there are five individuals who have expressed an interest in the program. One client is in training at this time.

Children’s Services 

Ms. Olson reported that Children’s Services held two events since the last Board meeting. Following the Girl’s Sports and More Weekend held in December, several participants who had worked with the Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) cheerleaders participated in a live half-time cheer at a ECSU basketball game in January. On February 9, 2013 a Student Advisory Council (SAC) leadership day was held in which 10 SAC students participated in skiing at Ski Sundown in New Hartford, CT. Following ski lessons, the group held a leadership meeting to plan future activities.

Two parent activities were held during the last quarter. On January 26, 2013 a Literacy Skills event was held in Middletown in which several parents were introduced to the concept of “literacy kits” and had an opportunity to create their own.  On March 2, 2013 a workshop on “IPad Basics for Parents of Children who are Visually Impaired and Blind,” was held at the NEAT Marketplace. Twenty-five parents from around the state, and representing students served by preschool, school age and special services were in attendance. Parents learned about IPAD applications for people who are blind or visually-impaired, as well as how to access the built-in apps for accessibility.

In coordination with the CT Deafblind Project, BESB held a two-part teacher training entitled “Positive and Productive Futures: Reach for the Stars” with Dr. Jennifer Grisham-Brown of the University of Kentucky. A webinar was held on January 25, 2013 and an in-person training was held on March 1, 2013 where 40 participants learned how to use “Reach for the Stars” to help plan their students’ Individualized Education Plans.

On March 5, 2013 an in-service training was held for speech-language therapists throughout the state. Thirty-three therapists from around the state participated in the 4-hour training where they learned about vision and its impact on language and learning, concept development, and best practices when working with students with multiple disabilities.

The first newsletter of the school year went out in mid-December. The second newsletter will go out towards the end of April.

For the reporting period from December, 2012 through February, 2013, there were 12 Functional Vision Assessments completed. The average number of days from referral to completion was 51.25 days. For all 12 children, the Functional Vision Assessment was completed within three months, representing 100 percent achievement of the best practice goal.

Vocational Rehabilitation

Ms. Burgard reported on the State Plan goals and progress for the current year.  The ten Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors who are assigned job development and job placement responsibilities have all joined Linked-In, an internet based networking site commonly used by job seekers and employers. They have also each joined job developer’s consortiums within their assigned territories to gain greater access to employers. There is an ongoing job club group facilitated by two counselors for individuals that were displaced from employment.  Meetings are conducted by teleconference to facilitate participation.  There was a job club held in early December for eight clients, focusing on job seeking skills and benefits counseling. 

There are 15 students who are anticipated to complete high school in June and the Counselors are working to ensure that all of the students who are interested in Vocational Rehabilitation after high school will have an employment plan in place prior to completion of high school.

On the federal Standards and Indicators, Ms. Burgard reported that for FFY 2012, BESB passed 5 of the 6 performance measures. For the overall number of successful employment outcomes measured over a two-year average, for the most recent two years (FFY 2011 and 2012), the program surpassed the average for the prior two years (223 employment outcomes for FFY 2011 plus 2012 versus 211 employment outcomes for FFY 2010 plus 2011). For all clients who had an employment plan, the number of clients who exited the Vocational Rehabilitation Program successfully in FFY 2012 surpassed the number who exited the Program without an employment plan by 80.2 percent, far exceeding the passing standard of 68.9 percent (223 out of 278 clients exited the Program successfully). The Program also far exceeded the standard of 35.4 percent for employment with earnings greater than the state minimum wage with 186 of the 223 successfully employed clients (83.4 percent) achieving this standard. All clients who exited the Program in competitive employment, self-employment, Business Enterprises or Supported Employment earned at least the state minimum wage, exceeding the standard of 89 percent. The average hourly earnings for these clients was $18.75 per hour, achieving the passing level of earnings at least 59 percent of the state average of $29.71 per hour. The only standard that was not achieved was the percentage of clients who report their primary source of support as income at application versus at the time of case closure. Although there was a total of 133 clients who reported their income as their primary source of financial support at case closure versus 100 at the time of application, it did not pass the required ratio of 30.4 percent change between these two numbers.

                                                       

Budget Update:

Mr. Sigman reported that even when the effects of sequestration are factored into the budget for BESB’s federal programs, there is still sufficient funding available to continue to serve all eligible clients of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living programs in the current federal fiscal year.

Mr. Sigman explained the provisions of the proposed state fiscal year 2014 budget as it pertains to the Children’s Services program.  The budget proposes to eliminate the reimbursement dollars that are currently made available at the end of each school year to school districts that employ or contract for their own teachers of the visually impaired. Presently, DORS offers these services to school districts at no cost, although there is a provision in Statute that would permit the agency to charge a fee for this service if increased demand could not be covered through appropriated funds.

Mr. Norton introduced Diane Weaver Dunne, Executive Director of CRIS Radio.  Ms. Weaver Dunne reported that CRIS Radio has been operating for the past 34 years as the State’s only radio-reading service. CRIS serves more than 18,000 people who are blind or print-handicapped.  Their most recent program expansion is streaming audio to patients at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. CRIS provides radio-reading services to individuals as well as assisted living facilities. They are expanding services through internet radios, on-demand service through their website, and providing custom recordings for educators and service providers. Other projects include CRIS-kids for Schools, CRIS-Access for museums, and CRIS En Espanol.   

Legislative Update:

Mr. Norton reported on the one legislative initiative that DORS requested for this session. Senate Bill 853 generally makes technical changes to existing DORS statutes.  In a couple of instances, dollar caps in spending for equipment and services for clients are 20 to 30 years old and they are being modernized and increased. In another change, DORS is proposing to merge the three annual reports required for the former BRS, BESB and CDHI into one annual DORS report. Finally, the bill allows DORS-BRS to charge fees for adaptive technology training to entities in certain situations.

Another bill of interest is a bill introduced by a house member to remove from DORS the right of first refusal to operate a vending stand or food service facility at DEEP locations such as state parks. If passed into law, this would likely result in the loss of employment for the three clients of the agency that currently operate food service concessions at DEEP locations.

Mr. Sigman noted that there is a Federal Register notice seeking public comment relative to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles. The concern over pedestrian safety resulting from hybrid and electric vehicles that emit little to no sound led to the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010, whereby the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration was charged with making recommendations for the enhancement of pedestrian safety relative to these types of vehicles. The recommendation involves equipping these quiet vehicles with audible sound features. The public comment period lasts until March 15, 2013.

Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan

Mr. Sigman reported that the State Rehabilitation Council has formed a committee to develop proposed goals and priorities for the upcoming federal fiscal year that begins on October 1, 2013. The Council will be discussing these priorities at their March meeting and then the state plan draft documents will be developed and distributed in advance of a public comment period. Mr. Sigman asked the Board to anticipate receipt of these draft documents for review during the month of May.

Motion: Ms.Woodward motioned to adjourn.  Ms. Akers seconded. The meeting adjourned at 12:32 p.m.

Next meeting is scheduled for June 20, 2013 a.m. at BESB.

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Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS)

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB)

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

 December 13, 2012

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert, Leonard Erazmus, representing DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby; Stephen Thal; Randa Utter; Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Patrick Johnson, Jr.; Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor; Edward Owens, Vending Facility Supervisor; Amy Porter, DORS Commissioner; Elizabeth Rival, Consumer; Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Coordinator; Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Motion:  Ms. Akers made a motion, seconded by Betty Woodward and the Board unanimously adopted the September 13, 2012 Advisory Board meeting minutes. 

New Business

Commissioner’s Update:

Commissioner Porter informed the members that the agency is still in the process of building an infrastructure.  Current hires include a Human Resources Specialist, Payroll officer, Fiscal Manager as well as an Accountant.  BESB currently has a vacancy for a Fiscal position as well as an anticipated Rehabilitation Teacher.  A 120-day retiree position was established for the Fiscal position.  The former Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired program is being administered by the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services. There are seven full time positions, with one vacancy for an interpreter coordinator that is soon to be filled, and an anticipated Office Assistant vacancy. 

Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held a meeting with representatives of public and private agencies that serve people with disabilities to discuss coordination of emergency preparedness and emergency response for consumers with disabilities and how they should be involved in the planning process. Commissioner Porter encouraged the Board members to be involved in future discussions on this important topic. 

Advisory Board Vacancies

Mr. Norton reported that the vast majority of the current Advisory Board members terms have expired or will be expiring in the near future.  However, the current members would continue to hold their position until their appointing authority appoints a replacement.  There are currently four vacancies.  He asked that each of the members advise the organizations that they are affiliated with of these vacancies so that interested candidates can informed. The current board members may also seek reappointment as the Statute does not impose limits on the number of terms one can serve. Mr. Norton also referenced the Statute language that if a member of the Board misses three consecutive Board meetings that they shall be deemed to have resigned from the Board.

Benchmarks and Continuous Improvement Updates:

Each of the Program Supervisors provided an update to the Board on their program’s progress toward achieving the established benchmarks and strategic planning goals. The update reports are posted on the BESB website (www.ct.gov/besb).

Ms. Akers made a recommendation to distribute handouts to para-transit drivers that provides information on how to assist people who are blind. Mr. Lassen will compile a draft handout. Commissioner Porter noted that this type of handout could be beneficial in educating para-transit drivers on how to provide assistance to people with a variety of disabilities and she would be interested in seeing its use expanded to cover a broader spectrum of para-transit riders who are disabled.  The Advisory Board will review the final draft of the information card before it is finalized.

Ms. Akers questioned if referrals were made to the Lions Clubs for consumers who may not qualify for BESB services.  Mr. Lassen affirmed that BESB does refer those consumers to the Lions Clubs. 

Ms. St. Amand updated the Board on the status of the Volunteer Program. There were 55 new applications for volunteer positions in the past three months. Twenty-eight (28) volunteers were assigned as typists for Braille materials; 14 volunteers were matched with consumers; 2 volunteers were assigned to the Adult Services division for assistance with information gathering for a consumer survey; 1 volunteer was assigned to the Braille unit as a proof reader/formatter; 8 applications remain pending; and 2 applications have been closed. 

Ms. Akers asked if the financial incentive program for BEP facility operators would continue into this year.  Mr. Sigman indicated that it would.  Within Business Enterprises, there is a Field Representative position vacancy that will not be filled and the funds from this vacancy, in combination with the provision of Title I Vocational Rehabilitation funds will enable the Business Enterprise Program to meet expenses in the current fiscal year.  Thirty-nine new vending machine locations are being added based on a new permit from the United States Postal Services.

Mr. Sigman gave an update on the Deafblind grant. He reported on the recent rescission to the budget appropriation for fiscal year 2013 in the amount of $15,004. Based on the dollar value of current contracts with the fee-for-service vendors as well as the Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Developmental Services, this rescission can be absorbed without the need to reduce the level of services for the 62 adults served through program.

Independent Living Support Groups Update:

Mr. Lassen reported that there are currently 26 support groups listed in 23 different cities and towns; Danbury, Milford and Stamford have two each.  In addition, there are at least three at private assisted living facilities where BESB provides speakers and other assistance.  Two groups ceased operation in the past year, and BESB is working with Bridgeport residents to launch a group in that location.  

Benchmark Discussion:

At the June board meeting, it had been motioned to continue the benchmarks at least through December, and now that December has arrived, Chairman Sylvestre requested the board to revisit this topic. Chairman Sylvestre suggested that while these benchmarks and best practice measures were very appropriate for BESB when it was a stand-alone agency, perhaps it is now time to develop new benchmarks that incorporate all the Bureaus within the Department of Rehabilitation Services and allow the organization to develop their own benchmarks and strategies.  The floor was opened for discussion.

Ms. Akers agreed that many of the benchmarks could be retired, but stressed concern about the needs and priorities of blind consumers possibly getting lost in the larger organization.  Mr. Thal stated that he felt that having benchmarks was critical.

Chairman Sylvestre stated that BESB’s Vocational Rehabilitation Division already has Standards and Indicators they must meet and report on to the Federal Government.  He was concerned about the amount of time it takes staff to document and report on what they are doing.  He again suggested that DORS should be tasked to develop its own performance measures. The Advisory Board can always make suggestions to DORS for performance measures.  Mr. Sigman stated that there has been no mechanism in place for some time now to revise or retire any of these benchmarks and they have just been continuing on in their current format, even after having been achieved. All of the Program Supervisors provided examples of the benchmarks and best practices that would continue in their programs even if the benchmarks were retired, but also gave examples of ones that are ready for retirement from their perspective.

Ms. Akers was concerned about the possibility of a lack of structure in the absence of these benchmarks and she is not clear on what the role of the Board will be in giving recommendations for future performance measures. Commissioner Porter suggested putting this topic up for discussion at the next Board meeting. The Commissioner invited the Board members to be part of the working groups that will be meeting to discuss the future structure and priorities of the agency.

Motion:  Ms. Akers made a motion, seconded by Mr. Thal to retire the current benchmarks and strategic plan goals in order to begin the process of how this Advisory Board can best function as a working group for the development of future goals. The motion passed unanimously.

Budget

Mr. Sigman reported on the recent budget rescissions. In Children’s Services, the reduction of $241,095 will result in a decrease of approximately 6 percent of the funding this year that will be distributed to school districts who hire or contract for their own teachers of the visually impaired.  The reduction of $25,350 in the Enhanced Employment Opportunities fund will require the agency to tap deeper into the New Haven Cotton Fund to cover the current year cost of 30 vocational placements through community rehabilitation providers and health insurance for 22 clients.  This will enable the program to meet current year service commitments but next year could be difficult. The Supplementary Relief fund was reduced by $5,222. CRIS had a $4,382 reduction.

  

Legislative Update:

Mr. Norton informed the Board that DORS submitted a draft legislative proposal to the Office of Policy and Management for the upcoming legislative session. Most parts of the bill were minor changes in outdated statutory language. The most significant piece of the bill would allow the Connecticut Tech Act Project (within BRS) to charge fees for their Assistive Technology training and services. Another part of the bill would eliminate an outdated dollar cap on adaptive equipment purchases within Adult Services.  The second part of the proposal that affects BESB would consolidate DORS’ various reporting requirements into a single, comprehensive report.  Mr. Norton said that the agency is still waiting to hear if these proposals will move forward.

Business Enterprise Program Operator item for Action 

Mr. Owens reported on a situation where an operator of a small vending facility accepted a transfer to a large cafeteria based on an anticipated vacancy due to a retirement of another facility operator. Upon entering training at the new facility, he signed up for the family health insurance plan through Business Enterprises. When the other facility operator rescinded his retirement, this operator had to return to the smaller facility, losing the income that was needed to cover the cost of the health insurance for the month of November. Mr. Owens asked the board to consider advising the agency to hold the operator harmless for the cost of health insurance for the month of November.   

MOTION:  Ms. Akers motioned, seconded by Ms. Woodward to allow the hardship provision of the BEP regulations to be instituted to cover the cost of insurance for one month.  Unanimously passed.

Points of the Good and Welfare

Mr. Sigman assured the Board that even though the strategic planning best practices and benchmarks for BESB were retired, the Program Supervisors will continue to report at each meeting on their program’s performance and activities. Commissioner Porter stated that she values and welcomes the Board’s input.

Mr. Thal informed the board about the city of Hartford’s  3-1-1 Call Center service that provides residents with a way to report and resolve issues or concerns with city services.   CRIS has a new initiative called CRISKids for Schools which offers educators unlimited and instant access to CRIS On-Demand.  CRIS will launch CRIS En Espanol in late January, making it available On-Demand and toll-free to registered listeners. 

Motion: Ms. Woodward motioned to adjourn.  Ms. Akers seconded. The meeting adjourned at 12:32 p.m.

Next meeting is scheduled for March 14, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

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Department of Rehabilitation Services

Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

September 13, 2012

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:10 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Leonard Erazmus, representing DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby; Stephen Thal; Randa Utter; Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Christine Boisvert; Patrick Johnson, Jr.; Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor; Edward Owens, Vending Facility Supervisor; Amy Porter, DORS Commissioner; Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Coordinator; Gloria Soucy, Administrative Assistant

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Mr. Thal requested that the minutes of the June 14, 2012 board meeting add clarification as to the important roles that Dr. Walter Needham and Judy Tencza held for many years.

Motion:  The Board unanimously adopted the June 14, 2012 Board meeting minutes with the changes proposed by Mr. Thal.

New Business

Organizational Update:

Commissioner Porter informed the members that the agency is now named the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). The agency has hired a Fiscal Administrative Manager and a Human Resources Manager.  There are five additional positions that will be recruited for shortly for the administrative unit of the agency.

Mr. Sigman informed the Board that BESB is now the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind.

Chairman Sylvestre asked if there were still two State Rehabilitation Councils, one for BESB and one for the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services.  Mr. Sigman responded that there are.  Commissioner Porter said there is an option in the federal law to combine both Councils as well as both Vocational Rehabilitation state plans and she would like to explore these options, as well as other options that could bring about greater efficiencies with the input from the Board and leaders in the blind community. 

Ms. Akers asked about the vacancies on the State Rehabilitation Council.  Mr. Sigman replied that several appointments and reappointments by the Governor were made recently to replace members whose terms had expired.  

Benchmarks and Continuous Improvement Updates:

Each of the Program Supervisors provided an update to the Board on their program’s progress toward achieving the established benchmarks and strategic planning goals and progress to date. The update reports are posted on the BESB website (www.ct.gov/besb).

Ms. St. Amand stated that total volunteer hours have increased from 14,000 last year to 19,500 this year.  The value of these volunteer hours exceeded $400,000.  The volunteer program is averaging 81 percent matches with client service requests.

Independent Living Support Groups Update:

Large print 2013 calendars are being prepared that will list the names and contact information for each support group in the state.  Mr. Lassen said the low vision support group at the Elmwood Community Center has restarted. Two new groups are starting in Southington and Bridgeport. Mr. Lassen will report on their progress at the next meeting.

The Deafblind grant had a funding increase for the fiscal year 2013 budget. The contracts have all been issued for clients served by grant and services have commenced.  Mr. Lassen informed the Board that BESB will be sponsoring a deafblind awareness training in November for caregivers of seniors with deafblindness. Mr. Lassen said that BESB has collaborated with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services on a deafblind technology grant that provides funding for adaptive technology and communication devices.

Ms. Akers stated that the training of transit drivers is important and she was pleased to learn from Mr. Lassen’s update report that this has continued. Mr. Thal inquired as to whether the ADA Paratransit drivers are also being trained. Mr. Lassen indicated this was not occurring but that he would ask his staff to reach out to the transit districts.

Ms. Akers asked Ms. St. Amand about the percentage of volunteer hours that were direct services to people who are blind. Ms. St. Amand indicated that of the 19,500 total hours, approximately 8,000 hours were direct service.

Budget Update:

Mr. Sigman updated the Board on the work of the subcommittee that formed to review options for enhancing revenues and trimming expenses in the Business Enterprise Program (BEP). The fiscal year 2013 BEP budget is projected to have barely enough income to cover all costs. Mr. Thal represented the Board on the subcommittee, that included members of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors. The subcommittee reviewed options such as seeking to expand the scope of items sold from vending machines, closing high cost vending facilities, reducing the percentage of commissions shared with educational institutions, instituting a co-pay with the facility operators for repairs, and establishing a set-aside provision for vending facility income.  The subcommittee recognized the implications of these concepts and also acknowledged that the time it would take to implement them would not resolve the budget situation in the short term.

Mr. Sigman began working with Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to explore if there were any options for increasing the federal Vocational Rehabilitation Title I grant award to put some of that funding to support BEP. Through these discussions and the resulting technical assistance provided by RSA, BESB was able to seek and receive an additional $2.4 million in federal Title I funds. Of that amount, approximately $500,000 will be applied to support the Business Enterprise Program.

Legislative Update:

There was not any legislation from the 2012 legislative session that directly impacted on the agency other than the name change. The agency is currently reviewing concepts for proposed technical revisions for the 2013 legislative session. Given the continuing budget situation in Connecticut, Mr. Norton was not anticipating that legislative proposals with a cost impact would be an option for the agency to offer in the coming session.

Mr. Norton informed the Board that a vending company out of California installed their snack machines in two towns and then refused to remove them when informed of the state statute unless the Attorney General’s office reaffirmed that BESB has the first priority to place vending machines in public buildings. The Attorney General’s office subsequently issued out reaffirmation, which was provided to the vending company and to the towns involved.

Mr. Norton updated the Board on CRIS Radio’s recent expansion into internet based broadcasting, programming for people who are Spanish speaking, and programming for children.

Meeting dates for next year were proposed as March 14, 2013, June 20, 2013, September 12, 2013 and December 12, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

Moton:  Ms. Akers motioned to accept these dates for future meetings.  Ms. Woodward seconded.  The meeting dates were unanimously accepted.

Board Member Vacancies:

Mr. Sigman reminded the members of the current vacancies and indicated that one of the remaining Board members has indicated intent to resign. He asked that each of the members advise the organizations that they are affiliated with of these vacancies so that interested candidates can reach out to the appointing authorities.

Points of the Good and Welfare

Mr. Thal provided an overview of the emergency preparedness training programs that he has been involved in, focusing recently on training first responders and police on the special needs of people with disabilities in times of emergency. Ms. Akers inquired how Mr. Thal’s experience had been recently with voting by phone.  He stated though there were a few problems, it went well.

Motion:  Ms. Akers motioned to adjourn.  Ms. Woodward seconded. The meeting adjourned at 12:05 p.m.

Next meeting is scheduled for December 13, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

 

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Bureau of Rehabilitative Services

BESB Program

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

June 14, 2012

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers, Patrick Johnson, Stephen Thal, Randa Utter

Members Absent

Christine Boisvert, Jay Kronfeld, Betty Woodward

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Karen Olson, Children’s Services Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Edward Owens, BEP Supervisor; Amy Porter, Director of BRS; Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager; Gloria Soucy, Administrative Assistant; Beth Rival, President, National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut (by teleconference).

Old Business

Mr. Sylvestre asked for the adoption of the minutes of March 15, 2012.  Mr. Thal asked for two corrections.  Under organizational updates “Dr. Porter will follow up and review MOU’s outside the agency structure.”  The following sentence, “Ms Akers agreed to send Hadley School information to CRIS radio” will be placed under the subject of CRIS Radio. 

A motion was made by Mr. Thal, seconded by Mr. Johnson to accept the minutes as amended. The motion passed unanimously.

New Business

Organizational Structure

Mr. Norton stated that legislation passed during the Special Session of the Legislature earlier this week has renamed the agency as of July 1, 2012. The agency will become the Department of Rehabilitation Services.  The agency will be referred to as DORS.  The title of the agency head will be a Commissioner instead of a Director.  Dr. Porter informed the board that efforts remain underway to have the new business office functions operational with the start of the new fiscal year. The budget that was passed for the new fiscal year includes positions for the business office and human resources functions of the agency.  Once this is in place, the integration team and the functional teams will begin their meetings to identify areas within the organization where further efficiencies can be achieved.

Mr. Sigman stated that a meeting of the Continuous Improvement Workgroup was held in March and the group discussed the current benchmarks and strategic planning best practices. Mr. Sigman stated that the group members asked whether these measures would remain as written indefinitely or if there would be a process for revising and modifying them and retiring others that are met or no longer needed. Dr. Porter indicated that discussions in the future regarding goals, priorities and strategic planning are very important and will occur, but that the first priority has been to develop and implement the organizational structure of the agency. The Workgroup members recommended that the Board consider maintaining the current wording of the benchmarks and best practices through December, 2012 and then efforts focus on developing new measures.

Ms. Akers agreed to the concept of continuing the current benchmarks and best practices through December, but did not feel at this time that any decision should be made regarding their retirement or modification after that date. On a motion by Ms Akers, seconded by Ms. Utter, it was agreed that the benchmarks and best practices will continue as written at least through December 31, 2012. The motion passed unanimously.

Benchmarks, Strategic Plan Initiatives

Each of the Program Supervisors provided an update to the Board on their division’s progress toward achieving the established benchmarks and strategic planning best practices. The update reports are posted on the BESB Program website (www.ct.gov/besb).

Ms Akers asked the status of the Older Blind Grant.  Mr. Lassen stated that it is a federal formula grant that is received by the agency every year from Rehabilitation Services Administration.

Mr. Thal asked about the status of the Deafblind Program.  Mr. Norton informed the members that there was an increase approved in the fiscal year appropriation to this grant. The level of funding will be $300,085 for the FY 2013.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman stated that projections for federal fiscal year 2013 indicate that sufficient funds will be available to serve all eligible clients of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.  The state budget that was passed for FY 2013 included restoration of funding for the independent living centers, as well as increases in the appropriations to the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, the Deafblind Program, Supplementary Relief and Enhanced Employment Opportunities.

While the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) does project sufficient funding for FY 2013, commissions received from vending machine sales continue to be lower than needed for the Program to expand. By the end of FY 2014, the Program does not anticipate that budgeted costs could continue to be met with current levels of spending.  This concern has been raised with the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors and it was agreed that discussions need to begin about options for reducing costs and increasing revenues. Mr. Sigman advised the Board that during FY2013, they may need to revisit BEP policies on categories of funding.

Ms Akers asked if the incentive plan is still in affect in BEP.  Mr. Sigman confirmed that it is still in effect for 2012 and will be in 2013.

Mr. Thal suggested that the Board take immediate action to work with the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors to discuss options for addressing the budget situation. Mr. Thal motioned that Board develop a subcommittee to work with the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors to explore the options available to address the BEP budget situation. The motion was seconded by Mr. Johnson.  A vote was taken, 3 in favor, 1 opposed.  The motion passed.

State Plan

Mr. Sigman stated that two public comments were received. One commenter was in agreement with the contents of the plan and goals established for next year.  The other commenter requested that the Program explore the funding options offered by other Vocational Rehabilitation Programs for the blind across the country to find out if those programs use different approaches to funding college costs for clients, specifically looking at whether the other state Vocational Rehabilitation Programs require the client or their family to contribute to the cost of the family contribution portion of the financial aid calculation. Mr. Sigman indicated agreement with this request and asked that the Board consider inclusion of that recommendation into the state plan. A motion was made by Mr. Johnson to adopt the state plan and staff recommendations.  Ms Akers seconded.  The motion passed unanimously.

Legislative Update

The budget for the agency in FY13 includes approval to hire seven new positions consisting of a Human Resources Administrator, Human Resources Specialist, Payroll Officer, Payroll Clerk, Fiscal Administrative Manager, Fiscal Administrative Assistant and an Accountant.

Mr. Sigman informed the Board about federal bill HR4297 that includes reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. The Rehabilitation Act is part of the Workforce Investment Act. The bill includes authority for states to consider greater flexibility in the allowable uses of the funds. In the mark up process in Congress, an amendment was passed to require that Rehabilitation Act Program funds could not be used for other programs. It is not certain that HR4297 will pass in the US House of Representatives in this session of Congress.  

Points to the Good and Welfare

Mr. Sylvestre announced that Dr. Walter Needham passed away.  Dr. Needham served as a consulting pyschologist to BESB for more than two decades. Mr. Sylvestre will express the Board’s condolences with a letter to his wife.

Ms. Judy Tencza has retired from her position as a Coordinator in the Blind Services Division of the Veterans Administration. Ms. Tencza was a long-standing member of the Agency Consumer Advisory Committee. Chairman Sylvestre wished her well.

Mr. Thal stated that he sent a letter of concern to the city of Hartford pertaining to inoperable voting equipment and that he received a response indicating that greater effort will be taken in the future elections to ensure that the machines are set up correctly prior to the polls opening.  Mr. Johnson suggested that Mr. Thal follow up with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.  Ms Akers suggested a brief survey be done to find out the experiences of voters who are blind.

Mr. Thal informed the Board of his ongoing efforts to train emergency first responders. Training has been provided to town planners, Area Agencies on Aging and training to about 400 police officers will occur in September.

Mr. Thal stated that CRIS Radio is working with St. Francis Hospital, Hartford Hospital and Connecticut Children’s Hospital to have children participate in recording programs to be broadcast on CRIS.

CRIS is looking for volunteers to interpret English into Spanish.

Ms. Rival commented that she hoped that Dr. Porter will commit to the development of benchmarks for the new agency.  Dr. Porter stated that it will be a multiple group effort that will include the participation of consumer groups. Ms. Rival expressed concern that there are Board member vacancies that have not been filled.

Ms Akers asked that PDF documents not be sent out by the agency since these types of documents are not accessible to many screen readers.  Staff will look into correcting this issue.

Ms Akers asked that when a student is accepted into a BESB Children’s Program, that the Teacher of the Visually Impaired be informed as well.  Ms Olsen will inform her staff.

Ms Akers asked that the BESB website be updated concerning what towns offer transportation.  Ms. Burgard will ask the mobility staff to update the transportation resource guide.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Ms. Akers to adjourn, seconded by Mr. Thal.  The motion was unanimous. The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.

 

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Bureau of Rehabilitative Services

BESB Program

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

March 15, 2012

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers, Christine Boisvert, Patrick Johnson, Stephen Thal, Randa Utter, Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Roderick Bremby, Commissioner Department of Social Services (ex-officio), Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Former Children’s Services Education Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor;  Karen Olson, New Children’s Services Education Supervisor; Edward Owens, BEP Vending Facility Supervisor; Amy Porter, Director of BRS; Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager; Gloria Soucy, Administrative Assistant

Old Business

Adoption of minutes of December 8, 2011 Advisory Board.  Ms Akers motioned to accept, seconded by Mr. Johnson.  The Board unanimously adopted the minutes.

New Business

Introduction of new BRS Director

Chairman Sylvestre introduced Dr. Amy Porter, Director of BRS.  She informed members that she has been meeting with the BESB Program staff over the past month to learn of their ideas.  The new BRS consists of the programs and services formerly administered by BESB, the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, the Workers’ Rehabilitation Program of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Driver Training Program from DMV and the old BRS.  The new agency has around 450 staff.  An important goal of the bureau is to have a business unit in place for July, and the Governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 includes several new positions to address this goal.  Client services have continued without interruption during this transition into the new organizational structure.

Mr. Thal asked if there is any plan to restructure the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and coordinate services between the BRS programs.  Dr. Porter replied that there may be some changes coming to the structure of that unit but she first wants to meet with the leaders of the deaf and hearing impaired community to obtain their input.

Chairman Sylvestre asked if there were any plans for a centralized location for BRS and if there will be regional offices. Dr. Porter indicated those are possible long term goals, but that it would take time to implement due to the leasing process.

BRS Organizational Update

Mr. Sigman stated that the BESB programs are still functioning as they were previously. He continues to oversee the Workers’ Rehabilitation program as well.

Dr. Porter stated that just as Workers Rehabilitation was placed under BESB, CDHI was placed under the old BRS structure so the managers are reporting to her.  The Driver Training program has moved physically over to the BRS central office.  There will be an interim structure for the new bureau in place for July.  That interim structure will have three divisions: the old BRS including CDHI; BESB including Workers’ Rehabilitation; and a new division that will be the administrative division consisting of business services, human resources and information technology. 

Mr. Thal asked if the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between BESB and BRS will now be null and void.  Dr. Porter stated that since these programs are now part of the same agency, an MOU between individual programs of the same agency would not be necessary. Dr. Porter will review the MOUs that exist outside of the agency structure.

Mr. Sylvestre asked if there will be a restructure of the boards and commissions since there must be quite a few since each division had their own councils.  Dr. Porter would like to speak with all of these entities first to obtain their perspectives before deciding how to proceed.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman stated the Governor’s proposed budget for next year fully maintains all funding for services to individuals who are blind.  There is an increase in personal services for the bureau as a whole to reflect the new positions.

The BESB Program Vocational Rehabilitation budget has sufficient funding projected to serve all eligible clients through September, 2013.  Mr. Sigman also reviewed the rescissions in the current year budget, and indicated that direct client services will not be reduced by these rescissions. Dr. Porter reported on the proposed reduction in funds for independent living centers in the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget.

Mr. Sylvestre asked Dr. Porter if the new bureau has agency status.  She replied that the new bureau is at an agency level, and she is an appointed agency head.

Mr. Thal asked Dr. Porter if she was anticipating any decrease in funding on the federal level.  She replied that there might actually be opportunity for additional re-allotment dollars as there have been in past years through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

Legislative Update

Mr. Norton stated that there is a bill in the legislature to ramp up services for children who are deaf in schools to make sure that their special education programs factor in a wider range of accommodations. 

Mr. Norton stated that the Governor’s budget allowed a $25,000 allotment to hire a consultant to help BRS obtain the best cost allocation formula possible.  Using the cost allocation process could result in greater flexibility to add new positions to the bureau.

In total, BRS has approximately $23 million state funds with another $46 million in federal funds, with a total of nearly $70 million.

Ms. Akers asked about the proposed consolidation of the Office of Protection and Advocacy and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.  Ms. Utter stated that there are many emails to the senator that she works for expressing concern about this merger.

Mr. Thal asked if there is any impact on transportation that is vital to our clients.  Mr. Norton has not seen any major initiatives but will check into the DOT budget and will get back to Mr. Thal.  Mr. Owens stated that one of the BEP’s operators mentioned a new transportation service coming soon called Yellow Cab, offering services to people who are not on the regular bus routes.  Ms. Boisvert stated that this is supposed to happen in the Spring.  Mr. Thal added that the Hartford version of this service is working on obtaining wheelchair accessible taxis.

Benchmarks and Continuous Improvement Initiatives

The updates on the benchmarks and the strategic planning were distributed, reviewed and are also posted on the website.  Mr. Sigman stated that the former Strategic Planning Committee is now called the Continuous Improvement Committee and the committee will have a teleconference coming up the end of this month.  Anyone interested in participating can feel free to join the group.

Independent Living Support Groups Update

Mr. Lassen informed members that there are 30 low vision support groups operating around the state, counting chapters of the National Federation of the Blind.  The rest of these groups are mostly operated in senior centers. A couple of Jewish community centers also operate vision loss support groups and there is one here at BESB.  Staff from the BESB Program routinely participate in support group meetings as invited guests to discuss agency services. Annually, facilitators of each group are contacted in preparation for their inclusion in the listing on the agency large print calendar. 

Mr. Thal asked Ms. Haines if she had received any feedback about the new children’s programming at CRIS Radio. Ms. Haines indicated that she had heard that the initial program, lead by students from the Student Advisory Council had been well received. Mr. Sylvestre asked Mr. Thal to explain the program.  Mr. Thal explained that the program by CRIS Radio was designed for kids by kids where they can use their IPods or their adaptive equipment to listen to the program.  One of the initiatives that CRIS Radio will be looking at is having children from the Children’s Medical Center participate in one of the programs.  Eileen Akers agreed to provide information on the Hadley School to CRIS Radio.

Points ot the Good and Welfare

Mr. Sigman stated that his availability is uncertain right now due to the circumstances involving his son’s medical condition.  He asked people to contact Gloria Soucy for assistance if he is not available.

Mr. Thal wanted to compliment Mr. Sigman for creating an emergency preparedness check list after October’s storm and sent it out to 12,000 clients.  He asked Mr. Sigman if he received any feedback and he received positive feedback from other service providers.

Ms. Akers wanted to congratulate Ms. Olson on her promotion.

She also wanted to commend the Hadley School for the Blind on their E-Connect newsletter that comes out twice each month.  She hoped that staff at BESB review and share this information.

Motion to adjourn by Mr. Johnson and seconded by Ms. Woodward.  The motion was unanimously carried.

Next meeting is scheduled for June 14, 2012, 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

 

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Bureau of Rehabilitative Services

BESB Program

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

December 8, 2011

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Patrick Johnson; Jay Kronfeld; Stephen Thal, Betty Woodward; Roderick Bremby, Commissioner Department of Social Services (ex-officio)/Acting Director of BRS.

Members Absent

Christine Boisvert; Dr. Chris Kuell; Randa Utter

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor, Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor;  Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager, Claudette Beaulieu, Deputy Commissioner Department of Social Services

Public Comment

Mr. Thal stressed the importance of preparing for storms and power outages.  The agency met with the Windsor Fire Chief who helped compile a list of action steps that people can take to prepare for and endure power outages.  A mass mailing will be sent to all constituents registered with BESB which will include this information and resources.  Mr. Kronfeld stated that a large responsibility falls under the utility companies, towns and phone companies and felt that a statewide program should be set up to mitigate future incidents of widespread power and communication network failures.    

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Betty Woodward and the Board unanimously adopted the September 15, 2011 Advisory Board meeting minutes. 

New Business

BRS Annual Report on Services for the Blind

Commissioner Bremby asked for feedback on the annual report that was distributed to the board members prior to the meeting. Ms. Akers inquired about the Summer Youth Employment and Learning Program and Ms. St. Amand clarified that these programs serve developmentally disabled students at risk of not graduating, as well as on-the-job training for economically disadvantaged students.  

Ms. Akers also inquired about the number of vending machines and Mr. Sigman clarified that the increase in vending machine placements was the result of ongoing outreach by agency staff to offer vending services. Ms. Akers acknowledged the work done by the agency staff as reflected in the annual report.

Mr. Thal acknowledged the assistance that BESB has provided to town and state emergency preparedness organizations by converting information into Braille for distribution to residents who request accessible materials.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman reported that based on current information, the Federal Vocational Rehabilitation program projects sufficient funds will be available to serve all eligible clients in Federal Fiscal Year 2012 and 2013. None of BESB program accounts received any reductions in fiscal year 2012 and services are continuing without interruption.  Mr. Sigman acknowledged Commissioner Bremby for approving several vacant positions in the BESB Program to proceed with recruitment.

Benchmarks, Strategic Plan Initiatives

Each of the Program Supervisors provided an update to the Board on their division’s progress toward achieving the established benchmarks. The update report is posted on the BESB website (www.ct.gov/besb) and can be read in the BESB Performance Benchmark Updates and Board's Annual Report  section. Additionally, a report was provided by each Supervisor on their division’s strategic plan goal and progress to date. This report is available in the BESB Strategic Plan  section of the website.

Mr. Sigman stated the benchmarks and strategic planning process have played a significant role in shaping BESB and suggested it would be beneficial to continue with a process of identifying best practices and establishing goals. Chairman Sylvestre recommended that a continuous improvement work group be established.

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Betty Woodward to reconvene the Strategic Planning Committee with members from the BESB board to reestablish a process for identifying and implementing goals and objectives for best practices. The motion passed unanimously. 

Chairman Sylvestre, Ms. Akers and Mr. Thal volunteered to serve on this Committee.  Any other board members interested in serving on the Committee should contact Mr. Sigman.        

Program Updates

Mr. Sigman gave an update on the reporting structure of BRS. In addition to overseeing the BESB Programs, Mr. Sigman now oversees the Workers Rehabilitation Program that was formerly part of the Workers Compensation Commission. Ms. Amy Porter oversees the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, and the driver training program for people with disabilities.  The Workers Compensation program has a budget of approximately $1.2 million and five staff. Their program works with people who have been injured on the job and need assistance and training to either return to their former occupation or to enter a new occupation.    

Mr. Lassen reported that a mass mailing will be done to all eye doctors in the State of Connecticut with a new copy of the BESB eye report, and notifying them that BESB is now a part of the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services. 

Ms. Haines reported that Children’s Services has recruited for a teacher vacancy and a hiring decision is imminent. On behalf of the board, Ms. Akers acknowledged Ms. Haines for her dedication and outstanding commitment to the agency and constituents during her tenure at BESB.   Mr. Sigman commended Ms. Haines for her outstanding leadership.  Ms. Haines is expected to retire on January 31, 2012. 

Vocational Rehabilitation is currently recruiting for a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor.  Mr. Sylvestre commended the vocational rehabilitation staff for the results in the number of competitive employment outcomes that increased from the prior year by more than 10 percent.

Health Insurance Costs – Former Industries Clients

Subsequent to the September board meeting, the agency received an additional subsidy reduction request from an individual who receives SSDI. Mr. Sigman gave an overview of this client’s income and expenses along with her request to pay $25.00 per month in health insurance premiums.  

Motion:  Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Stephen Thal and unanimously passed advising BESB to allow this individual to have a reduced insurance premium at the rate that she requested. 

Deputy Commissioner Beaulieu indicated that clients with limited financial resources may be eligible for other benefits through the Department of Social Services and she provided contact information to Mr. Sigman, who will follow up.

Independent Living Support Groups Update

Mr. Lassen reported that the facilitators of low vision support groups across the state have been contacted and the list has been updated and included in the 2012 BESB Program large print calendar.

Meeting Dates Proposal for 2012 for Action

A review of the 2012 meeting dates for the Advisory Board confirmed that Chairperson Sylvestre’s attendance at these meetings would not conflict with his scheduled dates to serve on a federal grand jury. 

Meeting dates for 2012

The Board meeting dates will remain as recorded:  March 15, June 14, September 13, and December 13, for 2012, all meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre opened the floor.  Ms. Akers inquired as to whether or not clerical staff would be increased now that BESB is part of a larger organization.  Mr. Sigman indicated that staffing needs and job functions are currently being reviewed across all of the programs and it is anticipated that certain support functions could be pooled to achieve greater efficiencies for the bureau.       

Mr. Norton will seek out clarification from the State Ethics Commission on whether or not the Advisory Board members would still need to complete a Statement of Financial Interests.  He did clarify that since the status of the board did not change to advisory until July 1, 2011, they would still be required to complete a financial report for this year. 

The new Secretary of the State attended the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut’s convention and she stated that she is aware of issues with accessible voting machines not working properly in all voting precincts.  A new law requires towns to test these machines to ensure they work before the polling locations open on Election Day.  Mr. Norton will try to access a copy of the manual that details the steps involved in setting up these machines. Ms. Woodward will inquire with the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut as to whether they may be able to assist in the orientation of poll workers to the proper functioning of these accessible voting machines.

Mr. Kronfeld stressed the issue of storm preparedness and safety. He believes there should be a statewide move towards trying to minimize power and telecommunications outages. Deputy Commissioner Beaulieu indicated that the Governor’s Two Storm Panel has been charged with making recommendations for improvement in all of these areas of concern related to the storms.

Adjournment

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Betty Woodward to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:00 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 15, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

 

 

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Bureau of Rehabilitative Services

BESB Program

Advisory Board Meeting Minutes with Motions

September 15, 2011

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:15 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Stephen Thal, Betty Woodward; Randa Utter, Roderick Bremby, Commissioner Department of Social Services (ex-officio)/Acting Director of BRS.

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Director of Education and Rehabilitation; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor, Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager  

Public Comment

None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Ms. Akers requested that the minutes of June 16, 2011 be amended to acknowledge that Senate Bill 939, “An Act Concerning Revisions to Elections Related Statutes” included a provision allowing voters with a permanent disability to be permanently registered for the purposes of absentee ballots, removing the need to re-apply as an absentee voter at every election.

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Stephen Thal and the Board unanimously adopted the June 16, 2011 Board meeting minutes as amended.

New Business

BRS Organizational Structure

Commissioner Bremby provided an overview of his background and experience in overseeing public service agencies. He commended the Board for their work in the past and encouraged the Board members to remain actively involved in their advisory role to the BESB Program and the Bureau. As the Acting Director of the Bureau, he expressed a commitment to ensuring the continuation of the highest level of direct service delivery to the clients by BESB. The Commissioner further expressed his full intention to seek the Board’s perspective and consider all of their guidance and recommendations.

Mr. Sigman reported that within the newly formed Bureau of Rehabilitative Services, BESB is now a program at an equal level to the other programs within the organization. The BESB Program continues to function with separate line item funding for direct services to individuals who are blind. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program at BESB is now a designated state unit instead of an agency, retaining a separate state plan and policies pertaining to the services to clients of the Bureau who are blind. Mr. Sigman is managing all of the units within the BESB Program.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman reported that all of the direct service accounts that formerly existed under BESB when it was a stand-alone agency still exist. All of these accounts were fully funded for this year, with no cuts to any of the programs. Vacant positions out of the Personal Services fund are not likely to be filled due to the fiscal situation in the state.  After the recent retirements of several staff, the BESB Program currently has 112 employees.  There is sufficient funding within the Vocational Rehabilitation grants to continue to serve all eligible clients throughout federal fiscal year 2012.

Role of the BESB Advisory Board

Commissioner Bremby reported that he looks forward to the involvement of the Board to ensure the quality and effectiveness of services provided. He also envisions that the Board will play a role in future budget development and proposals, working with him in his role as the Acting Director, and also with the new Bureau Director when that appointment occurs.  The Commissioner recognized the value of the Strategic Planning Committee and he encouraged this process to serve as a basis for the continued development and monitoring of goals and measures of success. Although the new statute has removed references to the Board setting policy and establishing benchmarks, the focus will still remain on best practice outcomes and strategies for providing high quality services.

Mr. Sigman stressed the importance of continuing to implement goals that demonstrate in a meaningful and measureable way how the BESB Program delivers effective services. Mr. Kronfeld reflected on the past history that resulted in a legislative change some years ago that gave the Board policy setting and performance measure authority. Mr. Kronfeld expressed concern that an advisory capacity may not be sufficient to ensure the continuous improvement of the organization. Dr. Kuell suggested that this was a matter that would be better addressed with members of the Legislature, where the role of the Board was recently changed in law to an advisory role.  Chairman Sylvestre stated that while the structure has changed, the staff of BESB remain and it is incumbent on the Board to move forward.    

Benchmarks, Strategic Plan Initiatives

Each of the Program Supervisors provided an update to the Board on their division’s progress toward achieving the established benchmarks. The update report is posted on the BESB website (www.ct.gov/besb) and can be read in the BESB Performance Benchmark Updates and Board's Annual Report  section. Additionally, a report was provided by each Supervisor on their division’s strategic plan goal and progress to date. This report is available in the BESB Strategic Plan  section of the website.

Health Insurance Costs – Former Industries Clients

By statute, clients who were placed at the former BESB Industries Program may receive state employee state health insurance.  Mr. Sigman reported that when a concession agreement was reached between the state employee unions and former Governor Rell in 2009, part of the agreement included an increase in the employee share of the monthly premium co-payment, going from approximately $16.00 monthly on average to approximately $60.00.  As many of the former Industries clients were unable to afford this increase, the agency sought legislative authority to retain a reduced premium copayment option for those clients who experience financial hardships. Through the regulatory process, the Legislature passed such a change in the recent legislative session. Mr. Owens reviewed with the Board the circumstances of twelve individuals whose financial situations would cause a severe hardship if they were expected to pay the full monthly insurance premium, and he also indicated the level of payment that each individual indicated they could afford. Dr. Kuell made a motion, second by Ms. Boisvert that BESB continue to provide these individuals with reduced premiums at the rate they each indicated they could afford to pay. The motion passed unanimously.

Independent Living Support Groups Update

Mr. Lassen indicated that he is in the process of contacting each of the support groups to confirm their contact information and meeting times for inclusion in the 2012 large print calendar that will be printed in the near future. The full list of support groups is available on the BESB website (www.ct.gov/besb).

