COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE
CALIFORNIA SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Conference Center at CSB
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order at 11:00 a.m.
Joni Patche, Stuart Wittenstein, Ann Linville, Karen Courtemanche, Barbara Franklin, Maureen
Reardon, Debby Kreuzer, Sunggye Hong, Elmer Chapson, Patricia Williams, Leslie Thom Richard
Rueda, Jamie Rizzo and Carl Martin
ADOPTION OF THE MINUTES/AGENDA
Elmer Chapson made a motion to adopt the minutes from the September 17, 2009, meeting. Leslie
Thom seconded and the motion carried. Elmer Chapson made a motion to adopt the agenda
Richard Rueda seconded and the motion carried.
Stuart Wittenstein, CSB Superintendent
Stuart invited CAC members to attend the Winter Concert tonight starting at 7:30. The theater was
beautifully decorated headed by Silvana Sung.
Stuart attended the Department of Ed’s holiday party on Tuesday. CSB’s Jazz Ensemble
California Council of the Blind (CCB)
CCB is having a spring convention by the San Francisco Airport in mid April and has asked CSB to
participate on the program to recognize our 150 year.
White Cane Day
White Cane Day was a big success. CSB had a “March for Safety” around the neighborhood. We
received some publicity about the fact that the intersections around the school are not as controlled
as they should be. The students were carrying signs and chanting safety slogans. Dr. Ellerbee and
Dr. Kadish came from Sacramento. We also had media cover that resulted in being part of a news
show on Channel 7. It was entitled “Profiles in Excellence” and they featured Dr. Sacks and her life
and her work as it relates to the California School for the Blind. Some of the students were
interviewed for the program and about being visually impaired in school. It was very well done.
Getting in Touch with Literacy
Three of CSB’s staff presented at the Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference which was held in
Southern California a few weeks ago. Sharon Sacks and Stuart were the co-chairs for the program.
They invited Dr. Abraham Nemeth and he gave a wonderful speech.
Rocket Shop Café
The Rocket Shop is a very successful job training experience for CSB’s students and a morale
booster for staff. There are a dozen students doing various jobs at the Rocket Shop Café. It has
been a terrific way for staff that does not routinely interact with students to get the chance to interact
with them as well as with other staff. Everyone has really been enjoying it. The Rocket Shop is
doing so well, that the management has offered to sponsor CAC a free lunch from Amia bakery for
today’s meeting to thank them for their services to CSB. The Rocket Shop Café is opened from
9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:30 to noon on Fridays.
Due to a new round of budget cuts, the California School for the Blind will be reducing some
services during the first six months of 2010. We had been able to absorb previous budget cuts
without much apparent reduction in services, but a few weeks ago we learned of another budget cut
to this fiscal year which makes it imperative to reduce services from January through June 2010.
The majority of these reductions affect outreach services which support students in their local
school districts. Much of on-campus school programming is intact and we will continue to enroll
new students. We have space in our day and residential programs.
Beginning January 1, 2010, we need to make the following reductions:
- Short course programming is cancelled.
- Summer technology academies are cancelled.
- Low vision exams will still occur at CSB, but we will no longer provide this service in other
- Professional development activities are curtailed. CSB will be able to host some events on
campus, such as the APH Sensory Learning Kit (January 14-15) and Lowenfeld-Akeson
Early Years Symposium (February 20), but will not be able to provide such opportunities to
off campus sites.
- Outreach visits from assessment staff and assistive technology staff will be greatly reduced.
- No conference attendance.
These are difficult times and we have to make these tough choices but the reality of the late budget
cuts forced the reductions in these services. These decisions were based on trying to do the least
Stuart is in his second year as president for Council Schools for the Blind. The American Council of
the Blind has put together a school for the blind taskforce and they asked Stuart to sit in on the
phone calls. They are aiming at bringing the entire chapter and their affiliate presidents together in
February in Washington DC to do a Leadership Training. They are looking at training their people
on advocacy on how to advocate for the school for the blind in their area. Michael Bina from the
Maryland School for the Blind will be the speaker. Stuart has been giving them his advice from the
point of views for the schools for the blind.
