I will try and answer at least a couple of your questions. I worked for The
Texas Commission for the Blind TCB in the 1990's before coming to
Tallahassee to run the graduate program in vision rehabilitation therapy at
FSU.When the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration RSA stopped
funding programs like the one at FSU I WENT TO WORK for DBS. To say the
least, funding of state agencies is complex and confusing. TCB and DBS are
good examples of how services can be provided differently using the same
pots of money. All state agencies serving visually impaired people receive
federal funds. The feds provide 78% of the state budget based on a 22% match
formula legislated by each state. Whether the agency is a separate
commission like TCB or a bureau or division of another state agency like DBS
(part of DOE) the percentages are the same. The amounts certainly vary,
depending on how much the state legislature can or will budget for those
services. The 100% is divided into several pots for different types of
services. Even the feds indicate different percentages depending on the
services--employment age or older blind. These pots are never to be mixed.
Florida has one of the highest amounts of older blind population and so
their pot is higher than a state like North Dakota. The states also fund
special services for children who are blind but these programs receive no
federal funds. (These are not educational funds like the School for the
It is up to the state legislature how those funds will be used. In texas TCB
provided all the services throughout the state except for a few employment
services used at the five Lighthouses in the state. TCB had over six hundred
employees who provided everything.
In Florida, the legislature voted some time in the past that 80% of the
services would be provided by the private Community Rehabilitation Partners
(CRP's). DBS gets to decide which CRP's they will contract with. They have
created a set of contract standards that each CRP is suppose to meet to
receive state/federal funds. Unfortunately, in the last few years there have
been no teeth in the contracts and many agencies are still receiving
funding, even though they do not meet the stated standards. I do not know
when Florida passed this legislation. When I came in 1996, most of the
services were provided then by the CRP's.
You are correct that an agency cannot function just on that funding. In
fact, DBS and the entity that certifies private agencies are constantly
encouraging the private agencies to raise more and more funds. Most CRP's
get 90% of their funding from DBS.
There are approximately 18 agencies that DBS contracts with. Some of these
agencies provide very good services, some good services, some fair services,
and some terrible services. (I do know this for a fact due to my
relationship with these agencies.)
The first year I ran the program at FSU the Lighthouse of the Big Bend had
three employees attend the program and receive their MS in Visual
Disabilities with a specialization in vision rehabilitation therapy. Since
then, there have been no other employees in the program except for two young
women who were hired at LBB after they entered the FSU program. Neither of
them still work in Florida. Currently, I believe there are six staff at LBB
with degrees from university programs. (Not all are graduates of FSU.) Two
LBB staff had an opportunity in 2011 to go through the program but were not
encouraged by the Director even though it was a free education.
As you can well imagine, I believe strongly in either university training or
heavy state agency training. It bothers me deeply to see people with no
education or background in blindness hired to provide services to people who
have or are losing their vision, and it's more frightening when those people
have other conditions as well. How can someone provide training to a
visually impaired person, when he or she knows nothing about the function of
thevarious parts of the eye and the implications when something goes wrong.
I hope this has helped a bit.
Just one other comment. It's my understanding from DBS administrative staff
that Ms. Ross did not resign until Aug. 17, or that's when they learned
about it. A friend of mine in Tampa said the job was not posted until after
Aug. 17. Could you let us know where it was posted on July 24? thank you.
From: tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:tabi-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf
Sent: Friday, September 04, 2015 3:57 PM
Subject: [tabi] Re: What is the lighthouse of the big bend trying to hide
I don't get a chance to be on e mail very often, just every few days. I've
just had the chance to read the e mails that have arrived in the past 24
hours or so.
Norine, I respect your decision to remain in a role of supportive counseling
to blind people, particularly those at the Lighthouse. There is always a
risk of liability when serving on a Board, and your decision reduced that
I understand fundraising is not the mission of the Lighthouse. However, the
State does not provide all of the funding necessary for the delivery of
services to the Blind, and fundraising is a key component to longevity in
the not for profit world. Another function a board provides is long term
planning. The article I attached cautions against taking a board
arbitrating personnel issues and recommends it serve only as a court of
appeal in the rarest of circumstances. If there are good policies and
procedures and grievance protocols, hiring, developing and releasing staff
is left to the director. Rarely, about one or two times a year, I do read
about directors who embezzle (mentioned by Robert in a query to me). I
joined this thread because I understood you to be debating the role of a
board in governing an agency. I don't believe there has been any accusation
of embezzlement, so I am puzzled by that question.
Robert made a statement that the services provided by the Lighthouse used to
be provided without the non profit agencies and were provided better is
interesting. If that's a scenario that can be documented, maybe that's a
model that could be adopted. How were services delivered at that time?
Were they still funded by the State? Were the funds available then more or
less what is available now? I asked that because I wonder what happened
when there wasn't enough money for the blind folks who needed services.What
do you feel would be a better model for delivering services? When I worked
at the We Care Network, we filled a gap where services were disorganized and
rarely effectively delivered to our clients. Without our agency, thousands
of people would not have received services at all.
At our agency, our director did not need to know about being ill or
uninsured to run a good organization. She needed to know how to provide
administration, represent our organization to the larger community, fund
raise, work with contracts, hire and fire people, maintain the physical
plant, and negotiate with vendors. It was important that she hire good
staff. It sounds like you are saying the Lighthouse here in Tallahassee is
not staffed well and that the people who work there are not qualified. Does
that mean, the people who are delivering the services to the blind community
are not trained and qualified to provide those services?
When I was at the We Care Network, we served visually impaired people who
could not access the medical care they needed. In private practice, I
provide counseling to a number of individuals who are visually impaired,
although their blindness is often only one of the issues with which they are
Lynda, you stated what the Lighthouse needs is a Director with good
administrative skills and a knowledge of blindness. To me, that is one of
the most sensible things I have read in this thread. I believe one of the
earlier emails indicates the position was advertised for only one week.
Actually, it was advertised for a full month, from July 24th through August
24th. That's a very good thing; it means a wide variety of candidates have
had a chance to reply.
Robert asked if Barbara and I are friends. Yes, we are both friends and
colleagues. I did not and will not be applying for the job. I believe I
explained I am a psychotherapist in private practice. In fact, I agreed
with you that it makes sense for the position to be widely listed in some of
the forums you mentioned. In my earlier e mail, I suggested you might
approach the Board at the Lighthouse about re-advertising the position in
case likely candidates were overlooked.
I am not writing in defense of Barbara. I saw the subject line in this set
of e mails, and it caught my interest. The statement: "What is the
Lighthouse of the Big Bend trying to hide" is inflammatory, and I was
curious about WHAT they ARE trying to hide. But, when I read the string of
e mails, I realized the conversation seems to indicate a lack of
understanding about the boundaries between:
1. a board and an agency
2. a board and the staff
3. the director and the staff and
4. the boundaries between any employee and the community at large.
I am writing in hopes that, with my experience, I can help the group better
understand the functions and boundaries of each of these components. I
joined the list serve yesterday because someone I know in the blind
community was talking about it in a private dialogue. That person was
concerned about the inflammatory nature of the comments what sort of impact
that could have on services to the blind community as a whole. Our state
government continues to cut funding for human services of all kinds, and
education and health are greatly affected. I hope you will consider how you
can best support the organization which delivers services to make it the
very best one we can have, strong and diverse and long lived, with or
without state funding.
Thanks all, for listening. I hope the attached article is useful.