Meeting dates for 2012

The Board motioned and unanimously voted to accept meeting dates of March 15,  June 14, September 13, and December 13, for 2012, all meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre opened the floor.  Mr. Thal expressed concern that medical staff need to be more sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities. Training will be provided to the Connecticut Nurses Association on how to appropriately interact with persons with disabilities.  Mr. Thal filed a complaint with the Secretary of the State’s office based on a recent experience at a polling location that was unprepared for a person who is blind to cast a vote independently. Mr. Thal reported that the Vote-By-Phone machine was not operational and he waited for over an hour for service on the machine to occur before he could cast a vote independently.  

Chairman Sylvestre expressed gratitude to Commissioner Bremby for attending this meeting as well as his commitment to BESB and the blind community.

Adjournment

Ms. Akers made a motion, seconded by Ms. Utter to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:31 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for December 8, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Lisa Tanguay at (860) 602-4160. 

 

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Bureau of Rehabilitative Services

BESB Program

Advisory Board Meeting Motions

September 15, 2011

  

 Adoption of Minutes

Ms. Akers requested that the minutes of June 16, 2011 be amended to acknowledge that Senate Bill 939, “An Act Concerning Revisions to Elections Related Statutes” included a provision allowing voters with a permanent disability to be permanently registered for the purposes of absentee ballots, removing the need to re-apply as an absentee voter at every election.

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Stephen Thal and the Board unanimously adopted the June 16, 2011 Board meeting minutes as amended.

Health Insurance Costs – Former Industries Clients

By statute, clients who were placed at the former BESB Industries Program may receive state employee state health insurance.  Mr. Sigman reported that when a concession agreement was reached between the state employee unions and former Governor Rell in 2009, part of the agreement included an increase in the employee share of the monthly premium co-payment, going from approximately $16.00 monthly on average to approximately $60.00.  As many of the former Industries clients were unable to afford this increase, the agency sought legislative authority to retain a reduced premium copayment option for those clients who experience financial hardships. Through the regulatory process, the Legislature passed such a change in the recent legislative session. Mr. Owens reviewed with the Board the circumstances of twelve individuals whose financial situations would cause a severe hardship if they were expected to pay the full monthly insurance premium, and he also indicated the level of payment that each individual indicated they could afford. Dr. Kuell made a motion, second by Ms. Boisvert that BESB continue to provide these individuals with reduced premiums at the rate they each indicated they could afford to pay. The motion passed unanimously.

Meeting dates for 2012

The Board motioned and unanimously voted to accept meeting dates of March 15,  June 14, September 13, and December 13, for 2012, all meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Adjournment

Ms. Akers made a motion, seconded by Ms. Utter to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:31 p.m. 

 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

June 16, 2011

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:20 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Stephen Thal, Randa Utter

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner; Betty Woodward

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Acting Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager, Keith Maynard, Business Enterprises Program Manager, Lisa Tanguay, Office Supervisor

Public Comment

None

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Patrick Johnson and the Board unanimously adopted the March 17, 2011 Board meeting minutes.  

New Business

Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan

Mr. Sigman reported on the law that recently passed, creating a new Bureau of Rehabilitative Services, effective July 1, 2011 that includes the programs presently administered by BESB. The new bureau will have a director who is appointed by the Governor. The director will determine the organizational structure of the new bureau.  It is not known at this time if the current Vocational Rehabilitation Programs at BESB and the current BRS will remain as separate units or if they will be combined in the new organization. There is separate line item funding for BESB’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program in the budget for fiscal years 2012-2013. Rehabilitation Services Administration has granted an extension until August for the submission of the State Plan(s) for Vocational Rehabilitation so that time will be available for the new structure to be put in place. While BESB will no longer be a designated state agency for the blind in the new structure, it is possible that BESB’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program could be a designated state unit in the new organization. If that occurs, then BESB would be submitting a separate State Plan with specific goals for providing services to individuals who are blind.

Eileen Akers requested that clarification be added to the draft comprehensive needs assessment State Plan document regarding the use of terminology that refers to visual impairment instead of legal blindness. Mr. Sigman will modify the draft to include this clarification.

On a motion made by Patrick Johnson, seconded by Randa Utter, permission was unanimously granted to proceed to place a notice for a public hearing and for the date to be determined as the transition to the new organizational structure is established.

Mr. Sigman reported that the manner in which the law is written, the new director of BRS will take over the functions currently conducted by the Executive Director of BESB.  The BESB Board’s statutory authority as a policy setting board has been replaced with an advisory role. Programs being transferred into the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services will consist of BESB, the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, the counselors that perform vocational rehabilitation functions at the Workers Compensation Commission, and instructors from the Department of Motor Vehicles who train people with disabilities to drive adapted vehicles.  Letters have been given to all current BESB staff notifying them of their transfer to the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services effective July 1, 2011. Mr. Sigman has been attending weekly transition meetings with representatives from the agencies that will be consolidated into the new bureau or will be supporting the functions of the bureau. 

Benchmark Committee Update

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell acknowledged the BESB managers and program supervisors for their efforts during the last few years and appreciated their commitment towards people who are blind and their cooperative efforts which elevated services.  Dr. Kuell also expressed the same sentiment to Mr. Sigman for his leadership as Executive Director of BESB and for making BESB the best it can be.  It saddened Dr. Kuell deeply to see consolidation occurring. 

Dr. Kuell expressed concerns about the BEP program, whereas in 2003, the BESB Monitoring Council set a benchmark to expand the program.  With the economic downturn and a change in the Coca-Cola contract, the benchmark had to be adjusted downward to reflect the economic and funding realities. He was concerned when it was announced that Mr. Maynard had returned to that division given the decline in program funds.

 

Mr. Sigman explained that Mr. Maynard had a leave of absence from his classified state position as Manager of the Business Enterprise Program when he accepted appointment as the Deputy Executive Director of BESB.  When that appointment ended, Mr. Maynard returned to the position that he had previously held. Mr. Sigman further clarified that although the program income has not been keeping pace with expenditures, with the carry forward of funds, current projections indicate sufficient funding for anticipated expenses, including current staffing levels in fiscal year 2012. 

Dr. Kuell stated that funds acquired for the Business Enterprise Program should be used first and foremost for the creation of jobs at vending facilities for people who are blind.

Mr. Sylvestre suggested to the Board members that if they are interested in continuing to serve as a Board member, they should express interest in such by writing to their appointing authority.  There will still be opportunities for this board to have input as an Advisory Board.  There are other venues by which all state agencies have some accountabilities for measurable results and he hopes the Board members will remain involved in the process of advising the new bureau on how to improve upon the delivery of services to people who are blind.

Legislative and Regulations Update

Mr. Norton reported on the following bills that passed:

H.B. 5008 – An Act Concerning the Quarantine of Biting Guide Dogs -  This allows guide dogs for the blind to avoid quarantine (2 weeks) after a bite if certain precautions – veterinary care, rabies vaccination and keeping the dog under the owner’s control – are taken by the owner.    

S.B. 939 – An Act concerning Revisions to Elections Related Statutes – Section 37 tells Registrars of Voters to make sure that all ballot procedures, including those for people with disabilities are in working order at least one hour before the polls open.  Section 41 allows a candidate to assist a voter who is disabled with their voting if the candidate is a member of that voter’s immediate family.  The section also deletes a reference to giving paper ballots to voters with disabilities when the machine is not accessible since voting machines are not used anymore.  The section also includes a provision allowing voters with a permanent disability to be permanently registered for the purposes of absentee ballots, removing the need to re-apply as an absentee voter at every election.

H.B. 6259 – An Act Concerning a State Identification Card Fee Waiver for Blind Veterans – Allows the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles to waive the $22.50 fee for non-driver Identification cards for veterans who are blind.

Benchmarks Update and Program Highlights

Each of the Program Supervisors provided an update to the board on their division’s progress toward achieving the established benchmarks. The update report is posted on the BESB website (www.ct.gov/besb) and can be read in the BESB Performance Benchmark Updates and Board's Annual Report section.

Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders and Outreach Activities

Mr. Lassen reported that Adult Services staff have provided presentations at five support groups during the past quarter and that he has been in touch with all the support group leaders in the last quarter of 2010 and will continue to be available for presentations on an on-going basis. 

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman stated that the budget for the new BRS has separate line items for each of the programs presently administered by BESB and all of the accounts were fully funded at their FY2011 levels.  Funding for BESB staff also transfers into the new BRS. In regards to Vocational Rehabilitation, current projections indicate that the program can continue to serve all eligible clients through the end of September 30, 2012 if there remains a separate Vocational Rehabilitation unit for individuals who are blind.

Mr. Maynard reported on a proposed change in the Income Incentive policy that was endorsed by the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors at their meeting on June 14, 2011. The current policy does not include any reference to the operator seeking to advance into better paying locations when they become available. As a result, it is possible for an existing BEP operator to remain on the Income Incentive Program indefinitely, with no expectation of seeking career advancement into locations that would not need to be subsidized. The Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors supports a modification to the policy that would require a facility operator who participates in the Income Incentive Program to apply for the promotion and transfer list and accept promotional opportunities that were in reasonable distance of their current facility, provided that they had the training necessary to operate the new location and that the new facility was accessible by public transportation. If an operator refused a promotion that met these criteria, they would no longer be eligible to receive an incentive payment for their present facility. The Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors further endorsed a clarification that the calculation of the income eligible for the agency matching funds should only be based on the weeks that the facility is open for business.

MOTION: Randa Utter made a motion, seconded by Dr. Kuell to move forward with the framework of this policy modification.  Voting resulted in one yes and five abstentions. 

 Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre opened the floor.  Mr. Sigman was pleased to announce that Governor Malloy declared the month of June as Deafblind Awareness Month.  The agency is having a display at the State Capitol in the concourse. 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee of Congress released over the course of this past week a working draft document for reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, including a draft for Title IV (the Rehabilitation Act). These drafts are being circulated for initial reaction and comment. It is not known at this time if this working draft will proceed into a bill that will be voted on in Congress this year. 

Chairman Sylvestre acknowledged Mr. Sigman for his commitment and leadership and his best interest to the blind community and expressed interest in continuing to serve on the new advisory Board and reminded Board members it was incumbent upon them to advise their appointing authorities of their interest to continue serving going forward.  Chairman Sylvestre further acknowledged BESB staff for their dedication.

Adjournment

Eileen made a motion, seconded by Dr. Kuell to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for September 15, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. 

For More Information

Please telephone Lisa Tanguay at (860) 602-4160. 

 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

March 17, 2011

  

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:03 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Betty Woodward; Randa Utter

Members Absent

Stephen Thal; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Acting Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager  

Public Comment

None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the December 9, 2010 Board meeting minutes.  

New Business

Guest Speaker

Ms. Peggy Reeves, Assistant to the Secretary of the State for Election, Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs is a new appointee of Secretary of State Denise Merrill.  She acknowledged the difficulties with the current vote-by-phone voting machines and talked about some alternatives that are presently under consideration that would not segregate ballots.  The Secretary of State’s Office has the potential of obtaining $2 million in federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds if $60,000 in state matching dollars can be found.  Ms. Reeves thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak before them and provided contact information.

Benchmark Committee Update

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell reported that the committee has no new information to report on at this time.

Legislative and Regulations Update

Mr. Norton updated the Board on the status of the three proposed BESB regulations that were taken up by the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee on February 22, 2011.  The two BEP proposed regulations - (1) to align the regulations with agency policy and practice regarding co-payments for clients who receive health insurance and (2) to address the Income Incentive Program for vending facility operators - have both been approved.  The third proposal to update the Children’s Services regulations to conform to current state statutes was sent back by the legislative committee with substantive and technical errors noted.  The errors have been corrected and the proposal was resubmitted this week to the Attorney General for review.  Upon his approval, the proposal will be resubmitted to the Regulation Review Committee for their final approval.

Mr. Norton addressed two major bills in the legislature that affect BESB, and one other bill of relevance –

HB 6380 - An Act Concerning the Budget for the Biennium Ending June 30, 2013 - This is the budget bill. It would move parts of BESB to two different state agencies – the Department of Education and the Department of Social Services.  The bill proposes to save roughly $400,000 by eliminating central office positions.  This bill awaits action by the Appropriations Committee.  The deadline for the Appropriations Committee to take final action is April 26, 2011. 

SB 1012 - An Act Implementing the Governor’s Budget Recommendations Concerning the Transfer of Functions from the Board of Education and Services for the Blind and the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired to the Departments of Education and Social Services -  This bill implements the Governor’s budget recommendations outlined in HB6380.  It establishes the Department of Education and the Department of Social Services as successor agencies to BESB.  It would also change the BESB board into an advisory body. The bill is currently in the Human Services Committee.  This bill awaits action by the Committee.  The Human Services Committee deadline is March 24, 2011.

HB 5008 – An Act Concerning the Quarantine of Biting Guide Dogs.  

This bill would treat guide dogs in the same way that police dogs are currently treated in statute.  The bill would allow a guide dog to avoid quarantine even if it bites someone as long as the dog has been inoculated, is under regular veterinary care and is under the direct control of its owner.  This bill is in the Environment Committee awaiting final action by the Committee.

Proposed Small Business Policy Revisions for Voc Rehab for Action

Mr. Sigman updated the Board on the status of the proposed BESB policy modification that was presented at a public hearing held on January 19, 2011.  There were no comments from the public.  A motion was made by Chris Kuell and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to accept the VR Policy Revision for Self-employment and Small Business, effective April 1, 2011. This motion passed unanimously. 

Benchmarks Update and Program Highlights

Each of the Program Supervisors provided an update to the board on their division’s progress toward achieving the established benchmarks. The update report is posted on the BESB website (www.ct.gov/besb) and can be read in the BESB Performance Benchmark Updates and Board's Annual Report section.

Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders and Outreach Activities

Mr. Lassen noted that all of the 28 support group leaders has been contacted in the past three months, as he continues to monitor the status of each group and offer assistance from BESB field staff as speakers and resource persons.  Of the 29 support groups contacted (one facilitator leads two groups), all but two are still active and two new groups are beginning (in Shelton and, statewide, for deafblind clients).

In the three months since the last update, AS staff presented programs at the low vision support group in Southbury, conducted outreach in presentations to seniors and/or staff at four senior centers (North Stonington, Hamden, Wallingford, and Allingtown-West Haven) and two retirement facilities (in Plantsville-Southington and Brooklyn), spoke at the monthly dinner (in Montville) of the South East Connecticut Community Center of the Blind, presented two trainings on working with low-vision clients (at the Bradley Home in Meriden and to newly-hired transition coordinators for the Money Follows the Person program), and trained new bus drivers in New Haven and in Hartford.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman reported that the Vocational Rehabilitation Program is projecting the capacity to serve all eligible clients through Federal Fiscal Year 2012, although the margin of available funding is very slim. In the Older Blind Grant, there is $40,000 in ARRA funding remaining. Between the policy change for low vision services and utilization of the centralized model in Adult Services, the volume of purchased services has slowed down to a more manageable level. In Children Services, a projected $1.3 million will be available at the end of year to pay towns that hire or contract for their own teachers of the visually impaired.  In Business Enterprises, the program is projecting to end this fiscal year with a modest balance in their budget, but next fiscal year projects to be very challenging for that program to meet expenses.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre opened the floor.  Ms. Woodward will be attending an Election Development Advisory Group meeting and asked the board if they had any comments to please submit them to her so she could address them to the group in May.  Ms. Gillispie announced the passing of previous Board Member Shirley Phelon.  The Board offered their condolences to her family.

Adjournment

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Randa Utter to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 11:50 a.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for June 16, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

December 9, 2010

   

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:04 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert; Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld;

Stephen Thal; Randa Utter; Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor.

Public Comment

Beth Rival, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut distributed a proposal to change a sentence in Connecticut General Statute, Section 22-358 that pertains to the quarantining of animals that bite humans. She requested that the Board support a modification to the statute that would exempt guide dogs from mandatory quarantine, extending the same consideration that currently exists in statute for police dogs.  Ms. Rival explained that her guide dog was quarantined to her home for two weeks without an investigation occurring because a delivery person who entered her fenced-in yard claimed the dog had bitten him. Since the current law requires mandatory quarantining except for police dogs, her guide dog did not work for two weeks, thus affecting Ms. Rival’s independence and the guide dog’s training.  Chairman Sylvestre clarified to the Board that this proposed change does not relieve any other statutory obligations, such as requiring proof of rabies vaccination or the conducting of an investigation, but rather it would remove the mandatory quarantining requirement that presently exists.

A motion was made by Patrick Johnson and seconded by Randa Utter to support the language that has been provided.  The motion passed, with one opposed and two abstentions.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Mr. Thal requested in the Draft September 16, 2010 Board Meeting minutes under the Others Present section, second paragraph to read:  Chairman Sylvestre welcomed Stephen Thal as a new Board member, appointed by the House Majority Leader “Denise Merrill.” Also under the Mobility Caseload Proposals, second paragraph to read “Based on a 50 point system, instructions in Children Services would have an optimal caseload of approximately “30 students” (instead of 60 to 65 students.  The Board unanimously adopted the September 16, 2010 Board meeting minutes with these amendments.  

The Board unanimously accepted the Benchmark Committee Minutes from November 30, 2010. 

New Business

Benchmarks Committee Update for Action

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell updated the Board on the November 30, 2010 committee meeting that reviewed and discussed the future of the benchmarks.  He would like to add new members to the committee after the composition of the board is in place in the new year. The committee will then renew the process of establishing benchmarks for each division. Mr. Thal remarked on the document created by Lauren Caye on the History of the Benchmarks and pointed out that 99% of the agency’s benchmarks were all met.  He complimented everyone in the agency and asked that this be recorded in the minutes. 

A motion to have this recorded in the minutes was made by Dr. Chris Kuell and seconded by Jay Kronfeld.  The motion passed. 

Legislative and Regulations Update – Subjects of November 9, 2010 Public Hearing:  Proposed BESB Regulations - Children’s Services; BEP Provision of Health Insurance, BEP Income Incentive Program for Vending Facility Operators

Mr. Norton updated the Board on the status of the three proposed BESB regulations that were presented at a public hearing held on November 9, 2010.  One section of the proposed regulations concerns Children’s Services and the other two pertain to the Business Enterprise Program (BEP).  The Children's Services regulations are being updated to conform with current state statute and agency policy. For the Business Enterprise Program, one proposed change would align the regulations with agency policy and practice regarding co-payments for clients who receive health insurance from that program.  Also, the Board would be able to take into account financial hardship in the case of some of those clients. The second BEP proposal addresses the Income Incentive Program for vending facility operators.  The system for making payments will be streamlined and the payments will be structured to serve as an incentive to low-earning operators to increase their business earnings. Mr. Norton reported that he made some minor, technical clarifications to the proposals based on preliminary discussions with the Attorney General’s office.  The regulations are now with the Attorney General who is reviewing them to make sure they comport with all relevant legal requirements.

Mr. Sigman reported that there were no comments at the public hearing but there was a suggestion to clarify the wording in one part of the “Statement of Purpose” section of the proposal and that change was made.  Mr. Norton said that once the regulations are approved by the Attorney General’s office they are then sent to the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee for approval.

Mr. Norton reported on the latest Ethics Advisory Opinion issued by the Office of State Ethics (OSE) regarding the Board of Education and Services for the Blind.  Previously, the OSE had declared that BESB Board members are “public officials’ under the law and are therefore subject to Connecticut’s ethic laws.  They held that the members of the Deafblind Advisory Committee, the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors, the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) and the Agency Consumer Advisory Committee (ACAC) are not public officials since their work is more advisory in nature. The OSE subsequently held that it was permissible for BESB Board members (and BESB employees) to receive BESB services.  Their status as public officials of the agency does not preclude them from being BESB clients since they do not play an operational role in deciding on specific and individual eligibility issues.  However, they must be sure not to use their position to influence the services or equipment that they do receive from the agency. The final question BESB had put to the OSE concerned the ability of Board members to take part in decisions and votes that may affect them as clients or benefit them personally.  Mr. Norton reported that the OSE held that BESB Board members can take part in a decision that may pose a “substantial conflict of interest” if the action would benefit a larger class of persons, such as all Vocational Rehabilitation clients (approximately 1,000 people). However, a board member could not participate in a decision if he or she is a member of a small class of persons, such as all vending stand operators (approximately 45 people).  The OSE opinion also clarified another section of the ethics laws, creating a second consideration.  If a person is a member of a “regulatory” body, they must take care when presented with a “potential conflict of interest,” which is different from the “substantial conflict of interest” mentioned above. The OSE found that BESB Board members are members of a regulatory agency because of the authority they have to set policy for the agency. In the case of a “potential conflict of interest” (which means the possibility of financial or material gain of $100 or more), a Board member must either 1) recuse himself or herself from any action or vote or 2) write a letter to the OSE, in advance, outlining why they can vote, notwithstanding the conflict. Mr. Norton gave examples of situations where a member might still vote even when he or she has a conflict.  Mr. Norton did point out that a potential conflict is not merely any hypothetical benefit that could accrue to the Board member because of a broad change in policy, but rather is a situation where the Board member would in fact personally benefit in the present or near future, or a situation where there is a great likelihood that the Board member would benefit (to a value of $100 or more) in the present or near future.  For example, if a Board member is to vote on a policy affecting applicants for Small Business grants from the Vocational Rehabilitation division, there is no conflict if the Board member is not making such an application and does not plan to in the near future.

Ms. Akers asked for the definition of recusal, in particular asking if one can still speak on a matter even when they are planning to abstain from voting.  Mr. Norton said that one should abstain from all involvement when a vote is forthcoming.  However, in general, he said that a Board member can make comments or pose questions on matters, outside of a voting situation.

Proposed Small Business Policy Revision for Voc Rehab

Mr. David Gregoire, Chairperson of the State Rehabilitation Council presented to the board a proposed change to the Vocational Rehabilitation policies governing funding for self-employment and small business ventures. Mr. Gregoire explained that the current policy is very old and that the Business Advisory Committee, of which he is a member, has found that there are areas where the current policy is not addressing situations that have come before them, such as requests for large sums of funding for turn-key operations. Mr. Gregoire explained that proposed changes to the policy add clarity to the format and content of the business plan that a client would need to submit to request funding, and also added a graduated scale of client participation in the cost of the business venture, based on the level of funding being requested.  Mr. Thal asked if business owners are required to carry insurance and are there provisions to ensure the business follows the ADA and OSHA requirements.  Mr. Gregoire said that the client would be responsible for ensuring that their business met these requirements. Mr. Gregoire said that the requirement for the client to have liability insurance could be added to the draft policy if the board desired.  Ms. Akers asked if a client can come back with a revised business plan if the initial submission is rejected. Mr. Gregoire said it is their right to come back.  Dr. Kuell liked the way the proposed policy revision was drafted and felt it would provide self-employment opportunities for clients.

Dr. Chris Kuell made a motion and seconded by Betty Woodward to incorporate a provision for liability insurance coverage by the client and to then accept the proposed policy update as written, with this amendment included.  The motion passed.

Mr. Sigman said the next step in the process would be a public hearing.

Annual Report for Action

Chairman Sylvestre thanked the committee for the report and when approved, he will transmit the report.  Eileen Akers made a motion and seconded by Stephen Thal to approve the Annual Report to the Governor and General Assembly January 1, 2011.  The motion passed.

Board Member Appointments

Chairman Sylvestre reminded the board there are five appointments that expire in 2011, three appointed by the Governor, one by the Senate President Pro Tempore, and one by the Senate Minority Leader.  He asked board members who are interested in seeking reappointment to contact their appointing authority to express interest. Chairman Sylvestre complimented the board members on their collective efforts and encouraged those members whose terms are expiring to give full consideration to seeking reappointment. 

Accessible Voting

Mr. Sigman reported that at the recent statewide convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Connecticut, numerous concerns were presented regarding accessible voting machines not being operational in a number of locations. Other issues regarding voter privacy were also expressed. The Secretary of State’s Office did add a new component to the recent election, requiring that all ballots cast by the vote-by-phone system first be placed into a sealed envelope prior to being placed in the collection slot on the side of the optical scanning machine. In a meeting that Mr. Sigman recently had with the Deputy Secretary of State, he expressed the interest for representation by a member of the blind community in the competitive bid committee for any future accessible voting machine. Mr. Sigman was told that that such representation would be possible. Dr. Kuell related a phone conversation where he was informed that his ballot had been viewed by someone other than the assigned ballot counter, and was therefore not a private ballot. Mr. Kronfeld remarked that work still needed to be done on this important matter and would like to invite the Secretary of the State to one of the Board meetings.

Mr. Thal recommended that the Chairman of the Board or the Executive Director of BESB (or both) outline these concerns to the new Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.  Mr. Gregoire said that the  State Rehabilitation Council would also be interested in this issue. Chairman Sylvestre will contact the incoming Secretary of State to invite her to the March 17, 2011 Board meeting to discuss accessible voting. 

Benchmarks Update and Program Highlights

This report is posted on the BESB website and can be read in the BESB Performance Benchmark Updates and Board's Annual Report section.

Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders

Mr. Lassen noted that every one of the 28 support group leaders has been contacted in the past three months, as he continues to monitor the status of each group and offer assistance from BESB field staff as speakers and resource persons.  Of the 29 support groups contacted (one facilitator leads two groups), all but two are still active and two new groups are beginning (in Shelton and, statewide, for deafblind clients). 

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman stated that the agency has received the additional ARRA funding through a transfer from the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services and the funds are being utilized primarily for paid internships and job opportunities for clients. He recently met with representatives from the Comptroller’s Office on indirect cost rates. The current rate of 14.55 percent will expire in June, 2011 and the projected new rate could go as high as 20 percent.  He will keep the Board informed on the status of this proposal and the potential impact it would have on the federal programs at BESB. The current Governor has provided her proposed budget for the incoming Governor’s consideration. It includes inflationary increases for BESB programs and maintains the agency as a separate entity. 

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre opened the floor. Ms. Akers asked if any Board members knew of a Commission on the Consolidation of Agencies.  Ms. Caye said there is a transition website created by the incoming Governor where she recalled seeing information about possible agency consolidations and she will provide this website address to the board members.  Mr. Sigman thanked the board for what they have done for BESB in elevating the voice of the blind community and taking on difficult and challenging topics such as policy-making. Chairman Sylvestre thanked Mr. Sigman for his support of the board and said that BESB is moving in a positive direction.   

Adjournment

Betty Woodward made a motion, seconded by Dr. Chris Kuell to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 17, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

 

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 Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting  

November 30, 2010

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:14 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre; Stephen Thal

Members Absent

Carol Gillispie

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Nancy Mothersele, Braille Coordinator;  Tracy Morin, Vending Supervisor; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Old Business

a. Review all benchmarks


Adult Services Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell asked Chris Lassen, Supervisor of Adult Services to present the benchmark currently in place.

1. BESB shall report annually to the Board of Directors on Agency Outreach Efforts to the Medical community and the Public Regarding BESB Services.

Mr. Lassen stated that he will give a full reporting at the upcoming board meeting on the achievement of this benchmark.

Mr. Kronfeld would like to reestablish the benchmark for contacting clients within 15 days of the referral. Mr. Lassen indicated that this measure is still in place as a “best practice” through the agency strategic planning initiative and the outcomes will be reported to the board.

Ms. Akers asked about the timeliness of providing services subsequent to the initial contact with the client. Mr. Lassen indicated that the shortage of rehabilitation teaching staff has made it difficult to sustain a best practice for service provision. Ms. Akers would like to know the time frame from the initial contact to the client evaluation, and also the time from initial evaluation to the initiation of services. Mr. Sigman clarified that often, the evaluation meeting does include the provision of services, so those two dates may be the same.

Mr. Lassen stated that he can bring to the next Benchmark Committee meeting this data for the mobility staff and the social workers but feels that the data for the rehabilitation teachers should be deferred until at least April of 2011, after a new staff member has been hired and trained.

Mr. Thal asked if the addition of a new rehabilitation teacher would bring that service to full staffing. Mr. Lassen indicated that it would bring this category up to full staffing, but there is still one Special Assistant who is on leave, and this is impacting the field staff who are blind being able to get into the field.

Dr. Kuell expressed concern about the computer group training model that was not successful. Dr. Kuell would like for BESB to revisit the idea of providing computer training from a different approach, since it is not feasible to provide individualized training with the existing staffing levels.

Business Enterprises Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell asked Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Supervisor to present the benchmarks currently in place.

1. BESB will annually Prepare and Publicize Detailed Financial and Budgetary Information on the BEP Program in a User Friendly Format for BESB Consumers and the General Public.

2. Two in-service trainings shall be provided annually to the BEP Facility Managers.  Training topics to be selected with the active participation of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

Mr. Thal asked if BEP facility managers are trained about the ADA laws for service animals. Mr. Owens said it is on the agenda for the next meeting of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors. Mr. Thal asked if there has been training on strategies for how facility operators can be more successful in a difficult economy. Mr. Owens said that it has occurred on an individual basis with the Field Representatives reviewing and monitoring facility performance and offering assistance to operators. Mr. Owens is in the process of preparing the federal report and will see if the sales figures have been impacted by the economy. Mr. Thal asked if restaurant associations could assist with providing training to the operators or attract more clients to enter BEP. Mr. Owens indicated that there is a restaurant association in this state and he could explore that option.

Mr. Kronfeld asked to see a comparison of earnings by facility for the past three years to help determine if there needs to be additional training in particular areas. Dr. Kuell felt that the data would illustrate the impact of the recession on these businesses. Mr. Kronfeld wants to be sure that the BEP facility managers have the best possible training to help them achieve optimal performance in the difficult economy. Mr. Maynard indicated that since the businesses are all run independently by the clients, BESB can recommend ways to improve the facility, but ultimately decisions are up to the facility manager.

Ms. Akers asked if all of the facilities are currently staffed by people who are blind. Mr. Owens stated that presently there are 45 operators and 46 locations. Mr. Thal asked if this is less than in prior years and Mr. Owens confirmed that several facilities had been closed in recent years, often due to the lack of a viable income at the locations. Mr. Sylvestre asked about a particular location and Mr. Owens stated that due to competition from other local restaurants, the sales had dropped so much that it would not have been profitable to place anyone else at this location.

Dr. Kuell asked that Mr. Owens bring to the next benchmarks meeting an overview of the financial performance of the vending facilities in general.

Children’s Services Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell asked Jeanette Haines, Supervisor of Children’s Services to present the benchmarks currently in place.

1.   Based upon the average caseload point value in effect on July 1, 2011, the agency will reduce average point value by at least 10% per year, until achieving and maintaining 25 points.

2.   BESB will offer at least two Parent Education events per year, actively publicizing and encouraging attendance.

3.   Children’s Services will twice annually publish and disseminate a newsletter for parents.

4.   To increase access to the Expanded Core Curriculum for BESB-eligible children, Children’s Services will offer at least 3 student events annually.

Mr. Thal asked if the parent attendance levels at the BESB events had been declining. Ms. Haines said that it was, and to adjust for this trend, the agency is now pairing parent events with children’s events so that parents can attend one session while their children attend a different event at the same location.

Ms. Haines says that doing smaller, more focused events, such as an event for preschoolers and their parents, rather than trying to provide a larger training on broad topics draws better attendance.

Mr. Thal asked if the Transition School-to-Work booklet is still being used. Ms. Haines will ask Transition Coordinator Barry Rita about this. It may be out of date.

Ms. Akers asked if there was language added to the draft Children’s Services regulations that would permit situations where an Itinerant Teacher could serve a BESB student out-placed to a town served by an Itinerant Teacher. Ms. Haines said that such language is in the draft regulations.

Ms. Akers asked if there was any consideration of video taping the parent events. Ms. Haines indicated that some participants had objected in the past to being video taped and that in general, the types of events presented to the parents would not convey well in a video taped version. Ms. Akers feels that pod casts are becoming more popular and that the agency should consider this approach. Ms. Akers also asked about the geographic locations of the trainings and Ms. Haines noted that the programs are occurring throughout the state. Dr. Kuell asked if the parent organization was active in this state. Ms. Haines said not at present but there are some parents of preschoolers who are potentially interested in starting this up again. Ms. Haines also indicated that there is a group of parents who are very involved in the Student Advisory Council that BESB organized.

Ms. Haines expressed concern about the benchmark for adding more teachers, given the fiscal situation. Dr. Kuell agreed that it may become necessary to reconsider that benchmark.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Benchmarks

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor presented the benchmarks currently in place.

1.   Starting January 1, 2010, provide a group Job Seeking Skills class twice a year, focusing on skills such as networking, interviewing skills, and resume writing, culminating in attendance at a job fair.

2.   With a goal of increasing employment outcomes, starting January 1, 2010 all VR Counselors will increase community outreach activities focusing on employment, referrals, minorities and community rehabilitation providers, with a minimum of two hours a week on these activities using the new marketing materials for the division.

3.   Starting January 1, 2010 all VR field staff will participate in 2 trainings a year, with a focus on Assistive Technology or Job Development.

4. For every VR school aged client there shall be at least one annual contact between the counselor and the client (with their guardian).  Contact will increase to at least twice during the last scheduled year of school.

Ms. Burgard indicated that the benchmarks are all important and relevant, but there has been difficulty in initiating and tracking the benchmark for the school-aged clients. There is no specific report to generate this data in the case management system and it is necessary to individually look up every client’s case notes in order to track this particular benchmark.

Mr. Thal asked about what age can children be referred to Vocational Rehabilitation. Ms. Burgard stated as early as age 14. Ms. Burgard said that there had been a lot of clients referred at that age, but their parents did not want a referral to occur, so it was then necessary to close out the cases. Ms. Burgard also indicated that June is a heavy month for new referrals from teachers of the visually impaired, just prior to the end of the school year, further impacting on the tracking for the benchmark reporting.

Ms. Akers asked if the benchmark regarding job seeking skills classes includes high school students. Ms. Burgard stated that these classes are not specific to students although they are invited to participate. The counselors invite clients from their caseloads to attend these classes. 

Ms. Akers asked if there was a positive effect in terms of job outcomes due to the job seeking skills classes. Ms. Burgard said that it is difficult to say if the jobs obtained by clients were a result of these classes. Ms. Burgard felt that counselors with higher levels of outreach to employers have the greater numbers of employment outcomes.

Ms. Akers asked if the counselors and community rehabilitation providers provide counseling regarding realistic expectations for the types of jobs available. Ms. Burgard indicated that this is done by the BESB vocational rehabilitation counselors and not by the community rehabilitation providers. Ms. Burgard said that the community rehabilitation providers are not finding many jobs for the clients referred by BESB.

Adding and Retiring Committee Members

Dr. Kuell stated that this would be a topic for the full board to discuss.

Next Meeting Date

The committee set the next meeting date for March 28, 2011 at 1:00 p.m. at BESB.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre and seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:46 a.m.

 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

September 16, 2010

   

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert; Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld;

Stephen Thal

Members Absent

Randa Utter; Betty Woodward; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; John Waiculonis, Orientation and Mobility Instructor, Jessica Eichfeld, Orientation and Mobility Instructor.

Chairman Sylvestre welcomed Stephen Thal as a new Board member, appointed by the House Majority leader Denise Merrill. 

Public Comment

None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the June 17, 2010 Board meeting minutes.  The Board unanimously accepted the Benchmark Committee Minutes from July 27, 2010. 

New Business

Proposed Meeting Dates for 2011

The Board motioned and unanimously voted to accept board meeting dates of March 17,  June 16, September 15, and December 8, for 2011, all meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m. 

Benchmarks Committee Update for Action

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell updated the Board on the July 27, 2010 committee meeting.  A meeting has been scheduled for November 30, 2010 to review and formulate new benchmarks.  The Chairman welcomed board members to join.  A full board vote was needed to retire certain benchmarks and to modify the language of one benchmark recommended by the committee for retention. 

Adult Services (AS) Benchmarks

1.   July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of 3 (three) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state.

Dr. Chris Kuell made a motion to retire AS Benchmark #1 and it was seconded by Jay Kronfeld.  The motion passed.

2. By January 1, 2010, BESB shall produce a baseline

measurement for client satisfaction and functional gains in the delivery of independent living services.

Dr. Chris Kuell made a motion to retire AS Benchmark #2 and it was seconded by Stephen Thal.  The motion passed.

3. To increase the available pool of volunteers for clients awaiting a match by increasing outreach efforts:

a) Participate in at least two community service focused outreach events, one each in Hartford County and New Haven County.

b) Establish an Internet presence by expanding use of the Volunteer Match.com website to move from one zip code to a statewide exposure.

Dr. Chris Kuell made a motion to retire AS Benchmark #3 and it was seconded by Christine Boisvert.  The motion passed.

5. By July, 1, 2010, BESB shall pilot two models of computer training for independent living for individuals age 55 and over, with one model in a group setting, and the other an individualized instructional model.  Pre- and post-test analysis will provide data on the effectiveness of each approach.

Chairman Kuell stated that adaptive computer training for Adult Services clients was an important goal and that a new benchmark with a different approach will be developed to address this need.

Dr. Kuell made a motion to retire AS Benchmark #5 and it was seconded by Jay Kronfeld.  The motion passed.

6. Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Service for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within an average of ten business days.

Dr. Kuell made a motion to retire AS Benchmark #6 and it was seconded by Jay Kronfeld.  The motion passed.

Business Enterprises (BEP) Benchmarks

1.  The BEP Training Manual shall be updated by the end of calendar year 2009.

Dr. Kuell made a motion to retire BEP Benchmark #1 and it was seconded by Stephen Thal.  The motion passed.

2. Beginning in calendar year 2009, two in-service trainings shall be provided annually to the BEP Facility Managers.  Training topics to be selected with the active participation of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

Chairman Kuell made a motion to remove “Beginning in calendar year 2009” from the benchmark and to retain BEP Benchmark #2 with this modification. The motion was seconded by Jay Kronfeld. The motion passed.

4. By January 1, 2010, BEP will develop, distribute, and assess a satisfaction survey to be completed by BEP Operators.  The results will be distributed to the Board, Strategic Planning Committee, and the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

Dr. Kuell made a motion to retire BEP Benchmark #4 and it was seconded by Patrick Johnson.  The motion passed.

Proposed Adult Services Low Vision Policy Update for Action

Mr. Sigman provided the board with the results of the public comment period and the public hearing held on September 13, 2010 at BESB.  The purpose of the hearing was to offer the public, consumers, advocates, agencies, and organizations an opportunity to provide comments pertaining to the proposed policy revision that would place a $200 cap on low vision items purchased from Low Vision doctors for adults served in the Independent Living program of BESB.  At the public hearing there were 5 attendees by teleconference, 1 in person, and 4 who submitted written comments. The comments received and the number of commenters for each comment were as follows:

·       BESB should include all insurances, not just Medicare Part B as a funding source option. (5 commenters)

·       The Low Vision policy should be clarified and simplified for agency coverage of client deductibles for low vision evaluations billed to Medicare. (1 commenter)

·       Low vision examinations should be more thorough. (2 commenters)

·       The time between the examination and receipt of low vision devices should be shortened. (1 commenter)

·       A cap of $200 on low vision devices is very low and will not cover the costs of many items needed by the client. (6 commenters)

·       The cost of some specialized low vision devices are cost prohibitive to clients and the agency should consider an exception to the cap for specialized items such as telescopic lenses. (1 commenter)

·       Clients do not get the same discount that BESB gets when purchasing devices from the eye doctor.  The policy should consider requiring the doctors to extend the agency discount to clients who purchase the devices directly from the doctor. (1 commenter)

·       Other funding sources such as the Lions, or use of a loaner bank should be utilized to cover part or all of the cost of low vision devices, where available. (1 commenter)

·       Low vision training for doctors and their qualifications to provide low vision examinations should be a higher standard and the standards should be posted on the agency website. (1 commenter)

·       Clients should participate in the cost of low vision aids through a co-pay process. (2 commenters)

·       The low vision policy should use language that specifies the agency “must” provide instead of “may” provide low vision aids to clients. (1 commenter)

Dr. Kuell asked about the comment pertaining to the discount that BESB receives for devices and Mr. Sigman clarified that BESB utilizes a fee schedule. Board members discussed whether it would be possible to require eye doctors to extend that fee schedule to clients who make independent purchases of devices that BESB cannot cover. It was concluded that BESB would not be able to enforce such a policy, nor would it be possible to track the cost that doctors were charging BESB clients outside of what was submitted to the agency on the low vision evaluations. It was also questioned if the agency would have legal authority to require the eye doctors to fix prices at fee schedule rates for private purchases made by patients referred by BESB. The board discussed the comments pertaining to the concern over the $200 cap being too low but concluded that it was a more equitable approach than the alternative of using a waiting list once the funding is depleted, which is the current policy.

Mr. Sigman noted that through the Strategic Planning Committee meeting held at the agency on September 14, 2010, an observation was made by committee members that the low vision policy should make it clear that CCTV’s are not part of that section of policy and therefore are not subject to the cost cap, even if recommended by the eye doctor. Mr. Sigman also acknowledged that the public comment pertaining to billing all heath insurance options and the comment pertaining to clarifying the language regarding agency coverage for the patient deductable should be clarified in the new policy.

Mr. Kronfeld asked for the wording in the draft policy to be modified to read “and/or” dispensed by the eye doctor.

Mr. Thal would like to form a sub-committee to explore alternative funding options. Mr. Sigman reported that based on a prior discussion with Mr. Kronfeld, he has contacted the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to explore if a multi-state contract could be developed to directly purchase low vision lenses and telescopes from laboratories where multi-state buying power could achieve a volume discount. Mr. Sigman reported that there is interest in this concept and a follow up discussion will be occurring. Mr. Sigman also is exploring if there will be a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the new federal health insurance law. If there will be an opportunity for public comment, then it would be important to comment on the need for the new federal health insurance to provide some level of coverage for low vision devices, and also for consideration of CCTV’s to be covered as “durable medical equipment.”

A motion was made by Dr. Kuell and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to adopt the new low vision policy as proposed, with the inclusion of “and/or” related to prescribing or dispensing, and also with the inclusion of all insurances, clarification on the coverage for the patient deductable to be covered by BESB, and for the low vision policy to make it clear that CCTV’s are not part of this section of policy. A friendly amendment to the motion was made by Mr. Kronfeld for the board to send a letter to Connecticut’s Congressional delegation to ask that the new federal health insurance offer coverage for low vision devices and CCTV’s. The motion passed.

A motion was made by Dr. Chris Kuell and seconded by Jay Kronfeld for the implementation date for the new low vision policy with the $200 cap to be November 1, 2010.  The motion passed.

  

Annual Report Assignment Update

Dr. Kuell indicated that Betty Woodward agreed to chair this committee and that an update will be distributed to the board during the month of October.

Mobility Caseload Proposals

Adult Service mobility instructor John Waiculonis presented a proposal to the Board on a concept developed by an inter-departmental subcommittee of the Strategic Planning Committee to analyze and quantify the optimal caseload size for mobility services. For children, the model worked on a two-category system; long cane or non-long cane user. For adults, the model focused more on functional travel needs. Each model utilized a point system, similar to the point system used for determining optimal caseload size for teachers of the visually impaired, which is in state statute.

Based on a 50 point system, instructors in Children Services would have an optimal caseload of approximately 30 students, while in the Adult Services system, the average caseload would be around 120 clients.  This formula would provide a significant reduction in current caseload size, allowing instructors more time to work with children and adults. Mr. Thal asked what category would children with visual and hearing impairments fall into.  Mr. Waiculonis said these children would fall under the intensive needs category. Ms. Dodd asked Ms. Eichfeld how many children have other disabilities on her caseload.  Ms. Eichfeld said she currently has around 20 (about 1/3 of her caseload) and visits them once a month at both home and school. 

A motion was made by Patrick Johnson and seconded by Christine Boisvert to move forward with a legislative proposal on the Children’s Services and Adult Services caseload model for mobility services.  The motion passed.

Accessible Voting

Board member and Agency Consumer Advisory Committee (ACAC) Chairperson Carol Gillispie expressed her concerns over privacy when using the accessible voting machine, which prints out a paper ballot that goes into a bin that is apart from the paper ballots cast by all other voters at the polling locations.  Ms. Gillispie’s concern was the discomfort of personally knowing the poll worker who retrieved her printed vote, thus knowing how she voted. In Dr. Chris Kuell’s experience, his vote was placed in an envelope that was then sealed and placed into a locked box. He believes that his privacy is protected by this process. Ms. Akers and Ms. Gillispie indicated that their ballots were not placed in an envelope, and the box the ballot went into was not locked.  Mr. Kronfeld believes this can be worked out with the Secretary of the State.  Mr. Thal suggested working with existing policy with two solutions (1) enforcement of poll worker training and (2) enforcement across every polling place. The board’s preference in addressing this issue is to request that Mr. Sigman have a follow up meeting with a representative of the Secretary of State’s office.  The board was not in favor of proposing a change to existing state statute.

A motion was made by Carolyn Dodd and seconded by Christine Boisvert that the BESB Executive Director meet with the Secretary of State’s Office to discuss issues to ensure voter privacy.  The motion passed.

Legislative Priorities of the Board

Mr. Sigman brought to the board’s attention that existing state statute has a provision for the quarantining of dogs that bite for two weeks, with an exemption permitted in the statute for police dogs that have current rabies vaccinations and are under the regular care of a veterinarian. He indicated that no such provision exists for guide dogs and that recently, when a guide dog bit a person, the dog was quarantined for two weeks, impacting on the travel options for the dog’s owner, who is blind. Mr. Sigman offered a proposal for discussion that would extend to guide dogs the same statutory language that presently exists for police dogs. After further discussion on this topic, the board members did not move a motion forward for action.

Benchmark Update Report

This report is posted on the BESB website and can be read in the BESB Performance Benchmark Updates and Board's Annual Report section.

Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders

Mr. Lassen noted that 19 of the 29 support group leaders had been contacted in the past three months, as we continue to monitor the current status of each group and offer assistance from our BESB field staff as speakers and resource persons.  Of the 20 support groups represented (one facilitator leads two groups), BESB staff have appeared as presenters at twelve of them and, at most of those, several staff have appeared.  

Legislative Update

Mr. Norton reported on the Jobs Bill which passed in the last week of the legislative session.  It was reported at the last Board meeting that the bill created an employer tax credit of $200 a month for up to three years for the hire of any person with a disability.  However, the bill defined a person with a disability as anyone who was a client of the Bureau of Rehabilitative Services (BRS) at the Department of Social Services and mistakenly left out clients of BESB. Shortly after the last Board meeting in June, the legislature passed a repair of that omission in Special Session.  Now, employers who hire BESB clients will also be eligible for the $200/month tax credit.

Mr. Norton also reported that the U.S House and Senate have each passed companion bills on access to technology for people with disabilities.  The legislation would instruct manufacturers and providers of computers, video and audio technologies to make the latest such equipment accessible to people with disabilities. Both chambers must now act on a united bill.