150 Anniversary Celebration
Next year CSB will be celebrating its 150 year. Pens, key chains and mugs are for sale at the
Rocket Shop Café.
Sharon Sacks has been appointed the chair for CSB’s sesquicentennial committee. She will lead
our effort to celebrate our 150th year. The event is going to be on May 13 . CAC members will be
available to assist the sesquicentennial committee.
Phil Hatlen has accepted his invitation to be the commencement speaker for the graduation
ceremony in June 2010. Dr. Hatlen was the principal at CSB in the 60’s.
Sharon Sacks, Curriculum, Assessment & Staff Development (Report read by Stuart)
150 Anniversary Celebration
The program committee is working to develop the celebration program, reception, and dinner. We
have received $850 in donations. We are anticipating a donation from Parents & Friends. The
students have written letters of invitation to Stevie Wonder, Michelle Obama, Maria Shriver, & Eric
Weihnmeyer. One of CSB’s families is a caterer. They have sent us a proposal. Invitations should
be sent out in late January.
Curriculum & IEPs
The administrative team with the support of James Rudder, SSA, is re-designing IEP/report cards in
order to quantify student progress. The new form will be shared at the next CAC meeting. We are
also collecting data regarding student progress related to state standards and IEP goals. The
assessment center, assistive technology staff, and low vision specialist continue to collect data
regarding their number and type of services that are provided to students throughout California.
School Newsletter & Other Publications
The first edition of “Braille Bytes” was published in October. We are working on a second volume to
be distributed in February. Also, the assessment center program brochure has been re-designed.
We anticipate designing a brochure for our Middle School Prep program.
Assessment Center Program
The assessment program is working hard to complete 28 assessments this school year. However,
with budget cuts, the staff is looking at creative ways to complete these assessments. Some
assessments that would normally take place in the field may occur on campus. Other assessments
may be shortened with an exit conference taking place via telephone.
Low Vision Services
For the first time our low vision team traveled to Humboldt County to provide a low vision clinic to
students. This is a very rural area in need of these services. Again, because of budget cuts, low
vision clinics have been cancelled in San Diego and Fresno.
Orientation & Mobility
Gerri Finkelstein, beloved O&M teacher, is retiring at the end of December. She will be greatly
missed. The O&M staff will be covering her caseload in her absence. It is anticipated that we will be
able to fill Gerri’s position in the fall.
Many advanced O&M students are learning to travel independently to and from the airport on
weekends. Also, some students are learning to take Amtrak independently and use paratransit from
the train station to home. This is quite exciting. Students love their independence.
Sharon wishes all of the CAC members a happy and healthy holiday season.
Jamie Rizzo, Residential Program
The students had their Thanksgiving lunch. The staff carved the turkeys and served the students
and they all ate together. It was a very enjoyable event. Staff decorated the dining hall to make it a
very nice experience.
Cooking Class and Boo Mart
The morning staff has been holding cooking classes with groups of students. They have made a
variety of foods such as pancakes, waffles and microwavable bacon. As a positive reinforcement,
morning staff will be taking groups to Starbucks. This past week one group went to breakfast at
The morning residential staff sponsored their yearly Boo Mart sale in the theater. In past years
those funds have been used for various charities. However, due to the decrease in endowment
funds, the funds will be used to sponsor cooking activities and trips to Starbucks. Normally
endowment funds are used to sponsor the Breakfast of Champions held every spring, but funds
from Boo Mart will be used this year.
On December 15 , Westridge dorm is going to sponsor a talent show in the evening and everyone
is invited to attend.
The new physical fitness room is complete and the students have had their in-service training and
are able to enjoy using the machines.
Boy scouts that come to CSB from off campus, in the past their medications have been held by
CSB’s Student Health Unit. Since this is not actually part of CSB’s curriculum, SHU does not want
to be responsible so they have redone the process. The medications that come in are locked up by
a supervisor. The supervisor will retrieve them on Friday to give to the scout master. On Sunday
the supervisor gets them back until they go home.
