I always aspire to write words that are meaningful for students, adult clients, families and literally everyone that takes an interest in our small but impactful agency. Since I am writing this in December I am reflecting on the past year as well as focusing on 2020. I am proud of our accomplishments, but I also recognize where we need to accomplish more as an agency, as a state education system and as a nation. Are we helping every student and adult client reach their potential? I can list many examples of great success. I can wholeheartedly state that we are doing an amazing job with our current resources at NDVS/SB. I am so proud of the work we do. BUT, I also know that we can do better.
So, what am I focusing on going into the new year? Here are a few highlights:
· As President of the Council of Schools and Services for the Blind, I will be putting everything I have into promoting the Cogswell-Macy Act. This landmark legislation aims to enhance special education law to improve services for students that are blind, students that are deaf and students who are deafblind. I will share more about this in the next issue of Reaching Out and let all of you know how you can support this cause.
· I am also very excited about working with the ND Lions Foundation and Lions Clubs in North Dakota to raise money for the purchase of 10 new “Little Rooms.” Little Rooms are multi-sensory, learning environments that are set up for infants and preschool children with multiple learning and physical needs. In honor of our former co-worker, Linda Kraft, the name of this effort is “Linda’s Little Room Project.” The big promotion of this fundraising extravaganza is January 1st with the hope of reaching our $35,000 goal of September 1st. THIS IS EXCITING!
· Next, on March 2nd, NDVS/SB will meet with Governor Burgum and his staff to do a “Strategic Review.” This is a preliminary step in the budget process and provides a foundation for going forward. Tami Purcell and Cindy Williams will accompany me on this trip to the Capitol to tell our story and set the stage for our future which is supposed to translate into more student success.
· There are numerous projects that are underway already that are exciting. I am working with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to develop a Memorandum of Understanding that will outline our working relationship. DVR is a wonderful partner agency and we look to strengthen this bond of cooperation. We are stronger and more effective together as we help adults reach their personal and vocational goals.
· A pet project that I am particularly proud of will help small, rural districts support students learning braille. NDVS/SB has developed a program titled “B.E.S.T.” which stands for Braille Education Support Technician. This program will help paraprofessionals and/or teachers in small districts learn the braille code along with the tools for producing braille locally with support from NDVS/SB regional Coordinators. We simply do not have enough teachers of the visually impaired. It is time to quit talking about the needs and gaps that exist in some communities and fix the problem. Please keep your fingers crossed that this program will be met with enthusiasm.
· Last but not least (in fact probably most important) I hope to support the NDVS/SB staff to the best of my ability. It is my sincere belief that we have some of the most talented and knowledgeable staff in the whole country right here in North Dakota. My job is to help everyone be successful through even more professional development and by creating a safe, friendly and supportive workplace. That really is my priority and if this can be accomplished great things will happen.
This is going to be a good year. How can the year be anything but perfectly in focus since it is 2020?