Lastly, Mr. Norton reported that he is still communicating with the Office of State Ethics (OSE) regarding BESB’s request for an opinion regarding any conflict-of-interest restrictions that may apply to members of the BESB Board who receive agency services. OSE staff have told him BESB’s request may be acted on at the Ethics Board’s September meeting. 

Budget Update

Due to the state’s deficit, state agencies are being asked to submit a fiscal year 2012 budget option proposal that would have a 15% reduction in state appropriated funding levels.  The federal stimulus funding from last year was a one-time infusion and the agency has utilized approximately 85% of the funds so far. Mr. Sigman reported that for the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, he was able to obtain additional funding through a transfer of funds from the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre opened the floor. Mr. Thal thanked everyone for their hospitality in welcoming him to the board.  He also reminded everyone to register with their town’s emergency dispatch system and to sign up for the alert system.  Chairman Sylvestre asked whom should they contact.  Mr. Thal said the fire department handles this in most towns but in some towns it is the police department.    Ms. Akers reminded everyone of the Awards Ceremony being held on October 22, 2010 at the Neat Marketplace.

Adjournment

Carolyn Dodd made a motion, seconded by Christine Boisvert to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:20 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for December 9, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

 

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

July 27, 2010

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:08 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre; Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager, Adult Services; Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate, Adult Services; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Tracy Morin, Vending Supervisor, BEP; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for November 30, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

Old Business

a. Review all benchmarks

Adult Services Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell asked Chris Lassen, Supervisor of Adult Services to present the benchmarks currently in place.

1. July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of 3 (three) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state.

Mr. Lassen reported on the achievement of this benchmark, and also on the challenges of obtaining commitment from assisted living facilities to make staff available to participate in these training programs.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers to retire Adult Services Benchmark #1.  The motion passed.

Chairman Kuell asked that Adult Services provide updates to the Board annually at the December and June meetings regarding all training programs that Adult Services staff has provided to community organizations.

2. By January 1, 2010, BESB shall produce a baseline

measurement for client satisfaction and functional gains in the delivery of independent living services.

Mr. Lassen reported that this benchmark was achieved and the results have been posted on the agency website. The information gathered from this survey is being used by the agency Strategic Planning Committee. Ms. Brown reported that a requirement of the federal grant for the independent living program is to collect this information annually. Committee members suggested that future surveys could be done by college students that are clients of the Vocational Rehabilitation program. Mr. Sigman agreed and noted that the Internship model utilized by the Vocational Rehabilitation Program would be a good match for this project.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers to retire Adult Services Benchmark #2.  The motion passed.

3. To increase the available pool of volunteers for clients awaiting a match by increasing outreach efforts:

1) Participate in at least two community service focused outreach events, one each in Hartford County and New Haven County.

2) Establish an Internet presence by expanding use of the Volunteer Match.com website to move from one zip code to a statewide exposure.

Ms. St. Amand reported this was a very successful benchmark with outreach events that will continue in other sections of the state. She further reported that registering with Volunteer Match she has expanded the percentage of successful matches for clients. Ms. St. Amand intends to continue membership in Volunteer Match and also is planning on participating in regional outreach events such as health fairs to continue recruitment for additional volunteers.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers to retire Adult Services Benchmark #3. The motion passed.

4. BESB shall report annually to the Board of Directors on Agency Outreach Efforts to the Medical community and the Public Regarding BESB Services.

Mr. Lassen reported on outreach efforts to eye doctors that included phone calls and mailing eye report forms and informational posters. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program provided a client intern to make these calls to the doctors.

The committee decided to retain Adult Services Benchmark #4.

5. By July, 1, 2010, BESB shall pilot two models of computer training for independent living for individuals age 55 and over, with one model in a group setting, and the other an individualized instructional model.  Pre- and post-test analysis will provide data on the effectiveness of each approach.

Mr. Lassen reported he is currently awaiting a report from the two vendors that were utilized to provide the training.  Ms. Brown presented a brief report on the challenges of getting clients to commit to participate in the group training. Of 23 potential candidates, only two clients were found to have similar skill levels and a similar interest in learning the software product that was selected for the training. Ms. Brown suggested partnering with senior centers that are equipped with computer labs to offer group training options at the local level.  Chairman Kuell stated that this benchmark wasn't really achieved, since two people can hardly be considered a group. He urged Adult Services staff to continue exploring ways to provide computer training to seniors.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers to retire Adult Services Benchmark #5.  The motion passed.

6. Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Service for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within an average of ten business days.

Mr. Lassen reported this benchmark was consistently met every quarter.  Chairman Kuell commended the Adult Service staff for meeting this benchmark. Ms. Akers expressed concern for the shortage of Rehabilitation Teachers that is resulting in delays in providing services subsequent to the initial contact with the client. Board members agreed that staffing levels would be difficult to address in the current economic climate.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers to retire Adult Services Benchmark #6.  The motion passed.

Business Enterprises Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell asked Ed Owens, Supervisor of BEP to present the benchmarks currently in place.

1.   The BEP Training Manual shall be updated by the end of calendar year 2009.

Mr. Owens reported this benchmark has been achieved.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers to retire Business Enterprise Benchmark #1.  The motion passed.

2.  Beginning in Calendar Year 2009 two in-service trainings shall be provided annually to the BEP Facility Managers.  Training topics to be selected with the active participation of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

Mr. Owen reported that this benchmark was achieved for 2009.  For 2010, the benchmark is in progress with a training held in June, and the second training scheduled for the fall.  Ms. Akers asked that the wording “Beginning in Calendar Year 2009” be removed from the benchmark since this is ongoing .

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers to remove the wording “Beginning in Calendar Year 2009” to Business Enterprise Benchmark #2. The motion passed.

BEP Benchmark #2 will now read:

2. Two in-service trainings shall be provided annually to the BEP Facility Managers.  Training topics to be selected with the active participation of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

3. BESB will annually Prepare and Publicize Detailed Financial and Budgetary Information on the BEP Program in a User Friendly Format for BESB Consumers and the General Public.

This benchmark has been achieved for FY 2008 and FY 2009, and is still in progress for FY 2010 and is on the BESB website for viewing.

The committee decided to retain Business Enterprise Benchmark #3.

4. By January 1, 2010, BEP will develop, distribute, and assess a satisfaction survey to be completed by BEP Operators.  The results will be distributed to the Board, Strategic Planning Committee, and the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

Mr. Owens reported that this benchmark was achieved and the results were distributed and posted on the agency website.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers to retire Business Enterprises Benchmark #4.  The motion passed.

Children’s Services Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell asked Jeanette Haines, Supervisor of Children’s Services to present the benchmarks currently in place.

1.   Based upon the average caseload point value in effect on July 1, 2011, the agency will reduce average point value by at least 10% per year, until achieving and maintaining 25 points.

Ms. Haines reported that this benchmark does not become effective until July, 2011 so there is no report to give at the present time.

The committee decided to retain Children’s Services Benchmark #1.

2.   BESB will offer at least two Parent Education events per year, actively publicizing and encouraging attendance.

Ms. Haines reported this benchmark has been achieved each year, although it has been a challenge to get parent attendance at the training programs offered.  For the event that was scheduled to be held in June, there was minimal interest, so the event was postponed. The next event is now scheduled for October.  Ms. Haines indicated that parents are being contacted to personally encourage participation, and to seek their ideas for topic areas of interest.

The committee decided to retain Children’s Services Benchmark #2.

3.   Children’s Services will twice annually publish and disseminate a newsletter for parents.

This benchmark is in progress for 2010.  The first newsletter was mailed in mid-April.  It was sent electronically to all parents with an e-mail address.  The newsletter is posted on the BESB website.  Ms. Haines said the newsletter is an important resource for parents.

The committee decided to retain Children’s Services Benchmark #3.

4.   To increase access to the Expanded Core Curriculum for BESB-eligible children, Children’s Services will offer at least 3 student events annually.

This benchmark in this calendar year has been met.  Children’s Services continue to run student events and staff are strongly invested in this benchmark.   Chairman Kuell told Ms. Haines they are doing a good job.

The committee decided to retain Children’s Services Benchmark #4.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Benchmarks

Brian Sigman, Executive Director of BESB presented the benchmarks currently in place.

1.   Starting January 1, 2010, provide a group Job Seeking Skills class twice a year, focusing on skills such as networking, interviewing skills, and resume writing, culminating in attendance at a job fair.

Mr. Sigman reported that the job seeking skills program held in the spring was very successful, with four out of five participants who attended the job seeking skills program moving into paid internships. A second program is in the planning stages.

The committee decided to retain Vocational Rehabilitation Benchmark #1.

2.   With a goal of increasing employment outcomes, starting January 1, 2010 all VR Counselors will increase community outreach activities focusing on employment, referrals, minorities and community rehabilitation providers, with a minimum of two hours a week on these activities using the new marketing materials for the division.

Mr. Sigman reported that the average was 3.1 hours per week per staff person in the most recent reporting quarter. Chairman Kuell asked how do we know if this benchmark is resulting in more jobs for clients. Mr. Sigman reported that 79 clients have entered into paid internships or employment as a result of the staff outreach efforts to employers. Chairman Kuell acknowledged these results, particularly in the challenging economy.

The committee decided to retain Vocational Rehabilitation Benchmark #2.

3.   Starting January 1, 2010 all VR field staff will participate in 2 trainings a year, with a focus on Assistive Technology or Job Development.

Mr. Sigman reported that 16 staff members are covered in this benchmark, and as of June, 13 have attained this benchmark.

The committee decided to retain Vocational Rehabilitation Benchmark #3.

4. For every VR school aged client there shall be at least one annual contact between the counselor and the client (with their guardian).  Contact will increase to at least twice during the last scheduled year of school.

Mr. Sigman reported this benchmark started in January, 2010.  Out of 73 clients in this benchmark category, 60 had been contacted by the beginning of June.  There is a tracking system in place to monitor progress on this benchmark.

The committee decided to retain Vocational Rehabilitation Benchmark #4.

Discuss Retiring/Sunsetting Benchmarks, Additional Benchmarks, Concerns over Benchmarks, etc.

Chairman Kuell asked the committee if they had any further questions.  They had none. Chairman Kuell expressed his satisfaction with BESB and the time that has been put into the benchmarks and that BESB is right on track.

Next Meeting Date

The committee set the next meeting date for November 30, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre and seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:46 a.m.

 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

June 17, 2010

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:02 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Randa Utter; Betty Woodward 

Members Absent

Christine Boisvert; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor 

Public Comment

None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

Ms. Akers requested in the Draft Minutes of March 18, 2010 that the first line in the Children’s Services Regulations Section be changed from “Ms. Akers recused herself” to “Upon the recommendation of Andrew Norton, Ms. Akers recused herself.” The Board unanimously adopted the March 18, 2010 Board meeting minutes with the change. 

New Business

Blindness Matters Committee to Address the Board

Blindness Matters Committee Chairperson Mark Rafferty presented to the Board on the purpose and history of the Blindness Matters Committee. Membership on this committee is comprised of BESB staff, both sighted and blind, across program divisions. The committee has addressed topics such as workplace signage, access to technology, and blindness sensitivity training. A concern raised by committee members is the availability of Special Assistants to the Blind to provide transportation for field staff who are blind to serve clients in the field. Presently there is a shortage of Special Assistants to the Blind in the Adult Services Division due to extended leave for two staff. Due to this shortage, it creates difficulties with keeping scheduled appointments with clients. The committee is asking the Board to please consider reviewing their transportation options before requesting a Special Assistant to the Blind for transportation to and from future Board meetings at BESB. 

Ms. Gillispie responded that she had confirmed that transportation would be provided to Board meetings prior to accepting her appointment onto the Board.  She has offered to teleconference for many meetings, such as this one, but felt a lot is missed when she is participating through the phone.  Ms. Utter understood about the shortage of staff, but felt that the dates for Board meetings are set so far in advance (up to a year) that staff could make arrangements in advance for these four times per year when the Board meets.  Ms. Gillispie agreed and felt it was important that this be resolved because direct services are paramount.  Mr. Johnson made a suggestion of scheduling the Blindness Matters Committee meetings on the same dates and times as the Board meetings.  Mr. Rafferty appreciated the suggestion but noted that a number of the staff who attends the Board meetings are also on the Blindness Matters Committee. Therefore, while it might alleviate some of the transportation shortage issues to hold both meetings at the same time, it would also curtail the involvement of some supervisors and managers at the Blindness Matters Committee meetings.  Mr. Rafferty asked the Board members to consider Connecticut Transit, Para transit, ITN, and teleconferencing as an option.  Mr. Sigman added that volunteer drivers are available through the agency volunteer program, noting that volunteers have been assisting with transporting field staff who are blind. Volunteer Coordinator Ms. Amand offered to send out volunteer program applications to the Board members electronically if they would like to sign up.  Chairman Sylvestre told the Board members that all options need to be explored to reduce the impact on transportation for staff to serve clients. Mr. Rafferty thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak.

Annual Report Assignments

Chairman Sylvestre asked for volunteers to serve on the Annual Report Assignment Committee. The annual report is due in late December.  Ms. Utter, Ms. Woodward, and Ms. Gillispie all volunteered.  Chairman Sylvestre asked that Dr. Kuell serve as the chairman of this committee. 

Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan Public Hearing Outcome (Action Item)

Mr. Sigman reported that no comments were received from the public at the five public hearings held around the state pertaining to policy updates for the definition of Order of Selection and the composition of the Deafblind Advisory Committee, as well as the Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan.  A motion was made by Patrick Johnson and seconded by Betty Woodward to adopt the policy updates and to submit the state plan to Rehabilitation Services Administration.  The motion passed unanimously.

Proposed Low Vision Policy Revisions—Independent Living Program

    Mr. Sigman provided to the Board an overview of the costs associated with providing low vision services to clients served in the Independent Living Program administered through the Adult Services Division. He explained that the agency has already implemented changes in procedures to reduce the cost of low vision services, including having the Rehabilitation Teachers meet with the client to assess home lighting and the use of non-prescription magnifiers prior to making a referral for low vision services, as well as calling the clients prior to making a purchase of low vision items recommended by the eye doctor to confirm that the client desires to have the devices that are recommended. However, even with these approaches, Mr. Sigman indicated that based on the current rate of expenditures, the Independent Living Program would not have sufficient funding available beyond federal fiscal year 2012 to maintain the present level of low vision service. Mr. Sigman indicated that existing policy requires that clients go onto a waiting list if there is insufficient funding to serve all eligible clients. The Strategic Planning Committee has been reviewing this issue and asked that the following three concepts be presented to the Board for discussion: They are:

1.   BESB would no longer pay for the provision of prescription glasses and prescription magnifiers, or;

2.   BESB would place a $300 total cap on the provision of low vision devices (glasses and/or magnifiers) dispensed by Low Vision doctors, BESB staff, or in combination of both staff and the doctor, or;

3.   BESB would place a $200 cap on low vision items purchased from Low Vision doctors.

Mr. Sigman told the Board that any proposed change in policy will require a public hearing and then the results of the public hearing would come before the Board at a subsequent meeting.

Mr. Johnson asked for clarification on recommendation number 2, wanting to know if the $300 limit was per device or for the entire cost of all items. Mr. Sigman said that particular recommendation was for the cumulative total cost of all low vision items provided to the client. Mr. Johnson asked about the time frame covered by this proposed cap. Mr. Lassen stated that current Independent Living policy allows for low vision services through an eye doctor at BESB’s cost once every two years. Ms. Akers asked if there were any proposals seen by the low vision doctors.  Mr. Sigman said there was a meeting that all low vision doctors were invited to and that a small number of doctors participated in. At this meeting, ideas such as cost caps were discussed. The majority of the doctors at the meeting agreed that dollar limits are a commonly used cost containment strategy that they and their patients are familiar with. 

Mr. Kronfeld asked if the agency has considered using a financial needs test to reduce costs.  Mr. Sigman said the Strategic Planning Committee discussed this idea in depth and concluded that there would be a significant administrative burden to collect and analyze the financial information from clients and then track this data to implement the means test. The committee also concluded that many clients would not meet the earnings level after considerations such as family size and medical expenses are factored in.  Ms. Dodd asked if clients would be willing to share part of cost and if it was appropriate for social worker to ask them to contribute.  Mr. Sigman said because there is no means test, clients are not asked to contribute towards the cost of services. Ms. Akers asked if the #2 option would save the most money.  Mr. Sigman said #3 would likely save the most money.  A motion was made by Chris Kuell and seconded by Eileen Akers to select Proposal #3—BESB would place a $200 cap on low vision items purchased from Low Vision doctors. Mr. Kronfeld requested further discussion on the subject, stating that any proposed revision in the policy needed to have a more long-ranging solution than any of the three proposals under consideration. He stated that none of these proposals would ensure the agency would be able to continue to provide low vision services beyond 3 years.

Ms. Woodward made a motion to call the question and was seconded by Chris Kuell.  A vote was taken to call the question with 6 in favor and 2 opposed.  The motion passed.

A vote was then taken on the motion to adopt Proposal #3—BESB would place a $200 cap on low vision items purchased from Low Vision doctors.  The vote was 7 in favor and 1 opposed.  The motion passed.  

Mr. Sigman indicated that a public hearing on proposal #3 would be held in early September, with the results presented to the Board at the September Board meeting.

Benchmark Update Report

All the division supervisors reported on their program’s progress in meeting the Benchmarks established by the Board.  This report is posted on the BESB website and can be read in the BESB Performance Benchmark Updates and Board's Annual Report section.

Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders

Mr. Lassen noted that 20 of the 30 support group leaders had been contacted in the past six months, as the agency conducted a telephone survey of the current status of each group and offered assistance from our BESB field staff as speakers and resource persons.

Legislative Update

Mr. Norton updated the Board on the Legislature acting favorably concerning a law permitting individuals who wish to renew their non-driver identification cards to do so at AAA locations.  Previously, only driver’s licenses could be renewed at AAA facilities.

A law was also passed during the legislative session that exempts certain types of membership-based transportation services from the requirement to obtain a livery license for the transporting of people who are blind.  The prior law had exempted this requirement only for transporting the elderly.

A proposal to increase the safety at intersections and crosswalks moved through the legislature this last session but in the end it was added to a larger bill.  The measure would have required consideration of providing longer crossing times for pedestrians.  This larger bill was vetoed by the Governor because of a controversial provision in the larger bill. 

Mr. Norton reported on the Jobs Bills passed in the last week of the legislative session which has incentives for employers to generate jobs in the state.  One incentive was a tax credit for employers who hire a person with a disability.  The bill passed, but it contains a statutory reference to the definition of a person with a disability as is used by the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS).  Since BRS does not serve individuals who are legally blind, the unintentional consequence of using the BRS statutory definition was the exclusion of blindness as a qualifying disability.  Legislative leaders are working to correct this and it is possible that the omission will be fixed during the upcoming special session of the Legislature.

Mr. Norton reported on an upcoming meeting with members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee regarding the RBA (Results Based Accountability) initiative.  The committee analyzes how well state programs are performing and whether the intended beneficiaries are better off because of the program.

Finally, on state matters, Mr. Norton addressed the Board on the agency’s previous questions to the Office of State Ethics (OSE) about whether members of the five committees that work with BESB should be defined as public officials.  The answer is that members of the Board of BESB are public officials but that members of the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors, the Agency Consumer Advisory Council (ACAC) and the Deafblind Advisory Committee are not public officials.  OSE has not yet provided an opinion on the implications for Board members in their capacity as clients of the BESB. 

On the federal side, Mr. Norton reported on the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 that is before Congress.  Recently, auto manufacturers and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) announced an agreement between all of the groups to support a proposal calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to adopt rules requiring electric and hybrid cars to make a sound when they are in motion. 

Mr. Norton also reported on a new bill in Congress called the Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind.  This bill aims to have new technologies, especially electronics, be usable or adaptable for people who are blind.  New touch-screen technology, for example, is not designed to be used easily, if at all, by a person with blindness.

Finally, on the federal side, Mr. Norton mentioned the Blind Persons Return to Work Act.  This bill, sponsored by Senators McCain and Dodd, would remove disincentives to work that exist for persons with blindness.  Right now, if a person who is blind begins to earn more than $1,640 a month they stand to lose all of their Social Security Disability income. The bill would make those decreases in Social Security income more gradual.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman reported on the adjustments to the BESB budget for FY 2011.  There was a plan to consolidate state agencies that would have put BESB into the State Department of Education, but it did not go forward. Relatively minor additional cuts were made to the Personal Services, Other Expenses, and the Education Aid to the Blind and Visually Impaired Children accounts.  Mr. Sigman then reported that Vocational Rehabilitation is projecting enough available funds to serve all eligible individuals in that program for federal fiscal year 2011.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre confirmed that Dr. Kuell is willing to serve on and chair the Annual Report Committee.  Dr. Kuell accepted.  Chairman Sylvestre attended a recent Access to Jobs meeting and an issue came up about a transit route and its funding to Foxwoods casino from Hartford. 

Mr. Kronfeld asked that the minutes reflect that the proposed policy change regarding Adult Services and the $200 cap on low vision reflect his view that the proposed policy change does not represent a long-term solution to the funding issue. He secondly would like the minutes to reflect his disagreement with the Chairman’s handling of this particular motion by not allowing for further discussion. 

Ms. Akers expressed her concern about eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services.  A notice was sent out in May to about 40 transition-age students who were referred for VR services and told that they were ineligible.  Ms. Burgard clarified that the students were not found ineligible for services. Rather, these students were referred to the VR program without the knowledge or request of their parents and for those clients for whom there was no interest in VR services, a closure letter was sent. Ms. Burgard indicated that any client, parent or teacher of a client who desires services can easily have their case reinstated by making a phone call to the agency.  

Mr. Sigman wanted to make sure the Board understood that the next step regarding the proposed change in the low vision policy will be for a public hearing to occur. The results of the public hearing will be shared with the Board. At the September Board meeting this issue will be coming back along with the public comments, and the Board will then decide whether to adopt the policy as proposed, amend it to some other form, or retain current policy.

Adjournment

Jay Kronfeld made a motion, seconded by Carolyn Dodd to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:59 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for September 16, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.


 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting

March 18, 2010

Minutes with Motions

Welcome and Introductions

Board member Eileen Akers called the meeting to order at 10:04 a.m. at the request of Chairman Alan Sylvestre, who was delayed due to another commitment.  A motion was made to change the order of the agenda.  The motion passed unanimously.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert; William DeMaio; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Randa Utter; Betty Woodward 

Members Absent

M. Carolyn Dodd; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Marsha Brown, Adult Services Human Services Advocate, Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor  

Public Comment

None.

Old Business
Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the December 3, 2009 Board meeting minutes.  The Board unanimously accepted the Benchmark Committee Minutes from November 23, 2009 and January 13, 2010.

New Business

BEP Regulations Regarding Health Insurance

Mr. Norton gave the board a historical presentation of this regulation.  Existing state statute provides BEP operators and former BESB Industries clients with access to state employee health insurance coverage. The proposed state regulation amendment seeks to align the regulations with statute and further seeks to give the agency board a process for granting partial or total waivers of the client’s share of monthly premium payments in cases of hardship. A motion was made by Bill DeMaio and seconded by Randa Utter to accept the proposed changes to the regulations of the Business Enterprise Program regarding the provision of health insurance to BEP Operators and former Industries clients. The motion passed unanimously. The agency will forward the proposed regulatory change to the Office of Policy and Management.

Children’s Services Regulations

Upon the recommendation of Andrew Norton, Ms. Akers recused herself from the discussion of these regulations due to a potential conflict of interest, as she works as a teacher of the visually impaired for a school district. Mr. Sigman explained that the proposed regulatory changes would bring the Children’s Services regulations into alignment with existing statute and agency policy. A motion was made by Christine Boisvert and seconded by Bill DeMaio to accept the draft regulations as proposed.  The motion passed unanimously. The agency will forward the proposed regulatory change to the Office of Policy and Management.

Low Vision Policy

Mr. Sigman detailed the projected budgetary shortfall that will result in the Older Blind Program if low vision services continue at the current volume of purchasing. He said projections indicate that within eighteen months, the division will need to implement a client waiting list for services unless cost-saving changes to the process are done. Adult Services staff have researched how other states provide low vision services.  Some states utilize expenditure caps on low vision devices. Other states limit the number and/or types of devices that are dispensed. Another approach used in some states is to have agency staff dispense low vision magnifiers to clients rather than purchasing this service from eye doctors.  Meetings were held with the BESB-contracted low vision doctors, agency staff and the agency Strategic Planning Committee to obtain their ideas. Through these discussions, each of the approaches was recognized as having potential for achieving cost savings. Mr. Lassen summarized that BESB would have saved 48% in low vision expenditures in FY 2009 if a $300 cap had been in place. In the current fiscal year (2010), BESB would have saved 51% so far.  This includes professional fees to doctors as well as low vision aids.  Mr. Sigman said that the agency has already implemented a process of calling clients prior to authorizing the low vision devices recommended by the eye doctors to be sure that the client desires each of the items. This process has thus far saved 10% of the cost of the requests by eliminating the devices not wanted by clients. 

Mr. DeMaio asked if there is a fee schedule for low vision services.  Mr. Sigman said yes.  Ms. Boisvert asked if any unnecessary tests were being performed.  Mr. Sigman said that BESB only pays a standard flat fee that is often reduced significantly by billing insurance providers before the unpaid balance is billed to BESB.  Mr. Lassen said that social workers, as the case managers, determine which clients are referred for low vision.

Mr. Sigman said another option would be to institute a financial means test, but that such an approach would require the agency to obtain verification of client earnings.  Mr. DeMaio suggested that the rehabilitation teachers should see the clients prior to a referral being made for low vision. Dr. Kuell does not think that the entire cost burden should fall on BESB, especially if a client can afford to contribute.  Mr. Lassen said the cost of magnifiers is typically in the $50 to $150 range.  Ms. Haines expressed her support for the concept of having the rehabilitation teacher see the client prior to a decision to make a referral for low vision services.   Mr. Sigman will bring these ideas before the Strategic Planning Committee at the upcoming March meeting.

Mr. Sigman next read a proposed change to the section of the Low Vision Provider Policy that addresses continuing education for eye doctors who have less than three years of experience as a BESB- approved low vision provider. The current policy requires 6 hours per year of COPE approved training in low vision, with 3 of these hours offered by BESB. Mr. Sigman explained that it was very difficult and costly for the agency to locate COPE approved trainers and that their subject matters were not always clearly defined as low vision training. Mr. Sigman suggested modifying the policy to broaden the categories of training to include diseases of the eye, adaptive technology or related topics, and to also eliminate the requirement for COPE training.  A motion was made by Bill DeMaio and seconded by Eileen Akers to accept the staff recommendation to modify the new doctor’s continuing education requirement.  The motion passed unanimously.

Voc Rehab State Plan Subcommittee

Mr. Sigman asked for a volunteer from the Board to serve on this subcommittee.  Ms. Utter volunteered.

Benchmark Update Report

Mr. Lassen updated the Board on the Adult Services Benchmarks. Ms Akers expressed concern that clients might have used the professional survey conducted by the UConn Center on Aging to report their dissatisfaction with low vision services (specifically, with their prescription glasses) due to unrealistic expectations about the vision improvement possible with these prescription glasses.  Mr.Lassen said that while the survey questions were subjective, they were professionally designed and administered to obtain the most useful information possible.  Ms. Brown, who was the point person for Adult Services with UConn, said that one of the requests to UConn was that they conduct the survey and stay within the boundaries of the listed responses when coding answers, but that they recorded client narratives where these were given. She will present a summary of client comments at the next Board meeting. 

Lori St. Amand updated the Board on the volunteer services benchmark.  Ms. Akers asked for figures on how many matches originated with the Volunteer Match.com solicitation.  Ms. St. Amand stated that it would be difficult to track matches to one specific origin, but she reported an upswing (more than one response per day) after BESB began using this website.

Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders

Mr. Lassen reiterated that 30 facilitators located in 24 different towns lead support groups. Currently, thirteen groups meet at senior or community centers, four in private senior housing, two at Jewish community centers, two at federal Veterans Association facilities, one at a hospital outpatient facility, and one here at BESB.  Also, there are seven National Federation of the Blind chapters in Connecticut.

The revised support group list includes the times and locations of meetings, and the updated list has been posted on the BESB website and distributed to all Adult Services staff.  Additionally, the 2010 low vision calendar includes a list of all towns and cities where groups meet, along with the contact name and phone number for every group. 

Adult Services staff are referring interested clients to local support groups as appropriate.  One mobility instructor and two rehabilitation teachers have recently presented at support groups, and another rehabilitation teacher is scheduling a presentation. Mr. Lassen has been working with the two Milford support group leaders to find appropriate participants for the upcoming computer training pilot project, due to the interest expressed by support group members in the previous BESB computer training pilot. 

Ms. Akers asked if there is a disclaimer in place for support groups.  Mr. Lassen said no. Ms. Brown stated that most support groups are in senior centers and that participants share experiences, rather than render professional opinions.  At many support groups, facilitators are volunteers, except for some who are social workers or other staff at the organization where groups meet.  There is a difference between sharing their experiences and receiving therapeutic advice, and most clients in attendance are there to get information from speakers and share their own experiences.  The consensus of the board was that a disclaimer was not necessary. 
Benchmarks Committee Update for Action

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell updated the Board on the work of the Committee.  The next meeting has been scheduled for July 27, 2010 and another meeting will be scheduled in the winter to review the benchmarks. 

The Benchmark Committee offered several wording changes to the benchmarks for consideration. These proposed changes were distributed prior to the meeting and included:

In Adult Services, Benchmark #1 - “By July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of five (5) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state.”

Dr. Kuell explained that Adult Services staff was having difficulty obtaining commitments from facilities to permit BESB to offer the training, due to time constraints of facility staff. The recommendation of the Benchmark Committee is to reduce the number of training programs from five (5) to three (3).

In the Children’s Services Program, Benchmark #5 has been achieved.

By January 1, 2010 BESB shall produce and distribute to school districts and the general public a Best Practice Handout for paraprofessionals to use when working with children who are blind, deafblind, or visually impaired.” 

Dr. Kuell reported that the Benchmark Committee was recommending retirement of this benchmark.

No changes to the wording of the Business Enterprise Program benchmarks were suggested.

For Vocational Rehabilitation, there were proposed changes to the wording of benchmarks #1, 2 and 3, to add “Starting January 1, 2010 to the front of each benchmark to make the time period of measurement clear. With these changes, the Vocational Rehabilitation benchmarks would read:

“1. Starting January 1, 2010 provide a group Job Seeking Skills class twice a year, focusing on skills such as networking, interviewing skills, and resume writing, culminating in attendance at a job fair.

2. Starting January 1, 2010 all VR Counselors will increase community outreach activities focusing on employment, referrals, minorities and community rehabilitation providers, with a minimum of two hours a week on these activities using the new marketing materials for the division.

3. Starting January 1, 2010 all VR field staff will participate in 2 trainings a year, with a focus on Assistive Technology or Job Development.”

Dr. Kuell asked if the Board had any other questions. Mr. Kronfeld asked how VR Benchmark #2 is reported and measured for effectiveness.  Ms. Burgard explained that Vocational Rehabilitation measures hours and outreach by the electronic schedule.  Mr. Sigman remarked that Vocational Rehabilitation Programs around the nation are measured based on employment outcomes, so the program would be looking for increased outcomes over time as a result of these outreach efforts. Ms. Burgard elaborated that the benchmark wording also focuses on increasing client referrals and community rehabilitation provider involvement in addition to including employer outreach. Mr. Kronfeld felt that the wording of this benchmark should have a sharper focus on clarifying the overall purpose of increasing employment outcomes.    

Bill DeMaio made a motion and seconded by Patrick Johnson to modify the wording of Vocational Rehabilitation Benchmark #2 to read:

“With a goal of increasing employment outcomes, starting January 1, 2010 all VR Counselors will increase community outreach activities focusing on employment, referrals, minorities and community rehabilitation providers, with a minimum of two hours a week on these activities using the new marketing materials for the division.”

The motion passed unanimously.

A motion was made by Bill DeMaio and seconded by Patrick Johnson  to accept the remaining benchmarks with revisions as proposed.  The motion passed unanimously.

Dr. Chris Kuell made a motion and seconded by Betty Woodward to retire the Children’s Services benchmark for issuing a Best Practices Handout for Paraprofessionals.  The motion passed unanimously. 

Budget Update

Mr. Norton reported that the Governor and legislature are working on the projected $500 million deficit for the current fiscal year. Mr. Sigman presented to the Board the Fiscal Year 2010 budget for BESB.  There is projected funding available to serve this year and next year’s Vocational Rehabilitation clients. Funding for the Deafblind program and the Enhanced Employment program is available at the levels previously anticipated and reported on.  There are concerns about the federal Older Blind account.  Dr. Kuell asked if any towns have eliminated itinerant teachers due to the reduction in the Children’s Services account.  Mr. Sigman said this has not occurred so far.   

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre apologized for his late arrival today. He was at an  Access to Jobs meeting, where there was discussion to remove transit routes, a potential loss of about 3,000 jobs if these routes are eliminated.  There will be a public hearing on this proposal.  Dr. Kuell asked for an Executive Summary of this program to be sent to the Board.  In the future Mr. DeMaio requested an ITN Report and requested to add this to the June Agenda.

Mr. Norton addressed the Board regarding the agency's recent questions to the Office of State Ethics (OSE) on the subject of potential conflicts of interest for BESB Board members and BESB employees. A question had been posed earlier to the agency whether the Executive Director could hear an informal appeal regarding denial of services if the client was a former State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) member. The OSE did find that the Executive Director could act on the former (or even a current) member's case since the director does not stand to gain or suffer financially whatever action he takes.  Neither the SRC nor the BESB Board play a role in hiring or firing the Director and they also do not set his salary or do his job evaluation. 

The agency additionally asked the OSE about other areas of potential conflicts of interest regarding Board members (and BESB employees) who are also blind and therefore are clients of the agency.  In essence, the question centered around whether there would be any restriction on Board members who are blind, as most of the members are, receiving services from BESB in their capacity as clients.  Mr. Norton told the Board that the agency is awaiting final answers from the OSE to these broader questions. One key aspect of the analysis is to what extent Board members should be considered "public officials" and to what extent that might impair their ability to still be treated as clients of the agency.

Mr. Norton said that he wanted to give the Board this update and also to ask if they had any questions themselves to put to the OSE in addition to the ones Mr. Norton had already sent.  Some members did have thoughts and suggestions. Ms. Gillispie remarked that if you are a recipient of services, as a number of Board members are, you could be penalized for your blindness depending on what stance the OSE takes.  She also pointed out that members receive no payment for their Board services.  Ms. Gillispie asked whether a person who has already been receiving services from the agency as a client would have to stop receiving services if that person was then appointed to the Board.  Ms. Akers asked about the potential situation where board members who are over age 55 were asked to act on policy initiatives that affected the Older Blind program.  Ms. Utter asked if a person who is blind and left the Board would have to wait a certain period of time before they could request or receive services from BESB.  Overall, a number of Board members noted that many persons with blindness might very well choose not to join the Board at all if it meant that they, or their children  could not continue to receive services.  The agency was also asked to point out to the OSE that clients of the agency often require ongoing services from BESB throughout their lives and not just on one or two occasions.

Ms. Woodward, who is a national member of the Collection Development Advisory Group with the National Library Service asked  for any suggestions the board would like to see in library services or books and to please e-mail her.  Ms. Akers reminded the Board that the deadline to submit nominations for the 2010 Awards Event is March 31, 2010.
Adjournment

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Betty Woodward to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:44 pm.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for June 17, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

January 13, 2010

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre; Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Nancy Mothersele, Children’s Services Braille Coordinator, Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for July 27, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Eileen Akers, seconded by Carol Gillispie, to adopt the minutes of the November 23, 2009 meeting.  The motion passed. 

Review Newly Established Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell told the committee the purpose of this meeting was to review the established benchmarks, bring ideas forward for adjustments to these benchmarks, and to hear any remaining ideas for new benchmarks.

Adult Services Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell asked Mr. Lassen if he was satisfied with the benchmarks.  In benchmark #1 Mr. Lassen reported that there is difficulty in getting commitments from facilities to present this training.  So far, only one training has been delivered and, while it may still be an achievable goal, Mr. Lassen believes it would be more realistic if the benchmark goal was for the delivery of three trainings instead of five by July.  Mr. Sigman expressed concerns over the lack of receptivity on the part of nursing homes and assisted living centers to receive this training.  Chairman Kuell was surprised that facilities were not more receptive, while Ms. Akers was not. 

1. By July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of 5 (five) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state.

Dr. Kuell moved to modify the number of trainings specified in the benchmark from five to three.  Ms. Gillispie seconded. The motion passed with two in favor and one abstaining.

Adult Services Benchmark #1 will now read:

1. By July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of 3 (three) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state.

This revised benchmark will go before the full board at the March, 2010 meeting for action.

2. By January 1, 2010, BESB shall produce a baseline

measurement for client satisfaction and functional gains in the delivery of independent living services. 

Mr. Lassen has received the results of the functional gains and satisfaction survey conducted by the UConn Department on Aging. No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

3. To increase the available pool of volunteers for clients awaiting a match by increasing outreach efforts: 

1) Participate in at least two community service focused outreach events, one each in Hartford County and New Haven County.

2) Establish an Internet presence by expanding use of the Volunteer Match.com website to move from one zip code to a statewide exposure.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

4. BESB shall report annually to the Board of Directors on Agency Outreach Efforts to the Medical community and the Public Regarding BESB Services.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

5. By July, 1, 2010, BESB shall pilot two models of computer training for independent living for individuals age 55 and over, with one model in a group setting, and the other an individualized instructional model.  Pre- and post-test analysis will provide data on the effectiveness of each approach.

Mr. Lassen said that contractors have been selected to implement this benchmark and the pool from which to select participants is being reviewed. No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

6. Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Service for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within an average of ten business days.

Mr. Lassen reported that the staff is doing quite well and has met the benchmark whenever results have been measured. Ms. Akers suggested that the agency consider developing a brochure about agency services to give to families who have elderly parents experiencing vision loss.  Chairman Kuell suggested this be brought up at the next strategic planning meeting, and that a brochure be developed and a summary be put on the BESB web site to reach potentially eligible persons.  Ms. Akers suggested outreach by social workers in senior centers.  Mr. Lassen reported on the ongoing outreach activities in senior centers, and at health fairs. Ms. Gillispie suggested that churches, banks, and grocery stores are good locations to distribute outreach materials.  Mr. Sigman liked this idea and would like Adult Services staff to begin distributing BESB referral forms and  information brochures at these types of locations.  Ms. Akers volunteered to give BESB brochures to the Lions in her region.

Mr. Sylvestre and Dr. Kuell suggested a phrase such as “Vision loss should not keep you at home” as a theme for the brochure’s title, and also for consideration on hand outs such as bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

Business Enterprises (BEP) Benchmarks

Mr. Owens is pleased with the BEP benchmarks.

1.   The BEP Training Manual shall be updated by the end of calendar year 2009.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

2. Beginning in calendar year 2009, two in-service trainings shall be provided annually to the BEP Facility Managers.  Training topics to be selected with the active participation of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

Ms. Akers asked Mr. Owens if any of the entrepreneurs came up with any ideas for the in-service trainings.  The Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors Chairperson Joe Nerney came up with promotional salesmanship at facilities (other states are using this to promote their facilities) and he would also like an operator to attend the National Training conference.  Chairman Kuell asked if there have been any trainings.  Mr. Owens said there have already been two, one in October and one in December via teleconference with a high attendance level.  

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

3. BESB will annually Prepare and Publicize Detailed Financial and Budgetary Information on the BEP Program in a User Friendly Format for BESB Consumers and the General Public.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

4. By January 1, 2010, BEP will develop, distribute, and assess a satisfaction survey to be completed by BEP Operators.  The results will be distributed to the Board, Strategic Planning Committee, and the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

 

Children’s Services Benchmarks

Ms. Haines reported their benchmarks were reasonable and doable.  The Best Practice Benchmark #5 has been completed and is on the BESB website.  Chairman Kuell remarked it was a good job.

1. Based upon the average caseload point value in effect on July 1, 2011, the agency will reduce average point value by at least 10% per year, until achieving and maintaining 25 points.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

2. BESB will offer at least two Parent Education events per year, actively publicizing and encouraging attendance.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

3. Children’s Services will twice annually publish and disseminate a newsletter for parents.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

4. To increase access to the Expanded Core Curriculum for BESB-eligible children, Children’s Services will offer at least 3 student events annually.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

5. By January 1, 2010, BESB shall produce and distribute to school districts and the general public a Best Practice Handout for paraprofessionals to use when working with children who are blind, deafblind, or visually impaired. 

Mr. Sylvestre suggested that the Committee retire this benchmark since it was achieved.  Chairman Kuell said this benchmark can be brought before the board at the March, 2010 meeting for discussion on retiring it.

 

Ms. Akers suggested that the agency revisit the Children’s Services policy that addresses the assignment of teachers of the visually impaired for children in out-of-district placements. Mr. Sigman agreed to explore possible adjustments to agency policy or regulation language that would allow for some degree of flexibility in situations of mutual agreement between BESB and the school district.

No modifications to this benchmark were recommended.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Benchmarks

Ms. Burgard is satisfied with the VR benchmarks.  She asked the committee for clarification of the time frame for the benchmarks, wanting to know if they referred to the calendar year or the federal fiscal year. After some discussion, Mr. Sylvestre made the motion, seconded by Eileen Akers that in Benchmarks #1, #2, and #3, the wording be modified at the beginning of each benchmark to start with “Starting January 1, 2010,..”  The motion passed.

1. Starting January 1, 2010 provide a group Job Seeking Skills class twice a year, focusing on skills such as networking, interviewing skills, and resume writing, culminating in attendance at a job fair.

Mr. Sylvestre asked due to the economic condition, are more than two job skills training per year needed.  Ms. Burgard said one training each year is already being done, and because these trainings last for about 8 weeks and are very time extensive, that expanding beyond two per year with current staffing would be difficult.

No additional modifications beyond the date of initiation were recommended for this benchmark.

 

2. Starting January 1, 2010 all VR Counselors will increase community outreach activities focusing on employment, referrals, minorities and community rehabilitation providers, with a minimum of two hours a week on these activities using the new marketing materials for the division.

No modifications beyond the date of initiation were recommended for this benchmark.

3. Starting January 1, 2010 all VR field staff will participate in 2 trainings a year, with a focus on Assistive Technology or Job Development.

No modifications beyond the date of initiation were recommended for this benchmark.

4. For every VR school aged client there shall be at least one annual contact between the counselor and the client (with their guardian).  Contact will increase to at least twice during the last scheduled year of school.

Ms. Akers sought clarification regarding referrals of children to VR. Mr. Sigman indicated that in situations where the parent or the teacher desired for a referral to be made, it should always be done.

Ms. Akers asked if the agency converts materials into Braille for clients who need the documents for their employment. Ms. Mothersele indicated that she has done this on a number of occasions for clients. Ms. Burgard would need more details if there was a particular situation where a request was not acted upon so that she could review the individual circumstances.

Additional Comments

Chairman Kuell discussed a concern of PDF files not working well with Braille Displays and he asked if BESB sends out PDF files.  Mr. Sigman said that the agency strives to obtain Word versions of PDF files to avoid sending out PDF files due to the difficulties that PDF files present with adaptive technology. Chairman Kuell suggested that the agency have a centralized point for collecting concerns from clients who are not receiving timely return phone calls from the agency. Mr. Sigman, Mr. Lassen, Ms. Burgard and Ms. Caye detailed the existing process for supervisory tracking of these types of calls.

Chairman Kuell would like to meet in July and then in the winter to review the benchmarks.  Mr. Sylvestre would like to meet quarterly.  The committee agreed that the date of the next meeting will be July 27, 2010.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Carol Gillispie, and seconded by Al Sylvestre to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

December 3, 2009   

Welcome and Introductions

Board member Eileen Akers called the meeting to order at 10:03 a.m. at the request of Chairman Alan Sylvestre, who was delayed due to another commitment.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; William DeMaio; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Christine Boisvert; Patrick Johnson; Randa Utter 

Members Absent

Betty Woodward; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director, Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Public Comment

None.

Old Business
Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the September 10, 2009 Board meeting minutes.  The Board unanimously accepted the Benchmark Committee Minutes from the August 17, 2009, September 23, 2009, and October 28, 2009.

New Business

Deafblind Advisory Committee Composition

Mr. Sigman presented to the Board recommendations for an Adult Services policy update regarding the composition of the Deafblind Advisory Committee.  These recommendations were approved by the Deafblind Advisory Committee membership at their December 1, 2009 meeting, and included some additional changes that were not in the earlier draft proposal sent to the Board for review.  These additional changes included:  (1) changing the spelling of “Deaf-Blind” to “deafblind” consistently throughout the policy, (2) change section “m” to read “representing individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing” and (3) add a new section “q” to read “An individual who is deafblind” to be added as a voting member. 

Chairman Sylvestre requested that comments sent to him from Stephen Thal be read to the Board.  Mr. Thal wrote:  Agency have an Advisory Committee to include persons who are deafblind and not part of the Deafblind Grant? If not, whose responsibility do they come under or who will advocate for this group? BRS and BESB have an agreement to work with each other on common areas. Representative from the different Deafblind groups need to be represented.”

Mr. Sigman noted that the new section “q” is the response to Mr. Thal’s question by adding in a voting member for this population.    

Ms. Akers asked if “Oak Hill School” is the correct name for that organization.  Mr. Johnson said the official name is the “Connecticut Institute for the Blind, Inc.”  Ms. Dodd asked if the school serves children as well as adults.  Mr. Johnson said that it does. After further discussion, the Board agreed that item “f” should be changed from “A representative of the Connecticut Institute for the Blind/Oak Hill School” to “A representative of the Connecticut Institute for the Blind, Inc., DBA Oak Hill.”

A motion was made by Bill DeMaio and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to accept the new wording for the composition of the Deafblind Advisory Committee as amended.  The motion passed unanimously.

Mr. Sigman indicated that these changes as approved by the Board will next go to a public hearing for comment.

Annual Report Assignments for Action

Ms. Akers reported on the draft Annual Report to the Governor sent to the Board.  Ms. Akers took the lead on this project and Board members Patrick Johnson, Randa Utter, and Chairman Al Sylvestre all volunteered to serve on this committee as well.  Ms. Dodd expressed her appreciate for the work that Ms. Akers and the other members of the project did to complete the draft report.  Ms. Akers suggested that in future years, assignments for drafting this report be made in June, giving Board members more time for input.

A Motion was made by Patrick Johnson and seconded by Christine Bosivert to approve the Annual Report to the Governor.  The motion passed unanimously.
Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders

Mr. Lassen updated the Board on his discussions so far with 20 of the 30 facilitators located in 24 different towns (ten other support groups have ceased to operate, but additional support groups have begun meeting).  At present, thirteen groups meet at senior or community centers, four in private senior housing, two at Jewish community centers, two at federal Veterans Association facilities, one at a hospital outpatient facility, and one here at BESB.  In addition, there are the seven NFB Chapters in Connecticut.