Debby Kreuzer, Director of the Education Department
Supervises the following programs and classrooms: Art, Music, Speech and Language, Primary
Classroom, Elementary Classroom, Functional and Mainstream Middle School Classrooms and the
Secondary Prep Classroom.
At each CAC meeting, Debby will be highlighting two to three programs so that CAC may become
more familiar with the scope of services in the Education Department.
Ms. Helen Hody’s classroom is hopping. There are currently four students between the ages of six
and nine with another student scheduled to start in January and several primary age level students
on tours or referral.
Several of the students in Ms. Hody’s classroom are learning how to read Braille for the first time
after print reading became slow and fatiguing. Some students are also using the CCTV to enlarge
print, practice handwriting, work on math. A new program called QuickTac was just put on Ms.
Hody’s computer that works in conjunction with the Juliet Pro embosser to produce “quick tactile
graphics”. Debby passed around a sample of a tree that was drawn on the computer and then
embossed. In addition, students are playing games and reinforcing Braille skills on Dr. Sally
Mangold’s SAL program.
Ms. Hody’s classroom became pen pals with 40 students in an After School Club in Dry Creek,
California. The students were ages 7 or 8 and their teacher wanted to work with them on learning
with a visual impairment. The students in Ms. Hody’s class wrote to them about their subjects and
activities at CSB. The students in the After School Club made tactile greeting cards for Ms. Hody’s
students that are on display in their room. In addition, Ms. Hody’s students created personalized
Braille alphabet cards for the 40 students. Their teacher in Dry Creek said that several months
later, the students still carry them in their backpacks and will take them out as a treasure.
Letters of appreciation from parents were read by Debby. Primary students’ parents are
appreciative of the program and also note how much growth their children have made.
Ms. Minda Tayam, art teacher at CSB, received a large and beautiful tactile “hello” banner from the
students of Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind during October which was Insight art
appreciation month. The school for the blind selected two schools for the blind in the country and
several local schools in Pennsylvania to reach out about art and about greeting each other. Debby
brought the banner to display at CAC. The students sewed or glued various tactile materials (shells,
buttons, felt shapes, etc.) to create Braille cell configurations in many languages that said “Hello”.
CSB students in the Art Program created thank you cards with tactile art that were mailed to W. PA.
Maureen Reardon, Education Department
High School Program
Staff are seeing some ups and downs in the mainstream enrollment. New students are coming in
the first of the year to the middle school prep program. Some students in the high school program
are making big decisions. Some students are receiving notices of failure. We are working with
them to catch up on homework. Some of our high school mainstream students are looking at
transition programs and looking at what’s available in their home school districts.
Julie Manning continues to work with the testing group. She is again ordering all of our tests. She
has represented California State Schools at committees and some commissions on statewide
testing. She has become an incredible advocate for universal testing design and for dealing more
effectively with some of the visual components of testing. One of the issues found when looking at
the California Modified Assessment was that it was largely pictorial. For a lot of our students that
test which was suppose to be a modified assessment for students working on a modification of the
curriculum standards it was a completely inaccessible test. Unfortunately, one of the things that the
Educational Testing Services (ETS) has been doing is they have been sending out their practice
test and once they get feedback they then put out a Braille version. So Julie has been really helpful
and has worked for our state schools and has done a fine job working with the testing services and
advocating for the needs of our students.
We continue to provide not only the spring standardize California Standard Testing/Standardized
Testing and Reporting (CST/ STAR) testing, we also test students for the California High School
Exit Exam (CAHSEE). All students test their sophomore year. Since that time, we have offered at
least two testing opportunities every year for students who have one or more portions of the test to
pass. Fortunately our students can pass in sections. If they pass the English and not the Math,
they just continue to test in Math.