Mr. Lassen has revised the support group list, making certain to include the times and locations of the meetings.  The updated list will be posted on the BESB website and also distributed to all Adult Services staff.  Additionally, the 2010 low vision calendars will include a list of all towns and cities where groups meet, along with the contact name and phone number for every group.  Mr. DeMaio asked when the calendar will be printed and distributed.  Mr. Lassen said it should be available very soon.

Ms. Akers asked if any support groups were led by rehabilitation teachers.  Mr. Lassen emphasized that only one of these groups is lead by a BESB staff person, who is a Social Services Assistant.  At least one facilitator is an occupational therapist, another two groups are led by the coordinator of the VA’s VIST program, and many are led by social workers or other staff from the senior centers.  Lions Club members are involved with leading many groups, and the seven NFB chapters are all led by persons with blindness.  Ms. Dodd commented that her NFB chapter would welcome speakers from BESB as well as other blindness service organizations.

All Adult Services field staff are receiving the updated list and are encouraged to make referrals of interested clients to their local support groups.  Except for one, these groups are not sponsored by BESB, but AS staff members are making contact with the coordinators of each group to explain BESB services.  Mr. Lassen reiterated that twenty (20) facilitators have been contacted so far.  Ms. Utter said that it was good to keep track of this ongoing effort. Mr. Lassen will regularly report to the Board on the ongoing progress of outreach efforts to support group leaders when giving his Program Highlights report. 

Benchmarks Committee Update

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell updated the Board on the work of the Committee.  The Committee is now working on the Vocational Rehabilitation Division.  Chairman Kuell said the committee would like to retire one BEP Benchmark due to the economic situation, and would like to revisit this benchmark once the budget situation improves.  The committee would also like to establish four new benchmarks for Vocational Rehabilitation. 

BEP Retire Benchmark #1

Starting in State Fiscal Year 2007, at least 35 percent of the program income received during the fiscal year will be applied for the direct benefit of Business Enterprise Program ventures at new and/or existing locations, for facility improvements, maintenance, expansion, and for the betterment of income and incentives to operators in the program.  For Fiscal Year 2008, this amount will grow to 40 percent of program income for that year, increasing in 2010 to 45%.

VR Proposed Benchmark #1

Provide a group Job Seeking Skills class twice a year, focusing on skills such as networking, interviewing skills, and resume writing, culminating in attendance at a job fair.

VR Proposed Benchmark #2

All VR Counselors will increase community outreach activities focusing on employment, referrals, minorities and community rehabilitation providers, with a minimum of two hours a week on these activities using the new marketing materials for the division.

VR Proposed Benchmark #3

All VR field staff will participate in 2 trainings a year, with a focus on Assistive Technology or Job Development.

VR Proposed Benchmark #4

For every VR school aged client there shall be at least one annual contact between the counselor and the client (with their guardian).  Contact will increase to at least twice during the last scheduled year of school.

A motion was made by Eileen Akers and seconded by Randa Utter to retire the BEP benchmark and adopt the four Vocational Rehabilitation benchmarks.  The motion passed unanimously.

Budget Update
Mr. Sigman presented to the Board on the Fiscal Year 2010 budget for BESB and provided comparisons to the line item appropriations in the Fiscal Year 2009 BESB budget. In addition, Mr. Sigman detailed the recent rescissions to specific accounts that have occurred in November. Included in the budget summary were strategies that BESB is utilizing to maintain services across all programs in these challenging economic times.
Points to the Good and Welfare
Chairman Sylvestre will be attending a Government Advisory Council meeting on Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety.  A motion was made by Eileen Akers and seconded by Patrick Johnson to express appreciation of Donna Gore and BESB staff for the effort they gave to producing a highly successful Awards Ceremony.  The motion passed unanimously.  Chairman Sylvestre suggested sending a letter to Ms. Gore and the staff who worked on the event in acknowledgment of their efforts and activities. 

Mr. DeMaio asked for an update on ITN.  Mr. Sigman said that information about ITN is now on the BESB website in the Transportation Resources Guide.  Ms. Akers asked Hartford Artisan’s member Ms. Dodd how the center was doing.  Ms. Dodd said the center’s last sales event on November 14, 2009 was very successful.  The Center is becoming financially solvent, but more volunteers are needed.  Additional information on the Hartford Artisan Center is available at their website (www.weavingcenter.org).  Chairman Sylvestre asked if BESB could provide a link to the center on BESB’s webpage.  Mr. Sigman said it can be added.

Adjournment

Patrick Johnson made a motion, seconded by Christine Boisvert to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 11:36 pm.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 18, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

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 Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

November 23, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 11:41 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre; Jay Kronfeld; Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

None

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for January 13, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers, to adopt the minutes of the October 28, 2009 meeting.  The motion passed. 

Questions for Mary Burgard

Chairman Kuell asked the committee if they had any further questions for Mary Burgard about the VR program.  They had none.

New Business

Discuss VR Staff Focus Group

Mr. Kronfeld expressed his idea of conducting a focus group, the Benchmark Committee meeting informally with VR counselors to obtain their thoughts about services and priorities.  Chairman Kuell said about 6 to 8 employees would be invited to an informal luncheon meeting.  After discussion, the committee decided not to act on this suggestion. 

Consider New Benchmark Proposals from VR Supervisor

4.  Refer seven VR clients to Business Enterprise Program.

Ms. Burgard reported #4 was a collaborative benchmark with BEP that was proposed during a time of program expansion within BEP. However, with the current fiscal situation, BEP is not expanding to new locations, so the proposed benchmark is no longer an idea that would be feasible at this time.  Ms. Akers asked how many summer students who are blind have had the opportunity to work in the summer BEP program.  Mr. Sigman reported there were 10 individuals.  The committee decided not to act on this proposed benchmark.

5.  Collaborative event with Children Services focusing on Transition Services.

Ms. Burgard had a collaborative benchmark in mind with Children’s Services (CS) at the time this was originally conceived, but that division now has a benchmark to do events (e.g., parent education events), which VR is already involved in.  This is an outdated benchmark. The committee decided not to act on this proposed benchmark.

Consider New Benchmark Proposals from Committee

Ms. Akers expressed her concern over coordination in the transition process for children not going to college, and for children with multiple disabilities. She does not find any reference in VR policy regarding VR accepting referrals at age 14.  Ms. Burgard explained to the committee how the process works.  Regional counselors start working with referred students at age 14, with the Transition Coordinator and Counselor Coordinator as backups to attend PPTs if the counselor is unable to attend.  Ms. Burgard also stated that one of the ongoing problems is the communication and service coordination with TVIs who are employed by the towns.

Ms. Akers felt the area that needs to be strengthened is the communication between a TVI and a VR counselor before the annual PPT occurs. Chairman Kuell felt this is a policy issue and suggested that each VR student should receive at least one vocational counseling discussion with their VR counselor each school year, increasing to at least two discussions during the last year of school.  Ms. Burgard thought it was a great idea and will start to think how to track this and generate a report.  She reported there are approximately 150 transition age children in VR at this time.  The committee came up with a benchmark to address these concerns.

New #4 Proposed VR Benchmark

For every VR school aged client there shall be at least one annual contact between the counselor and the client (with their guardian).  Contact will increase to at least twice during the last scheduled year of school.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to make this a benchmark.  The motion passed.

Chairman Kuell requested that Mary Burgard report to the Board quarterly on VR placements.  Mr. Sigman suggested that Ms. Burgard report to the Board at each quarterly meeting as a standing agenda item, using the RSA 113 report.  The committee agreed.

Chairman Kuell asked if it would be feasible to pursue legislation which would provide a tax incentive to employers in Connecticut who hire a person with a disability. Mr. Sigman and Mr. Norton explained the process that state agencies follow when legislative changes are desired. All agreed that when the next time period for legislative proposals is near (summer, 2010), that a draft proposal will be developed for consideration. This topic will be included in the June, 2010 Board Meeting.

Ms. Akers requested that the Vocational Rehabilitation policy section pertaining to transition services be updated to clarify that referrals to the VR program can be made at age 14.  Mr. Sigman agreed with this request and noted that the proposed change will need to be included in the next public hearing.

Chairman Kuell said there will be one more meeting to review benchmarks that have already been set.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 1:17 p.m.

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 Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

October 28, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:06 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre; Jay Kronfeld; Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

None

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor, Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for November 23, 2009 at 11:30 a.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, seconded by Eileen Akers, to adopt the minutes of the September 23, 2009 meeting.  The motion passed. 

Discuss Revision of BEP Benchmark One

BEP Benchmark # One

Starting in State Fiscal Year 2007, at least 35 percent of the program income received during the fiscal year will be applied for the direct benefit of Business Enterprise Program ventures at new and/or existing locations, for facility improvements, maintenance, expansion, and for the betterment of income and incentives to operators in the program. For Fiscal Year 2008, this amount will grow to 40 percent of program income for that year, increasing in 2010 to 45%.

Chairman Kuell reported this benchmark is currently 40%, going to 45% in 2010. After the state removed $600,000 from BEP reserves, and given the uncertainty of the program income due to the new vending contract, it is not possible for BESB to meet this benchmark.  Mr. Sigman stated that the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors met recently.  The vendors elected a new chairperson, Joe Nerney.  The vendors stated two of their priorities. They are: (1) if a field representative leaves the BEP program, the committee will have the opportunity to decide if the position is to be refilled and (2) the amount of money that goes to the former Industries clients program be capped at $30,000. The Committee is to be informed if it is expected to go beyond that amount. Mr. Owens reported the sponsorship and rebate payments from Coke will come at the end of contract year, most likely in August, making it tight to make it through FY 10. These payments will be used in FY 11. As we are in FY 10, the current benchmark is actually 45%.  Mr. Sylvestre asked how the committee arrived at the $30,000 cap for workshop money.  Mr. Owens said by looking at the history of expenditures. The number of clients has decreased thru death, illness, or retirement.  The cost of the contracts has increased.  The funding has remained about the same. Chairman Kuell proposed to drop this benchmark and wait and see what happens with the BEP funding this year.  Mr. Kronfeld asked if the group purchasing idea was brought before the operators.  Mr. Sigman said that it had been presented, but no decisions yet on the part of the Committee have occurred. At the last meeting, a manager brought in samples from a bakery distributor, in hopes of a possible group purchasing concept. Mr. Kronfeld asked what the estimated income of the Coke contract is.  Mr. Owens reported that if sales volume followed trends from prior years, the overall income (including the Coke money) would be 6% less than last year, dropping down to approximately $2.1 million for the year. Based on the economic situation, the program income could be lower than projected.  Mr. Sigman said all operators reported considerably less business this year than last year.  Chairman Kuell said operators liked this benchmark when it was established several years ago since it prioritized that funds needed to be expended on program improvements. But due to much uncertainty, BESB cannot meet this benchmark as written.  Mr. Kronfeld would like all these numbers sent out in an e-mail.  Mr. Sigman said they are in the September Benchmark Report handed out at the September Board meeting and posted on the BESB webpage.  Chairman Kuell would like to retire the benchmark and take a look at it again, once the budgetary fiscal impact is known.   

A motion was made by Eileen Akers, and seconded by Al Sylvestre to retire the BEP Benchmark #One.  A vote was taken, four voted yes and one abstained.  The motion passed.

Review of State and Federal Regulations and Reporting Requirements for VR Program

Chairman Kuell asked Ms. Burgard for a brief summary.  Ms. Burgard said that Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) measures vocational rehabilitation agencies on Standards and Indicators. There are six performance measures for Standard One and Standard Two has one indicator. Out of the 6 indicators in Standard One, 3 are primary indicators. Agencies must achieve passing levels on two out of the three primary indicators, and 4 of 6 overall. The agency also submits an RSA 911 report each year, reporting on case closures.  Every year, agencies must also submit to RSA a report that details how much was spent that year for the program and services provided to clients. The agency also provides to RSA quarterly financial reports and case activity reports.  Mr. Kronfeld asked how much VR gets from the federal government each year.  Mr. Sigman said the VR budget federal allotment is $3.067 million, the State matched $989,454 in FY 09, but in fiscal year 2010 there was a 10% reduction in this fund. There is also $500,000 in federal stimulus funds.  

Questions for Mary Burgard Regarding VR Program Details

Mr. Kronfeld asked if Ms. Burgard handled the community  boards.  Ms. Burgard said that the Counselors and the Counselor Coordinator are assigned to the regional workforce boards. Ms. Burgard is a member of a statewide community rehab providers (CRP) group.  Mr. Kronfeld asked if these groups or boards generate job leads.  Ms. Burgard said the workforce boards generate some job leads.  Mr. Kronfeld asked if they were paid by BESB.  Ms. Burgard said no.  Mr. Kronfeld asked how many organizations BESB works with and how much are they paid.  Ms. Burgard said there are five Workforce boards that do not charge, and there are close to 100 Community Rehab Providers (CRPs) with a fee schedule and different criteria on how they are paid. They are on State of Connecticut contract and assist most often with on-the-job supports (job coaching). Mr. Kronfeld asked for the total spent on community rehabilitation providers this past year and how many job placements resulted from this. Ms. Burgard said approximately $425,000 was spent on purchased services from community service providers for the year for a variety of different services that they provide. Job placement is not one of the primary services the agency purchases from these providers, as BESB counselors do much of the job development. Job coaching and work evaluations are the services most often purchased. Ms. Burgard estimated that there were ten situations were job placement was purchased from the community providers. Ms. Burgard pointed out that the VR counselor is the primary case manager of the clients and will link the client to all the different services and agencies.


 

New Business

Consider New Benchmark Proposals from VR Supervisors

(Two of the Five are Left)

VR Proposed Benchmark #2

All VR Counselors will increase community outreach activities focusing on employment, referrals, minorities and community rehabilitation providers, with a minimum of two hours a week on these activities using the new marketing materials for the division.

Chairman Kuell asked about the new marketing materials.  Ms. Burgard said a marketing firm was hired a year ago to develop new materials—brochures, coasters, mouse pads, key chains, which are now being used by the counselors in their marketing efforts with employers.  Counselors also use these materials when they go to job fairs and events.  Chairman Kuell asked if the amount of time participating in these events is monitored.  Ms. Burgard said employer outreach is monitored on the time tracker schedule report. 

Ms. Akers asked about time tracker and how much time per week is spent for direct one to one with clients.  Ms. Burgard said there is a good amount of paperwork in the VR program, but the majority of time is spent working with clients.  Mr. Sylvestre asked if VR counselors felt this proposed benchmark was a good way to spend their time.  Ms. Burgard said all staff persons submitted what they would like the program’s benchmarks to be, and that staff felt this was a good benchmark for focusing on outreach priorities.

Ms. Gillispie asked what percentage of clients who get job offers, but do not have transportation.  Ms. Burgard said it does frequently occur where a client or the counselor identifies a job of interest but there is no transportation available.  The first step in job development is tailoring the job to that individual, and this includes identifying jobs that have transportation options. 


Ms. Akers asked if college students go back to regional counselors when they graduate.  Ms. Burgard said yes, but college students are often placed through Mike Cordero’s efforts. Ms. Gillispie asked if part-time jobs turn into full-time jobs.  Ms. Burgard said yes, some clients get hourly increases or advance into full-time positions.  Ms. Burgard said another example is Stimulus funds, which were used for a model developed in July to offset with employer costs to hire a client in a job try-out.  Four clients have become permanent hires with this model so far. Ms. Akers asked how the agency would report this benchmark.  Ms. Burgard said the time tracker report would capture this information.  Chairman Kuell would like Ms. Burgard to report at the December Board meeting how VR Counselors are spending their time. 

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Eileen Akers to make this a benchmark.  A vote was taken, four voted yes and one opposed.  The motion passed.

VR Proposed Benchmark #3

All VR field staff will participate in 2 trainings a year, with a focus on Assistive Technology or Job Development.

Chairman Kuell would like all VR counselors to learn about the newest technology.  Ms. Burgard said the counselors benefitted from the prior version of this benchmark.  Ms. Akers asked what positions constitute field staff.  Ms. Burgard said VR Counselors, Rehabilitation Technologists, Orientation and Mobility, Education Projects Coordinator (Transition Coordinator) and Lead Counselor.  Ms. Akers asked if staff could attend more than two trainings.  Ms. Burgard said they could attend more than two.  Ms. Gillispie asked where these trainings are being held.  Ms. Burgard said the focus has been on in-state trainings, e.g., Neat Marketplace, in-service training at BESB by the technologists for staff.  Mr. Kronfeld would like the focus to be on the training and the outcome.   Mr. Sylvestre would like staff to be given more discretion which training is more beneficial to them.  Ms. Burgard said staff have always had the benefit of training opportunities, but this benchmark focuses the staff’s attention in particular areas.  Mr. Sigman said job development skills are one of the most important skills for counselors to assist clients and work with employers.  Mrs. Gillispie agreed with the importance of job development training.  Chairman Kuell said as the supervisor, Ms. Burgard should make the determination what staff needs are.

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adopt this benchmark.  A vote was taken, four voted yes and one opposed.  The motion passed.

Chairman Kuell said Proposed Benchmark #4 and #5 will be discussed at the next meeting.

4.  Refer seven VR clients to Business Enterprise Program.

5.  Collaborative event with Children Services focusing on Transition Services.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Al Sylvestre to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:58 a.m.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

September 23, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:06 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre; Jay Kronfeld

Members Absent

Carol Gillispie

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Director; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, Susan Monteleone, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Coordinator

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for October 28, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to adopt the minutes of the August 17, 2009 meeting.  The motion passed. 

Questions for Mary Burgard or Susan Monteleone

Chairman Kuell asked what has happened so far with the federal stimulus money and how it has been utilized. Ms. Burgard said some money has been used on a new service the agency developed, expanding on the on-the-job training model, taking it one step further to cover internships and temporary employment situations. Also, in collaboration with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) the agency has developed an incentive plan for community rehabilitation providers to locate job opportunities for clients. Forty youth in transition have been placed in summer jobs, with 27 of these placements utilizing stimulus funds available through the Regional Workforce Boards. Six adults have utilized the internship model for on-the-job training, with 4 job hires resulting so far. Nine additional job placement situations have utilized the stimulus funds for services such as job coaching and adaptive technology.

Ms. Akers asked for some examples of the types of jobs found through this model.  Ms. Burgard gave the example of a receptionist and massage therapist who have both become permanent positions subsequent to utilizing the stimulus funds.  Chairman Kuell asked how much of the funding has been utilized so far.  Ms. Burgard said approximately $100,000 out of the $500,000 has been committed so far. 

Chairman Kuell asked about the Ticket to Work Program.  Ms. Monteleone said the benefits for third parties to become Employment Networks have not come to full fruition for Social Security Disability beneficiaries who are blind due to the higher earning levels that enable a person to remain on disability benefits in part-time and entry level employment situations.  Mr. Sigman went on to describe how recent changes in Social Security Regulations for the Ticket to Work have opened new opportunities for employers and community rehabilitation providers to access long term funding for job supports. The agency is hopeful that this will lead to greater supported employment options for clients. 

Mr. Kronfeld asked how many counselors are working with clients.  Ms. Burgard said 8 counselors, with one of these counselors working primarily with college students.  Ms. Monteleone explained that all of the counselors, in addition to herself, perform employer outreach activities.  Mr. Kronfeld asked about the two counselor positions that were lost due to retirement.  Ms. Burgard reported that the agency has strong candidates for these positions and that interviews will be occurring in the coming weeks.  Mr. Kronfeld asked when BESB anticipates filling these positions.  Mr. Sigman said by the end of November. 

Chairman Kuell asked if division meetings are held with the counselors exchanging information.  Ms. Burgard said this is done, and that there is also good collaboration among counselors, who meet with each other informally to discuss clients and job leads.  Mr. Kronfeld asked for the total number of VR clients, and Ms. Burgard indicated there were approximately 900. 

Mr. Kronfeld asked Ms. Monteleone and Ms. Burgard to detail for the committee their educational credentials and work history. Both staff detailed their qualifications for the positions they hold at the agency.

Chairman Kuell asked if the counselors focus on providing clients with technology skills as part of job training and preparedness.  Ms. Burgard said there is a focus on developing job skills and computer skills before seeking employment, but that when a job opportunity becomes available, there is often a need for additional adaptive technology training specific to the job situation.  Mr. Kronfeld asked what term “job coaching” means. Ms. Burgard said that the program uses community rehabilitation providers, such as Easter Seals, Goodwill, etc. to provide clients with support training and orientation when needed on the job.   Mr. Kronfeld asked if clients are provided with interview preparation training.  Ms. Burgard reported that the agency utilizes job seeking skills classes for this purpose and noted that a Vocational Rehabilitation Assistant Counselor who is bilingual has done group job seeking skills classes for Spanish speaking clients.  Ms. Burgard said that community rehabilitation providers are also utilized to provide job seeking skills training to clients. Mr. Kronfeld asked how the agency knows that a provider is doing their job well. Ms. Monteleone said there are consistent reporting requirements in place and the counselors follow up with their clients. 

Chairman Kuell asked if there are any blind clients who work as Brailler repairers.  Ms. Burgard said no.  Mr. Sigman said it was a good idea and Ms. Burgard agreed it was a great alternative instead of using an out-of-state repair service to instead find a client with a mechanical ability and interest in receiving training in how to repair Braillers.  Chairman Kuell will get the information to Ms. Burgard regarding programs that offer training in repair.

Ms. Akers asked for the percentage of Children’s Services referrals on any given year to VR.  Ms. Burgard estimated about 10% of all referrals.  Ms. Akers asked what the time frame is for a VR counselor to contact a new referral.  Ms. Burgard said the initial contact would occur within a couple of months.   Ms. Akers asked about contact with college bound students.  Ms. Burgard said clients are referred as young as age 14 and will be assigned to a regional Counselor rather than the College Counselor. If the client is going to college, a transfer is made to the College Counselor during the junior year of high school.  Ms. Akers agreed that age 14 was a good age to start the vocational process.  Mr. Kronfeld asked if the agency follows up on the clients that graduate from college and Mr. Sigman indicated that a follow up survey occurs each year of students that are 5 years past high school graduation. The most recent survey showed that of the 24 students in the survey sample, 5 (21%) are now working, 11 (46%) have gone into non-vocational day program activities, 1 (4%) is in supported employment, 2 (8%) are attending college, and 5 (21%) are presently not working for various reasons such as still in the job seeking process or no longer interested in services.

Ms. Akers asked if the Community Rehabilitation Providers work just with people in supported employment or if their services cover all types of job placements.  Ms. Burgard said they cover the full scope of job situations. Ms. Akers then asked if the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) written examination includes questions that relate to blindness.    Mr. Sigman said the test covers a broad spectrum of rehabilitation issues and scenarios for a variety of disabilities.  Ms. Akers asked if BESB trains staff on cultural differences.  Ms. Burgard said there is a cultural diversity training each year. Ms. Akers asked if VR provides blindness sensitivity training to Community Rehabilitation Providers. Ms. Burgard said there was a training in July with great attendance and one provided last November. Additionally, Vocational Rehabilitation counselors will often provide individual training to staff at the Community Rehabilitation programs on blindness. 

Mr. Sylvestre asked if VR teaches clients how to social network for job seeking, which is an important approach to use for finding a job. Ms. Burgard said it is done informally, but this is a good idea to pursue more formally.  Chairman Kuell agreed that networking is important. 

New Business

Consider New Benchmark Proposals from VR Supervisors

Ms. Burgard read all five proposed benchmarks to the committee.

VR Proposed Benchmark #1

Provide a group Job Seeking Skills class twice a year, focusing on skills such as networking, interviewing skills, and resume writing, culminating in attendance at a job fair.

Mr. Sylvestre stressed the importance of networking and job fairs.  The committee agreed.  A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to accept Proposed VR Benchmark #1.  The motion passed.   

At the next Benchmark Meeting the Proposed VR Benchmarks 2-5 will be discussed.  They are:

2.  All VR Counselors will increase community outreach activities focusing on employment, referrals, minorities and community rehabilitation providers, with a minimum of two hours a week on these activities using the new marketing materials for the division.

3.  All VR field staff will Participate in 2 trainings a year, with a focus on Assistive Technology or Job Development.

4.  Refer seven VR clients to Business Enterprise Program.

5.  Collaborative event with Children Services focusing on Transition Services.

Chairman Kuell would like to discuss state and federal regulations and reporting requirements at the next meeting.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

September 10, 2009  

Welcome and Introductions

Board Member Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m., at the request of Chairman Alan Sylvestre, who was delayed due to another commitment.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; William DeMaio; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Betty Woodward; Christine Boisvert; Patrick Johnson; Randa Utter 

Members Absent

Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Public Comment

None.

Old Business
Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the June 4, 2009 Board meeting minutes.  The Board unanimously adopted the Special Board Meeting Minutes of June 23, 2009.  The Board unanimously accepted the Benchmark Committee Minutes from the July 20, 2009, June 15, 2009, and the May 1, 2009 meetings. The Benchmark Committee has not yet approved the August 17, 2009 Benchmark Committee Draft Minutes, so a vote to accept these draft minutes was deferred.

New Business
Proposed Meeting Dates for 2010

The Board motioned and unanimously voted to accept board meeting dates of March 18, June 17, September 16, and December 9, for 2010, all meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m. 

Annual Report Assignments for Action

Dr. Kuell asked for volunteers to write the Board’s Annual Report due January 1, 2010.  Ms. Akers volunteered to take the lead.  Patrick Johnson, Randa Utter, and Chairman Sylvestre also volunteered.   

Policy Approvals for Adult Services, Children’s Services, and Vocational Rehabilitation for Action

Mr. Sigman presented a summary.  Subsequent to the approval of new State Regulations regarding client ownership of equipment provided by this agency for rehabilitation, public hearings were held in June to propose adjustments to the agency policies to reflect the language that is present in the new Regulations.  Public comments received requested that the Children’s Services draft policy language be adjusted to replace “may” with “shall” pertaining to equipment ownership and also to remove the word “client” where it appeared in error after the word “guardian.”  Adult Services policies pertaining to confidentiality were also a subject of the public hearings, with no public comments received in regard to the proposed changes to that section. Ms. Akers expressed her concern that the agency needs to maintain an inventory of loaner equipment to make available when children need to send their equipment out for repair.  Ms. Haines said there is equipment available to loan in these circumstances.  Ms. Akers asked that the language found in the proposed Vocational Rehabilitation policy update regarding the temporary loan of equipment also be added to the Children’s Services policy. On a motion made by Jay Kronfeld and seconded by Betty Woodward, it was agreed that the Children’s Services, Adult Services, and Vocational Rehabilitation policies would be accepted, with the wording corrections in the Children’s Services policy accepted, and with the Children’s Services and Adult Services policies adopting the temporary equipment loan language found in the Vocational Rehabilitation policy. The motion passed unanimously.

Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders

Mr. Lassen updated the Board on the 20 support groups in the state that are being contacted by Adult Services.  These groups are not sponsored by BESB, but the Adult Services staff is making contact with the coordinators of each group to explain BESB services.  Mr. Lassen said five groups have been contacted so far, and regular outreach is done by the Orientation and Mobility staff.  Ms. Utter said it was good to keep track of this. Mr. Lassen agreed to provide the Board with a written update of outreach efforts to support group leaders at future board meetings when giving his Program Highlights report. 

Benchmarks Committee Update
 

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell updated the Board on the work of the Committee.  The Committee has finished developing new proposed benchmarks for Adult Services, Business Enterprises and the Children’s Services Division, and is now working on the Vocational Rehabilitation Division.   

Dr. Kuell introduced a modification to a previously approved benchmark for it to be changed to incorporate the “average” timeframes for contact to be established with client referrals.

AS Benchmark #1 proposed revision

Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Service for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within an average of ten business days.

A motion was made Chris Kuell and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to accept this modified Adult Services benchmark wording.  The motion passed unanimously.

Ms. Akers explained to the board why the three remaining Vocational Rehabilitation Division benchmarks were coming before the board with a recommendation to retire them.  Benchmark Chairman Dr. Kuell said new benchmarks are being developed for Vocational Rehabilitation, and the existing benchmarks have been achieved. 

VR Benchmark #1

Vocational Rehabilitation counselors, Rehabilitation Teachers, Rehabilitation Technologists, and Education Project Coordinator will participate in at least 2 trainings on assistive technology each year.

VR Benchmark #2

Implement a formalized mentoring program that includes a training seminar on “How to be a Mentor.”  One activity for the mentors planned each year, beginning in 2006.

VR Benchmark #3

BESB will achieve 100 competitive (non-homemaker) status 26 closures for FY 2006, increasing to 107 for FY 2007, and 112 for FY 2008.

A motion was made by Dr. Chris Kuell and seconded by Betty Woodward to retire these three VR benchmark.  The motion passed unanimously.

Proposed Children’s Services Benchmark #1

By Jan 1, 2010 BESB shall produce and distribute to school districts and the general public a Best Practice Handout for paraprofessionals to use when working with children who are blind, deafblind, or visually impaired. 

Ms. Akers requested that “Deafblind” be added to the wording of this benchmark.  A motion was made by Dr. Chris Kuell and seconded by Carolyn Dodd to add in this word and accept Children’s Services Benchmark #1.  The Motion passed unanimously.

Proposed Children’s Services Benchmark #2

“Based upon the average caseload point value in effect on July 1, 2011, the agency will reduce average point value by at least 10% per year, until achieving and maintaining 25 points.”

A motion was made by Dr. Chris Kuell and seconded by Patrick Johnson to modify and replace previous Children’s Services Benchmark #2 with this new wording.  The Motion passed unanimously.  

Budget Update

Mr. Norton gave an overview of two bills that were passed by the legislature this session and signed into law by the Governor.  The first was Public Act 09-154, that created a new Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board which will study and report on ways of making Connecticut roads and highways more user-friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians.  Mr. Norton pointed out that the Advisory Board will include a member representing people with visual impairment.  Chairman Sylvestre announced that he had just been appointed by the Governor to that seat on the Board.  The second bill became Public Act 09-187, a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) bill, part of which sought to tighten up the distribution and use of handicapped parking permits.  Based on information provided by BESB, language was inserted into the bill making it clear that persons with blindness who apply for such a parking permit may submit a Certificate of Legal Blindness (CLB) from BESB as proof of blindness when applying to DMV for a handicapped parking permit. 

The state budget is now law.  State agencies have received reductions to their budgets. The Implementer Bills will be taken up by the legislature later this month.  These bills will detail further the specific areas of funding reductions for the broader categories found in the adopted budget.  Mr. Sigman reported that BESB can continue to cover its core services with the budget that is now law.    

     

Program Highlights and Benchmark Update

Mr. Sigman reported that the Annual Report/Administrative Digest for the agency has been distributed.  The agency has continued to deliver a large amount of direct services which have gone up by ten percent from the prior year.  Mr. Sigman praised the agency staff for their ongoing initiative to come up with creative ways to deliver services during these difficult economic times.

Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor provided an overview of the   division’s performance in meeting their new benchmarks.  Ms. St. Amand presented the update of the Volunteer Services benchmark.   Mr. Lassen also thanked Mr. Sigman and Ms. Haines for the loan of an Orientation and Mobility instructor from Children’s Services due to the untimely death of Orientation and Mobility instructor David Banigan-White.

Ed Owens, Business Enterprise Program (BEP) Supervisor reported on this division’s benchmarks.  The new statewide vending services contract has been awarded through competitive bid to Coca-Cola. The new contract has terms that are different from the prior vending services contract, and it may not generate as much revenue as the prior contract. Factoring in the $600,000 rescission in fiscal year 2009 funds, the agency anticipates not having sufficient funds to cover the cost of opening new facilities in this new fiscal year. This will have an impact on one of the benchmarks that stipulates the agency to expend forty-five percent of program income toward budget line items that directly benefit the clients that participate in the program. There will likely still be opportunities for new job placements in the program as existing operators retire or leave for other reasons.  Mr. Sigman said the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors is considering using brand name distributors to pool their buying power as a group, and potentially lessen the need on the agency to provide some equipment and repairs.  Ms. Akers asked what the duration of the Coca Cola contract is.  Mr. Owens said it is five years with an option for possible extension.

Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor reported on her division’s benchmarks. The next Parent Education event is scheduled for November.  Three Expanded Core Curriculum student events have been completed.

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor reported on her division’s benchmarks.  VR has met all their existing benchmarks.  The agency is recruiting for two Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor positions to fill vacancies that resulted from retirements. Federal Stimulus funds are being utilized for on-the-job training and internship opportunities for clients.     

BESB Awards

ACAC Chairperson Carol Gillispie updated the Board on the Awards Event being held on October 23, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at the State Capitol.  The Master of Ceremonies for the event will be Dr. William Petit, Jr.  Ms. Gillispie has been working closely with event Chairperson Donna Gore to finalize the details.  There are budgetary constraints this year, but solutions have been identified and planning is going well.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Ms. Akers asked if there would be a replacement of the vacant board seat that resulted from the resignation of Ms. Russo.  Mr. Norton said the Senate Majority leader is the appointing authority to replace this seat.  Ms. Gillispie offered to continue to serve as a member of the Deaf Blind Advisory Committee. Mr. Sigman said that the Deaf Blind Advisory Committee is presently reviewing the composition of their committee membership and will be making recommendations to the BESB board at a future meeting.

Adjournment

Chris Kuell made a motion, seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:34 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for December 3, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.


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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

August 17, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre; Jay Kronfeld

Members Absent

Carol Gillispie

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor, Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, Susan Monteleone, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Coordinator

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for September 23, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to adopt the minutes of the July 20, 2009 meeting.  The motion passed. 

Modification of Existing Adult Services Benchmark

Chairman Kuell requested a modification of an existing Adult Services Benchmark.

Existing Benchmark

Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Services for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial phone contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within ten business days.

Modification of Benchmark

Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Service for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial phone contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within an average of ten business days.

Mr. Sigman noted that the current benchmark language would require all of the BESB field staff in the Adult Services Division to establish a phone contact with the client within ten business days of the referral 100 percent of the time, in order to pass the measure. There are many variables that could impact upon a staff person successfully reaching a client by phone within the ten day period that the existing benchmark language would not take into consideration.  Chairman Kuell said that the original intent of the benchmark was to have a standard for the average time from referral to phone contact.  Mr. Sylvestre asked to strike “phone” and not restrict contact to just the telephone.  Chairman Kuell’s concern is when dealing with the elderly with vision loss, that a letter could get lost, thrown out or simply not read for a while.  Ms. Akers agreed and stated that a telephone contact is preferred.  Mr. Lassen assured everyone that there are multiple phone attempts made, but initial referrals for services are often made by the eye doctors and the clients are not necessarily aware that a person from BESB is attempting to reach them to offer services. 

Mr. Sigman suggested that a possible solution to the benchmark language could be the issuance of a staff directive that requires staff to make two documented phone attempts to reach the client, and then follow up with a letter to the client within ten days of the referral if the phone attempts were not successful. 

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld and seconded by Eileen Akers to make a recommendation to the Board to modify this benchmark to read:

“Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Service for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within an average of ten business days.”  The motion passed.

Mr. Sigman indicated that if the agency board adopted the new benchmark wording, then he would follow up with a policy memorandum to the Adult Services field staff and the board would receive a copy of this memorandum.

Mr. Sigman updated the committee on the status of the Adult Services Client Survey.  Mr. Sigman informed the committee of the sad news that BESB Mobility Instructor David Banigan-White had passed away. 

New Business

Brief Overview of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services. Chairman Kuell asked Mary Burgard to provide an overview of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Ms. Burgard said the VR Program’s goal is to assist clients to be employed. The division has seven regional counselors, two of whom are bilingual. There is another counselor who has a caseload of college students. The program also has one lead counselor, three rehabilitation technologists, one rehabilitation teacher who works with homemakers, one orientation and mobility instructor and a transition school to work coordinator. 

Ms. Monteleone reported that within the state plan there are two major focus areas (Employment and Innovation and Expansion).  Each area has an overarching goal, with associated strategies and measures of achievement. They are included at the end of the minutes.

Chairman Kuell asked how does BESB get information to legally blind people not known to the agency.  Ms. Monteleone stated an eye doctor is mandated to report to BESB when a patient is determined to be legally blind. Upon receiving the referral from the eye doctor, Adult Services Social Workers have an intake meeting with the client and inform the client about Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

Chairman Kuell asked the committee if they had any further questions.  Ms. Akers asked what can be done to get the message out to potential clients that BESB can help them find work. Mr. Sigman reported the agency is sending out an informative mailing to 1,100 eye doctors about BESB services that include posters for their waiting room areas with information about BESB services, as well as a Request for Services form that lists the types of services available to clients at no cost.

Ms. Akers asked about Supported Employment.  Ms. Monteleone said that VR creates an individualized plan for Employment (IPE) that includes Supported Employment as a service when a client will need ongoing supports to maintain gainful employment.  This requires that VR identify a third party funding source to provide ongoing services after VR closes the case following a minimum of 90 days on the job.  Examples of third party sign offs are family members, employers and the Department of Developmental Services.  The Bureau of Rehabilitation Services also has funds available for long term supports on the job. Mr. Sylvestre asked if BESB has to secure third party funds before the job placement efforts begin and the answer was yes.  Chairman Kuell asked for an update on the employer outreach initiative the agency has undertaken.  Ms. Burgard said it has been successful, and staff have been actively working with employers. She indicated that an additional benefit of the training was the skills taught regarding case management and this has helped the counselors in working with clients. Chairman Kuell asked if two bilingual counselors are enough.  Ms. Burgard said the two counselors each cover half of the state.  The Bridgeport and New Haven regions have large Hispanic populations to serve and this results in a considerable amount of travel time.   Chairman Kuell asked if the number of Spanish speaking clients has increased.  Ms. Burgard said she could look at the referral numbers to verify, but it may be more that there has been an increase in active participation of the clients who are Spanish speaking rather than an overall increase in the number served.  Chairman Kuell also asked how often the One-stop job centers are utilized.  Ms. Burgard said it depended on the region, some more than others.  Mr. Sigman said they were used a lot for summer jobs this year due to Stimulus funds available to the Workforce boards. Mr. Sigman said there was a successful job fair here at BESB in support of the summer jobs initiative in the Capitol Region Workforce Board service area.  The Department of Labor has also agreed to reprint and place BESB referral brochures at all of the One Stop Career Centers.  Mr. Sylvestre asked how BESB works with clients who speak languages other than Spanish.  Mr. Sigman said the agency can use the state contract for translation service to get an interpreter for meetings.  The agency has also utilized staff who speak the same language of the client (such as Russian) to assist with translations. 

Review Existing Benchmarks and Decide Which to Sunset/Retire

Mr. Sigman read the three existing VR Benchmarks to the committee.

VR Existing Benchmark #1

Vocational Rehabilitation counselors, Rehabilitation Teachers, Rehabilitation Technologists, and Education Project Coordinator will participate in at least 2 trainings on assistive technology each year.

Ms. Burgard felt this was a very positive and successful benchmark that gave staff a way to focus on assistive technology.  Ms. Burgard is proposing a new benchmark for the committee to consider that expands upon the training categories.  Chairman Kuell felt this benchmark as written achieved the intended goal of broadening the knowledge of staff, and indicated that the new benchmark that will be discussed will take this into account. 

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld and seconded by Al Sylvestre to retire this benchmark.   The motion passed.

VR Existing Benchmark #2

Implement a formalized mentoring program that includes a training seminar on “How to be a Mentor.”  One activity for the mentors planned each year, beginning in 2006.

Ms. Burgard said this benchmark was important and achieved the intended purpose of formalizing the mentoring process. As a result of the benchmark, the mentoring program now does background checks, has a formal training process, a manual on how to be a mentor, and yearly activities for clients to interact with the mentors. Chairman Kuell asked how many mentors there are.  Ms. Burgard said there were 30 on the list.

A motion was made by Eileen Akers and seconded by Al Sylvestre to retire this benchmark.  The motion passed.

VR Existing Benchmark #3

BESB will achieve 100 competitive (non-homemaker) status 26 closures for FY 2006, increasing to 107 for FY 2007, and 112 for FY 2008.

Mr. Sigman reported this benchmark has an end date that has already passed.  A motion was made by Al Sylvestre moved and seconded by Eileen Akers to retire this benchmark.  The motion passed.

The next time the committee meets, it will consider the new benchmarks proposed by the VR Supervisor.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Al Sylvestre to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:47 a.m.

VR State Plan Goals and Methods:

GOAL A (the desired outcome)

EMPLOYMENT GOAL:  Individuals who are blind obtain or retain quality jobs.

Objectives (The reasons the goal is of high importance):

1. Unemployed individuals who are blind want employment.

2. Individuals who are losing vision or whose job changes need assistance to maintain employment.

3. Some individuals who are blind desire to be entrepreneurs.

4. Some individuals who are blind want to advance in their careers.

5. Some individuals who are blind and who experience multiple barriers to employment require long-term supports to achieve and maintain employment.

Strategies (The methods for achieving the objectives):

1. Each Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will engage in active employer outreach.

2. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors will participate in regional job development consortiums.

3. Vocational Rehabilitation will collaborate with the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant to link BESB’s employer outreach initiative with the statewide Connect-Ability initiative (a statewide program that links employers with job seekers who have disabilitieswww.connect-ability.com ).

4. BESB partners with Walgreen’s through the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services project.  (Walgreen’s distribution center in Windsor has committed to hire 200 individuals with disabilitieswww.walgreens.jobs)

5. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors conduct job seeking skills classes for job seeking consumers.

6. Vocational Rehabilitation Department staff participate in each of the Regional Workforce Development Boards (regional boards assess employment and training needs and priorities for job seekers and employers www.ctdol.state.ct.us/rwdb/dir-rwdb.htm )

7. Transition age students who are legally blind will have a paid work experience before high school graduation.

8. BESB enters into contracts with third party providers to secure long-term job supports for consumers who experience multiple barriers to employment.

Measures (the activities that will be achieved in FY 09): 

1. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors engage in 2 hours per week of job development outreach to employers as confirmed through written reporting.

2. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors are active participants in 3 regional job development consortiums as documented by electronic schedules.

3. BESB marketing materials are available, that include Connect-Ability contact information and their logo.

4. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors refer 8 consumers to the Walgreen’s training center through BRS project as documented through a referral log.

5. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors conduct 2 job seeking skills classes during the fiscal year and a report is generated.

6. A Vocational Rehabilitation staff member is appointed to each of the 5 regional Workforce Investment Boards, as recorded in board minutes.

7. Fifteen transition age students engage in paid work experiences in Fiscal Year 2009 as documented in a written report.

GOAL B (the desired outcome)

INNOVATION AND EXPANSION:  Expand and promote vocational services to groups of individuals who are legally blind who want to obtain, retain or advance in employment, utilizing at least two percent of Vocational Rehabilitation federal funding allotted for Fiscal Year 2009.

Objectives (The reasons the goal is of high importance):

1. There are individuals who are legally blind who are unaware of BESB and the agency Vocational Rehabilitation services that are available to assist with obtaining, retaining, or advancing in employment.

2. There is a broad range of Vocational Rehabilitation services that benefit whole groups of individuals who are legally blind, who want to obtain, retain, or advance in employment.

Strategies (The methods for achieving the objectives):

1. Maintain sponsorship of NFB Newsline and Jobline (if available).

2. Update community based adaptive technology centers to maintain state of the art adaptive technology for people who are blind.

3. Support State Rehabilitation Council activities that promote active member participation in the field of blindness rehabilitation.

4. Conduct a statewide needs assessment and a consumer satisfaction survey to determine what specific additional services can improve the opportunities for people who are legally blind to increase access to employment.

5. Co-sponsor and implement leadership development opportunities for transition school to work students who are legally blind.

6. Purchase and utilize English as a Second Language (ESL) training programs to enhance the employment opportunities for individuals who are legally blind, who experience language barriers.

7. Provide training to community rehabilitation providers who offer long-term supports to increase options for placement of individuals with multiple barriers to employment.

8. Conduct statewide outreach to One Stop Career centers, community rehabilitation providers, optometrists and their patients to inform them about Vocational Rehabilitation services at BESB.

Measures (the activities that will be achieved in FY 09):

1. BESB enters into a contract with the National Federation of the Blind for NFB Newsline, and Jobline (upon reinstatement) as documented by the written contract(s) is on file.

2. BESB provides technical assistance and purchases updated equipment, as requested, for two community based technology centers, as documented in a written report.

3. BESB funds SRC participation in 3 training programs/conferences, and the SRC cosponsors 2 rehabilitation events during the fiscal year.   Documentation of these activities is on file.

4. A needs assessment is conducted by a professional surveying organization, and the result of the assessment is posted on the agency web site. A consumer satisfaction survey is also conducted and results are posted on the agency website.  (www.ct.gov/besb).

5. BESB Vocational Rehabilitation co-sponsors 2 leadership development programs operated by other entities, and directly funds consumer participation in five leadership development programs for transition age students.

6. BESB purchases ESL training program materials, which bilingual counselors make available to Spanish speaking consumers, as documented by purchase order number and loan agreement forms.

7. BESB conducts 2 regional training sessions on blindness to community rehabilitation providers, and co-sponsors the Connecticut Community Providers conference, as documented by agendas for each event.

8. BESB Vocational Rehabilitation referral packets are    distributed to 8 One Stop Career Centers, and 5 community rehabilitation programs, as documented by a distribution log.  BESB outreaches to 100 optometrist offices by distributing applications for Vocational Rehabilitation services, as documented by the mailing list and copies of materials distributed.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

July 20, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre

Members Absent

Carol Gillispie; Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor, Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for August 17, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adopt the minutes of the June 15, 2009 meeting.  The motion passed. 

New Business

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre and seconded by Eileen Akers to add Discussion of the Adult Services Survey to the agenda.  The motion passed.

Ms. Brown reported back to the committee on the teleconference that was held between herself, Mr. Lassen and Chairman Kuell with Rick Fortinsky and one of his colleagues from the UCONN Center on Aging.  Ms. Brown stated that to attain a level of statistical validity of 95%, approximately 50% of the clients would need to be interviewed, and for a confidence level of 93%, approximately 25% of the clients would need to be interviewed.  She is estimating that a total of 750 clients will be closed by the end of the federal fiscal year, and those would be the potential clients to be interviewed. 

Mr. Fortinsky is still interested in conducting the survey and when he returns from a business trip in two weeks, additional conversations will take place concerning the proposal.  He stated during the teleconference that he wanted copies of the additional questions that the Board wanted to add to the survey instrument before he can submit a proposal to BESB. 

Ms. Brown then reported on her conversation with RSA regarding the performance benchmarks on the federal report.  RSA stated that “best practice” would consist of (1) a consumer satisfaction survey and (2) internal pre- and post- test assessment of client functioning by Adult Services staff.   

Chairman Kuell would like to move forward and asked that Ms. Brown draft additional questions in regard to independent living services that the RSA report does not cover.  Ms. Brown agreed to contact several other states that have not responded to her initial request for survey instrument information.  By the end of the week Chairperson Kuell, Ms. Brown, Mr. Lassen and Mr. Sylvestre will schedule a teleconference to review additional questions.  Ms. Akers asked if letters are sent out before clients are interviewed.  Mr. Sigman said clients are given advance notice, which is sent in the preferred format of the client. 

Questions from Committee Pertaining to Children’s Services

Chairman Kuell read the revised Children’s Services Benchmark proposed at the June 15, 2009 Benchmark Committee Meeting. 

 “Based upon the average caseload point value in effect on July 1, 2011, the agency will reduce average point value by at least 10% per year, until achieving and maintaining 25 points.”

Below are Proposed Benchmark Ideas that Chairman Kuell had previously distributed to the committee:

Proposed Benchmark #1

BESB will develop a handout for parents, classroom teachers and paraprofessionals, discussing the role and responsibilities of paraprofessionals.

Ms. Haines gave a brief description of the roles and responsibility of teachers and paraprofessionals.  Children's Services staff present a one-hour session on roles and responsibilities at the annual paraprofessional in-service training, and provide handouts to each paraprofessional.  The role of a paraprofessional is individualized, based on the child's vision and presence of additional disabilities.  The Teacher of the Visually Impaired provides guidance, but the Paraprofessional's role is ultimately decided by the Planning and Placement Team.  Chairman Kuell would like a checklist type of document that educates the Paraprofessionals and classroom teachers on the best practices for helping children to become more independent from the BESB perspective.  The committee members also want a broader distribution than at the training which does not reach every Paraprofessional.  Mr. Sigman would like BESB to craft a document as a “Best Practice Handout” to be given to all the Teachers of the Visually Impaired working with children and posted on the BESB webpage under Children’s Services. 

The Committee discussed rewording the proposed benchmark.  After discussion, Mr. Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Ms. Akers for the benchmark to read as follows:

By Jan 1, 2010 BESB shall produce and distribute to school districts and the general public a Best Practice Handout for paraprofessionals to use when working with children who are blind or visually impaired. 

The Motion passed unanimously.

Proposed Benchmark #2

BESB will develop and implement an expanded Core curriculum checklist—have parents sign off on it.

Ms. Haines said an Independent Living Assessment checklist from the Texas School for the Blind is used by Children’s Services.  This checklist indicates where the child's skills presently are at and compares this to a norm for typical development.  Ms. Haines said that the Children's Services Rehabilitation Teacher (Vision Rehabilitation Therapist) requires that the Teacher of the Visually Impaired first complete the assessment on a child before requesting direct services from her. Chairman Kuell expressed concern that some children may not be fully exposed to the expanded core curriculum areas.  Ms. Haines stated that information on the assessment tool will be included in the Fall newsletter to parents.  The newsletter can be used as an avenue to raise parent awareness.  Chairman Kuell agreed with this approach. 

Ms. Akers asked about technology assessments to determine the skill level for college bound students.  Ms. Haines said that adaptive equipment and training in how to use the equipment is provided prior to graduation from high school. She stated that it is the responsibility of the Planning and Placement Team to identify areas in need of training. The committee decided not to move forward with development of a benchmark in this area.

Proposed Benchmark #3

Education Consultants, Rehab Therapists, O/M Instructors and Technology Specialists will return all inquiries from consumers and their families within 48 hours. 

Ms. Haines said it should be an agency wide policy not just for Children’s Services and should read two business days instead of 48 hours.  Ms. Haines is unsure how this could be measured.  Mr. Sigman said there is no mechanism for tracking these calls to measure the time frame. Calls can either come in through the automated switchboard and then get routed to a staff person, or the call can go directly to the staff person’s telephone extension. The phone system would need modification (at cost) to enable for such a tracking system to be implemented. In place of setting a benchmark on this topic, Chairman Kuell asked that Mr. Sigman raise this issue at the next All Staff meeting and stress the importance of returning client calls within two business days.

Proposed Benchmark #4

BESB will sponsor a workshop for school nurses by December, 2010.

Ms. Akers said school nurses deal with children with multiple disabilities daily and she would like to provide training for the school nurses to assist with functional vision evaluations.  Mr. Sigman was not sure this was their role.  Ms. Haines offered that there will be a workshop for teachers who work with students with multiple disabilities in the Fall and she will include school nurses on the list of invitees.  The Committee agreed with this approach and decided to not move ahead with establishing a benchmark.

Proposed Benchmark #5

BESB will sponsor a training session for the production of tactile graphics, especially geared for Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Paraprofessionals.

Chairman Kuell asked if children are able to produce tactile graphics and interpret these materials.  Ms. Akers asked how much is getting graphically done.  Ms. Haines said a student’s skill in reading graphics depended on whether they were exposed to graphics on a daily basis.  Mr. Sigman suggested a module be done in the Fall inservice training with the Teachers of the Visually Impaired and the Paraprofessionals.  Ms. Haines said that many embossers cannot produce graphics and a lot of  Paraprofessionals use the tactile image enhancer instead.  Ms. Haines said this can be discussed more at the Braille classes that Paraprofessionals participate in.  Ms. Akers thinks Paraprofessionals need more training on Duxbury and the Scientific Notebook.  Ms. Haines said that Children’s Services Education Consultant Suzanne Cappiello held a Scientific Notebook training last year.  Duxbury training is the responsibility of the Teacher of the Visually Impaired.  Ms. Haines will remind itinerant teachers that support in these two areas is available through BESB. The committee concluded that a benchmark is not needed in this area.

Proposed Benchmark #6

Establish a Loaner Program for Technology Used By Students.

Chairman Kuell asked if there are enough loaners of adaptive devices when note takers, CCTVs, or embossers break.  Ms. Haines said that equipment is available and the Children’s Services technologist maintains the supply. 

Ms. Akers requested that practice mastery test materials used by classroom teachers during the school year be a standard item in the Braille Library and readily available.  Ms. Haines is not sure what is available for practice materials.  Ms. Akers said there are specific practice books from the Department of Education and she will pursue this.

Ms. Akers asked if some of the programs conducted by Rehabilitation Teacher (Vision Rehabilitation Therapist) Robbin Martin can be done regionally.  Ms. Haines said Ms. Martin is doing regional programs over the summer, but has also conducted them during the school year (Monroe, Guilford and Madison).   The committee decided that a benchmark was not needed in this area.

Chairman Kuell asked if there were any other ideas for Children’s Services benchmarks to put forth. No additional topics were suggested. Chairman Kuell thanked Ms. Haines for her involvement in the benchmark development process and concluded discussion on Children’s Services.

Chairman Kuell indicated that the next Benchmark Committee meeting will focus on Vocational Rehabilitation.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Special Meeting 

Minutes with Motions 

June 23, 2009

       

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:09 a.m. 

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; William DeMaio; Carol Gillispie; Dr. Chris Kuell; Randa Utter; Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Patrick Johnson; M. Carolyn Dodd; Christine Boisvert; Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor, Sandra Kush, member of the public.

State Plan Review for Action

Mr. Sigman presented to the Board the amended changes to the Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan that were made and accepted by the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) at the June 17, 2009 meeting. A motion was made by Bill DeMaio, and seconded by Betty Woodward to accept the State Plan as amended and approved by the SRC.  The motion passed unanimously.

Public Comment

Sandra Kush asked about the cost and sample size of the Vocational Rehabilitation Satisfaction Survey. Mr. Sigman responded that the sample size is the total number of clients who completed services and achieved an employment outcome in the prior fiscal year. The SRC utilizes a professional organization to conduct the survey. The cost includes the staffing time necessary to contact each participant, complete the telephone surveys, analyze the data, compare the results to prior years, and provide a report to the agency that contains statistically valid conclusions. The SRC has utilized the Uconn Center for Survey Research and Analysis in past years, but they are no longer in business. This year, the SRC will be utilizing the Central Connecticut State University Center for Public Policy and Social Research to conduct the survey. The agency utilizes the results of the survey for continuous improvement. Mr. Sigman noted how results of recent surveys brought the SRC and the agency to develop a resource and instruction guide for clients who are interested in self-employment, that is now available on the BESB website.

Adjournment

Bill DeMaio made a motion, seconded by Betty Woodward to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 10:22 a.m.

 

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

June 15, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 9:37 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Alan Sylvestre; Jay Kronfeld

Members Absent

Carol Gillispie

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor, Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor, Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for July 20, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adopt the minutes of the May 1, 2009 meeting.  The motion passed.  Ms. Akers asked that under Proposed Benchmark #2, the motion be corrected to read “to accept the staff recommended New Proposed Benchmark #2, as revised.”   

New Business

Discuss How to Best Address BEP Benchmarks as Affected by new Budget Reduction

Chairman Kuell expressed concern regarding the impact that the $600,000 reduction in the Business Enterprises program funds will have on the benchmark pertaining to spending  45% of FY2010 program income “for the direct benefit of Business Enterprise Program ventures at new and/or existing locations, for facility improvements, maintenance, expansion, and for the betterment of income and incentives to operators in the program.” Given the size of the budget reduction, it is not likely that the agency could meet this benchmark without jeopardizing the program’s fixed costs.  At this time, it is also not known what the projected level of FY2010 program income will be, as BESB is awaiting Department of Administrative Service awarding of a new vending machine contract.  Ms. Akers requested that budget projections and anticipated expenditures in all categories be sent to the Benchmark Committee members before the July meeting of the committee, provided there is a state budget for FY 2010-2011 in place before the July meeting.

Chairman Kuell asked Mr. Sigman to review the Adult Services survey proposal received from Central Connecticut State University.  The target audience of the survey is agency clients, age 55 and older, who have received independent living services in the past year. CCSU will call each survey participant between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. The target number of participants would be between 800 to 1,000 BESB clients. CCSU would continue calling clients on the list of names until they were able to complete 269 interviews.  The data would be analyzed, with a statistical report provided to the agency by January 1, 2010.  The agency would need to provide CCSU with the survey questions. CCSU would not include open-ended questions in the survey.  Ms. Akers expressed concern that the questions would not give clients the opportunity to offer comments. She also expressed her viewpoint that a telephone interview would not be the most efficient way to survey the senior population. The Committee members were concerned about the overall price of the proposal, particularly in light of the fiscal situation in the state.

Mr. Lassen said that the agency could use trained volunteers to conduct the survey, rather than paying an outside entity. Ms. Brown said presently BESB is using this process to complete a survey that is required for a federal report. The survey being utilized is a revision of a survey in use by an agency for the blind in another state.

Mr. Lassen feels the benchmark can be addressed in a similar fashion, using trained volunteers.  Mr. Sylvestre liked the questions that are included in the survey currently in use for the federal report, and wondered if the agency was going to be duplicating efforts by having an outside organization conduct a similar survey of the same client population. Mr. Sigman felt that the board benchmark goes beyond what is required for the RSA reporting, since the benchmark addresses establishing a baseline of client satisfaction and functional gains in independent living. 

Chairman Kuell said telephone surveys are the most practical way to survey a visually impaired population and that by using an outside entity that has credibility, the agency could make the survey meaningful, unbiased and statistically significant.  Mr. Kronfeld agreed. 

Ms. Brown will call the UConn Center on Aging to determine if that group does statistical surveying of senior citizens, and report back to Mr. Sigman as to whether that would be an option. Mr. Sigman and Chairman Kuell will then review options once it is known if the Center on Aging could offer a proposal to the agency. Chairman Kuell left open the option of contacting CCSU to negotiate further on pricing and the scope of the survey. The Committee also left open the option of seeking competitive bids if neither state agency is able to offer a survey proposal that is cost effective and that encompasses all of the benchmark priorities. 

Questions From Committee Pertaining to Children’s Services

Chairman Kuell asked the committee if they had questions for Ms. Haines.   Ms. Akers read a new proposed Children’s Services Benchmark:

“Acknowledging the current economic downturn, state hiring freeze and anticipation of two or more Education Consultant vacancies, BESB will achieve an average caseload point value of 31 by December 31, 2010.  This figure will decrease by 10% annually until achieving/maintaining an average value of 25 points.”

Ms. Haines reported the current caseload point average is 31.7. With the impending retirement of a teacher at the end of June, the caseload average will be approximately 33 points. Ms. Haines noted that caseload point values change every year, based on the number of children who are learning Braille, and the number of children in the towns that BESB serves. With the hiring freeze anticipated to remain in place through the next two fiscal years, unless there is an upturn in the economy, Mr. Sigman expressed concern that the new proposed benchmark could not be met under current circumstances. 

Chairman Kuell would like to keep this benchmark in existence and have BESB report quarterly to the Board on average caseload size.  Ms. Haines liked the idea of reporting on the caseload point average, but agreed that the proposed new benchmark is one that could not be achieved in the current economic climate. 

The Committee discussed rewording the proposed benchmark. After discussion, Mr. Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Chairman Kuell to revise the benchmark to read as follows:

“Based upon the average caseload point value in effect on July 1, 2011, the agency will reduce average point value by at least 10% per year, until achieving and maintaining 25 points.”

The Motion passed unanimously.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Chairman Kuell to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:36 a.m.

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

June 4, 2009

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:02 a.m. 

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; William DeMaio; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Betty Woodward; Christine Boisvert; Patrick Johnson 

Members Absent

Randa Utter; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Public Comment

None.


Old Business
Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the March 12, 2009 Board meeting minutes.  The Board unanimously accepted the Benchmark Committee Minutes from the February 20, 2009, March 20, 2009, and April 3, 2009 meetings.  The Benchmark Committee has not yet approved the May 1, 2009 Benchmark Committee Draft Minutes, so a vote to accept these draft minutes was deferred. 

New Business
Annual Training Days for Support Group Leaders
Chairman Sylvestre gave the floor to Benchmark Committee Chairman Chris Kuell.  Chairman Kuell expressed to the Board concerns he had heard from different support group participants across the state that BESB services were not being offered or explained.  Chairman Kuell felt more oversight from BESB is needed for the leaders of these support groups to make sure the leaders were aware of BESB services.  Mr. Sigman offered that BESB could provide a statewide training seminar, with invitations sent to the senior centers, hospitals, and social service programs that operate support groups.  Mr. DeMaio asked how many support groups BESB has and how they got started.  Mr. Lassen said there were about 20.  Mr. Sigman said these groups are usually short term and are run through town senior centers.  Chairman Kuell made the suggestion that instead of holding a training, to send rehabilitation teachers within the next year to work with these groups.  Mr. Lassen agreed and will provide updates to the board throughout the year. 
State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation

Mr. Sigman updated the Board on the status of the State Plan. The VR State Plan and policy updates have been circulated and posted on the agency web site for public review and comment.  The agency will be holding public hearings on this topic on June 15, 2009.  Comments can also be submitted to the agency by email, phone message or letter.  The State Plan consists of the goals and priorities for the Vocational Rehabilitation Division, as well as summaries of activities from the past fiscal year. Policy updates for Vocational Rehabilitation, Children’s Services and Adult Services, incorporating the recent changes in state regulations pertaining to equipment ownership are also included in the public hearings. Additionally, in Adult Services there is an update to the Confidentiality section of the Independent Living policy to incorporate changes requested by Rehabilitation Services Administration.  A Special Meeting of the Board to finalize the State Plan subsequent to the public hearings and the State Rehabilitation Council meeting will occur on June 23, 2009. 

Benchmarks Committee Update

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell updated the Board on the work of the committee.  The committee has finished developing new proposed benchmarks for Adult Services and is presently working with the Children’s Services Division.  Committee member Carolyn Dodd will be stepping down from the committee.  Chairman Kuell asked other board members who are interested in joining this committee to let him know.

A motion was made by Dr. Kuell and seconded by Mr. DeMaio to modify the Board agenda to take up discussion regarding the board adopting new Adult Services and Children’s Services benchmarks, and retiring an existing benchmark. The motion passed unanimously. 

Proposed Adult Services Benchmark #1

By July, 1, 2010, BESB shall pilot two models of computer training for independent living for individuals age 55 and over, with one model in a group setting, and the other an individualized instructional model.  Pre- and post-test analysis will provide data on the effectiveness of each approach.

Proposed Adult Services Benchmark #2

Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Service for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial phone contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within ten business days.

A motion was made by Ms. Woodward and seconded by Ms. Gillispie to pass these two benchmarks.  The motion passed unanimously.

Adult Services Benchmark for Retirement

Maximum time frame from new referral to completed intake for services not to exceed one month.

A motion was made by Mr. DeMaio and seconded by Mr. Johnson to retire this Adult Services benchmark.  The motion passed unanimously.

Children Services New Proposed Benchmark # 1

Children’s Services will twice annually publish and disseminate a newsletter for parents.

Children’s Services New Proposed Benchmark #2

To increase access to the Expanded Core Curriculum for BESB-eligible children, Children’s Services will offer at least 3 student events annually.

A motion was made by Mr. DeMaio and seconded by Ms. Woodward to adopt these two proposed Children’s Services Benchmarks.  The motion passed unanimously.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman noted that the Legislature will be meeting in Special Session to address the state budget deficit for fiscal years 2010 and 2011.  Public Acts 09-2 and 09-111 included a broad range of budget reductions across state agencies and programs for fiscal year 2009, with $1.64 million reduced from the Children’s Services account and $600,000 reduced from the Business Enterprise account.  The Governor has introduced a revised budget for fiscal years 2010-2011, that includes proposed reductions across many state agencies, including several accounts at BESB.  The Legislature has not yet acted on these recommendations.  Through the retirement incentive plan, there are two staff at BESB, one from Voc Rehab and the other from Children’s Services, who will be retiring at the end of June.  BESB was closed on May 22, 2009 due to a Furlough Day.  

Mr. Kronfeld noted that BESB has an opportunity to think creatively about new ways for delivering services to the blind in this lean economic climate.  Mr. Sigman noted that at the next Strategic Planning Meeting, being held on June 9, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. at BESB, there will be discussion about initiatives that focus on this concept, with a priority of identifying how the federal stimulus funds can cultivate new initiatives that can be sustained within the confines of available funding. 

Mr. Sigman mentioned transportation as one area where the agency desires to partner with existing resources to develop and expand upon options for agency clients. Ms. St. Amand reported on a transportation initiative through the United Way of the Capitol Region that coordinates rides for seniors and people with vision impairments.  Ms. St. Amand will arrange to have a representative of this initiative available for discussion at the Strategic Planning Committee meeting.

Program Highlights and Benchmark Update

A quarterly written benchmark update report was provided to the members of the agency Board.

Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor provided an overview of the division’s performance in meeting their benchmarks.  Ms. St. Amand presented the benchmark update on the priority for Volunteer Services to increase outreach efforts.  Mr. Lassen reported that the Centralized Model delivery is continuing with good results.

Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor reported on her division’s benchmarks. Ms. Haines noted that a training program for the parents of children with multiple disabilities will be occurring on Saturday, June 6, 2009.

Ed Owens, Business Enterprise Program (BEP) Supervisor reported on this division’s benchmarks.  He congratulated entrepreneur Jim Schwarzhaupt, who will be retiring at the end of June, after over 30 years operating the cafeteria at the State Office Building.  He noted how successful the program was for Mr. Schwarzhaupt and his family to earn a living. 

Mr. Owens expressed concern about the benchmark that focuses on spending 45% of fiscal year 2010’s program income on facility improvements, maintenance, expansion, and income incentives.  Dr. Kuell stated that discussion of this benchmark has been added as an agenda item for the next Benchmark Committee meeting.  Ms. Akers asked about the status of the training manual.  Mr. Owens said it is nearing completion.  Mr. Owens reported that the Satisfaction Survey of the BEP managers has recently been completed. 

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor reported on her division’s benchmarks.  Ms. Burgard stated that the upcoming retirement of one of the Division’s most experienced counselors will be a significant loss to the program.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre expressed his gratitude and thankfulness for the infusion of Stimulus Fund money.  Mr. Norton updated the board on three measures that passed the Legislature this session:  (1) a bicycle/pedestrian bill that promotes more accessible roads and creates a Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Access Board with one member to represent the visually impaired, (2) a bill that raises the age from 12 to 18 under which health insurance companies must provide hearing aids to children, and (3) a measure that will allow persons with blindness to use a BESB-issued Certificate of Legal Blindness (CLB) when applying to the Department of Motor Vehicles for special parking hang tags for people with disabilities.  Mr. Norton also pointed out that there is legislation pending in the United States Congress that would create a $500 federal income tax credit for the purchase of hearing aid(s).

Ms. Akers asked for an update from Ms. Dodd on the Hartford Artisans Weaving Center.  Ms. Dodd reported the center recently held a successful sales fair on May 9, 2009.  Another sales event with woven goods made at the center is being planned for the fall.  The center is located at 40 Woodland Street in Hartford, and is open to the public Monday-Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  Everyone is welcome to stop by.

Adjournment

Ms. Woodward made a motion, seconded by Ms. Dodd to adjourn. The meeting adjourned at 12:24 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for September 10, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

 

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

May 1, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:03 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Carolyn Dodd; Alan Sylvestre, Carol Gillispie; Jay Kronfeld

Members Absent

None.

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Nancy Mothersele, Children’s Services Braille Coordinator

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 15, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adopt the minutes of the April 3, 2009 meeting. The motion passed. 

New Business

Questions From Committee

Chairman Kuell asked the committee if they had any questions for any BESB staff in attendance.  Ms. Carolyn Dodd asked for a brief clarification of caseload point values.  Mr. Sigman said the first Children's Services benchmark refers to caseload point values.  An ideal caseload is based on 25 points.  Students who are using or learning Braille would be assigned a point value of 6.  All other students on the caseload of the Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) would have a point value of 1.

Chairman Kuell asked if the Rehab Therapist in Children’s Services was also responsible for teaching expanded core curriculum to students in non-BESB towns. Jeanette Haines said yes.

Review Existing Benchmarks and Decide Which to Sunset/ Retire

Chairman Kuell asked the committee to decide which existing benchmarks to retire or sunset.  Ms. Haines read both of Children’s Services two existing benchmarks.

Existing Benchmark #1

Given average point value for an education consultant caseload of 47 in 2004, will reduce average point value of caseloads by at least 10% a year until achieving/maintaining 25 points.

Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Carol Gillispie to retire this benchmark.  A vote was taken, four no and two abstentions, the Motion Failed.  Benchmark #1 is retained. The committee decided to try and revise this benchmark at the next meeting to take into account that with a hiring freeze in place, BESB can’t possibly fulfill the benchmark as written.

Existing Benchmark #2

BESB will offer at least two Parent Education events per year, actively publicizing and encouraging attendance.

The merits of a more specific benchmark with built in retirement, were discussed. The committee felt a less specific benchmark was best, freeing BESB to cover topics based on perceived needs. Al Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Eileen Akers to retire this benchmark.  The motion failed unanimously.  Benchmark #2 is retained.

Consider New Benchmark Proposals from Children’s Services

Chairman Kuell moved onto the New Benchmark Proposals from Children’s Services.  Ms. Haines read two new proposed benchmarks.

New Proposed Benchmark #1

Children’s Services will twice annually publish and disseminate a newsletter for parents.

Al Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Jay Kronfeld to accept the New Proposed Benchmark #1.  A vote was taken, five yes and one no.  The motion passed.

Proposed Benchmark #2

To increase access to the Expanded Core Curriculum for BESB-eligible children, Children's Services will offer at least 3 student events annually.

Al Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Carolyn Dodd to accept the staff recommended New Proposed Benchmark #2, as revised.  The Motion Passed unanimously.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:28 a.m.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

April 3, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 1:00 p.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Carolyn Dodd; Alan Sylvestre, Carol Gillispie; Jay Kronfeld

Members Absent

None.

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Nancy Mothersele, Children’s Services Braille Coordinator

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, May 1, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adopt the minutes of the March 20, 2009 meeting. The motion passed. 

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Carol Gillispie to amend the agenda. The motion passed.  Mr. Sigman asked the committee for a few minutes to discuss the Adult Services Benchmark survey.  The UConn Center for Survey Research and Analysis is closing at the end of June.  They will be able to complete the BEP survey but not the Adult Services survey.  Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) has a surveying unit that does public surveying.  Mr. Sigman recently met with the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) and they have a survey that is due this summer.  They would like to partner with the Benchmark Committee to use one vendor for both surveys if possible, with the hope that a better price could be obtained.  Mr. Sigman has talked to the Director of the Center for Public Policy and Social Research at CCSU and has arranged a teleconference.  Chairman Kuell said the Benchmark Committee is willing to explore this concept further and he will participate in the teleconference.

New Business

Brief overview of Children’s Services-mission and methods 

Chairman Kuell asked Jeanette Haines, Supervisor of Children’s Services to present an overview of children’s services programs.  Ms. Haines reported that BESB employs 33 TVIs (teachers of the visually impaired), 4 Orientation and Mobility Specialists, and 2 Rehabilitation Teachers within the Children’s Services Program. Of the approximately 1100 children eligible for BESB services, approximately 705 are served by BESB consultants in 148 towns.  Twenty-One towns provide their own services and employ 25 itinerant teachers.

  

Nancy Mothersele, Braille Coordinator for Children’s Services presented an overview of the Braille Program. Ms. Mothersele explained that when a school district needs a book for a child who is blind or visually impaired, BESB will loan the book to the district. If the book is not available in the agency loaning library, then BESB purchases the book in the format needed by the child, such as Braille or large print. When the book is no longer needed by the child, it is returned to the BESB loaning library for other children to use. The agency has thousands of volumes in the loaning library. BESB also utilizes volunteers, including inmates at the Cheshire Correctional Facility, to produce books in Braille for children to use in the classroom.

Questions from Committee

Ms. Dodd asked if there were two teachers in each of the Braille Training Programs for Paraprofessionals.  Ms. Haines said yes there were.  Chairman Kuell asked if all the books in the library system are catalogued digitally.  Ms. Mothersele said yes they were.  Ms. Dodd asked if paraprofessionals are required to take training.  Ms. Haines said she cannot require them but their participation has always been very good.  Mr. Kronfeld asked what the mechanism is after a training program is completed and if the trainees have questions would they be able to get in touch with someone at BESB.  Ms. Haines said trainings are a start for the para-professionals who will work closely with children who are blind. The paraprofessionals continue to receive ongoing support from the TVI (teacher of the visually impaired) assigned to the child.  Ms. Gillispie asked if there are teachers and paraprofessionals with more than one blind student in a class.  Ms. Haines said it is unusual to have more than one and generally it is only one student.  Chairman Kuell asked if school districts have to pay for the training.  Ms. Haines said they do not. 

Adjournment

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Al Sylvestre to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 2:00 p.m.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

March 20, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chair Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:08 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Carolyn Dodd; Alan Sylvestre, Carol Gillispie; Jay Kronfeld

Members Absent

None.

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 3, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Eileen Akers to adopt the minutes of the February 20, 2009 meeting. The motion passed.  Chairman Kuell asked that under Old Business change “accept the minutes” to “adopt the minutes.”

Any Questions on What We Have Done So Far?

Chairman Kuell asked the committee if they had any questions.  The committee had none.

New Business:

Mr. Chris Lassen read Proposed Adult Service Benchmarks #5 and #6.

Proposed Benchmark #5

“BESB shall pilot two models of computer training for independent living for individuals age 55 and over, with one model in a group setting, and the other an individualized instructional model. Pre and post-test analysis will provide data on the effectiveness of each approach.”

Ms. Brown stated that BESB already has a pilot computer training project in place for adults through Adult Services.  She recommended that the new benchmark be re-written to include more flexibility so that additional individualized instruction could be provided to participants if needed.  Ms. Dodd said the draft benchmark language does include a model of “individualized instruction.”  

Ms. Brown also stated that the current pilot project with Oak Hill includes separate groups for JAWS users, and separate groups for Zoomtext users.  There is also a training program concept she wishes to explore for Senior Centers that have computer labs.  This project would include a “Train the Trainer” model. BESB or Oak Hill staff would train senior volunteers from the computer labs to work with clients who want to learn how to use a computer. Because senior centers typically have vans, seniors could be transported to the centers for instruction.  

Mr. Kronfeld supported the proposed benchmark as written.  He felt it could be looked at in six months to determine if changes were necessary.  Mr. Sylvestre also agreed.  Ms. Akers said that Betsy Doan had set up a chat room for group instruction and it worked fine.  Ms. Gillispie said that there was a big difference in the content of training for zoomtext users and Braille display users.  She said it is difficult to work with a sighted instructor who has never worked with JAWS as the sighted instructor may use a mouse and may not know keyboard commands.  Ms. Akers felt that BESB would be able to work out this level of detail and it did not need to be in the benchmark language. 

Mr. Sigman said both he and Mr. Lassen would like to test the two approaches noted in the draft benchmark.  The effectiveness of each model would be evaluated.

Mr. Sylvestre agreed with Mr. Sigman and Mr. Kronfeld that  feedback from the participants would help determine modifications that may be needed. Ms. Brown asked if the target group would include participants with or without prior computer skills.  Mr. Sigman hoped the participants would have some basic keyboard skills.  Ms. Gillispie asked if these participants would have computers in their homes to be included in the project.  Mr. Sigman supports putting computers in their homes if needed.  Mr. Sylvestre said this could all be worked out and this concept is worthy to go forward.  Chairman Kuell would like a time frame added to the benchmark language.    Ms. Gillispie would like all the details included in the benchmark so that nothing is left out.  Mr. Sylvestre is confident that staff will follow through on the details. 

A motion was made by Eileen Akers, and seconded by Carol Gillispie to accept this benchmark.  A friendly amendment was made to add “By July 1, 2010” to the front of the benchmark language.  It was accepted.  The Motion passed unanimously.  

Proposed Benchmark #6

“Beginning October 1, 2009, all referrals in Adult Services for social work, rehabilitation teaching or mobility services shall have an initial phone contact to the client from the respective field staff professional occur within ten business days.”

Mr. Lassen expressed his concerns over the length of time it is taking for clients to receive services.  This benchmark, if adopted would create a sense of urgency for field staff to initiate services.  Chairman Kuell said bottlenecks were previously identified as an issue in Adult Services. When a benchmark was established to address the delays, the staff responded by improving services in the benchmark category.  In the long run, this new benchmark would improve customer service. Mr. Sylvestre expressed concern about the board micromanaging the delivery of agency services.  

Mr. Kronfeld agreed with the proposed benchmark but stated that notification about reporting timelines should be sent to medical professionals making referrals to BESB.  He recommended that the Optometrist or Ophthalmologist should send the eye report to BESB within 10 days of eye examination.  Chairman Kuell said BESB has no power to enforce this.  Ms. Brown pointed out that under the existing statutes, the eye doctor is required to send a report to BESB within 30 days after determining that a patient is legally blind.  However, there is no penalty for enforcement. 

Mr. Sigman does not recommend that BESB add enforcement language out of concern that it could reduce referrals. Ms. Gillispie said the doctors currently only send two copies of test results out.  Ms. Dodd said BESB would like to ensure the doctor’s cooperation. Mr. Sigman said that a new mailing is currently in process to all doctors reminding them of the provisions of the statute including the 30-day provision. 

Mr. Lassen did not want the 30-day provision to be part of the benchmark and recommended further discussion of the issue for the next board meeting.  Ms. Akers asked if someone currently registered with BESB can get additional Orientation and Mobility instruction services.  Mr. Lassen said that under the current case management approach, that all clients must have services authorized under an independent living plan or plan waiver.  Ms. Akers asked about an inactive client.  Mr. Lassen said that inactive clients would need to be referred to a case manager, typically the agency social worker.   

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Jay Kronfeld to adopt this benchmark.  The motion passed unanimously.

Chairman Kuell asked if anyone had any further questions.  Ms. Akers asked about support group training.  Ms. Brown stated that there are currently 25 support groups throughout the state that use different models.  BESB only has one ongoing support group that meets monthly at the agency.  Another model used by BESB is to help senior centers develop ongoing vision loss support groups in conjunction with the agency’s Independent Living Skills Training Program that rotates between Senior Centers throughout the State.  BESB determines whether or not there is a need for a support group at the end of each program, and then works with the Senior Center to identify group leaders, typically either a peer from the group, a volunteer from the Lions, or a social worker assigned to the Senior Center. 

Ms. Akers recommended that an annual day of training should be offered to people who run the support groups.  Ms. Brown supported this idea and said that several years ago, she and another BESB Social Worker had set up a training at BESB and a follow up network of support group leaders was put in place.  It worked for a while and then attendance dropped off.   Ms. Akers asked if senior center staff and volunteers could be invited to participate.  Ms. Dodd said Senior Centers vary; her perception is that the Elmwood support group gets together for field trips and that the main purpose seems to be socialization.  Ms. Brown said the group in Elmwood is led by a BESB client and the core group of members consists of older adults with low vision who participated in an independent living program sponsored by BESB and therefore, there was less of a need for ongoing training. 

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre for an annual training day for support group leaders to be discussed at the next BESB board meeting.  The motion was seconded by Jay Kronfeld.  Motion passed unanimously.

Adjournment

A motion was made by Al Sylvestre, and seconded by Carolyn Dodd to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:10 a.m.

 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes with Motions

March 12, 2009

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m. 

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; William DeMaio; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Betty Woodward; Randa Utter

Members Absent

Christine Boisvert; Patrick Johnson; Marie Russo; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator

Public Comment

None

Old Business
Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the December 18, 2008 meeting minutes.  The Board unanimously adopted the minutes from the January 27, 2009 Special Meeting.  The Board unanimously accepted the Minutes from the December 5, 2008 and January 23, 2009 Benchmark Committee meetings.  The Benchmark Committee has not yet formally approved the February 20, 2009 Benchmark Committee Draft Minutes.  The Board will vote on them at the next meeting in June, 2009.

Chairman Sylvestre gave a point of privilege to Ms. Betty Woodward to speak to the Board.  Ms. Woodward thanked the Board for the blessings and outreach she and her husband Bruce have received from the Board and others.  Chairman Sylvestre thanked Ms. Woodward and her husband for the many contributions they have made to the community.

New Business
State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation for Action

Mr. Sigman asked for representation from the board to participate in a joint subcommittee with the State Rehabilitation Council to prepare the draft of the annual State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Ms. Dodd volunteered to assist with the vocational components of the draft plan and Ms. Gillispie offered to assist with development of sections pertaining to independent living.

Benchmarks Committee Update

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell updated the Board on the work of the committee.  The committee has met twice since the last board meeting.  The past two meetings have focused on the Adult Services Division.    

Dr. Kuell reported that the Benchmark Committee was recommending the retirement of certain Adult Services benchmarks at this time. Ms. Woodward asked if the benchmarks had been met.  Dr. Kuell indicated that they were.  A motion was made by Dr. Kuell and seconded by Ms. Woodward to retire the benchmark “Authorization for Low Visions Aids and Devices to be Issued by BESB Within Two Weeks of Receipt of Evaluation Report from Doctor.”  The motion passed unanimously.

On a motion made by Dr. Kuell and seconded by Ms. Akers, the benchmark “the agency will commit adequate funding to carry out a media campaign for the purpose of informing doctors and the public about registering and receiving services from BESB” was recommended for retirement. The motion passed unanimously.

Chairman Sylvestre asked Mr. Sigman to read the four new proposed Adult Service benchmarks.

Proposed Benchmark # 1

By July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of 5 (five) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state.

Chairman Sylvestre asked if the board had any questions. Mr. DeMaio asked how Mr. Lassen will pick these five nursing homes.  Mr. Lassen said that previous contacts have been made with nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Those facilities with residents on the BESB registry, who have expressed an interest in receiving the training, will receive the highest priority.  Mr. DeMaio asked if senior centers were included.  Mr. Sigman said this proposed benchmark only included nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  A Motion was made by Mr. DeMaio and seconded by Mr. Kronfeld to adopt this benchmark.  The motion passed unanimously.

Proposed Benchmark # 2

By January 1, 2010, BESB shall produce a baseline

measurement for client satisfaction and functional gains in the delivery of independent living services. 

Chairman Sylvestre asked if the Board had any questions.  Dr. Kuell remarked that conducting surveys of the elderly presented some special considerations and that an organization skilled in surveying this population would be needed.  Mr. Kronfeld would like to be kept informed of the progress and development of this survey.  Mr. Sigman said that a competitive bid would likely be needed and that members of the Benchmark Committee will participate in the selection process.  Mr. DeMaio said that Central Connecticut State University does this type of survey work.  A motion was made by Mr. Kronfeld and seconded by Mr. DeMaio to adopt this benchmark.  The motion passed unanimously.

Proposed Benchmark #3

To increase the available pool of volunteers for clients awaiting a match by increasing outreach efforts: 

1)    Participate in at least two community service focused outreach events, one each in Hartford County and New Haven County.

2)    Establish an Internet presence by expanding use of the Volunteer Match.com website to move from one zip code to a statewide exposure.

Ms. St. Amand briefed the board about the potential of VolunteerMatch.Com as a recruitment tool to assist with covering existing gaps in recruitment in areas such as Fairfield County. 

Chairman Sylvestre asked about BESB’s responsibility if a volunteer provides poor service.  Mr. Sigman said program volunteers receive training and undergo a driver and criminal background check. Ms. St. Amand provides training for specific volunteer activities.

Chairman Sylvestre asked Ms. St. Amand about the administrative burden.  Ms. St. Amand said increasing the number of volunteer applications will have an impact on her time availability, but she welcomes the prospect of having a larger pool of volunteers.  Ms. Gillispie expressed the importance of volunteer recruitment and would like to have volunteer services expand to rural parts of the state.  Ms. St. Amand said VolunteerMatch. Com is an important tool that would help with that.  Ms Gillispie asked about the Seniors Helping Seniors Program.  Ms. St. Amand said BESB has an agreement with this vendor for volunteer services.   Mr. Kronfeld asked if there were plans to expand beyond the Hartford and Middlesex Counties and the timeline to expand the program.  Ms. St. Amand replied that utilizing VolunteerMatch.Com would address that goal.  A motion was made by Mr. DeMaio and seconded by Ms. Dodd to adopt this benchmark.  The motion passed unanimously.

BenchmarK #4

BESB shall report annually to the Board of Directors on Agency Outreach Efforts to the Medical community and the Public Regarding BESB Services.

Chairman Sylvestre asked the Board if they had any questions.  There were none.  A motion was made by Mr. Kronfeld and seconded by Mr. DeMaio to adopt this benchmark.  The motion passed unanimously.

Budget Update and Economic Stimulus

Mr. Sigman reported on the Vocational Rehabilitation Program budget. Based upon current expenditures and projections, it continues to appear that the agency will be able to serve all eligible clients of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program for federal fiscal year 2010, and that an Order of Selection (waiting list) will not be needed in that year.  The Omnibus Bill that Congress has just passed includes a cost of living increase for the Title I Vocational Rehabilitation Program. In addition, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will bring approximately $500,000 in new funding to BESB for the Vocational Rehabilitation Program to focus on job creation and placement for people who are blind. BESB has partnered with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services and the Department of Labor to distribute an announcement to 100,000 employers in the state, encouraging a partnership to hire people with disabilities. 

The Older Blind Grant will also receive additional funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Mr. Sigman presented two ideas for the use of this new funding: (1) develop an option for clients who live in rural, isolated areas of the state to access transportation by offering stipends to these clients to hire drivers to help them get to medical appointments, grocery stores and jobs, and (2) partner with home health organizations to provide for short-term medical stabilization assistance for clients who need to learn how to manage diabetes to increase their capacity to remain independent in their homes.  Mr. Sigman summarized additional ideas that were submitted to him for potential initiatives with this funding, such as purchasing a van to bring clients to and from the Centralized Model Program at BESB; opening a satellite low vision clinic; purchasing Global Positioning Systems to increase client independence with outdoor mobility; provide a Confidence Building Program for clients who are deafblind; and offering rehabilitation technology training classes.

Chairman Sylvestre asked what decision-making mechanism would be used for prioritizing the use of the Older Blind Grant funding.  Mr. Sigman said the process would be done through the Strategic Planning Committee.

In regards to the state budget, so far there have been four separate Mitigation Plans to close the deficit for the current state fiscal year.  BESB has faired well in each of these plans. The most recent plan calls for BESB to return $100,000 from the Personal Service Account. This is funding that would have gone unspent due to the hiring freeze.  In addition, the Children Services Division will revert approximately $1.6 million to the General Fund. This reduction will not impact on direct services to children who are blind. The reduction will come out of the year-end disbursement to school districts.

Program Highlights

Mr. Sigman reported that Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor Mary Burgard, who is on leave, will return to work this week.

Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor reported on the division’s benchmarks.  He also reported on two newly scheduled Independent Living Skills Programs in Milford and New Britain.  He expressed his staff’s appreciation for the opportunity to participate fully in the benchmark development process.

Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor reported on that division’s benchmarks.  She updated the Board on the impact that the hiring freeze has been having on the benchmark to reduce the caseload size of BESB Teachers of the Visually Impaired. Although BESB was able to hire one teacher earlier in the year, it is not certain if additional positions will be approved due to the budget deficit.

Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor reported on the division’s five benchmarks.  He recently met with the subcommittee of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors that is working on draft survey questions for assessing the level of consumer satisfaction with the program.  Ms. Akers asked Mr. Owens if there has been any impact on the entrepreneurs in their business and profit margins in view of the economy.  Mr. Owens said there is a slight downturn, but it has not been substantial so far.

Confidentiality of Client Information

Chairman Sylvestre reported to the Board on a Freedom of Information Request concerning the Board members.  Chairman Sylvestre indicated that the requestor wanted among other items to receive copies of information about services that board members were receiving from the agency as individuals who are blind. Mr. Norton elaborated that Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 10-311(a) mandates that BESB case files be kept confidential and there is no exception in the case of a BESB client who becomes a Board member or BESB employee. 

At this point in the meeting, Chairman Sylvestre needed to depart the meeting. He designated Ms. Akers to chair the remainder of the meeting.

Equipment Ownership Regulations Update

Mr. Norton updated the board on the status of the proposed changes to BESB’s regulations regarding client ownership of adaptive equipment.  The regulations were passed unanimously by the legislature's Regulation Review Committee and became official when they were filed with the Secretary of State on February 26, 2009.  Agency policies will be amended to conform with the new regulations. 

Mr. Sigman reported that he has asked the Inventory Stockroom  Supervisor to develop a letter that will be sent to all clients who have equipment, notifying them that the equipment is now their property.  They will also be supplied with the names of vendors who do repairs.  Also, in the future, the agency's equipment loan agreements shall be changed to reflect the new regulations.  The agency's inventory will need to be adjusted, and the stockroom will look into ways that equipment may be provided directly to clients.  The agency is exploring the possibility of providing BESB clients with service maintenance agreements that would allow clients to address repair needs.  Policy changes regarding equipment ownership will be done through the public hearing process that will be conducted in conjunction with the adoption of the State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation. 
Points to the Good and Welfare

Ms. Dodd presented to the Board an initiative named the “Artisan Weavers,” located at 40 Woodland Street in Hartford.  The Artisans are a group of legally blind individuals who produce a variety of goods that are sold at craft fairs. A show and sale will be held on May 9th .  Ms. Dodd is the contact for more information. A scarf made by the Artisans was distributed as an example of the work they do.

Dr. Kuell expressed appreciation to Mr. Sigman for partnering with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services for outreach efforts to employers. He would like the board to review the mission statement of the agency to ensure that initiatives that develop out of the new Stimulus funding are consistent with the agency mission. Dr. Kuell is concerned that the proposed transportation initiative and the medical stabilization concepts are outside of the mission scope. Ms. Gillispie would like to see the Stimulus money used to provide transportation to blind people, like DDS (formerly DMR) where transportation is provided to clients across the state.  She feels this is a crucial issue and asked if BESB could possibly work with DDS on a transportation project.  Mr. DeMaio agreed that transportation in Connecticut is not being addressed and further suggested to use some of the Stimulus money to look at existing transportation programs offered by other towns to determine what they may be able to provide specifically to blind people.  Mr. Sigman said that in the Rehabilitation Act, transportation and medical management are allowable services.  Mr. DeMaio felt that blind people can become more employable if the could get to their jobs.  Ms. Utter agreed that transportation to jobs is vital. 

Ms. Akers reminded the Board of the upcoming deadline of March 31st for the submission of nominations for the Awards Event being held in October.  This event is an honor for recipients receiving awards and it showcases the achievement of people who are blind and the community partners who provide outstanding services. 

 

Adjournment

Mr. Kronfeld made a motion, seconded by Mr. DeMaio to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 12:04 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for June 4, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

February 20, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairwoman designee Eileen Akers called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell; Eileen Akers; Carolyn Dodd; Alan Sylvestre, Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Gerry Doody, Adult Services Social Worker; Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 20, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at BESB.

Old Business

A motion was made by Alan Sylvestre, and seconded by Chris Kuell to adopt the minutes of the January 23, 2009 meeting. The motion passed.

                                                                      

Any Questions on What We Have Done So Far?

Ms. Akers read the proposed Adult Services Benchmarks that the Board will vote on at their next meeting.  They are:

Proposed Benchmark #1

By July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of 5 (five) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state. (Passed at the December Benchmark Committee meeting)

Proposed Benchmark #2

By January 1, 2010, BESB shall produce a baseline

measurement for client satisfaction and functional gains in the delivery of independent living services.  (Passed at the January Benchmark Committee meeting)

Proposed Benchmark #3

To increase the available pool of volunteers awaiting match by increasing outreach efforts: 

1)       Participate in at least two community service focused outreach events, one each in Hartford County and New Haven County.

2)       Establish an Internet presence by expanding use of the Volunteer Match.com website to move from one zip code to a statewide exposure.

(Passed at the October Benchmark Committee meeting).

                                                                 

Proposed Benchmark #4

BESB shall report annually to the Board of Directors on Agency Outreach Efforts to the Medical community and the Public Regarding BESB Services. (Passed at the January Benchmark Committee meeting).

Ms. Brown notified the committee that the new ILOB report tracks community awareness/outreach activities e.g., senior health fairs, seminars on coping with vision loss, etc. There is now a data reporting element, where previously there was only a narrative section. 

Mr. Sylvestre reminded the committee that, since these proposals have passed the Benchmark Committee, future discussion should be before the board.  Ms. Dodd requested that page numbers be printed on the Benchmark Committee Minutes from this point forward.  Ms. Gillispie also asked that those participating in meetings please state their names before speaking. 

New Business:

Discuss Benchmark Proposal from Committee Members

Mr. Sigman spoke of the tremendous opportunity the agency has been given with a one-time infusion of nearly $428,000 in Older Blind Grant (OBG) funds that are part of the federal stimulus package.  He asked the committee to consider creative ideas for using these funds and to develop benchmarks around them.  Mr. Sigman presented an idea of partnering with home health care organizations on state contract to help stabilize the health of elderly consumers living alone to enable them to remain independent in their homes.