Maureen is working on 07-08 and 08-09 School Accountability Report Cards (SARC). They are in
draft form now. Julie is helping Maureen with API’s and APY’s which are our percentages of the
increase in student testing and the percentage growth in student testing. The SARC report will be
posted. Maureen will bring it to the next CAC meeting. Maureen is pleased to say that in the SARC
report we have been able to include some of what Ann has been doing with transition, the STEP
Program, and talk more about short courses and other activities that we have done on campus
which are over, above and beyond meeting the codes of running a school for the blind. We are
working on standardizing IEP goals and reports.
We continue to receive applications for students who need services. We are currently offering
Braille, Adaptive P.E., and Orientation and Mobility to a young woman from the school for the deaf in
Fremont who has Usher’s Syndrome. One of our new teachers in transition, hired from Hunter
College in New York, has her certificate in deaf/blindness.
One of the things we needed to address as a school this year was bullying. We actually heard
some students bullying other students. Julie Manning arranged for the administrators to get training
through the Alameda County Office of Education. Gina Ouellette, Tamara Wood and Rebecca
Dowling have been putting together units on anti-bullying. They have come up with procedures for
when a student reports bullying behaviors. Students look forward to each assembly to talk about the
issues. We are pleased with the results and are hoping by the end of the year we will have a more
sophisticated group of students and staff that are more sensitive to others needs.
Maureen attends the Information Technology Committee (ITC) meetings along with Alison Gates
and Sharon Sacks in order to have representation from AT and IT staff.
Ann Linville and Karen Courtemanche, Transition Program (CTEAC)
Rocket Shop Café
Karen is doing a wonderful job at the Rocket Shop. Ann and Karen recognized Joni for her
continued support and advice to ensure that the Rocket Shop had the tools and equipment needed
to make this a successful venture. The Rocket Shop has proven to be a valuable learning tool,
students have had the opportunity to learn skills (including soft skills) necessary to compete and be
successful once they leave CSB. Currently there are 12 students working in the Rocket Shop.
Students work hours / days are dictated by their schedule and desire to work in a retail environment.
The Rocket Shop is opened four days a week from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. and from 9:30 to noon
on Fridays. Recently a freezer was added and selections including frozen meals and desserts are
offered in the store to meet the needs of the staff. One teacher donated a microwave so staff can
use it in the store. They sell popcorn, tuna and crackers and a variety of items that the staff can
purchase for lunch or snack. Prices are kept low so that staff will come in every day. All monies are
put back into the store.
Parents and Friends have authorized the Rocket Shop to use their non-profit number. This will allow
the Rocket Shop to sell Sees Candy throughout the year. CSB students are raising monies to
purchase a heavy duty retractable leash for a military officer who handles a military dog in Iraq. A “tip
jar” has been placed on the Rocket Shop counter to help with the fundraising. In addition, a staff
member from the Diagnostic Center has a son who was deployed to Iraq; students will prepare a
package of goodies that will be sent out once a month. The box will be placed in the Rocket Shop
and staff will have an opportunity to purchase snacks and add items in the box.
The Transition Program continues to grow, currently there are 44 students; more students are
expected to begin after the holiday. There appears to be an influx of referrals for transition aged
students. Students who are referred to CSB come for many reasons including; the apartment living
program, Ohlone College, Hadley High School Diploma, and work and living skills. Those students
who have completed units towards a high school diploma come to CSB to work their IEP/ITP goals.
CSB teachers Mary Dusky and JoAnne Libbon have done a wonderful job working with the staff at
the Disabled Student Services ensuring that our students have the appropriate materials / media /
tools that our students need to be successful in classes. Students interested in going to Ohlone
work with their teacher to meet with and set up an appointment with Disabled Student Services
(DSS), schedule time to take the assessment tests (Math and English) and sign up for the
appropriate class. While at Ohlone the students learn how to work with the DSS advisor, schedule
tutoring when needed, communicated needs with their instructors, and order their text books in the
appropriate media. This year students have successfully completed Algebra 1, Basic math, and
CAC future meeting dates for 2010 will be scheduled at the February 25 , 2010, CAC meeting from
9:00 – 1:00, followed by the Braille Bee.
The meeting was adjourned at 2:20 p.m.
Recorder: Joyce Coleman