                                                                      

Mr. Sigman reported that the UConn Center for Survey Research and Analysis will no longer exist after June 30th.  They will take on limited work until then. They will still be able to work on the BEP entrepreneur survey (sample size of 50 people) that can be done quickly in a survey format with our draft questions.  Dr. Kuell asked that BEP move forward quickly with this survey.  A teleconference will be needed with Dr. Kuell and the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.  Mr. Sigman said the agency will have to go out for competitive bids for future surveys.  Ms. Brown made the suggestion that BESB investigate using the Center for Aging at UConn, which the State Independent Living Council (SILC) she serves on has used in the past.  Mr. Sigman asked Ms. Brown to contact them for additional information.  

Mr. Sigman would like the committee to decide which benchmarks are being retained and which are being retired before finishing up with Adult Services.  Ms. Akers asked the committee that the prior benchmark, “Authorization for low vision aids and devices to be issued by BESB within Two Weeks of Receipt of Evaluation Report from Doctor” be retained as an agency best practice, but not as a benchmark.  Mr. Lassen reported that Adult Services has never fallen short in achieving this benchmark and continues to monitor this regularly.  Mr. Sigman agreed that it be retained as a best practice.  Chairman Kuell agreed, stating that the issue addressed in this benchmark was originally identified as a bottleneck but that BESB has made great progress. 

Mr. Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Dr. Kuell, to retire the benchmark “Authorization for low vision aids to be issued by BESB within two weeks of receipt of evaluation report from doctor.”  The motion passed unanimously.

                                                                         

Dr. Kuell introduced at the last Benchmark Committee meeting the topic of adaptive technology training for clients of Adult Services. He asked if BESB could develop some simple training tapes for consumers who are new to computers. We could possibly establish a small group of computer users who are blind, who could help answer questions about technology over the phone.  Because BESB resources are limited and training can be delayed, tapes are a good learning tool to have available.  Mr. Lassen said that Adult Services does not have a technologist on staff.  Mr. Sigman suggested that, with the new OBG money, rehab technologists on the Visions Services Contract could be used on a fee-for-service basis to produce these tapes as well as doing one-on-one instruction.  Ms. Akers mentioned the Hadley School for the Blind and their excellent classes, and Mr. Doody stated that there are also other introductory sources online and that the Carroll Center has an online course.  Dr. Kuell said that people who do not know how to use a computer will have trouble learning online and will need the essential direct staff contact. 

Ms. Brown told the committee about a pilot computer project in which Adult Services partnered with Oak Hill (in the Hartford area only) to provide computer training, and stated that we also partner with senior centers that have computer labs.  Mr. Sigman said that with the new infusion of funds, he would like to get a specific number of seniors equipped with adapted computers.  Ms. Dodd appreciated the work Ms. Brown has been doing at Oak Hill, but did not feel she had the opportunity to express her needs in that training and said there are issues that need to be worked out in determining client needs.  She feels that a “needs assessment” is a necessity.  

Ms. Dodd also brought up the problem of transportation and getting to these trainings.  Mr. Sylvestre suggested we develop a benchmark to pilot a training program and have a sunset date for this benchmark.  Mr. Sigman suggested a time-limited benchmark, e.g.  “By a certain date, BESB will provide adaptive technology in the homes of 100 clients” where this opportunity can be measured and reported on.  Ms. Gillispie would like everyone to keep in mind that there are all kinds of individuals with different capabilities in different situations and not to deny an opportunity to a person who can benefit from it. 

Mr. Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Carol Gillispie 

“BESB staff will propose a benchmark for discussion at the next Benchmark Committee Meeting.  This benchmark will outline the most effective methods for providing computer training for older blind clientele.” The vote was taken, and three members voted yes, one no, and one abstained.  The motion passed.

Dr. Kuell said BESB would likely meet the benchmark, but not necessarily with effective training, if we were driven by numbers in such a benchmark.  Ms. Dodd asked if there was an alternative.  Chairman Kuell asked for an open-ended benchmark offering training tools to teach skills and services in adaptive technology and to report back to the board of directors on the number of trainings.  Mr. Sylvestre proposed giving BESB time until the next benchmark meeting to consult with experts in this area. 

                                                                          

Ms. Akers talked about another benchmark being retained:

“Maximum time frame from new referral to completed intake for services not to exceed one month.”  Mr. Lassen suggested a goal of all field staff (not just social workers) contacting new referrals within two weeks.

Mr. Sigman wanted to explore if the agency case management system could produce this type of data for rehabilitation teaching and mobility referrals before the Committee finalized benchmark language.  It was agreed that Jill Warzecha, Quality Control Reviewer would be consulted.    Mr. Lassen liked the idea of researching this for the next meeting.  Mr. Sylvestre said this was an administrative matter, and unless there is a specific concern with clients about staff not getting back to them, it should not rise to the level of a policy benchmark like this. Dr. Kuell disagreed, and said this was exactly what a benchmark should be. Other committee members concurred, and it was agreed that BESB would investigate the possibility of this becoming a benchmark. 

Ms. Gillispie asked Mr. Lassen if he goes out in the field.  Mr. Lassen said he occasionally does.  Mr. Lassen invited committee members to speak with Ms. Brown on the changes in the Older Blind Grant reporting process, if the committee had specific questions. 

Adjournment

Al Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Carol Gillispie to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:50 a.m.

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Special Meeting 

Minutes with Motions 

January 27, 2009

               

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 11:19 A.M. 

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Betty Woodward; Randa Nesman

Members Absent

William DeMaio; M. Carolyn Dodd; Jay Kronfeld; Marie Russo

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Jeanette Haines, Supervisor, Children’s Services

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre welcomed comments from the public.  Jeanette Haines, Supervisor of Children’s Services stated that she was very supportive of transferring ownership of equipment to students. However, she felt that the issue of repairs should be addressed in policy and not in regulation. Ms. Haines was concerned that changing “may repair” to “shall repair” in the regulations would mandate the agency to make repairs in situations of misuse. Ms. Woodward asked if Ms. Haines had found a lot of equipment was being misused.  Ms. Haines said there has been some instances of misuse.

Approval of Certain Technical and Other Changes to Proposed Regulations Concerning Equipment Ownership by Clients

Chairman Sylvestre asked Mr. Norton to present to the Board the proposed changes made in the regulations.  Mr. Norton first presented the regulation’s history thus far.  Attorneys for the Legislative Commissioners Office review regulations for the Regulation Review Committee.  They did not find any fundamental problems with the proposed change relative to equipment ownership, but recommended some wording modifications.  Some of their recommendations were:  (1) add clarification where the proposal had said that the agency “may” accept equipment returned by clients, (2) define the newly added term “Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE),” and (3) add clarification where the proposal said that the agency “may” reimburse clients for the cost of repairs to equipment. 

Ms. Gillispie asked who determines the value of the returned equipment.  Mr. Sigman said it is determined by the stockroom and if the equipment is beyond repair there is a process to surplus the equipment.  In the area of repairs, Mr. Sigman said that purchasing service and warranty agreements could be considered to assist clients with maintaining equipment in working order.  Chairman Sylvestre asked if this would resolve the concerns raised by Ms. Haines.  Ms. Haines expressed her concern about Internet usage by students who download non-educational items, and in so doing disable the adaptive software.  Chairman Sylvestre asked if changing “may” to “shall” gives BESB more flexibility.  Mr. Sigman stated that using the word “shall” instead of “may” reflects current agency practice relative to equipment repairs. Mr. Johnson was in agreement with the recommended language change.  Mr. Norton said the regulation does not force the agency to get another piece of equipment for a client if they have abused it, which gives leverage to staff to discourage misuse.

Ms. Haines asked who would control the selection of vendors who would make the repairs.  Mr. Sigman said a list of vendors who are capable of making these types of repairs would be provided to the clients.  Mr. Norton stated that clients would be reimbursed for the repairs upon their request.  Mr. Kuell expressed concern about families who cannot afford to make the initial payment for repairs and then await a reimbursement from BESB.  Mr. Sigman said that families could submit charge card invoices as proof of the repair if they were unable to pay with cash. Ms. Haines would like to maintain product maintenance agreements for students who are appropriately using the product.  Ms. Gillispie said that was important, but it is equally important to have equipment in the stockroom that could be loaned to clients in emergencies while their equipment is being repaired. 

Ms. Akers stated that yearly maintenance of Braille Note Takers is vital to keep the equipment in working order and that BESB needs to make sure that maintenance contracts cover these services.  Mr. Sigman said that these regulations would not prevent the agency from providing service maintenance agreements.  Mr. Sigman also said that the earlier draft version of the regulations approved by the Board included the reimbursement system for repairs and that was not being changed in the current version of the draft.  Chairman Sylvestre said that BESB will address the issue of service maintenance agreements administratively. 

Ms. Woodward asked that the word “Braille” be capitalized for the next rewrite of regulations.

A motion was made by Betty Woodward and seconded by Christine Boisvert to adopt these regulations as amended.  On a vote, seven were in favor and one opposed.  The motion passed.

Public Comment

None.

Adjournment

Patrick Johnson made a motion, seconded by Christine Boisvert, to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 12:15 p.m.

 

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

January 23, 2009

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman; Eileen Akers; Carolyn Dodd; Alan Sylvestre

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld; Carol Gillispie

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative Liaison; Mary- Jo Dawson, Administrative Assistant; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Gerry Doody, Adult Services Social Worker; Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for February 20, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at BESB.

Old Business

The Benchmark Committee minutes for the December 5, 2008 meeting were discussed. Carolyn Dodd was unable to access the minutes distributed to her in advance of the meeting. Andrew Norton offered to read the minutes. Upon completion of the reading, a motion was made by Alan Sylvestre, and seconded by Eileen Akers to accept the minutes of the December 5, 2008 meeting. The motion passed.

Chairman Kuell asked that in the future, the minutes be mailed to Ms. Dodd in large print, in addition to sending them to her by email.

Any questions on what we have done so far?

Eileen Akers inquired if Chairman Kuell has spoken with staff at Danbury Hospital and Chairman Kuell responded he had not yet had the opportunity to do so.

New Business

Discuss Benchmark Proposals from Committee Members

Chris Lassen asked if the board was intending to retain the prior benchmark pertaining to conducting a media campaign for outreach purposes. Chairman Kuell thinks that BESB has done a thorough job addressing this benchmark.

Al Sylvestre felt it was useful to have this benchmark as a form of reaffirmation for the outreach priority.  Carolyn Dodd asked if there is an ongoing mailing to doctors telling them about the statutory reporting requirement.  Mr. Sigman answered that the mailings are done periodically and said that a mailing was done a year ago. The agency is in the process of preparing for the next mailing to the doctors.  Ms. Dodd asked if these mailings would continue, even in the absence of a benchmark.  Mr. Sigman indicated that periodic mailings to doctors would continue regardless. Lori St. Amand suggested teaming up with professional groups to get the word out about agency services. Mr. Sylvestre then suggested new wording for the benchmark, and made a motion: 

“BESB shall report annually to the Board of Directors on Agency outreach efforts to the medical community and the public regarding BESB services.”

Chairman Kuell seconded the motion. Gerry Doody wanted to know what kind of reporting measure would be used.  Al Sylvestre indicated that the level of detail would be decided by the agency.

Marsha Brown mentioned that RSA addressed outreach with Adult Services when they were here on their site review visit.  RSA wants to see more outreach on BESB’s part to the Independent Living centers, and to religious organizations.

Chairman Kuell asked for a vote and the motion passed.

Vote on Proposed Benchmark

By January 1, 2010, BESB shall produce a baseline measurement for client satisfaction and functional gains in the delivery of independent living services.

Eileen Akers asked for a clarification on the meaning of this benchmark. Al Sylvestre indicated that a professional organization would conduct a survey of clients served in Adult Services to establish a baseline of satisfaction and service effectiveness so that the agency can then focus on continuous improvement. Chairman Kuell asked for a vote after discussion was completed.  The vote passed with Ms. Akers abstaining.

New Benchmarks:

Eileen Akers suggested a benchmark for training transportation officials who work with the blind.  Gerry Doody mentioned he has gone out with mobility staff to train bus and van drivers.  Ms. Akers mentioned she is aware that there are some drivers who have refused to provide assistance to passengers who are blind. Carolyn Dodd expressed similar experiences and concerns. Chairman Kuell felt that blind people should be taught to advocate for themselves.  Al Sylvestre mentioned high turnover among transportation providers as an issue, and that it is difficult and costly to keep training new drivers over and over again.  Carolyn Dodd mentioned that language barriers add to the difficulties encountered.  Mr. Doody said that many transportation districts outside of Hartford decline BESB’s offers to train their staff.

Al Sylvestre suggested that Ms. Akers take her concerns to the authorities, i.e:  CT Public Transportation Commission or United We Ride.  Mr. Sylvestre stated that these groups are very interested in hearing about the public’s experiences and are willing to report their findings to the DOT Commissioner.

The Committee decided not to pursue this item as a benchmark.

Proposed Benchmark #1

By July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of 5 (five) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state.

This benchmark was previously accepted by the committee, and the following proposed benchmark would expand on it.

1.  Could BESB make a training video for nursing homes/long term care facilities that could be viewed by new employees or when they have a blind patient/client? This might be a low cost way of training a lot of people, and would address concerns of staff turnover.

Marsha Brown said that BESB has tapes very professionally done by AFB, and suggested that we consider using these.  BESB could purchase additional copies of this video with Older Blind Grant money and loan them out to the nursing homes. Chairman Kuell felt that if BESB did our own video, the tapes could be customized, short, and inexpensive to reproduce, since BESB would own the content rights.

Chris Lassen was concerned about buy-in by the nursing homes.  He is not comfortable with a benchmark that requires the agency to do something that depends on third party cooperation. Brian Sigman stated that it would be far more expensive to have a professional video made by BESB through a contracted company and felt that the AFB video might be the best option in the current economic climate.

Mr. Sigman further said this might become a Strategic Planning Committee initiative.

Eileen Akers thinks staff time should be spent doing direct client services and not producing a training video.

Carolyn Dodd said we should not assume that most of the nursing homes would be unreceptive to this idea.

A motion was made by Alan Sylvestre and seconded by Carolyn Dodd:

The Chair of the Benchmark Committee will communicate with the agency that the committee desires the agency to convene outreach efforts to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The motion passed unanimously.

2.    Could BESB develop a blind volunteer support program, in addition to their regular volunteer program? This could help newly blind or visually impaired people talk with someone who has been through what they are experiencing. It could save BESB rehab teachers time, as a peer support volunteer who is blind might be able to answer many of the common questions asked by people who are newly blind.

Lori St. Amand felt that this would need to be a specially trained group of volunteers who would serve as peer supports. This would be a specialized skill set and she was concerned as to whether there are currently volunteers in the pool who would have these skills. Perhaps this could be done collaboratively with other groups. 

Gerry Doody suggested that perhaps this is something the NFB of Connecticut or other similar groups could do.  Mr. Doody was also concerned that this concept could get into issues of privacy, and client confidentiality. Carolyn Dodd offered that the program would not be formal counseling.  It would only be a peer to peer program.

Gerry Doody was concerned that the agency could be held responsible if a peer support volunteer gave guidance or advice that was incorrect. Brian Sigman agreed, and suggested that perhaps the agency could model this concept to the Mentor program in the Vocational Rehabilitation Division at the agency. Eileen Akers asked why there weren’t these liability concerns over the sighted volunteers. Lori St. Amand  said that their current volunteers are all trained for specific tasks, like taking someone shopping or reading their mail.

Marsha Brown offered that this type of peer support is very helpful for a person who is newly blind, having an opportunity to speak with someone who has gone through similar experiences. 

It was decided that the Benchmark Committee supports the idea of a peer support model.  Rather than create a benchmark, the committee chose to pass the idea along to the Strategic Planning Committee for further research on how the agency can initiate such a program for our clients.

Chairman Kuell introduced the topic of adaptive technology training for clients of Adult Services. He asked if BESB could develop some simple training tapes for consumers who are new to computers. There could possibly be a small group of computer users who are blind, who could help answer questions about technology over the phone. The committee agreed to discuss this concept at the next meeting.

Adjournment

Al Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Carolyn Dodd to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 12:01 p.m.

 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors

Meeting Minutes with Motions

December 18, 2008

Welcome and Introductions

Board Member Eileen Akers called the meeting to order at 10:44 a.m., announcing that Chairman Alan Sylvestre was at another meeting and would be arriving later.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Christine Boisvert; William DeMaio; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Randa Nesman; Marie Russo; Randy McKenney representing the  Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Susan Monteleone, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator

Public Comment

None

Old Business
Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the September 25, 2008 meeting minutes.  A motion was made by Bill DeMaio and seconded by Christine Boisvert to correct the October 6, 2008 Benchmark Committee Meeting Minutes to substitute “legally blind” for visually impaired” in the sentence beginning, “Ms. Brown reported on statistics.” The Board unanimously accepted the minutes.  The Benchmark Committee has not yet formally approved the December 5, 2008 Benchmark Committee Draft Minutes.  The Board will vote on them at the next meeting in March, 2009.

New Business
Annual Report for Action

Chairman Sylvestre opened the floor for discussion on any comments the Board may have on the Annual Report.  The board identified one sentence that needed revision and unanimously accepted the amended report. Chairman Sylvestre and Mr. Kuell will coordinate distribution of the report.

Benchmarks Committee Update

Committee Chairman Chris Kuell updated the Board on the work of the Committee.  The new Business Enterprise Program (BEP)  benchmarks are in place. The Committee is now addressing benchmarks for the Adult Services Program. The Committee has been meeting regularly on a monthly basis.

Mr. Sigman reported that the Chair of the State Rehabilitation Council would be contacting Chairman Kuell to explore if there is an interest in having a coordinated effort in the conducting of satisfaction surveys in BEP, Adult Services and Vocational Rehabilitation.  Ms. Carolyn Dodd commented on the great job that Chairman Kuell has been doing as the Committee chairperson.

Work Group Reports

Mr. Sigman indicated that Carolyn Dodd is the board’s designee for a joint workgroup with the State Rehabilitation Council that focuses on Order of Selection for consumers of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Mr. Sigman indicated that a meeting of this workgroup would be necessary in the near future to discuss the initial stages of implementing the Order of Selection process.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman gave an overview.  The projected deficit in the FY 2009 overall state budget is more than $300 million.  The Governor asked all Executive Branch state agencies to prepare budget proposals for FY 10 and FY 11 that include 10% reductions in state funded accounts.

Mr. Sigman gave an overview of the reductions that he has proposed for the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor to review. These proposed reductions are in the amount of year-end disbursements in Children’s Services, not filling state funded positions that are vacant, reducing cleaning service costs, and reducing direct service accounts.  The Governor will be presenting her budget in February.  Mr. DeMaio suggested that board members may be able to play a role in educating members of the legislature about the services the agency provides and how reductions could impact on people who are blind. Mr. Sigman stressed that BESB recognizes that the size of the deficit will require this agency to participate in the overall solution, including being prepared to absorb some reductions.

The agency was able to fill one Education Consultant position recently, to serve preschool age children. However, due to the hiring freeze, all other vacant positions are on hold at this time. 

Mr. Sigman reported that expenditures in the Vocational Rehabilitation Division are running higher than projected for the first two months of the new federal fiscal year. As a result, the workgroup addressing the Order of Selection process will need to convene to review implementation steps.  Mr. Kuell asked if there was any talk about an Order of Selection for Adult Services.  Mr. Sigman said that the federal law for Independent Living does not include such a process and that it is the agency Adult Services policy manual that prescribes a waiting list based upon the date of request for services in situations where there are insufficient funds. Mr. Sigman indicated that a reimbursement check from Social Security is forthcoming to the agency and that with those additional funds, a waiting list for Adult Services is not anticipated at this time.

Agency Report on Benchmarks

Mr. Sigman reported on behalf of the Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor Mary Burgard who is on leave.  The Vocational Rehabilitation Program has met all four benchmarks for federal fiscal year 2008. 

Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor reported that the current caseload value is 30.7 points. When the benchmark was initiated some years back, the caseload value was at 47 points.  A parent education event was held in November and the second event will be in the Spring, on Cortical Vision Impairment. 

Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor reported on the new benchmarks. Expenditures in benchmark categories are currently at 23%. Subcommittees have been assigned to work on identifying topics for training, and the development of a Satisfaction Survey.  Mr. Kuell asked Mr. Owens the name of the new Chairman of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.  Mr. Owen said the new chair is Zacash Shaham.     

Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor reported that all of the remaining Adult Service benchmarks have been met.  Mr. Lassen reported that copies of the new eye report would be mailed shortly to all eye doctors.  Volunteer Service Coordinator Lori St. Amand reported on the Public Service Announcements (PSA), which are part of the third benchmark.  Ms. St. Amand reported that in October, the agency launched two 30-second PSA spots in New Haven (WELI), Hartford (WTIC), and Bridgeport (WICC).  The focus was White Cane Safety Day and Volunteer Recruitment.  Sixty-two spots aired during October.  In November and December, there were a total of 124 spots, same stations, and same markets with a one spot focusing on general awareness of the agency services and the second focused on volunteer recruitment.  Ten individuals have requested applications to become a volunteer.  Mr. DeMaio asked if the PSAs could be e-mailed to the board.  Ms. St. Amand will send the Board file attachments that will include the six spots as they aired on respective stations.

Regulations Update

Mr. Norton updated the board on the status of the proposed changes to BESB’s regulations regarding client ownership of adaptive equipment.  Having previously received approval from OPM and the Governor’s office and having already held public hearings, Mr. Norton submitted a regulation packet to the Attorney General’s Office.  Public comment and the agency’s responses were included.  The agency determined that all concerns registered could be addressed at the policy level.   Therefore no changes were made to the language of the proposed regulation.  The Attorney General reviewed and approved the proposed regulation change.  Packets were sent last month to the Regulation Review Committee.  That committee will meet on January 27, 2009 and the BESB proposal should be on the agenda.  Mr. Norton will be seeking to meet again with the Committee’s leadership and also with the full membership to hear of and respond to any questions legislators may have.  If the Committee approves the regulation changes, the next and final step will be registering the changes with the Secretary of the State’s office.  Mr. Sylvestre asked if the Regulation Review Committee’s meetings are public.  Mr. Norton said that the meetings are open to the public and are usually held at the Legislative Office Building in Room 1E.  Chairman Sylvestre requested that the meeting date be posted on the BESB website.  Mr. Sigman offered to post that information once the Committee’s agenda has been publicly announced.

Points to the Good and Welfare
Mr. Sigman passed around a document to the Board that is a joint project between BESB and the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired (CDHI).  The document is named the “Emergency Communicator for Individuals who are Deaf Blind.” This document will be distributed to all major hospital emergency rooms to assist emergency room staff in communicating with persons who have limited hearing or vision.  Each document is printed on a heat sensitive paper and is in Braille.  After the hospitals receive the document, copies will be distributed to walk-in clinics.  Mr. Sigman commended Nancy Mothersele, Braille Coordinator at BESB, who is manually producing them for distribution.  Ms. Akers would like to make sure that agency clients who are deaf and blind are aware that this document has been distributed to hospitals.  Mr.Sigman said BESB would send out a letter to notify clients who are deaf and blind.

Ms. Akers wanted to thank Lori St. Amand for the success of this year’s Awards Day event in October.  Ms. Akers reminded all present that the deadline to submit candidates for the 2009 event is at the end of March.  Ms. Akers asked about the completion of the plaques in the BESB hallway to be updated to reflect past award winners.  Mr. Sigman said that Lauren Caye was presently working on that.

Mr. Jay Kronfeld requested historical information on the agency budget and staffing levels.  Mr. Sigman agreed to send him the Annual Reports from 2004 to present.

Adjournment

Chris Kuell made a motion seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 12:44 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 12, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. at BESB

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

 

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

December 5, 2008

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman; Eileen Akers; Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Alan Sylvestre

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Director; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Gerry Doody, Adult Services Social Worker

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for January 23, 2009 at 10:00-12:00 at BESB.

Old Business

The Benchmark Committee unanimously adopted the October 6, 2008 minutes.

Any Questions for Chris Lassen, Marsha Brown (Gerry Doody), and Lori St. Amand

Ms. Eileen Akers asked Mr. Lassen if there was any positive feedback from the radio ads.  Mr. Lassen and Ms. St. Amand said there were eight calls from individuals who were interested in volunteering.  Mr. Lassen indicated that he did not receive any calls from clients in response to the ads regarding agency services.  Ms. Akers asked if there were any support groups being formed.  Mr. Doody said a group started in September at the Bloomfield Senior Center.  Another group is under development at the Meriden Senior Center. Ms. Akers stressed the importance of having a skilled facilitator for the groups. 

Chairman Kuell received a call from a local person presently
attending a low vision support group at Danbury Hospital but the person was never told about registering at BESB.  Mr. Doody felt there was most likely a disconnect with the doctor who should have referred the person to BESB.  Chairman Kuell will find out more information and feels that support groups should have some oversight.

New Business

Consider Adult Services Proposed Benchmarks

Proposed Benchmark #1

By July 2010, deliver “New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Assisted Long-term Care Facilities” in a minimum of 5 (five) assisted living and/or intermediate rehabilitation care facilities around the state.

Chairman Kuell asked about Gaylord in Wallingford.  Mr. Sigman said it was an intermediate care rehabilitative facility.  Chairman Kuell received a call from a nurse’s aide at Gaylord who was interested in learning more about how to work with people who are blind.  Mr. Kuell gave her BESB’s phone number.  Mr. Doody said in his experience he has found medical facilities to be generally inadequate in terms of training on how to work with people who are blind.   

On a motion by Ms. Dodd, seconded by Ms. Gillispie, the committee voted unanimously to accept Proposed Benchmark Number 1. 

Proposed Benchmark #2

By January 1, 2010, BESB shall produce a baseline measurement for client satisfaction and functional gains in the delivery of independent living services.

Chairman Kuell is looking for a holistic way to measure the effectiveness of service delivery in Adult Services.  Ms. Akers asked if there was an accurate way to survey older blind adults.  Mr. Sigman believed a survey could be done with regularity, such as contacting clients one month after receiving each service, rather than waiting until the end of a year to do a single survey of all program participants. Ms. Marsha Brown contacted Mississippi State University and they are not available to conduct surveys for state agencies but they would be available to consult with the agency.  Ms. Dodd said that it is important to use words that would be meaningful to the survey participants to assist them with remembering the agency, such as referring to BESB as State Services for the Blind.  Ms. Akers said the survey would also need to be clear in describing the services that were provided.  Ms. Gillispie asked if rehabilitation teacher training reports might be an acceptable approach for measuring functional gains.  Mr. Doody said that at present, rehabilitation teacher reports list services provided but there is no measurement of functional gains. 

Chairman Kuell liked the idea of having an initial benchmark that addresses obtaining an accurate baseline, and then setting a new benchmark subsequent to the completion of the survey that seeks to increase service effectiveness and consumer satisfaction to a percentage level higher than the baseline.  Ms. Akers felt it was important that the organization selected to conduct the survey have expertise in conducting surveys of senior citizens. Ms. Akers asked if Chairman Kuell would have oversight over the development of the survey and Chairman Kuell said he will be involved in the development of the survey, along with the Benchmark Committee which will also have input.  He asked the committee to review this proposed benchmark’s wording and they will vote on it at the next meeting in January.

Adjournment

Chairman Kuell made a motion, seconded by Mr. Sylvestre to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:47 a.m.  

 

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Due to the lack of a quorum, there was no formal meeting of the BESB Board Benchmark Committee held on November 3, 2008.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

October 6, 2008

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman; Carol Gillispie; Eileen Akers; Jay Kronfeld; Carolyn Dodd

Members Absent

Alan Sylvestre

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator; Marsha Brown, Human Services Advocate

Old Business

The Benchmark Committee unanimously adopted the September 3, 2008 minutes.    Ms. Akers asked about a discussion held at the last meeting on the revision of the P-Card process.  Mr. Sigman said the P-Card policy has been issued and is effective October 15, 2008.  The procurement staff will be receiving new p-cards and current p-card holders will turn in their cards by that date.

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for November 3, 2008 at 10:00-12:00 at BESB.

New Business

Consider Adult Services Proposed Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell invited meeting participants to suggest language modifications to existing benchmarks or to propose new ideas. Mr. Sigman suggested that a benchmark addressing the overall service delivery process for independent living might be a more holistic approach for a new benchmark, rather than focusing on subsets of services such as the time from referral to application. Dr. Kuell indicated that the Monitoring Council had set prior benchmarks based upon areas where bottlenecks in services were occurring, such as the application completion process, and the provision of low vision aids. However, since the agency has now been addressing those two benchmarks successfully, he would consider modifying them into a broader benchmark category.  Mr. Sigman proposed a concept that is driven by tracking service delivery from the time of a signed application to the implementation of an independent living plan or plan waiver.  Mr. Kronfeld would like the benchmark focus to be on the person remaining independent in the community.  Ms. Gillispie agreed and would like an all-inclusive benchmark without arbitrary time limits for service completion imposed. 

Ms. Akers asked that Mr. Sigman and Mr. Lassen be given the next month to develop draft benchmark language, reflecting these discussions, and bring the proposed benchmark to the next meeting. Chairman Kuell is requesting that Mr. Lassen provide statistics at the next meeting on average timeframes for the completion of independent living plans.  Ms. Akers asked what the difference was between an independent living plan and a waiver.  Mr. Lassen said that clients could request a plan, but they could also receive the standard range of services by signing a waiver, if they had no unusual or extraordinary needs.  Ms. Akers asked that the statistics for the percentage of clients that sign such a waiver be brought to the next meeting.

Proposed benchmark: By July 2010, deliver New Independence Training Programs for Older Persons with Vision Loss in Long-term Care Facilities in a minimum of 5 (five) skilled nursing facilities around the state.

Mr. Lassen said Adult Services staff have been educating social service agencies for the last four years with at least two presentations, in each of the five service regions, with a good attendance rate.  Adult Services has recently started two new support groups, along with the support group facilitated at BESB by Priscilla Williams.   Mr. Lassen has been meeting with social workers and identifying nursing facilities for the New Independence Program. Ms. Akers expressed a concern about the high volume of turn over of staff at nursing homes and wondered about the benefits of proposing a benchmark that would potentially have little positive impact due to the high degree of staff turnover. Mr. Lassen responded that the benchmark for training would focus more on assisted living facilities where there is greater continuity. He gave Avery Heights as an example of such a facility and noted that their director had asked BESB to give training at their facility.  Ms. Akers said facilities providing a continuum of care made the most sense.   Chairman Kuell asked the committee if this wasn’t a worthwhile benchmark, despite their concerns.  Ms. Akers isn’t convinced.  Ms. Gillispie agreed. 

Ms. Brown reported on program statistics: (1) Adult Services in FY 2007 provided services to 1,634 legally blind citizens over the age of 55, with 69 in assisted living, 84 in nursing homes, and the vast majority in their own homes; (2) there is a program called “Money Follows the Person” (or MFP), with Medicaid giving an $80 million infrastructure grant to Connecticut, administered by the Department of Social Services (DSS). This is to support the transitioning of adults from nursing homes into the community.  Ms. Brown reported that an oversight committee is putting together a training program for the transition coordinators. The transition coordinator is the lead case manager and BESB staff are secondary coordinators.  The project’s goal is to place 700 people in the community in the next few years.  Ms. Akers asked if there was money for keeping people in their own homes.  Ms. Brown said no, but there is a DSS diversion grant for keeping them out of nursing homes.  Mr. Norton asked about how many young people are placed in nursing homes because of their blindness.  Ms. Brown responded that DSS keep statistics on the primary reasons people are in nursing homes and it is rare that a person who is only blind is placed into a nursing home.  Ms. Akers would like the continuum of care facilities to be emphasized in the pilot project.  Ms. Dodd felt it should be ongoing to continue to support the newer staff, particularly the nurse’s aides who have direct contact with the nursing home residents.  Chairman Kuell asked Mr. Lassen to modify this benchmark’s proposed language, taking these concerns into account, and bring this proposal to the next meeting.

II.  To increase the available pool of volunteers awaiting match by increasing outreach efforts:

a. Participate in at least two community service focused outreach events, one each in Hartford County and New Haven County.

Ms. St. Amand described some examples of her outreach in the community.  Ms. Akers asked if she got any volunteers at these events.  Ms. St. Amand said no, but it was useful to get involved in these activities to increase public awareness.  Ms. Akers liked this benchmark but is looking for a different venue for outreach.  Chairman Kuell would like a benchmark around a blind consumer volunteer pool, especially for new clients entering into the system, to talk and help them adjust.

b.  Establish an Internet presence by expanding use of the Volunteer Match.com website to move from one zip code to a statewide exposure.

Ms. St. Amand discussed the importance of internet presence and expanding the use of the Volunteer Match.com website because it has a purpose for a person looking to be a volunteer.  There will be radio commercials that will also be coming up, sponsored by BESB, that promote volunteerism.  Chairman Kuell suggested that Volunteer Services be included in the Large Print Calendar currently being developed by BESB through the Strategic Planning process.  He also asked Ms. St. Amand if she would be doing these initiatives whether or not it is a benchmark.  Ms. St. Amand said yes.  Ms. Gillispie asked if she has a list of successful matches.  Ms. Amand said yes she has a list. 

A motion was made by Eileen Akers and seconded by Carol Gillispie to set this proposed language as a benchmark.  Three votes were in favor, one vote against.  The motion passed.

Adjournment


Carolyn Dodd made a motion, seconded by Carolyn Gillispie to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:57 a.m. 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

September 25, 2008

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:33 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; William DeMaio; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Randa Nesman; Betty Woodward

Members Absent

Christine Boisvert; Marie Russo; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator

Public Comment

Mary Lou Mayo, Arnold Martin and Carolyn Reeder attended the meeting as members of public. Ms. Mayo has been a member of the Artisans Center at Oak Hill for five years.  She displayed the scarf and poncho that she made at the center. Ms. Mayo said the center closed recently for financial reasons and it was devastating news for the 35 to 40 people who attend this program.  Ms. Mayo felt it has to do with attitudes toward the blind.  She would like to create a “Think Tank” and asked if some members of the BESB staff could be part of this group to help in using their expertise in reaching out to nonprofits that deal with the blind.  Board Member Jay Kronfeld asked what is the cost of this program. Ms. Mayo believed the cost to be at least $50,000.  Board Member Chris Kuell asked to speak to Ms. Mayo after the meeting.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the June 26, 2008 meeting minutes.  The Board unanimously accepted the Minutes from the July 9, August 7, and September 3, 2008 Benchmark Committee Meetings.

New Business

Proposed Meeting Dates for 2009 for Action

The Board unanimously agreed to meeting dates of March 12, June 4, September 10, and December 3, 2009, all meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m.  A motion was made and seconded to adopt these meeting dates and times for 2009.  The Board unanimously accepted the motion. 

Benchmarks Committee Update

Committee Chairman Chris Kuell updated the board on the work of the committee.  There have been a total of six meetings, five have been primarily working with BEP, and the sixth meeting was with Adult Services.  BEP has four new benchmarks and retained one.  Bill DeMaio made a motion seconded by Eileen Akers to accept the benchmarks.  The motion passed unanimously.

Mr. DeMaio suggested considering a benchmark for marketing, advertising, or a public service announcement on television or radio to inform potential consumers about agency services.  Mr. Kuell said it was certainly possible and he would discuss it.  Mr. Sigman reported that Adult Services has an existing benchmark to commit adequate funding to carry out a media campaign for the purpose of informing doctors and the public about services from BESB.  He then provided information about an upcoming radio advertisement campaign planned for October through December, focusing on White Cane Safety Day, referring people with vision loss to BESB, and volunteer services.

Work Group Reports

Chairman Sylvestre followed up with the Board’s Annual Report Work Group formed at the last meeting in June, reminding them that time is getting short and action is needed at the December meeting.  Mr. Kuell asked the group to meet with him briefly after the board meeting to discuss assignments.

BESB Awards Program Report for Action

Chairman Sylvestre gave the floor to Ms. Akers.  Ms. Akers indicated that changes made to the Awards Program last year have been implemented. This year’s ceremony will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the program.  Ms Akers would like to present plaques in honor of all volunteers, past, present, and future and a special award be given to Steven Thal for his long commitment in serving the blind community.  Bill DeMaio made a motion seconded by Jay Kronfeld to approve these special awards.  The motion passed unanimously.

Ms. Akers recommended changing the nomination deadline from the end of June to the end of March to accommodate the schedules of teachers who are often involved in school year-end activities in June, making it difficult to dedicate sufficient time to the nomination of students.  Chairman Sylvestre said that the committee has discretion to change these deadlines.  The Board accepted the report of this committee.  Ms. Akers thanked the chairman for his support.  Ms. Gillispie mentioned another change made for the upcoming ceremony.  Recipients who receive awards have been required to be present to accept them.  One of the recipients of an award this year was present in the state when the committee made the selection, but the individual is out of state and would not be present to accept the award in October.  Ms. Gillispie felt he should still receive the award.  The board members agreed. Chairman Sylvestre added that he could not think of a better person than Steve Thal to receive a special achievement award.

Legislative Update

Mr. Andrew Norton reported that the agency was actively pursuing changes to BESB’s regulations pertaining to the ownership of equipment provided to clients.  At the March meeting, the Board approved changes that would allow BESB clients to own equipment provided by the agency. Currently the agency provides equipment in the form of a loan. Since then the agency received approval from the Office of Policy and Management and the Governor’s Office to proceed with these changes.  BESB published the proposal in the Connecticut Law Journal and held 2 public hearings on September 16, 2008.  No one attended the hearings.  Six people did submit comments by e-mail.  No one opposed the overall proposal.  One commenter whose child is a BESB student wrote to support the changes.  Three members of BESB staff and two clients also wrote in support of the proposal but raised some administrative concerns.  Some commenters asked questions about how the repair process would work and also asked about equipment replacement. Questions were raised about the issue of evaluations of client need for equipment and training on the equipment.  Mr. Norton noted that BESB now provides repair and conducts needs assessments and evaluation and that this process would not change significantly, if at all, under client ownership.  He did acknowledge that these are legitimate concerns that should be evaluated but that switching from lending equipment to giving equipment would not substantially change the issues involved.   Mr. Norton has notified the chairs of the Human Services Committee, making them aware of the proposed changes.  The next step will be to complete the regulation-making record for submission to the Attorney General’s Office.  If that office approves them for legal compliance, then the last major step is submission to the legislature’s Regulations Review Committee.  Mr. Norton said that if both these institutions approve the changes, final approval might occur sometime in the first half of 2009.  Mr. Sigman commented that policy, and not regulation, is where one would typically find greater detail regarding the specific circumstances where repairs would be undertaken or equipment would be replaced. Changes in policy would also require board review and a public hearing process. Mr. Sigman added the regulations are primarily intended to resolve the matter of fairness and equity.  Individuals who are blind should be treated the same as members of all other individuals with disabilities served by public rehabilitation in the state and be granted the same rights to equipment ownership. The administrative burden on the agency of keeping track of so many pieces of equipment, owned by so many people, over the course of so many years, is very impractical and, at times, almost impossible. The change in regulations would resolve that concern as well. Mr. Kronfeld asked when would possible policy changes come before the Board.  Mr. Sigman said there could be an agenda item at the very next board meeting that occurs after the regulations become law.  Chairman Sylvestre asked how often does the Regulations Review Committee meet.  Mr. Norton said that they meet monthly.  Chairman Sylvestre also asked about how the proposal was being received by officials in the rest of state government.  Mr. Norton said that so far there was approval from OPM and the Governor’s Office and that the Comptroller’s Office supports it was well.  Mr. Kronfeld asked if there would be other efficiencies gained by implementing these regulations.  Mr. Sigman said equipment would no longer need to be received or shipped at the agency and the three storekeepers will be able to perform other important work. 

Mr. DeMaio expressed thanks to both Mr. Sigman and Mr. Norton for compelling the Department of Motor Vehicles to accept checks from individuals who are blind, who are applying for renewal of the photo identification card. Only cash was being accepted, and that has since been corrected with the intervention of BESB.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman gave an overview.  The projected deficit in the FY2009 overall state budget grew from $150 million to $300 million in the past week.  The Governor has asked all agencies to prepare budget options covering FY 10 and FY 11 with 10% cuts in state funding.  BESB has $15 million in state funding. The agency had to identify areas where $1.5 million in budget reductions could be absorbed.  Agencies were further instructed to reduce fuel and mileage costs by 10% in the current year budget.  The Governor also implemented rescissions among state agencies in the current year budget.  BESB has been very fortunate and the rescissions covered three areas only:   personal services, other expenses, and CRIS Radio.  After discussions with OPM, funds were restored to CRIS Radio and reduced by an equal amount from the much larger Children’s Services budget, where the minor reduction will have no impact on direct services to children.  The personal services expenses came out of a reserve set aside and BESB will absorb those reductions through the hiring freeze.  The area with the significant reduction was fuel and mileage.  Mr. Sigman implemented the 10% reduction but due to the inflated costs of fuel in FY 09 compared to the FY 08 costs, it required the shaving of 115,000 miles in field staff travel this year.  Mr. Sigman stressed that staff were instructed to avoid any reduction in client services. Instead, the agency has implemented car pooling, call before going to an appointment, and a number of other measures to absorb the reductions.  Ms. Woodward asked if any drivers had to be let go.  Mr. Sigman said no.  

Mr. Sigman gave an overview of potential areas where the agency would be recommending the 10% reductions for the FY 2010-11 budget.  Mr. Sigman identified areas of potential reduction across all programs, but indicated that the final decisions regarding funding in the FY 2010-11 budget is a process that involves OPM, the Governor, and the Legislature. Mr. Johnson asked about the possibility of an early retirement option and the impact on technical expertise in BESB and services.  Mr. Sigman said that an incentive retirement package would certainly result in a loss of experienced staff at the agency.  Chairman Sylvestre expressed his thanks to Mr. Sigman for maintaining an amazing level of service and with everyone pitching in, he is deserving of praise and recognition.  Mr. Johnson echoed these compliments.

Mr. Sigman gave an update on the Vocational Rehabilitation budget and reminded the board that part of their charge in regulations is to assist with the implementation of an Order of Selection, when funds are projected to be insufficient to serve all eligible individuals. Mr. Sigman indicated that preliminary calculations of the indirect rate charge came out better than projected and that the rate proposal has been submitted to the United States Department of Education for review. Mr. Sigman further indicated that budget projections at present suggest that an Order of Selection may not be necessary until federal fiscal year 2011, but that it is too early to make such assurances. He will continue to monitor monthly expenditures closely and advise the board. Ms. Dodd agreed to represent the board on a joint committee with the BESB State Rehabilitation Council, to begin the preliminary activities on preparing to implement an Order of Selection.    

Program Updates

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Services Supervisor reported on the divisions benchmarks. She indicated that the program has achieved all of the benchmarks for the current year.

Mr. Sigman informed the board that Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) had completed their program review of the BESB federal programs of Independent Living and Vocational Rehabilitation. In the Independent Living program, there was a finding that the confidentiality policy needed to be updated to include the Older Blind Program. While Mr. Sigman believed the current policy manual encompassed this already, he agreed to amend the policy and will bring a proposal before the board at a future meeting.     

The second finding is of much greater concern. Although BESB had been under a waiver of indirect costs for many years, and was therefore not paying administrative charges to the state, RSA has concluded that the agency must modify federal financial reports dating back five years to include the value of these waived costs. Mr. Sigman pointed out to RSA that BESB could not report on expenditures as required in the instruction manual for the reports, because the agency never actually expended the funds in this category. However, RSA has disagreed and further indicated their intent to recalculate the maintenance of effort level for each year after the reports are modified. RSA has further indicated that such a recalculation could result in the need to reduce the federal grant. Mr. Sigman indicated his disagreement with the overall finding and the belief that BESB was being asked to provide information that was contrary to actual fact, since there were not expenditures in this category and there was no approved indirect cost plan to base the calculations on. Since RSA was indicating that such a process could impact on the federal grant dollars that BESB utilizes to serve people who are blind, he advised the Attorney General’s Office on this matter and requested that any discussions with RSA regarding the potential harm to clients through the withholding of funds must occur with the involvement of the Attorney General’s office.

Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor presented on the caseload reduction goal for the program, that was achieved in all prior years.  However, one teacher has since retired and another teacher resigned. Even with the two new teachers hired last spring, the current caseload benchmark goal is 27.5 points, but the current point level is 31.7.  With the hiring freeze, there is a concern about achieving this benchmark. Four UMass-Boston students are currently completing their practicum under the mentorship of BESB Consultants.  Mike May a leader in developing accessible global positioning systems for the blind will be speaking at the Four Point Sheraton in Meriden on November 8, 2008.  This event has been actively publicized to parents. 

Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor reported BEP met all their benchmarks for the year.  He also reported that the BEP financial information has been posted on the BESB website for FY 08.  BEP overspent income by $673,000, partially due to the opening of 8 new facilities. The Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors will be reviewing these benchmarks at the next meeting on Saturday, October 4th. 

Ms. St. Amand read two sample radio advertisement scripts that will run in October, November, and December in the Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport areas.  The Governor’s radio announcement for White Cane Safety Day will also run in October.

Mr. Lassen presented the Adult Services benchmarks that have been achieved for the year.  Mr. Lassen indicated that Adult Services is working with a designer from the Department of Administrative Services to design a new poster that will be sent to all eye doctors reminding them of BESB services. The staff are also working on a large print calendar that should be completed by November and ready to send to clients.  

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre has been appointed to group that is interested in improving transportation services.  The group makes its recommendations to Department of Transportation and its Commissioner.  Mr. Lassen asked Chairman Sylvestre to please contact one of the Adult Service Mobility instructors because they would be interested in this committee.  Chairman Sylvestre said he would. 

Mr. Norton talked about the DMV policy for applications from persons with blindness for parking hangtags for the disabled.  The DMV had been considering requiring that blind applicants submit a doctor’s report in addition to BESB’s Certificate of Legal Blindness (CLB).  This would have caused inconvenience to BESB clients.  Mr. Norton reported to the Commissioner of DMV that all CLBs are based on doctor’s eye reports. The Commissioner then maintained the current policy of accepting CLB’s alone as sufficient to obtain a hangtag for disabled parking.

Mr. DeMaio made a motion and Patrick Johnson seconded to amend the Benchmark Committee Meeting Draft Minutes from September 3, 2008 to read under the New Business Section on Review of Independent Living/Adult Services by Chris Lassen, paragraph 13 to read: the number of newly registered consumers and percentage change over the age of 65 in the year 2008—788—70%

Adjournment

Betty Woodward made a motion seconded by Randa Nesman to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 12:38 P.M.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for December 18, at 10:30 a.m. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

September 3, 2008

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 1:06 p.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman; Alan Sylvestre; Carol Gillispie; Eileen Akers

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld; Carolyn Dodd

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Coordinator

Old Business

The Benchmark Committee unanimously adopted the August 7, 2008 minutes.  At the last meeting of the Benchmark Committee, a benchmark was developed that read: “By January 1, 2010, BEP will develop/distribute/assess and operator satisfaction survey (identify problems/issues/areas in need of improvement.”  Chairman Kuell proposed that the cost of conducting this survey should be included in the calculation of expenditures that directly benefit the entrepreneurs and that these survey costs should not be included in the administrative category of expenditures. The committee members concurred.

Next Scheduled Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for October 6, 2008 at 10:00-12:00 at BESB.

New Business

Review of Independent Living/Adult Services by Chris Lassen

Adult Services Supervisor Chris Lassen presented an overview of the program.  There are presently five social workers.  There are four rehabilitation teachers and three orientation and mobility instructors delivering services to clients.  Marsha Brown works on the Older Blind Grant and provides support to the Deafblind Program (as does Mr. Lassen).

Mr. Lassen explained that staff are using a new case management system that was implemented in December, 2007.  This system has proven to be a useful tool in showing progress in completing the ongoing goal of social workers completing intakes within one month.  The most recent tally shows that the average intake is now completed in 19 days, at least partly due to the new data management system and remote access, which enables staff to access the client data system when out of the office.  Ms. Akers asked about security of confidential data.  Mr. Sigman indicated that the lap top computers used by staff in the field are encrypted and password protected.  The majority of confidential information is stored on the network drive and staff need advanced written permission from Mr. Sigman in order to store any confidential data on their lap top computers.

Ms. Gillispie asked if the staff who are blind have learned the case management system from qualified instructors.  Mr. Lassen said instruction is typically given by job title so that training is on the specific tasks that each job title needs to do (e.g., rehab teachers, mobility instructors, social workers in separate training groups).  Mr. Sigman indicated that the agency purchased instruction support from the software vendor and also uses on-staff trainers.  Ms. Gillispie asked if a social worker who is blind feels comfortable with this instruction and using the system.  Mr. Lassen said that anyone who is not comfortable is encouraged to seek additional support and training.  Mr. Sigman indicated that the case management system is used by other state agencies for the blind (Michigan, Oregon, and Washington State) and that it is accessible to individuals who are blind. Ms. Gillispie stated that blind staff have to listen to information on the computer screen and they should definitely be given the time to feel secure to do their job consistently with ample training.  Mr. Sigman assured the committee that the training sessions and their availability have been very extensive and that the focus at present is for having the vendor provide customizations as requested by staff.  Mr. Lassen said there have been purchases of adaptive equipment for three staff members who are blind in Adult Services in support of their job duties.

Mr. Lassen further indicated that with social workers and clerical staff working as a team, the time to process a request for low vision aids is now averaging 6 days.  Mr. Sigman said that it is a high priority among clerical staff to process these requests.  Mr. Lassen said social workers can do service requests remotely, making it much faster to process a service. 

Ms. Akers asked Mr. Lassen about the p-card system in place at the agency.  Mr. Sigman said the p-card system was not working as well as had been hoped. Low vision doctors have been particularly hesitant to utilize the p-card, as there is a fee involved in using charge cards.  Mr. Sigman opted to seek approval to restructure the procurement area and new staff have been added to the agency.  Working together with the Comptrollers Office, the p-card policy is undergoing revision, with a target date of October 1, 2008 for p-card responsibility to transfer from clerical staff in the divisions to procurement staff. 

Ms. Akers asked about serving existing clients.  Mr. Lassen confirmed that the agency does continue to serve existing clients who request additional services, in addition to serving new clients.  Ms. Akers asked if BESB could work on situations with a person who is blind and living alone.  Mr. Lassen said yes, a call could be made to BESB for assistance. 

Ms. Gillispie asked if staff who are blind have a say when a Special Assistant is hired.  Mr. Lassen said special assistants to the blind are supervised by the Office Supervisor or Administrative Assistant in their division.  Ms. Gillispie asked if the person who is blind and would be working with them could interview them.  Mr. Norton said the interviewing committee includes a field staff person who is blind, although not always a person whom the staff person will work with. Mr. Norton indicated that the most recent interview committee resulted in 4 special assistants to the blind being hired by the agency. Typically, the Special Assistant who is being hired will not know to whom they will be assigned.  Special Assistants are sometimes assigned to other staff, when they call out sick, and at the discretion of their supervisor to fill staffing needs on particular days.  Chairman Kuell said these decisions are outside of the scope of the Benchmark Committee and that it should be in the hands of BESB management.   

Ms. Akers asked about the planning done to maintain the current level of service even with required mileage reductions.  Mr. Sigman said he has issued out a plan for driving which greatly reduces personal vehicle mileage and state vehicle mileage through (1) carpooling, (2) increasing use of remote access, (3) calling scheduled clients on the day of their appointment to make sure they are home, (4) reassigning fuel efficient state cars to staff who put on the most miles, (5) moving the remote location of a car in Adult Services for a blind staff member to be picked up with no impact on client services, and (6) grouping appointments that are made in particular towns rather than making just one appointment for particular days in the field.  Ms. Akers asked if the contact hours with clients will be impacted.  Mr. Sigman stated that he met with all the supervisors last week to stress that every effort must be made to avoid interruptions in client services.  Mr. Sigman said these are deep cuts and he cannot promise the total number of direct service hours in the field wont be impacted to some extent, but he is asking staff to follow the instructions he issued, and to implement additional creative ideas that will reduce mileage and fuel costs with the least amount of impact on client services. 

Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Manager presented an overview of the Adult Services Volunteer Services Program. 

In FY 08, overall volunteer service hours were 36,631, up from 27,827 last year. 

  

The specific categories of service then discussed were: 

1.      Community volunteers (individuals of any age).  The 2007 hours were 2,711; they increased to 3,069 in 2008.

2.      Senior Companions (community volunteers aged 55+ specifically recruited via the Senior Companions Program).  The 2007 hours were 1,427; they increased to 1,549 in 2008.

3.      Office volunteers who perform general clerical work and client outreach.  The 2007 hours were 537; they increased to 965 in 2008.

4.      Volunteers who convert books into Braille.  The 2007 hours were 23,019; they increased to 30,554 in 2008.

5.      Volunteer activities for agency committees.  The 2007 hours were 134; they increased to 489 in 2008.

Chairman Kuell brought up a suggestion made by Eileen Akers about using BESB consumers as volunteers, e.g., talking to other consumers, using a volunteer pool (similarly aged/gender) to offer support to answer questions.  Ms. St. Amand asked if this would be an effort geared toward expanding Priscilla Williams’ monthly Low Vision Support Group for the elderly blind.  Chairman Kuell was thinking of a telephone support system, whereas volunteers could be put in touch with consumers who might benefit.  Ms. St. Amand referenced a group called Friendly Connector that serves Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, and New Cannan.  Mr. Kuell asked Ms. Akers if this is what she had in mind.  Ms. Akers was thinking of a blind person living alone being checked up on.  Ms. St. Amand replied that an office volunteer comes in once per week and conducts outreach calls including efforts to make weekly contact with a select group of clients the program has identified as having the greatest potential to be socially isolated.  Other socially active clients matched with volunteers receive routine contact approximately 3-4 times per year. Chairman Kuell would like to consider developing a benchmark in this area.

Chairman Kuell asked about the number of newly registered consumers and percentage change over the age of 65 in years 2006, 2007, and 2008.  In 2006—938, 72% over the age of 65; 2007—896, 73% over the age of 65, and 2008—788, 70% over the age of 65.  Chairman Kuell noted the percentage is holding, but the number of new referrals is down.  Mr. Sigman agreed that it was unusually low and there will be another outreach this year to ensure that doctors are making referrals. 

Chairman Kuell asked about the Centralized Service Model.  Mr. Sigman reported that in FY 08—142 services were provided and 211 devices were dispensed through the centralized service model.  The total for the months from December, 2006 when the pilot started, through June 30, 2008 is—300 services and 358 devices.(Note—examples of  services include meeting with the doctor, or getting an O and M lesson, or being shown safe and easy ways to work in the kitchen).

Chairman Kuell asked what was the consumer response on the exit interview.  Mr. Lassen indicated that the agency has not implemented a formal follow up process for assessing satisfaction with the centralized model.  Chairman Kuell wanted to know if this program really works (based on consumer feedback) and can this be taken on the road, especially in areas with transportation issues.  Mr. Sigman said the goal of hiring a low vision doctor includes working with groups such as the Lions and the VA to establish cooperative agreements to use their low vision examination centers so that the centralized model could branch out to other areas of the state. Ms. Akers asked if there were on-hand independent living aids that can be given to the clients if they participate in the centralized model.  Mr. Sigman indicated that the agency stocks canes, low vision magnifiers, and daily living aids that are provided to the clients during the training.  Ms. Akers asked if daily living aids have to go through a process or can be received at the centralized model or put in the mail.  Mr. Lassen said clients can receive them either way.

Adjournment


Al Sylvestre made the motion, seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 2:58 p.m. 

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting Minutes

June 26, 2008

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:39 A.M.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman, Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Jay Kronfeld; Randa Nesman; M. Carolyn Dodd; Christine Boisvert; Marie Russo

Members Absent

Eileen Akers; Betty Woodward; William DeMaio; Carol Gillispie; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Public Comment

None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the March 27, 2008 meeting minutes.

Chairman Sylvestre addressed Stephen Thal’s concern that blindness etiquette was not used in the March 27, 2008 Draft Minutes.  Mr. Thal requested removing “blind people” and replacing it with “people who are blind.”  Upon examining the minutes, the wording was not found, but future minutes will reflect this etiquette.

The board unanimously accepted the Minutes from the April 11, May 19, and June 6, 2008 Benchmark Committee Meetings.

New Business

Benchmarks Committee Update

Committee Chairman Chris Kuell updated the board on the work of the committee.    The committee recommended that the board should retire nine benchmarks that BESB has met and that are identified in the April 11, 2008 Benchmark Committee minutes.  The committee worked on three of the four Proposed BEP Benchmarks.  They will finish discussing the last agency proposed benchmark, along with discussion of potential new benchmarks at the next meeting in July.  Mr. Sigman conveyed two concerns on behalf of board member Eileen Akers who was not present:  (1) some BEP operators reported that they were not receiving Braille copies of materials, and (2) asked if there were any part-time operators.  Mr. Ed Owens will be contacting Ms. Akers to address these questions directly.  Randa Nesman made a motion seconded by Chris Kuell to adopt the recommendations made to retire the nine benchmarks as identified in the April 11, 2008 Benchmark Committee Minutes.  The motion passed unanimously.

Annual Report Workgroup Formation for Action

Chairman Sylvestre is following up on a suggestion made at the December 20, 2007 board meeting asking for board volunteers to form a workgroup to start work on the upcoming Annual Report that is due in December.  Board members  Eileen Akers, Patrick Johnson, and Carolyn Dodd volunteered.

BEP Proposed Regulations for Minimum Income for Action

Mr. Sigman presented the motions made by the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors during their meeting on June 7, 2008, for action by the Board.  The motion was: “Ms. McDermott moved to accept the proposed new regulations for an increased incentive Plan for Blind Operators of Vending Facilities.  Ms. Stolz seconded and it was unanimously passed by the Committee.” Mr. Kuell then made a motion, seconded by Christine Boisvert, to accept the draft proposed regulations for an increased incentive plan for Blind Operators of vending facilities as approved by the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors during their June meeting.  The motion passed unanimously. A second motion made at the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors on June 7, 2008, was:  “Mr. Herdman moved to increase the minimum income to $17,306 per the Department of Labor for Counter Attendant, Cafeteria, Food Concession and Coffee Shop Worker effective July 1, 2008.  Ms. Stoltz seconded and it was unanimously accepted.”

Mr. Sigman gave a history of how the BEP minimum income regulations (last updated in 1987) had become out of alignment with current practices.   The Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors updated the policy in 2006 and the Board of Directors affirmed that policy change at the December, 2006 board meeting.  At that time, the new policy called for linking the minimum income standard to a fixed job class in the Connecticut Department of Labor’s employment survey.  Mr. Norton noted that the proposed regulations retain the existing regulatory language found regarding the setting of the minimum income standard by the Board and the Executive Director. Mr. Kronfeld asked where the money comes from.  Mr. Owens said it comes from unassigned vending machine commissions and the plan is an incentive plan to encourage lower income operators to increase their profit so the plan will maximize income.   

Carolyn Dodd made a motion, seconded by Christine Boisvert to accept the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors recommendation to set the FY 09 minimum income at $17,306.  Chris Kuell made an amended motion, seconded by Patrick Johnson to elevate the FY 09 minimum income to $20,000.  A vote was taken with 8 in favor and 1 opposed to the amended motion, and it passed.  Mr. Kronfeld asked that it be noted on the record that he voted no because he felt that the board should not change the recommendation of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors and should await further recommendations from that committee.

Approval of VR State Plan for Submission to RSA

Mr. Sigman reported that the agency held five public hearings pertaining to the draft annual updates to the state plan for Vocational Rehabilitation for federal fiscal year 2009, that starts October 1, 2008. There were no public comments received. The State Rehabilitation Council voted unanimously at their June meeting to approve the draft state plan for presentation to the agency board.  Marie Russo made a motion seconded by Randa Nesman authorizing the agency to submit to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) the federal fiscal year 2009 state plan annual updates.  The motion passed unanimously.

Legislative Update

Mr. Andrew Norton, reported on two bills approved by the board, passed the General Assembly, and signed into law by Governor M. Jodi Rell.  They are: Public Act 08-150 “An Act Concerning the Department of Motor Vehicles” (the bill increased the fine for failing to yield to a pedestrian who is blind), and Public Act 08-133 “An Act Concerning the Hiring of Support Staff for Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired”(increased support staff for Children’s Services). Mr. Sigman reported on a notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), inviting public comment through August 1, 2008 regarding the safety concerns that quiet cars and hybrid cars are presenting to people who are blind.

Mr. Sigman reported on proposed legislation introduced in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) pertaining to the reauthorization of the Randolph-Sheppard Act and the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (JWOD).  The proposed Randolph-Sheppard reauthorization bill includes language that would open up the management of food service facilities on federal properties to people with disabilities other than blindness. 

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman gave an overview of the program budgets. For the Vocational Rehabilitation program, there are sufficient funds available to serve all eligible consumers in federal fiscal year 2009, but the agency is projecting the need to implement an order of selection for federal fiscal year 2010. The board will need to be involved in the process of implementing the order of selection. In regards to the state budget, due to the state deficit, the agency has received some reductions in the allotments for Personal Services, Other Expenses, and the grant to CRIS Radio. In addition, out of state travel has been banned, unless the travel is paid for with union funds or federal funds. Agencies are expected to reduce gasoline consumption. There is also a hiring freeze.  The agency was not cut in any of the direct service accounts for consumers. Mr. Sigman reported that the agency will be able to absorb the budget reductions without any anticipated need to reduce services to consumers in fiscal year 2009. 

Program Updates

Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor reported that the centralized services delivery model that began at BESB in December 2006, is averaging one session each month.  Olivia D’Angelos and Marsha Brown are conducting Independent Living Skills Training Programs.  An Eye Openers Program was held in Farmington in June.  The Adult Services Division participated in two outreach activities in June, as part of the No Child Left Inside initiative through the State Department of Environmental Protection. Orientation and Mobility staff are conducting training sessions for bus drivers on how to assist people who are blind.

Edward Owens provided an update on the benchmark activities for the Business Enterprises Program. In his report, he noted the costs associated with opening new locations in the past year. Mr. Owens will begin preparation of the fiscal year end financial report for distribution to the agency board. 

Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor presented an overview of the current staffing levels in Children’s Services, noting that two new teachers started in June and one new mobility instructor will be starting in August. Mr. Johnson asked if there was any data on the performance of children who are blind as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act.  Ms. Haines said she works closely with the Department of Education on this and the state has put together a Fairness Advisory Committee and she is on this committee to represent students who are blind.  Ms. Marie Russo asked about inconsistencies with the SAT tests and noted an experience where the Braille and print versions administered to a particular child who is blind were different versions.  Ms. Haines offered to call a contact to assist with this question of inaccuracy.  Mr. Sigman said he would be willing to address this issue on a national level. 

Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Services Supervisor reported on the division’s progress toward achieving the benchmarks. Mr. Kuell asked if a high school student were to need job coaching for a summer job, would the Vocational Rehabilitation division provide that service.  Ms. Burgard said that job coaching can be paid for as an assessment service for a transition school to work student.

Points to the Good and Welfare

None.

Adjournment

Jay Kronfeld made a motion seconded by Patrick Johnson to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 1:06 P.M.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for 25 September 25, 2008 at 10:30 A.M. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

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BESB Board Benchmark Committee

Meeting Minutes with Motions

August 7, 2008 

 

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 9:06 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman; Alan Sylvestre; Eileen Akers; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard; Deputy Executive Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor

Old Business

The Benchmark Committee unanimously adopted the July 9, 2008 minutes. Chairman Kuell asked if the Committee and BESB staff were satisfied with where they were so far.  The overall response was yes.

Discussion/Adopt Potential New Benchmarks for BEP

1.   In calendar year 2009, every BEP cafeteria and snack bar will undergo an external audit for health, safety, and quality.

Chairman Kuell wanted to make sure all operators were adequate and doing well to get a good rating from the auditors.  Ms. Akers asked if the Health Department usually did this.  Mr. Owens responded yes and that all the operators have been passing the inspections.  Chairman Kuell asked the committee if this benchmark had any merit.  Mr. Sylvestre felt it would be redundant.  Ms. Akers responded the Health Department was strict and the operators have already passed inspections.  Chairman Kuell asked the committee to pass on this proposed benchmark.  The committee agreed. 

2.  In calendar year 2009, every BEP operator will receive training in customer satisfaction/relations.

Chairman Kuell said this proposal was redundant.  It was brought to his attention there were vendors serving food with negative comments and attitudes.  A proposal to include one of the two trainings that BEP offers would address this.  Ms. Dodd agreed.  Mr. Owens said they could have an in-service training.  Mr. Sigman requested that the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors have the opportunity to select the subject for this training.  Mr. Sigman and Mr. Owens would present it at their next meeting.  The Benchmark Committee made a training recommendation of “how to improve sales through customer relations.”

3. By January 1, 2010, BEP will develop/distribute/assess an operator  satisfaction survey (identify problems/ issues/areas in need of improvement).

Due to word changes the revised proposed benchmark will now read:

By January 1, 2010, BEP will develop, distribute, and assess a satisfaction survey to be completed by BEP operators.  The results will be distributed to the Board, Strategic Planning Committee, and the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors. Chairman Kuell would like operators to fill out an anonymous Operator Satisfaction Survey on the operation of the BEP Program.  Chairman Kuell clarified that this benchmark would be met by taking the survey and sharing the results with the three groups.  Mr. Sylvestre asked if this survey is a one-time request.  Chairman Kuell said it was only for calendar year 2009.  Mr. Sylvestre asked if it would automatically sunset in 2010.  Chairman Kuell said it is a one- time survey and will illuminate any concerns in the program and will sunset in 2010.  Mr. Sigman requested the results of this survey be presented not only to the Board, but to the Strategic Planning Committee as well.  Mr. Sigman asked if the Benchmark Committee could also consider numerically how many benchmarks are created per program, per year.  Chairman Kuell did not agree with this philosophy and thinks as the committee goes through each division it strives for continuous improvement to help the division to be the best it can be.  Mr. Sylvestre remarked that benchmarks reach a point where they become meaningless because there are so many.  Ms. Akers would like to develop what is necessary and at the end see if there are too many benchmarks.  Ms. Dodd asked if benchmarks could be combined.  Ms. Gillispie said that anything that helps BESB was fine and they did not need to look at it in terms of numbers, but to make the vending program number one in the nation.  Ms. Akers asked for a wording change in the benchmark.  Mr. Sylvestre made a motion seconded by Eileen Akers to add the wording “The results will be distributed to the Board, the Strategic Planning Committee, and the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.”  The motion passed unanimously.

4.  In calendar year 2009, all field reps will receive blind

 awareness/sensitivity training.

Chairman Kuell felt BEP field reps could use this training.  Mr. Owens said there was a recent mandatory agency wide Blindness Sensitivity training that included BEP field reps.   Mr. Sigman said this mandatory training was very popular with staff and will be done again next year and field reps will be in attendance.  Chairman Kuell said if there was a need for further training it would be highlighted in the results of the Operator Satisfaction Survey.  Ms. Gillispie likes this training even if it is mandatory.  Ms. Dodd felt it is important to have this training.  Mr. Sigman mentioned invitations to this training were sent to the Board and the Chairs of the Human Services Committee. 

5.  Develop a benchmark addressing accountability of field reps. (who is monitoring time sheets? Job descriptions and annual reviews?)

Chairman Kuell reported that after discussions with operators to develop new benchmarks, the question of accountability of field reps, job descriptions, and annual reviews were brought up.  Mr. Owens said job descriptions are on the DAS state web site titled “Field Representatives” Board of Education and Services for the Blind.  All field reps are subject to annual reviews and performance appraisals.  Chairman Kuell asked who signed off on their time sheets.  Mr. Owens said he signs off on the time sheets.  Field reps also fill out an electronic schedule (like VR Counselors) and turn in a pre-schedule on the Thursday prior to the week ahead.  This pre-schedule is on file.  Ms. Akers felt that the BEP operators Satisfaction Survey could ultimately cover this.  The committee agreed to move onto the next idea.

6. Develop a benchmark which measures success of initial BEP operator training.

Chairman Kuell said he felt this was important, but perhaps the survey would provide a mechanism to measure the effectiveness of initial training.  Ms. Akers said once the manual is developed it could be addressed through a checklist.  Chairman Kuell agreed.

7.  Consider timeliness of order fulfillment (equipment). What is the current average time?  Can we do it quicker?

Chairman Kuell asked Mr. Owens if he had any statistical information on this.  Mr. Owens did not see timeliness of ordering equipment as a problem because the contract already has been awarded by the state for food service facility equipment, so that bidding is rarely needed.  BEP is on top of orders and bill paying and it could be an isolated incident.  Ms. Gillispie asked if they are using energy saving equipment.  Mr. Owens said it has not been addressed but he would talk to commercial equipment suppliers.  Ms. Gillispie would like to encourage this practice.  The committee was satisfied to leave this benchmark alone until the survey.  Chairman Kuell would like to be part of the survey development team with the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.  Ms. Akers asked if new benchmarks can be developed at anytime.  Chairman Kuell said yes. 

8. Has BEP considered hiring a Nutritionist as a consultant to insure that the highest quality of foods are being served or thru the vending machines?

Chairman Kuell voiced several thoughts from Stephen Thal on hiring a nutritionist as a consultant.  Ms. Gillispie felt this should be up to the vendors.  Ms. Akers said the sale of particular foods is a consumer driven service.  Mr. Owens shared information on what the BEP Program has been doing in this regard.  The BEP Program has been working with the Connecticut Department of Public Health to educate consumers about healthy food choices.  As noted in the National Governors Association Healthy States Grants--Connecticut Partnership of Healthy State Agencies Annual Report issued in February, 2008, the Healthy States Grant Program in partnership with BESB, provided educational signage to promote healthy choice menus and options have been created and placed in five state agency cafeterias.  The signage strategically hung by a graphic artist permanently placed with a brochure named “Steps to a Healthier You” that can be taken by employees. 

On the vending machine side, BEP is a member of the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) who designed a “Balanced for Life” Campaign to correct the misperceptions many have about vending machine food’s role in growing obesity rates.  This campaign was designed to deliver messages about the balanced choices that are available in today’s vending machines. Upon request, BEP works closely with vending partners to accommodate offering healthier snacks.

After discussions of BEP were completed, Chairman Kuell said it was time for the committee to move onto another division.  The next division will be Adult Services, followed by Children’s Services, and then Vocational Rehabilitation.

Adjournment

Carolyn Dodd made the motion, seconded by Chris Kuell to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 10:10 p.m.  The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, September 3, at 1:00-3:00 at BESB.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

July 9, 2008 

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 1:04 p.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman; Alan Sylvestre; Eileen Akers; M. Carolyn Dodd

Members Absent

Jay Kronfeld; Carol Gillispie

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard; Deputy Executive Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor

Discussion and Questions

The Benchmark Committee unanimously adopted the June 6, 2008 minutes.

Chairman Kuell asked Eileen Akers if she has received the information requested from Ed Owens on the BEP Operator’s Average Income.  Ms. Akers said yes.  Chairman Kuell asked Ms. Akers if she had any questions on this information.  Ms. Akers said not at this time. 

Continue Discussion on Proposed Benchmark Number 4

Mr. Sylvestre made a motion seconded by Carolyn Dodd to accept proposed Benchmark Number 4. 

Proposed Benchmark 4: Prepare and make available detailed financial information on the uses of BEP resources to BESB consumers and the public.

Mr. Sylvestre said this benchmark does not address the issue of performance.  Ms. Akers expressed that this should be a benchmark requiring the information be made available to the public.  Chairman Kuell likes this benchmark, which provides important information readily available on the BESB webpage for public viewing.  Mr. Sylvestre asked to make the wording more specific.  Mr. Sigman said that whether the benchmark is kept or not, BESB still has the obligation to keep reporting on it. 

Chairman Kuell asked for changes in the wording.  Mr. Norton made some suggestions on the changes in the wording.  Alan Sylvestre made a motion seconded by Carolyn Dodd to accept the amended benchmark, which  reads:  Annually Prepare and Publicize Detailed Financial and Budgetary Information on the BEP Program in a User Friendly Format for BESB Consumers and the General Public.  The motion passed unanimously.

Review Existing Benchmarks for BEP and Decide Whether to Modify, Delete, or Keep

1.  BESB will continually comply with LPRIC report on Vending operations.

Ms. Akers asked Mr. Sigman and Mr. Owens if they felt that this benchmark has been met.  Mr. Sigman reviewed the items related to the LPRIC report and confirmed the agency has adhered to these recommendations.  Eileen Akers made a motion seconded by Carolyn Dodd to retire this benchmark.  This motion passed unanimously.  

Chairman Kuell moved to Benchmark Number 2:

2. Starting in state fiscal year 2007, at least 35 percent of the program income received during the fiscal year will be applied for the direct benefit of Business Enterprise Program ventures at new and/or existing locations, for facility improvements, maintenance, expansion, and for the betterment of income and incentives to operators in the program. For fiscal year 2008, this amount will grow to 40 percent of program income for that year, increasing in 2010 to 45%.

Mr. Sylvestre would like the committee to come up with a more scientific methodology for specifying the percentages.  Mr. Owens said the benchmark has been met, but the expenditures are exceeding our income. The concern is to put in a safeguard to stay within BEP’s financial means.  Mr. Sylvestre asked if this benchmark has been satisfied and achieved.  Chairman Kuell said yes it has and he is very satisfied that it has done what the monitoring Council wanted it to do, which is to grow the program and offer more employment opportunities.  Chairman Kuell has spoken to four BEP operators and they too are happy with this benchmark and want it to continue.  Mr. Sylvestre said they should start thinking about the shortage of income and what needs to be done to cover recurring and fixed expenses such as staff salaries and benefits.  Chairman Kuell said the operators want the money to directly benefit them.  Mr. Sylvestre suggested Field Representatives salaries be included in the 40%/45% calculation; Chairman Kuell disagreed.  Mr. Owens said he is not opposed to spending the money on items and activities that directly benefit the operators, but there is a need to look at fixed costs to be sure they can be covered.  Mr. Sigman suggested leaving this benchmark as it stands until the fiscal data for FY 08 is fully analyzed.

Al Sylvestre made a motion seconded by Carolyn Dodd to keep this benchmark.  In FY 2009 it will be revisited.  The motion passed unanimously.

Chairman Kuell continued with BEP’s Existing Benchmark Number 3:

3.  A minimum of 8 legally blind people will be trained and placed in economically viable, full-time positions working in new or existing BEP locations, from April, 2004 through January, 2006. These placements must be with people new to the BEP program, and do not include transfers. A minimum of 5 new placements of blind people into the Business Enterprise Program must follow annually through 2008.

Mr. Sylvestre said because this benchmark has an end date it will be allowed to sunset at the end of the year, unless the board extends the end date before it arrives.  Chairman Kuell agreed to sunset this benchmark.  The committee agreed.   

The other two benchmarks for BEP were retired at a previous meeting.


 

Discussion of Potential New Benchmarks for BEP

Chairman Kuell asked the committee if they had any potential new benchmarks they would like to present.  Ms. Akers said she would like the development of a survey left at each BEP location with customers invited to fill it out, like a satisfaction survey.  Chairman Kuell said it was a good idea and a step in the right direction, but asked if this was BESB’s job to do such a survey.  Mr. Sylvestre said it is the entrepreneur’s job to put a survey mechanism in place.  Ms. Akers said this would give a new perspective to the program.  Mr. Owens said some surveys are already done by the building’s authority, but not done on a regular formatted basis.  Mr. Sylvestre would be in favor of a mechanism in place to address whatever comes up as an issue or recommendation from such surveys.  Chairman Kuell said this was the entrepreneur’s responsibility.  Ms. Dodd brought up the computer technological area and asked if it was a BEP issue or a Vocational Rehabilitation issue.  Chairman Kuell said if it pertains to their work, it is a Vocational Rehabilitation issue.  Mr. Sigman said personal/home use was an independent living (Adult Services) issue that could be addressed when benchmarks for Adult Services are reviewed.  Ms. Akers then expressed her interest in getting BEP to network, more with chambers of commerce to expand opportunities to work in the public or commercial sector.  Mr. Owens said they could utilize these different community sources to give presentations to operators.  Ms. Akers would like to make this a benchmark.  Mr. Owens said this is already covered in the training benchmark.  Chairman Kuell has a handful of benchmark ideas and will send them out with the next meeting’s agenda.

Adjournment


Al Sylvestre made the motion, seconded by Eileen Akers to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 2:55 p.m.  The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 7, 2008, at 10:00-12:00 at BESB.

 

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Motions

BESB Board of Directors

June 26, 2008

    

March 27, 2008 Minutes:  Board unanimously adopted the meeting minutes.

Benchmark Committee Minutes:   Motion made, seconded, and passed to accept the Minutes from the April 11, May 19, and June 6, 2008 Benchmark Committee Meetings.

Benchmark Committee Update:  Motion made, seconded, and passed to adopt the recommendations made to retire nine benchmarks as identified in the April 11, 2008 Benchmark Committee Minutes.

BEP Proposed Regulations for Minimum Income for Action:  Motion made, seconded, and passed to accept the draft proposed regulations for an increased incentive plan for Blind Operators of vending facilities as approved by the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors during their meeting on June 7, 2008.

Motion made and seconded to accept the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors recommendation to set the FY 09 minimum income at $17,306.00, amended, seconded, and passed on a vote 8 to 1 to establish the minimum income for FY 09 incentive plan for blind vendors at $20,000.

Approval of VR State Plan for Submission to RSA:  Motion made, seconded and passed, authorizing the agency to submit to the Rehabilitation Services Administration the FFY 09 state plan annual updates.

Adjournment:  Motion made and accepted unanimously to adjourn at 1:06 p.m.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

June 6, 2008 

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 10:07 a.m.

 

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman; Alan Sylvestre; Eileen Akers; Jay Kronfeld; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor

Discussion and Questions

The Benchmark Committee unanimously accepted the May 19, 2008 minutes. 

Chairman Chris Kuell asked if any members had any questions about the last meeting, specifically for Ed Owens or Brian Sigman.  Ms. Eileen Akers asked Mr. Owens for the average amount of earnings managers are making for the different types of facilities.  Mr. Owens said it varies by location and the population that frequent them.  Ms. Akers asked for the range for these facilities.  Mr. Owens already has this information broken down by facility and will provide it to the committee.  Mr. Owens asked if they wanted the gross sales of the different types of facilities.  Ms. Akers said gross sales were fine. 

Review of Proposed BEP Benchmarks

1. The BEP Training Manual shall be updated by the end of calendar year 2009.

Mr. Owens presented an overview of Benchmark Proposal 1.  The reason for this benchmark was to focus on the number of facilities and increase the profitability by training managers.  It has been awhile since this manual has been updated.    Chairman Kuell asked how BESB would go about updating the manual.  Mr. Owens said the Statewide Committee of Blind Operators would have a direct role in this update.  Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselors would also assist identifying expectations of skill level and referral to BEP, a valid job description, good math skills, aptitude to work with the public, and the criteria to have the skills set to be successful.  Chairman Kuell asked if there was a final exam or test to see if a future manager has the skills.  Mr. Owens said there is a basic math test.  At the end of each module there are review questions.  If the trainee can pass these questions, they move on.  If not there is a period of further review.  Ms. Akers hopes the manual will be available in Braille.  Mr. Sigman guaranteed this.  Mr. Owens also said there would also be an electronic version. 

Mr. Sylvestre made a motion seconded by Chairman Kuell to move that if any benchmark has an end date, that unless the board extends the end date before it arrives, that the benchmark be allowed to sunset. The board reserves the right to review any benchmarks at any time. The motion passed unanimously. 


 

2. Beginning in calendar year 2009, two in-service trainings shall be provided annually to the BEP Facility Managers.  Training topics to be selected with the active participation of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.

Mr. Owens presented an overview of Benchmark Proposal 2. 

The purpose of the training is to get more information to existing managers on issues the agency needs to address with the operators.  The Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors would come up with the topics.  For some topics that are mandatory, such as sexual harassment training or safe food handling, all operators would be expected to participate.

Ms. Akers expressed two concerns—if the training topics pertain to everybody, and transportation to the trainings.    Mr. Sigman said some of these trainings are mandatory by nature, e.g., sexual harassment.  Mr. Kronfeld said an alternative would be to hold training sessions at geographical locations where there are large populations of  BEP operators and have three or four sessions around the state, instead of having everyone come up to BESB.  Ms. Gillispie said in order to prepare for these sessions it is important to provide transportation for anyone who is interested.  Mr. Sigman said due to the budget deficit the Governor has asked that travel costs be reduced by 10% this year and 25% next year, so it would not be practical to commit to providing transportation for BEP operators to attend the training sessions.  In light of these cost reduction measures, Mr. Sigman also asked the benchmark committee to utilize teleconferencing for the benchmark committee meetings because it is getting difficult to offer a special assistant along with the accompanying gasoline costs for monthly committee meetings.  Chairman Kuell said if you were sighted you would have to provide your own transportation and since this is a work related expense, the BEP operator can claim the amount they pay for transportation as a business expense.  Ms. Akers agreed BESB should not provide special assistants, but if mandatory, it will be difficult for vendors to find drivers.  Chairman Kuell suggested offering the training twice at BESB, provided enough notice is given.  Ms. Dodd said that self-reliance should be expected and all participants need to find their own transportation options.  Mr. Sylvestre said entrepreneurs are self-motivated and will find their own transportation.  Ms. Akers said there is no direct transportation to Hartford from the Norwich area.  Mr. Sigman said teleconferencing would be an alternative, with materials distributed in advance of the meeting.  Mr. Sylvestre said this is an administrative matter and should be left to BESB.  Chairman Kuell agreed.  Ms. Akers asked for the average attendance.  Mr. Owens responded 7 elected members of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors attend quarterly meetings, sometimes with up to 12 in the room, including observers. At the annual meeting in September, there are approximately 40 BEP operators in attendance.

Mr. Sylvestre made a motion seconded by Chairman Kuell to amend the first and second sentence of the draft benchmark to read (1) Training topics will be selected with the active participation of the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors; and (2) Beginning in calendar year 2009, at least two in-service trainings shall be provided annually to the BEP Facility Managers.  The motion passed as amended. 


3. Beginning in calendar year 2009, BEP will provide entrepreneurial training to a minimum of 5 new referrals per calendar year.

Mr. Owens presented an overview of Benchmark Proposal 3.

Although BEP does not anticipate expansion of new locations to keep pace with the high level of expansion of the past two years, he does not want to stop with the training of new candidates and wants them to be prepared for a location when it does become available.  Ms. Akers expressed concern for the five trained people held in reserve for a long time.  Ms. Gillispie asked if the trainees forget much of what was learned in training if there are months between training and placement when a vacancy does occur.  Mr. Owens said the first six months after being placed at a facility, there is a working test period with oversight from BEP Field Representatives to make sure what was learned in training is applied at the job site.  Mr. Owens said in the last 20 years at BEP an opportunity has always come up within a few months of the candidates completing training.  Ms. Akers expressed a concern about trained people who then are not active, waiting for a future opening.  Mr. Owens said the training can be applied to employment in the private food service sector, but the first priority would be placement into a BEP location.  Mr. Owens said the number of five trainees was chosen because they have been doing a minimum of five placements in the existing benchmark and he did not want to back-step and go lower.  As far as the number of people who left the program, two people have left so far this year, one taking an hourly rate job and the other moving out of state.  Mr. Owens does not have knowledge of future openings because they run in cycles and it is hard to gauge.  Mr. Sigman said it is reasonable to presume turnover of about 3 to 5 operators over a 12-month period.  This turnover is often out of BEP’s control, due to reasons of retirement, health, relocation, change in family circumstances, etc.  Mr. Norton asked how long the training was good for.  Mr. Owens replied that the training is in a 12-week period, once complete the individual is placed in a temporary operator agreement and then becomes permanent.  Ms. Gillispie asked if there is any commitment to make them stay for a specific time frame in the program once placed.  Mr. Sigman said they do not sign any contract that stipulates they must stay.  Mr. Owens responded that he cannot hold an operator at a location, but does ask for notice of intent to leave.  Chairman Kuell asked that if a referral comes to BESB with good math and people skills, and requests training, will they be turned away.  Mr. Owens said no, but there is an assessment period of two-weeks. At the end of that time there may be an agreement to not proceed with training if the candidate decides the program is not of interest, or if there are additional prerequisite skills needed before training can begin.

Chairman Kuell asked if this benchmark is needed or if the committee should leave it up to Mr. Owens to train the people referred to him.  Mr. Sigman said the original benchmark intention was to make the BEP program expand.  That has now been accomplished. The Connecticut BEP Program is the largest in New England in terms of the number of facilities.  Based upon budget projections, the program cannot continue to grow at the pace that was experienced in the past two years.

Chairman Kuell wants to maintain a quality program.  Mr. Kronfeld agrees with Chairman Kuell.  Ms. Gillispie thinks the training is a good thing and if they need to get a job then they can go elsewhere after completing the training.  Ms. Dodd thought it should be amended, but does like the benchmark because of accountability, but it is important that something is in place.  Ms. Akers was inclined to withdraw the benchmark.  Ms. Dodd expressed her concern of accountability and communication and to ensure efficiency.  Ms. Gillispie said it is a good benchmark. 

Mr. Sylvestre made a motion seconded by Chairman Kuell

to make the recommendation to accept this benchmark.   This motion failed 4 nay to 1 yea.

4. Prepare and make available detailed financial information on the uses of BEP resources to BESB consumers and the public.

Mr. Owens presented an overview of Benchmark Proposal 4.  Due to lack of time, Mr. Sylvestre requested the discussion carry over until the next meeting.  Chairman Kuell agreed and tabled it for the next meeting in July.

Proposal and Discussion of Additional/Alternative Benchmarks

Chairman Kuell said the committee will also look at other benchmarks, not discussed yet.

Adjournment


Mr. Sylvestre made the motion seconded by Ms. Dodd to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 12:05 p.m.  The next meeting is scheduled July 9, 2008, at 1:00-3:00 at BESB.

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

May 19, 2008

Convene Meeting

Benchmark Committee Chairman Dr. Chris Kuell called the meeting to order at 9:55 a.m.

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman; Alan Sylvestre; Eileen Akers; Jay Kronfeld; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Ed Owens, BEP Supervisor

Review of BEP Program, Including Benchmarks

Committee member Al Sylvestre requested that the start time of the Benchmark Committee be changed from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.  Chairman Chris Kuell and all the committee members agreed with the change. 

Chairman Chris Kuell asked Ed Owens, Supervisor of BEP to give a general overview of the history of BEP and the current BEP benchmarks. 

Mr. Owens gave the history of BEP on the federal level, with  the Randolph-Sheppard Act.  Connecticut then developed a mini Randolph-Sheppard Act in 1945.  It is the responsibility of the authority in charge of the building to notify BESB when they are in need of food, vending, or gift shop facilities.  A site survey of the building is then performed.  BESB looks at the type of facility being requested, potential profit for the manager, and the competition in the area. The results of the survey are brought before the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors.  They will motion as to whether to proceed with the accepting or waiving the location.  Referrals for potential BEP Managers come in from the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Division of the agency.  The referred candidates go into a two-week evaluation period and 12 weeks of training.  Existing managers are offered the first chance on the new location through the promotion and transfer list.  Mr. Owens described the different types of locations of BEP operations.  Mr. Owens meets with the individuals referred from VR to describe the operation, evaluation and training, and the benefits package.  The BEP field staff is responsible for the supervision of the operator, going to locations, acting as a liaison between the vending facility and building management, offering business advice.  BEP provides all the equipment needed for the facility.  BEP covers the cost of  repairing facility equipment. The BEP budget and is self-sufficient from the vending machine income.  Committee member Jay Kronfeld asked how many locations there were.  Mr. Owens said there were 53.  Ms. Akers asked how they break down.  The breakdown is 8 dry facilities, 9 cafeterias, 3 vending machine locations, and 33 snack bars.  Chairman Kuell asked about the vending machine facilities.  Mr. Owens said that 2 of the 3 vending machine locations are snack service locations (the other is a coin operated laundry mat), with the operator filling the machines themselves.  Mr. Kronfeld asked for the gross sales for all 53 facilities.  Mr. Owens said the aggregate sales were over $5 million dollars last year. 

Mr. Sigman reviewed the RSA-15 federal report for FY 07.  At the end of FY 07, there were 48 locations. Between October 1, 2007 and now, 5 more facilities were added.  Gross program sales were $5.1 million in FY 07 and $4.8 million in FY 06.  Mr. Kronfeld asked about the growth going forward.  Mr. Owens said that the expansion of BEP has approached the limit of what can be afforded in the budget.  He wants to shift more from expansion and move towards the quality of training instead.  Mr. Kronfeld asked about the growth of vending machine sites on a percentage basis, how many towns remained to be visited? He also asked if agency has begun to think of other types of business operations that are not capital intensive.  Mr. Owens responded that the 53 vending facilities are under his supervision, while Tracy Morin oversees the outreach for vending machines. In regards to new types of businesses for vending facilities, the agency previously found that expanding into other types of business operations was found to be outside of the scope of the statutory provisions for the types of businesses that could be operated under the program.

Ms. Akers asked if any of the 53 locations were operated by non-blind people.  Mr. Owens said that there was only one and the agency is presently looking for an operator for that location.  Mr. Sigman said that some locations were seasonal operations.  Mr. Kronfeld asked if there were other types of businesses deemed viable, e.g., Certified Public Accountant with a degree, obtaining space in a government building. Would BEP provide this kind of seed money?  Mr. Owens said that these types of business operations could be done thru VR and do not fall under BEP.  Mr. Sylvestre asked if confining BEP to food service is a state or federal law.  Mr. Sigman said it is both.  Mr. Owens said that the system in place, where opportunities are brought before the Statewide Committee of Blind Vendors is a team effort, if it is a good opportunity for potential earnings, they will consider it.  Mr. Kronfeld asked if the VR program could expand on types of businesses.  Mr. Maynard said yes.  Mr. Sigman reviewed recently approved business plans to give examples: July, 2007 for a mobile food service; September, 2007 for a writer; October, 2007 for an instructor of sports seminars; November, 2007 for a massage therapist; April, 2008 for a mediation service; and other examples were a writer for Children’s books; a musician; and opening up a day care service.

Chairman Kuell agreed with Mr. Sylvestre about the need to address the quality of locations in the BEP Program.  Ms. Akers wanted to the group to consider the career desires of the operators rather than sweeping everyone under the same umbrella of the existing model.  Mr. Owens said his intent was not to put everyone in the same category and would like to meet the needs of the clients.  Ms. Akers asked that this should be kept in mind.  Ms. Carol Gillispie asked if there were any totally blind vendors.  Mr. Owens said yes and that there was no distinction on the level of vision.  The manager runs the facility, and the degree of remaining vision is not a factor.  She then asked if a blind person has an assistant.  Mr. Owens said no because they would be an employee of the operator and the salary would come out of the profits of that location. 

Mr. Kronfeld asked how much income is derived from the Coca-Cola contract for BEP. Mr. Owens said approximately $1.5 million is the estimated revenue from the Coca-Cola contract.  Mr. Owens then reported that expenditures so far in the current state fiscal year (July, 2007- April, 2008) included $163,000 for equipment maintenance, $24,000 for fair minimum income,  $268,000 for vending facility operator’s health insurance,  $40,000 for initial inventory at BEP facilities, $192,000 in vending machine commissions paid to operators, $2,000 in reimbursements to facility operators, $16,000 for rentals of equipment, $372,000 for the establishment of new facilities, $12,000 for the refurbishment of existing facilities, $74,000 for new and replacement equipment, and $28,000 for utility costs. Additional expenses not included in the benchmark reporting categories include miscellaneous costs at $26,000, payroll at $1,000,000, operator retirement plans at $12,000, commissions to other agencies at $98,000, temporary services at $24,000, and training stipends at $15,000.

Mr. Sigman added there is revenue in addition to the Coca-Cola vending machine income that comes to the agency for BEP.  Mr. Owens reviewed the revenue which includes approximately $1.5 million from vending machine sales through the Coca-Cola contract, payments from DOT at approximately $785,000; and approximately $125,000 in interest earned on the account. Mr. Owens said in the last three years, BEP has been overspending the annual income, with approximately $2.3 million coming in, with carryover from prior years covering the program costs that are in excess of annual revenue. The carry over amount has been shrinking, and is now at approximately $1.8 million projected for this year end.

Mr. Sylvestre said it sounded like the agency will have to deal with a shortfall in the future.  Mr. Maynard said there are some one-time costs and the agency still has some carry over money left.  Mr. Owens talked about expenses that will not come up again, like remodeling, and will be able to rebuild the account.  Mr. Sigman felt that the BEP operators are emissaries for the program to the public.  Mr. Sigman said that BESB does not have enough field representatives to continue expanding locations at this pace. He expressed concern for monitoring the quality of the facilities if the program continues to expand with existing staffing levels.  Mr. Sylvestre said the agency must take care of what is already in place.  Mr. Sigman made two suggestions:  (1) that by benchmarking around quality of facilities, this elevates the board’s involvement in this very important area, and (2) to be mindful of carryover in expenditures to be sure that future costs can be covered.  Mr. Kronfeld agreed that quality of the program needs to be a consideration.  Mr. Owens said there are five available field representatives for the 53 facilities.  The facility operator for the first 6 months of placement is in a working test period and this can be an intensive time for the field representative to provide ongoing training and support. Ms. Gillispie asked what would occur if a vendor were to retire suddenly, what is the waiting time for a new operator to take over the facility?  Mr. Owens said he immediately contacts vendors on the transfer and promotion list, but needs to fill those vendor’s facilities if the transfer to another location.  If another operator is trained and ready, changes can be made within a month. Ms. Gillispie asked if there was a backup system in place.  Mr. Owens said in case of an emergency, the agency has a contract with a temporary agency for staff to keep the location operational until an operator can take over the facility.  Ms. Akers asked how many temps are holding down facilities today.  Mr. Owens said only one. 

Ms. Akers asked what are the guidelines for certain qualities an operator needs to possess in order to be successful.  Mr. Owens said they must be able to keep records, and must have good math skills. Physical stamina, ability to work with people, and the ability to coordinate multiple tasks are also necessary.  Mr. Owens said that trainees are put thru a 2-week evaluation period. BEP does not shut the door on anyone coming in, and looks at the strengths of the trainee.  Ms. Gillispie said it is important for vendors to have good people skills.  Mr. Kronfeld asked how many field representatives are there compared to three years ago.  Mr. Owens said there are 7 compared to three years ago, when there were 4.  Of that number, one field representative is assigned to the vending machine aspect of the program, and one is assigned as an ongoing trainer. This leaves 5 field representatives to monitor the day-to-day operation of the 53 facility locations.

Chairman Kuell asked Mr. Owens to read the five previous benchmarks set for BEP by the Monitoring Council and whether they did or did not work.

1. BESB will continually comply with LPRIC report on Vending operations.  Mr. Owens read the recommendations and stated that they had been achieved.

2. Starting in State Fiscal Year 2007, at least 35 percent of the program income received during the fiscal year will be applied for the direct benefit of Business Enterprise Program ventures at new and/or existing locations, for facility improvements, maintenance, expansion, and for the betterment of income and incentives to operators in the program.  For Fiscal Year 2008, this amount will grow to 40 percent of program income for that year, increasing in 2010 to 45%.  Mr. Owens said that the program achieved this in FY 07 and is well above this percentage for FY 08, currently at 64% in these categories, not including the salary of the field representatives. Chairman Chris Kuell said this was a successful benchmark.

3. A minimum of 8 legally blind people will be trained and placed in economically viable, full-time positions working in new or existing BEP locations, from April 2004 through January 2006.  These placements must be with people new to the BEP program, and do not include transfers.  A minimum of 5 new placements of blind people into the Business Enterprise Program must follow annually through 2008. Mr. Owens said that the benchmark has been met.  Mr. Owens said that BEP has no control that there will be five openings available each year going forward.  In the proposed new benchmarks, the agency would put the emphasis on training new clients whether they become a manager or are hired by a manager as an employee. This will provide trained candidates when an opportunity arises.

4. Establish a Business Plan Review Committee in conjunction with the BEP Operators Committee.  Mr. Owens said that this was recommended for retirement by the Benchmark Committee already, as it was achieved.

5. Prepare and make available detailed financial information on the uses of BEP resources to BESB consumers and the public.  Mr. Owens said this is a requirement for completing the annual federal report.  This information is also posted on the agency website.  He said it will still happen whether it is a benchmark or not.

Mr. Sigman suggested that new benchmarks could be developed to address the future direction of where the agency and the board desires to go with programs.  Chairman Kuell would like to look at this concept at the next meeting.    Chairman Kuell would like BESB to be the best it could be.  Ms. Akers asked that our focus be narrowed at the next meeting.  Chairman Kuell said he would like to take one topic at a time.  Mr. Sylvestre asked for a discussion of BEP’s four proposed benchmarks at the next meeting.  Chairman Kuell will add this to the agenda. 

Adjournment


Al Sylvestre made the motion, seconded by Jay Kronfeld to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 11:50 p.m.  The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, June 6, 2008, at 10:00-12:00 at BESB.

 

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Minutes with Motions

BESB Board of Directors

Benchmark Committee Meeting

April 11, 2008

Convene Meeting

Board Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 9:08 a.m.

 

Members Present

Dr. Chris Kuell, Committee Chairman (elected at the meeting); Alan Sylvestre; Eileen Akers; Jay Kronfeld; M. Carolyn Dodd

Members Absent

Carol Gillispie

 

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor

Preliminary Discussion of Committee Charge

Chairman Sylvestre asked that a committee member volunteer to serve as the Chair of the Benchmark Committee.  Eileen Akers made a motion, seconded by Carolyn Dodd, to nominate Dr. Chris Kuell as chairperson of the committee.  Dr. Chris Kuell said he would be willing to serve.  The motion passed unanimously.  Chairman Kuell took over the meeting and proposed to proceed by reviewing current benchmarks that the committee should keep or modify.

 

Alan Sylvestre made a motion, seconded by Dr. Chris Kuell, to have the Benchmark Committee review the benchmarks and recommend to the full board to retire the benchmarks that have been obviously met.  The motion passed unanimously.

The nine benchmarks that the Benchmark Committee confirmed have been met and will present to the Board for retirement are, by division:

1.   Adult Services - Increase the number of Eye Opener conferences from 1 (one) in calendar year 2004 to 3 (three) in 2005. 

2.   Adults Services - Register 100 consumers for NFB News Line in 2005.

3.   Adult Services - By January, 2006, deliver Independent Living Support Group Training Programs in a minimum of 10 towns around the state, 3 of which must be in towns where the service has not been previously provided.

4.   Adult Services - BESB will develop a Policy Manual for Adult/Independent Living Services and post it on their web page by September, 2006. 

5.   Business Enterprise Program (BEP) - Establish a business plan review committee in conjunction with the BEP Operators Committee.

6.   Children’s Services - Within statutory authority, develop incentive programs to facilitate paraprofessional participation in Braille training classes sponsored by BESB.

7.   Children’s Services - Pursue statutory language changes to increase the access of children who are blind or visually impaired to mobility instruction, rehabilitation teaching and rehabilitation technology through the “Educational Aid for the Blind and Visually Handicapped Account.”

8.   Children’s Services - Provide a standardized reading rate assessment tool for all school districts to utilize for documentation of annual student progress as part of the school district request for funding disbursements annually.

9.   Vocational Rehabilitation – Seek approval to establish 1 new rehab teacher position that specializes in assistive technology training in speech, large print and Braille devices.

Chairman Kuell requested the Committee begin their Benchmark review and development with the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) Benchmarks at the next meeting in May.  He also asked that BEP Program Supervisor Ed Owens bring some ideas for benchmark development. 

Adjournment


Al Sylvestre made the motion, seconded by Carolyn Dodd, to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 10:05 a.m.  The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 19, 2008, at 9:30-11:30 at BESB.

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting 

Minutes with Motions

March 27, 2008

                                                            

Welcome and Introductions

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:30 A.M. 

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; William DeMaio; Eileen Akers; Betty Woodward; Jay Kronfeld; Randa Nesman; M. Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

Marie Russo; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard, Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager; Barbara Cloonan, Chairperson of Deaf/Blind Advisory Board

Public Comment

None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the December 20, 2007, January 14, 2008, and February 7, 2008 meeting minutes. 

New Business

Committee Formation

Eileen Akers made a motion seconded by Betty Woodward to discuss forming a Benchmark Committee to address BESB Benchmarks.  Chairman Sylvestre asked the Board for volunteers.  Board members Chris Kuell, Eileen Akers, Jay Kronfeld, Carol Gillispie, and Carolyn Dodd volunteered.  Chairman Sylvestre invited Mr. Sigman and Mr. Norton to also join the Committee.  Dr. Kuell requested an introductory meeting in April.  On a voice vote the Board accepted to form a Benchmark Committee.  The motion passed unanimously.  

Content of Meeting Minutes

Dr. Chris Kuell requested that as an agenda item the Board revisit the additional language presented at the last Special Meeting on Bylaws in February that ended with a four to four tie vote.  He then asked the Board to re-vote on adding a second sentence to Article V – Duties of the Chair – Section 4 to the Bylaws that reads: “Any board member may request that a brief, specific, comment be included verbatim in the minutes.” A vote was taken 10 were in favor and 1 opposed.     

Review of Draft Regulations Regarding Inventory

Mr. Brian Sigman presented to the Board proposed regulation changes on adaptive equipment ownership.  Mr. Sigman questioned why blind clients do not get to own equipment provided by BESB while other disabilities served by BRS get to own the equipment.  Mr. Sigman reviewed draft regulations that would equalize equipment ownership.  Mr. Sigman also reviewed draft language concerning:  (1) when equipment needs to be repaired and the client cannot afford it they can have it fixed and send BESB the bill and the agency will pay for it; and (2) if a client no longer would like the equipment there will be a provision that they can donate it back to agency and BESB will make it available to give to the next consumer.  Dr. Kuell and Randa Nesman both asked what the criteria is if a client could not afford to repair the equipment. Eileen Akers made a motion seconded by Betty Woodward to discuss and adopt staff recommendations on the concept of this proposed policy. Conversation followed addressing both repairing equipment and its financial hardship.  Draft language was then added to Section 6 of this policy to address these concerns:  (1) provisions of adaptive equipment to increase independence in activities of daily living “consistent with agency policy” (added); (2) In circumstances where a client “requests” (added) the agency may reimburse for the cost of repair; and (3) donated items(s) will be placed on agency inventory, “brought to operating status” (added).  Mr. Norton outlined the process the agency must go through to get regulations approved.  Mr. Sigman reminded the Board once it gets approval in this process the policy will comes back to the Board again for approval. The motion passed unanimously.

 

Proposed Policy Revision on Low Vision

Mr. Sigman presented to the Board suggested additions to existing policy on Low Vision Specialists. Mr. Sigman is asking that a sentence be added to the policy to recognize experience gained over time by low vision doctors.  It shall read:  “An Optometrist or Ophthalmologist who has acquired three years of experience as a BESB approved low vision specialist/provider, shall be deemed to have satisfied this requirement.”  Christine Boisvert expressed concern over whether there was some kind of yearly check-in to assure that a provider is up-to-date in their practices.  Mr. Johnson expressed his support for Mr. Sigman.  Randa Nesman made a motion seconded by Patrick Johnson to adopt the proposed policy revision.  The motion passed unanimously. 

Proposed Policy Clarification for Deafblind Services

Mr. Sigman presented the proposed policy clarification for Deafblind Services and accessing those services.  Mr. Sigman read the clarifying sentence: “Individuals who are deafblind may receive independent living services, education services, and vocational rehabilitation services through other funding sources available through the agency. Please refer to the “Independent Living Plans” and “Secondary Disabilities” sections of this policy manual, as well as the agency policy manuals for Vocational Rehabilitation and Children’s Services.”  Patrick Johnson made a motion seconded by Christine Boisvert to add the clarifying sentence for Deafblind Services.  The motion passed unanimously. 

Legislative Update

Mr. Andrew Norton, Legislative Liaison reported on two BESB bills that are moving along in the 2008 Legislative Session.  RB 292—An Act Requiring the Operator of a Vehicle to Yield the Right-Of-Way to a Pedestrian Who is Legally Blind.  The bill was merged into a larger bill, RB 503—An Act Revising Certain Motor Vehicle Laws, also called the DMV Bill.  Our section of the bill would make the current $50 fine for failing to yield to a pedestrian who is blind equal to the current $75 fine for failing to yield to any pedestrian.  The bill would also move this section of the statutes to a more prominent section, namely, the Highway Safety section.  Finally, the bill changes the term “wholly or partially blind” to “legally blind.”  RB 418—An Act Concerning the Hiring of Support Staff for Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired–was passed unanimously by the Human Services Committee.  This bill is in its original form as submitted by BESB.  It would allow the agency to use the Children’s Education Account to hire Special Assistants to the Blind and clerical support staff for the Children’s Services division.  This will provide much needed support to Teachers of the Visually Impaired, Rehabilitation Teachers and Orientation and Mobility Instructors so that these education professionals can spend more time directly with students and less time on paperwork.  The next stop for this bill is the Senate floor.

 

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman presented the FY 2008 budget with sufficient funding in place to serve all eligible consumers.  The Indirect Cost Waiver for VR ended on September 30, 2007.  The agency is awaiting the cost impact from the loss of the waiver.  Based on the estimated indirect cost charge, Mr. Sigman feels we can serve all VR clients in Federal Year 2009.  But, he anticipates the need for a waiting list (Order of Selection) as to who will be served first (those with the most significant disability or functional limitations) in 2010.  OPM is aware of this and reviewing the issue. 

Benchmarks and Staff Reports

Mr. Sigman began by saying that the March, 2008 BESB Benchmark Report was handed out to each Board member along with copies of new ideas for benchmarks from each individual BESB Program Supervisor.  These Supervisors were given the task to work with staff on these new benchmarks and ideas.  Each Program Supervisor gave an overview to the Board.  Eileen Akers and Carol Gillispie requested that Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Services Program Coordinator report to the Board on the Volunteer Services Program.  Ms. Amand reported that Volunteer Services is recruiting more volunteers and is reaching out to the community.  Ms. Akers asked how many volunteers does the program have.  Ms. Amand said there are 193 volunteers working one-to-one and a total of 252 active volunteers (providing a service but not always face to face).  Mr. DeMaio asked if there is an incentive program or award given to volunteers.  Ms. Amand gives each volunteer a  “Certificate of Appreciation.” 

Points to the Good and Welfare

Chairman Sylvestre announced to the Board that the Chair would no longer be vetting the minutes.  Ms. Akers asked what would happen in the channel of distribution.  Mr. Sylvestre stated that Lauren Caye would do the first draft of the minutes.  Any errors with grammatical substance can be sent to Lauren Caye.

Adjournment

Chairman Sylvestre made a motion seconded by Randa Nesman to adjourn.  The meeting adjourned at 1:34 P.M.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for June 26, 2008 at 10:30 A.M. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

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State of Connecticut

Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors

MOTIONS

March 27, 2008

                                                            

December 20, 2007, January 14, 2008, and

February 7, 2008 Minutes:  Board unanimously adopted the meeting minutes.

Committee Formation:  Motion made, seconded, and accepted to form a Benchmark Committee.

Content of Meeting Minutes:  Motion made to add to the Bylaws  “any board member may request a brief, specific comment be included verbatim in the minutes.”  Motion passed 10 to 1.     

Review of Draft Regulations Regarding Inventory:  Motion made, seconded, accepted unanimously to discuss and endorse staff recommendations.

Proposed Policy Revision on Low Vision:  Motion made, seconded, and accepted unanimously to adopt policy revision. 

Proposed Policy Clarification for Deafblind Services:  Motion made, seconded, and accepted unanimously to add a clarifying sentence in proposed policy for Deafblind Services.  

Adjournment:  Motion made and accepted unanimously to adjourn at 1:34 p.m.

 

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BESB Board of Directors

Special Meeting

February 7, 2008

Minutes with Motions

Convene Meeting

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:12 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Board Chairman; Randa Nesman; Betty Woodward; Carolyn Dodd; Carol Gillispie; Jay Kronfeld; Dr. Chris Kuell; Christine Boisvert

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director, Keith Maynard, Deputy Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary

Discussion, Review, and Vote on Draft Bylaws

Article IV – Meetings – Section 2 – Special Meetings, third sentence.  A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, seconded by Dr. Chris Kuell to amend the language to read “by the chair at the request of any two voting members.”  The motion failed on a voice vote.  One opposed.

Article V – Duties of Chair – Section 1 – Duties, second paragraph.  A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, seconded by Betty Woodard, to replace the paragraph with “The chair will serve as a nonvoting, ex officio member of all committees and working groups.” The motion failed on a voice vote. 

Article V – Duties of Chair – Section 1 – Duties, second paragraph.  A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, seconded by Randa Nesman, to add “The chair shall accept all members who volunteer to be on a committee.” A roll call vote was ordered:  Randa Nesman-nay; Jay Kronfeld-yes; Betty Woodard-nay; Carolyn Dodd-nay; Al Sylvestre-nay, Dr. Chris Kuell-nay; Christine Boisvert-nay; Carol Gillispie-yes.  The motion failed.

Article V – Duties of the Chair – Section 4 – Minutes.  Dr. Chris Kuell made a motion, seconded by Jay Kronfeld, to add a second sentence “Any board member may request that a brief, specific comment be included verbatim in the minutes.” A roll call vote was ordered:  Randa Nesman-nay; Jay Kronfeld-yes; Betty Woodward-yes; Carolyn Dodd-nay; Al Sylvestre-nay; Christine Boisvert-nay; Carol Gillispie-yes; Dr. Chris Kuell-yes . On a tie vote the motion failed.

Article VIII – Amendments.  Upon invitation from the chair, Betty Woodward made a motion, seconded by Christine Boisvert, to strike the last sentence and replace it with “Proposed bylaw changes will be automatically referrred to a committee, established in accordance with Article 6 Section 1, to make all its recommendations for the board to vote on at a subsequent meeting.”  A roll call vote was ordered:  Randa Nesman-nay; Jay Kronfeld-nay; Betty Woodward-yes; Carolyn Dodd-yes; Al Sylvestre-yes; Christine Boisvert-yes; Dr. Chris Kuell-nay; Carol Gillispie-nay.  On a tie vote the motion failed.

Public Comment

Mr. Sigman presented an overview of the comments submitted by Consumer Steven Thal.  Mr. Thal requested that the duties and powers of the Executive Director and the Chairman be further clarified through the bylaws.  Mr. Sigman stated that the duties of executive director are defined in state statute. 

A motion was made by Christine Boisvert, seconded by Carolyn Dodd, to accept the bylaws as amended.  Jay Kronfeld, seconded by Dr. Chris Kuell, moved to table the motion until the next board meeting on March 27, 2008.  A roll call vote was ordered:  Randa Nesman-nay; Jay Kronfeld-yes; Betty Woodward-nay; Carolyn Dodd-nay; Al Sylvestre-nay; Dr. Chris Kuell-nay; Christine Boisvert-nay; Carol Gillispie-yes.  The motion to table failed.

On the main motion to accept the bylaws as amended a roll call vote was ordered:  Randa Nesman-yes; Jay Kronfeld-no; Betty Woodward-yes; Carolyn Dodd-yes; Al Sylvestre-yes; Dr. Chris Kuell-yes; Christine Boisvert-yes; Carol Gillispie-abstained.  The motion passed with 6 in favor, one opposed, and one abstension.  The bylaws were adopted.

Mr. Kronfeld requested the minutes of the meeting note his opposition to the bylaws as passed by the board. Mr. Kronfeld expressed his disagreement with the bylaws permitting the chair to serve as a voting member of committees established by the board.

Adjournment

Betty Woodward moved to adjourn, and Carolyn Dodd seconded.  The motion passed on a voice vote.  The board adjourned at 11:50 AM.

 

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BESB Board of Directors

Special Meeting

January 14, 2008

Minutes with Motions

Convene Meeting

Chairman Alan Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:05 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Board Chairman; Patrick Johnson; Betty Woodward; Carolyn Dodd; Eileen Akers; Bill DeMaio; Carol Gillispie; Jay Kronfeld; Dr. Chris Kuell; Christine Boisvert

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary

Discussion and Review of Draft Proposed Bylaws

Artilce VII – Conflict of Interest

Section 1 – Recusal, a motion was made by Eileen Akers, seconded by Jay Kronfeld, and passed unanimously to replace this section with:  “The Board of Directors adheres to all state laws and Office of State Ethics opinions concerning ethical conduct.  In addition, each director shall receive a copy of the BESB agency Ethics Policy each year and each director shall abide by the agency’s policy.” 

Article VII –Section 2 – Notice of Conflict:  A motion made by Betty Woodward, seconded by Chris Kuell, and agreed to by the Board to remove Section 2 from this article.

Article VIII – Amendments – A motion was made by Eileen Akers, and seconded by Carolyn Dodd to add:  “Proposed bylaw changes must be submitted to the board 48 hours in advance of a meeting.”  The motion passed with 8 in favor and one opposed. 

A motion was made by Jay Kronfeld, and seconded by Eileen Akers to amend Article 6 to create three Standing Committees (1) Annual Report, (2) Bylaws, and (3) Benchmarks.  The motion was defeated as one member voted in favor with six in oppostion and two abstensions. 

Public Comment

None.

 Adjournment

Patrick Johnson moved and Christine Boisvert seconded adjournment at 11:58 AM.  The motion passed with seven in favor and one opposing. 

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BESB Board of Directors Meeting

December 20, 2007

Minutes with Motions

Welcome and Introductions

Board Chairman Alan Sylvestre asked that Board member Eileen Akers act as chair until his arrival at about 10:50. 

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman, Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; William DeMaio; Eileen Akers; M. Carolyn Dodd; Betty Woodward; Jay Kronfeld; Randa Nesman; Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

Marie Russo; Christine Boisvert; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Adult Services Supervisor; Ed Owens, Business Enterprises Program Supervisor; Jeanette Haines, Children’s Services Supervisor; Mary Burgard, Supervisor, Vocational Rehabilitation; Lori St. Amand, Volunteer Program Manager

Public Comment

None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the September 20, 2007 and November 27, 2007 minutes. Jay Kronfeld made a motion seconded by Betty Woodward to add “consumer” after Stephen Thal’s name for the December 10, 2007 special meeting minutes.  The motion passed unanimously.  Jay Kronfeld made a motion seconded by Patrick Johnson to adopt the minutes as amended for the December 10, 2007 meeting.  The Board unanimously adopted the amended December 10, 2007 minutes.

New Business

Annual Report

Patrick Johnson moved and Betty Woodward seconded to accept the “substitute value of volunteers” proposed to the Board by Ms. St. Amand.  The motion passed.  A motion was made by Eileen Akers and seconded by Bill DeMaio to accept the amended Annual Report. 

In response to a question by Mr. Kronfeld, Mr. Sigman affirmed that the benchmarks do contain statistical information to support the accomplishment of the measures. He indicated that supporting documentation is available to confirm the accuracy of the data reported. Ms. Sigman asked the board to affirm for the staff of the agency the accomplishment of meeting the benchmarks.

A motion was made by Eileen Akers and seconded by Bill DeMaio to accept alternate language proposed by Mr. Sigman to clarify the meaning of  “employment outcome” in the annual report.  The motion passed unanimously.  After further extensive discussion, the Board accepted the report on a vote of six in favor, one opposed, and two abstentions. 

Ms. Akers asked that the Board have more involvement and is requesting a different way in handling this report in the future. She requested that this be an agenda item at the next Board Meeting.

Mr. DeMaio acknowledged the efforts of the Chair to move the agenda forward but asked that the Chairman be more sensitive to the desires of board members to contribute with input and dialogue throughout the meetings. 

Bylaws Report

Chairman Sylvestre reported that the Bylaws will be ready soon and would like to make sure that all Board members are comfortable with them and to offer any comments before the final approval.

Legislative Update

Andrew Norton, Legislative Liaison, reported that BESB was moving ahead with 2 bill requests for the next legislative session.  One bill would raise the penalty for failing to yield to blind pedestrians in a roadway to make it equal to the penalty for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.  The second bill would allow BESB to hire support staff from the Children’s Educational Account.  These proposals are under review at the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and the Governor’s Office.  Upon advice from OPM, BESB will modify its approach regarding the proposal to clarify and improve its ability to enact programmatic regulations.

Budget Update

BESB is requesting no additional funds for the second year of the budget biennium.  The agency is awaiting the cost impact analysis of paying indirect program charges for federal fiscal year 2008, the waiver authority for which expired at the end of federal fiscal year 2007. 

Benchmark Update

Program supervisors presented their benchmark reports and responded to questions from Board members. 

ACAC Awards

Mr. DeMaio made a motion, seconded by Randa Nessman to accept the accept modifications to award eligibility criteria.  Ms. Akers singled Lauren Caye and Donna Gore for their exceptional contributions of dedication and service to the Awards Program.  The Board unanimously adopted the modifications.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Mr. DeMaio wanted to know how the benchmarks were established.  Mr. Kuell responded that the final report ended with recommendations by the BESB Monitoring Council. The report was submitted to the Human Services Committee.  Mr. Sylvestre invited any Board members who are interested in benchmark developments to please come to the Benchmark Committee meeting, once established.  Mr. Sigman also would like to the extend that invitation to the community as a whole so that activities of importance to agency consumers can be fully considered in the establishment of benchmarks.

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 1:22 P.M.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 27, 2008 at 10:30 A.M. at BESB. 

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

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BESB Board of Directors

Special Meeting

December 10, 2007

Minutes with Motions

Convene Meeting

Chairman Alan Syvestre called the meeting to order at 10:14 a.m.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Board Chairman; Eileen Akers; Betty Woodward; Patrick Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; Randa Nesman; Christine Boisvert

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary, Stephen Thal- consumer

Discussion and Review of Draft Proposed Bylaws

Both Chairman Sylvestre and Executive Director Sigman read to the Board comments sent by Board Member Jay Kronfeld to Chairman Sylvestre on the Draft Bylaws.

Regarding Article ll – Purpose Section C (third sentence), a motion was made by Betty Woodward, and seconded by Eileen Akers to accept the change “adjust, sunset, and create new benchmarks as needed” to “recommend to the executive director adjustments, eliminations, and creation of benchmarks as needed.”  The Board also agreed by consent to eliminate Section D.

Regarding Article ll – Purpose, renamed section D by the above-noted change, a motion was made by Eileen Akers, seconded by Betty Woordward to remove number three in this Section.  The Board members voted to accept this change.  All other changes made to the bylaws at this meeting were made by unanimous consent. 

Public Comment

Steve Thal made several comments and suggestions on Sections of the Draft Bylaws.

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 12:10 p.m.

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BESB Board of Directors

Special Meeting

November 27, 2007

Minutes with Motions

Convene Meeting

Al Sylvestre called the meeting to order at 10:15 a.m. 

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Board Chairman; Eileen Akers; Carolyn Dodd; Betty Woodward; Jay Kronfeld; Dr. Chris Kuell (teleconference); Carol Gillispie (teleconference); and Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner.

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director, Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary, Stephen Thal

Discussion and Review of Draft Proposed Bylaws

Chairman Sylvestre read to the Board comments sent to him by Board Member Patrick Johnson on the Draft Bylaws. 

Steve Thal contributed comments and read from documents for the discussion.

Regarding Article II – Purpose, Section C (third sentence), a motion was made by Chris Kuell, seconded by Jay Kronfeld to change the words, “as they may be adjusted” to, “adjust, sunset, and create new benchmarks as needed.”  The Board members present voted to accept this change with Al Sylvestre voting against.  All other changes made to the bylaws at this meeting were made by unanimous consent.  The next meeting to continue work on the draft bylaws will be held on Monday, December 10th at 9:30 at BESB.

Public Comment

No member of the public came forward to speak for this agenda item.

Adjournment

Eileen Akers made and Betty Woodward seconded the motion to adjourn at 12:03 p.m.

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Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Board of Directors Meeting

September 20, 2007

Minutes with Motions

Welcome and Introductions

The chairman called the meeting to order at 2:05 P.M.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman, Marie Russo; Patrick J. Johnson; William DeMaio; Eileen Akers; M. Carolyn Dodd; Christine Boisvert; Jay Kronfeld; Randa Nesman; Betty Woodward; Dr. Chris Kuell; Carol Gillispie

Members Absent

Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Supervisor, Adult Services; Ed Owens, Supervisor, BEP; Jeanette Haines, Supervisor, Children’s Services; Mary Burgard, Supervisor, Vocational Rehabilitation

Public Comment

None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minute

The Board unanimously adopted the amended June 21, 2007 meeting minutes.

New Business

2008 Board Meeting Dates

The Board unanimously agreed to these regular meeting dates for 2008:  March 27, June 26, September 25, and December 18. 

Proposed change of Board meeting time from 2:00 PM to 10:00 AM

A motion was made to change the time the Board meetings start from 10:30 a.m. instead of 2:00 p.m.  The Board accepted the new time change.

Accessible Voting

Mr. Sigman reminded board members about the announcement previously distributed on behalf of the Secretary of State in regards to accessible voting at all polling locations for the upcoming elections.  Every polling location is required to have an accessible, vote-by-phone option available.

Protocol for Communication 

Chairman Sylvestre asked Board Members to give BESB two-weeks to arrange transportation to Board meeting to request transportation.  If a Board member is unable to attend a Board meeting in person, the member may participate by phone.  The chairman reminded Board Members that e-mails related to Board business are public documents subject to disclosure under freedom of information statutes; they cannot be considered confidential except under very narrow and well-defined circumstances.  Because of this, Mr. Sylvestre asked that Board members address their e-mails to all Board members.  Finally, the chairman asked board members to observe state agency protocol of presenting their requests at the highest level (i.e. the Board or its agent, the executive director) when asking for information developed by staff.

Bylaws

Mr. Norton presented the draft bylaws submitted by the workgroup.  The Board voted to table the agenda item.  The chairman will convene a bylaws work group to address issues raised by Board members.

Proposed Vocational Rehabilitation Policy on Books and Supplies

Mr. Sigman reviewed a State Rehabilitation Council recommended policy on cost-sharing arrangements between the Vocational Rehabilitation Division of BESB and institutions of higher education in circumstances where the cost of converting a textbook into an accessible format would exceed $1,000.00.  The board unanimously voted to approve the language of the policy draft as written authorizing the draft policy to proceed to public hearing.

Legislative and Budget Update

Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor presented to the board requesting input and guidance on four legislative proposals for the upcoming 2008 legislative session.  The first proposal was to allow funds for the education of blind and visually impaired children to also be used for the hiring of support staff.  The second proposal is to enhance the penalties for motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians who are blind and to insert protection for pedestrians who are blind into the road safety section the Connecticut General Statutes.  The Board agreed on the efficacy of those changes.  The third proposal is to reconcile the life of Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)-issued identification card with that of the state driver’s license.  The final proposal involves clarification of BESB’s role in promulgating its own regulations.  Mr. Sigman reported Governor Rell will be voicing a radio advertisement before the official White Cane Safety Day that will air in both the morning and afternoon drive times.  The ad’s sponsorship is shared by BESB and the DMV.  The board agreed by consent to support the agency’s legislative proposals.

Budget Update

Mr. Sigman presented an overview of the budget for each of the divisions within the agency. The Business Enterprise Program ended fiscal year 2007 with sufficient carry over funds to address projected costs and expansion projects in 2008. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program will be completing the federal fiscal year at the end of September. The agency projects sufficient funds to serve all eligible Vocational Rehabilitation clients in fiscal year 2008. The Adult Services Division accessed Social Security Reimbursement funding for fiscal year 2007, making it possible to provide funding for services without the need for a waiting list during the year. Children’s Services had sufficient funds to enable a fiscal year-end disbursement of approximately $2.9 million to municipalities that served blind and visually impaired children during the year.

Benchmark Update and Committee Formation

Mr. Sigman presented the September 2007 BESB Benchmark Update Report.  Mr. Sigman asked each division supervisor to give an overview of their division and activities to achieve the established benchmarks.  The Board asked Mr. Lassen Supervisor from Adult Services to send the Board the seven federal benchmarks. 

Establish of Benchmark Committee

Chairman Sylvestre asked any Board member interested in serving on the soon-to-be-formed Benchmark Committee to please e-mail Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at Lauren.Caye@po.state.ct.us.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Ms. Akers reported on ACAC and BESB participation at the Big “E” on Friday, September 20th with displays of Pedestrian Public Safety.  Ms. Akers also reported on the Awards-White Cane Day Ceremony is being held on Friday, October 19th at the Judiciary Room in the State Capitol. 

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 4:52 P.M.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for December 20, 2007 at 10:30 A.M. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at

(860) 602-4100.

Next Board Meeting: December 20, 2007 at 2:00 PM at BESB

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BESB Board of Directors

June 21, 2007

Minutes with Motions

 

Welcome and Introductions

The chairman called the meeting to order at 2:10 P.M.

Members Present

Alan Sylvestre, Chairman, Marie Russo; Patrick J. Johnson; Dr. Chris Kuell; William DeMaio; Eileen Akers; M. Carolyn Dodd; Christine Boisvert; Jay Kronfeld; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Members Absent

Randa Nesman; Betty Woodward

Others Present

Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Supervisor, Adult Services; Ed Owens, Supervisor, BEP; Jeanette Haines, Supervisor, Children’s Services; Mary Burgard, Supervisor, Vocational Rehabilitation

Public Comment

The chair read comments from Stephen Thal who was unable to attend the meeting.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes

The Board unanimously adopted the amended March 15, 2007 and December 14, 2006 meeting minutes.

New Business

Responsibility and Authority

Mr. Sigman reported the gubernatorial appointment of Carol Gillispie to the Board.  This appointment will make the Board fully constituted.  Mr. Sigman asked if any Board member did not receive his or her Office of State Ethics filing to please contact BESB or to visit the Web site for the Office of State Ethics to obtain the form.

Scope of Policy Review

Mr. Sigman asked the board members for their perspective on the scope of the board’s policy review. Board members concurred that the board is primarily concerned with reviewing policies that directly impact on the provision of services to blind individuals served by the agency. The board is available in a consultation role, as requested by the executive director, to offer perspectives on internal operational policies for the agency.

Legislative and Budget Update

Legislative and Administrative Adviser Andrew Norton presented an overview of the 2007 legislative session.  Mr. Sigman briefed the Board on the governor’s budget proposal for each division.

Benchmark Update

Mr. Sigman presented the June 2007 BESB Benchmark Update Report.  Mr. Sigman asked each division supervisor to give an overview of their division’s and activities to achieve the established benchmarks.  Mr. Sylvestre asked that Board members interested in joining a benchmarks committee to review and possible revise the benchmarks.  Board members Jay Kronfeld and Dr. Chris Kuell expressed interest in serving along with Mr. Sylvestre.  Mr. Sigman has offered himself and BESB staff to participate as well. 

Agency Consumer Advisory Committee Awards

ACAC Chairwoman Eileen Akers presented the number of nominations so far received for the annual ACAC Awards Ceremony scheduled for Friday, October 19, 2007.  The Board unanimously consented to Ms. Akers’ request for a two-week extension of the 29 June 2007 deadline for awards nominations to 15 July 2007.  Ms. Akers stated that she is working on revising descriptions of the criteria, drafting changes and ideas on the nomination procedures for the 2008 Awards Program.

Bylaws

Mr. Sylvestre requested the formation of a bylaws work group.  Dr. Chris Kuell and Eileen Akers offered to join Mr. Sylvestre in developing bylaws for Board approval.

Policy Review

Children’s Services Supervisor Jeanette Haines addressed the need for:  (1) Language change in the Children Services Policy Manual Section from “504 Service Plan” to “504 Accommodation Plan.” The Board unanimously voted to accept this change to the paragraph.  (2) Striking the first sentence “the reauthorization of IDEA makes eligibility for special education dependent on developmental delays, rather than on an established disability.” The Board unanimously voted to make the change to the paragraph.  (3) Paragraph one of the policy “parents” then children and educators throughout the paragraph add in “guardian.”  The Board unanimously accepted this change as well.  (4) In Section A. Ordering Devices and Materials for Preschool strike out “table and chair.”  The Board unanimously approved the change.  (5) In the Enrollment in Private or Parochial Schools Section the first paragraph is removed and replaced by “a parent or legal guardian” places a student in a Connecticut private or parochial school may access funding for services through BESB if the student has an IEP, 504 Accommodation Plan, or IDEA service plan that includes BESB services.  The Board unanimously voted to accept the changes.

Assignment of Special Assistants, Proposed Policy Revision

Mr. Sigman presented the issue of coverage for the assignment of Special Assistants to meet the needs of agency staff who are blind as well as board members who request transportation to attend board functions. On dates when board meetings take place, there is typically a shortage of available Special Assistants to fill all transportation requests. Mr. Sigman presented a draft policy revision on the assignment of Special Assistants to Blind, to replace Total Staff Memo 2005-9.  The Board voted, with one abstention, to support the Executive Director’s authority to implement this policy. 

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) State Plan

Mr. Sigman presented the VR State Plan for the Board to review and act upon. Mr. Sigman indicated that there were no public comments from the public hearings or other options offered for submitting comments.  The Board voted unanimously to authorize the Executive Director to submit the State Plan as written and proposed for federal fiscal year 2008 to the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

Points to the Good and Welfare

Board Member Bill DeMaio submitted a pamphlet “Abilities Walk and Roll” to promote a Walkathon and asked if it could be posted.

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 5:10 P.M.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for September 20, 2007 at 2:00 P.M. at BESB.

For More Information

Please telephone Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at

(860) 602-4100.

 

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BESB Board of Directors Meeting

March 15, 2007

Minutes with Motions
 

Welcome and Introductions
The chairman called the meeting to order at 2:05 P.M.

Members Present
Alan Sylvestre, Chairman, Maria Russo; Patrick J. Johnson, Jr.; Dr. Chris Kuell; William DeMaio; Eileen Akers; Betty Woodward

Members Absent
None.

Others Present
Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Andrew Norton, Legislative and Administrative Advisor; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary; Chris Lassen, Supervisor Adult Services; Ed Owens, Supervisor, BEP; Jeanette Haines, Supervisor, Children’s Services; Mary Burgard, Supervisor, Vocational Rehabilitation

Public Comment
None.

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes
The Board postponed action on acceptance of the December 2006 minutes.

New Business

Responsibility and Authority

Mr. Sigman gave a briefing on the Board’s responsibility and authority established by Public Act 06-124 highlighting the Board’s decision-making authority, ethics obligations, and its decisions’ potential financial impact.  Mr. Sigman then spoke of the entities with which the Board will interact: the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), chaired by Ian Rickard; the Statewide Board of Blind Vendors chaired by Norman Turgeon; the Agency Consumer Advisory Committee (ACAC), chaired by Eileen Akers, that represents agencies for and of the blind; and the Deaf/ Blind Advisory Committee chaired by Barbara Cloonan.  Chairman Sylvestre asked the Board for volunteers to serve on the SRC committee that reviews and revises the State Plan for service delivery that is due in early June to contact Mr. Sigman.

The Board approved ACAC Chairwoman Eileen Akers’ request to present suggested changes to the ACAC Awards Program held each October on or about White Cane Safety Day at its next board meeting (any changes would not take effect until after the October 19, 2007 ceremony).  The Awards Program Committee is currently accepting nominations for award recipients.  Information on submitting nominations can be found on the BESB Web site.

How the Board Conducts its Business:  An Overview
The Board discussed how it would conduct its meetings, its members’ ethics responsibilities, and the drafting of its bylaws.  A Bylaw Subcommittee was formed with Chairman Sylvestre, Chris Kuell, and Eileen Akers servings as members.

Legislative Update
Mr. Norton discussed the status of legislative matters of interest to BESB and general questions what may be perceived as conflicts of interest. 

Budget Update
Mr. Sigman briefed the Board on the governor’s budget proposal of each division.  Children’s Services gained staff positions; Adult Services benefited from surplus money found in the Social Security Reimbursement Fund; the Business Enterprise Program expects no funding increase in its vending arrangement with Coca Cola which provides money sufficient to sustain its mission.

Benchmark Update
Mr. Sigman presented the March 2007 BESB Benchmark Update Report.  Mr. Sylvestre asked each Division’s Supervisor to describe their division and its role in BESB.

Agency Structure Overview
This was combined with the Benchmark Update.

Points to the Good and Welfare
Ms. Akers asked that a letter of thanks be sent to Andrea Pasquale for her work at CRIS radio.  Chairman Sylvestre agreed.  Mr. Johnson asked about identifying gaps, including transportation, in the services and the needs for blind people. 

Adjournment
The meeting adjourned at 4:32 P.M.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for June 21, 2007 at 2:00 PM at BESB.

For More Information
Please contact Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.


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BESB Board of Directors

December 14, 2006

Minutes with Motions

Welcome and Introductions
The chairman called the meeting to order at 2:20 p.m.

Members Present
Alan Sylvestre, Chairman; Eileen Akers; Betty Woodward; Carolyn Dodd; Randy McKenney representing the Social Services Commissioner

Members Absent
Mary Brunoli, Christine Boisvert

Others Present
Brian Sigman, Executive Director; Keith Maynard, Deputy Executive Director; Lauren Caye, Executive Secretary

Public Present
Junerose Killian, Jimmie Killian

Public Comment

Ms. Killian asked whether Public comments were made at the beginning or end of the meeting.  The chair read comments from Stephen Thal who was unable to attend the meeting. 

Old Business

Adoption of Minutes
The Board unanimously adopted the amended September 14, 2006 meeting minutes. 

New Business

2007 Board Meeting Dates
The Board unanimously agreed to these regular meeting dates for 2007:  March 15, June 21, September 20, and December 20. 

BESB Strategic Plan Update
Mr. Sigman reported that the Strategic Planning Committee developed a Centralized Services Delivery Model demonstrated on December 4th.  Thirty-one service deliveries were completed.  The next session is scheduled for January 8, 2007.  Mr. Sigman also reported that the Transportation Guide and Adult Services Guide are on the BESB Web site.  He then reported on the latest VR Consumer Survey.  The Board tabled a motion to state its support of the service delivery model demonstrated in the December 4th pilot.

Benchmark Update
Mr. Sigman reported on the BESB Benchmark Report of December 2006.  Ms. Akers asked if the Board could further examine specific service categories for continuous improvement.  The Board agreed by consensus to consider modifying and retiring benchmarks to address client needs. 

Points to the Good and Welfare
None. 

Adjournment
The meeting adjourned at 3:20 p.m.  The next Board meeting is scheduled for March 15, 2007 at 2:00 PM at BESB.

For More Information
Please contact Executive Secretary Lauren Caye at (860) 602-4100.

**************************************************************************************

BESB BOARD BYLAWS

Bylaws for the Board of Directors of the Board of Education and Services for the Blind

Article I – Name

The name of the organization shall be the Board of Directors (hereinafter "The Board") to the Board of Education and Services for the Blind hereinafter BESB or the agency. 

Article II – Purpose

The purpose of the Board is to set policies regarding the provision of services and advise the executive director of BESB regarding the agency’s performance and responsibilities as described in Chapter 174 of the Connecticut General Statutes. 

Specifically the Board shall:

A.     Be the central policy making authority of the agency regarding the provision of services to eligible individuals  and upon the request of the executive director, provide advice on internal operational policies of the agency.

B.    Monitor the activities of the agency to carry out its mission to provide educational and rehabilitative services as defined in Chapter 174 of the Connecticut General Statutes to adults who are legally blind and deaf-blind, and to children who are legally blind, deaf-blind, or visually impaired.

C.    Monitor the agency’s activities to comply with the benchmarks as set by the Monitoring Council established by PA 03-217 and recommend to the executive director adjustments, eliminations, and creation of  benchmarks as needed. 

D.    Report annually by January 1st, to the governor, Office of Policy

      and Management, and the legislature’s Human Services and

      Education Committees on (1) the agency’s fulfillment of its mission

      to provide educational and rehabilitative services as defined in

      Chapter 174 of the Connecticut General Statutes; and (2) the

      agency’s compliance with the Monitoring Council’s benchmarks as

      they may be adjusted.  The Board may utilize staff and resources

      of the agency as necessary to issue the annual report.

Article III – Membership and Service

Section 1 – Terms of Office:  The members of the Board are appointed as outlined in CGS Sec. 10-293(b). 

Section 2 – Membership:  The Board shall have 13 members.  Six shall be appointed by the governor.  One of the members appointed by the governor shall be designated as the chair.  One of the members appointed by the governor shall be the parent of a child who receives BESB services.  No fewer than two of the members appointed by the governor shall be persons who are blind.

The President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader of the House and the Minority Leader of the House shall each appoint one member.  The Commissioner of Social Services shall be a nonvoting, ex officio member. 

Section 3 – Attendance:  In accordance with CGS Sec. 10-293(b)(3), any appointed member who fails to attend three consecutive meetings or fifty per cent of all meetings held during any calendar year shall be deemed to have resigned.  Participation by a member by telephone or other remote technology shall constitute attendance at a meeting.

Article IV – Meetings

Section 1 – Schedule:  The Board shall meet every year in September.  At the September meeting the Board shall adopt a schedule of regular meetings for the following calendar year.  Such schedule shall be transmitted to the Secretary of the State.

Section 2 – Special Meetings:  Special meetings of the Board may be called (1) at the discretion of the chair or (2) by the chair at the request of any two members.  Notice shall be given for such special meetings of the Board in accordance with state statute.  A majority of the members in office shall constitute a quorum for special meetings.

Section 3  – Open to the Public:  All meetings are open to the general public.  The Board may retire to executive session upon a vote of two-thirds of the members present for reasons prescribed under CGS Sec. 1-200(6).  Executive sessions are closed to non-board members, except by invitation.

Section 4 – Hearings:  Hearings may be scheduled at the request of the chair, two or more Board members, the executive director, or as required in state or federal law.

Adequate notice will be given to the public of such hearings.

Section 5 – Forums:  To ensure maximum participation by persons affected by BESB policy, the Board may schedule forums for the purpose of public education and input.  Adequate notice shall be given to the public of such forums.

Section 6 – Conduct of Meetings:  All meetings will be conducted in accordance with the principles outlined in the current version of Robert's Rules of Order. 

Section 7 – Quorum:  A quorum of the Board consists of a majority of the members in office.  No vote may be taken unless a quorum is present.

Article V – Duties of the Chair

Section 1 – Duties:  The chair shall chair meetings, set agendas, and monitor the activity of the committees and working groups.  The chair shall also supervise the drafting of the Annual Report, as required in CGS Sec. 10-293(c), for submission to the Board for its review and adoption.

The chair may appoint himself or herself as a voting member of any committee or working group.   

Section 2 – Additions to the Agenda:  The chair shall add items to the agenda prior to the meeting upon the request of two or more members and consistent with public notice requirements.  In accordance with CGS Sec. 1-225, items may be added to the agenda during a meeting upon approval of two-thirds of the members in attendance.

Section 3 – Absence of the Chair:  The chair may designate a Board member to conduct the Board’s business in the absence of the chair.  In the absence of such a desginee the board may elect a chair pro tempore.   

Section 4 – Minutes:  The recording secretary, provided by the agency, shall record the attendance and keep and publish the minutes of all meetings of the Board in accordance with CGS Sec. 1-225(a).     

Article VI – Committees and Working Groups

Section 1 – Committees:  The Board shall create committees as deemed necessary for the Board to meet its statutory responsibilities.  Committee members shall volunteer or be appointed by the chair.  Committees may invite non-board members to participate in their proceedings in an advisory capacity.  Public notice shall be given and minutes taken and recorded in accordance with CGS Sec. 1-225(a).

Section 2 – Working Groups:  Working groups may be formed by the chair for the purpose of conducting research and collecting information for presentation to the board.

Article VII – Conflict of Interest

Section 1 – Recusal:  The Board of Directors adheres to all state laws and Office of State Ethics opinions concerning ethical conduct.  In addition, each director shall receive a copy of the BESB agency Ethics Policy each year and each director shall abide by the agency’s policy.

Article VIII – Amendments

The bylaws of the Board may be amended in whole or in part by a vote of three-fourths of the total voting members in office.  Proposed bylaw changes must be submitted to the board 48 hours in advance of a meeting. 

Approved February 7, 2008

 
 

 




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