What a summer we've had so far - packed with learning and networking opportunities, including the Region 4 Conference and the OSEP Mega Conference.
Leonardo da Vinci said, "Learning never exhausts the mind"...so, we hope you are energized and ready for more!
And, we have just the thing to stretch your mind further - the Region 4 Insider! In this issue, articles include: featured TA&D center: CELL; respectful speaking and listening symbolized by the talking stick; bylaws checklist; spotlight on Family Matters; a test for knowledge of IDEA, Section 504 and other disability-related laws; and more.
As John F. Kennedy said, "leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." We hope your summer learning is contributing to increased quality of leadership at your parent center. We have another leadership and learning opportunity for you. We are excited to be able to offer the Region 4 Networking Summit on Volunteers, Friday, Nov. 12th 8:30 - 3:30 p.m. at the Hotel Metro, a great little boutique hotel in downtown Milwaukee.
The Summit agenda includes: legal considerations for supporting a volunteer program; insuring volunteers; a discussion of various ways Region 4 centers recruit, train and use volunteers; sharing of materials used by Region 4 centers with volunteers; and more.
Jan Serak and Courtney Salzer
Region 4 PTAC Co-Directors
FEATURED PARENT CENTER
Family Matters, was founded in 1989 as a Family Support Program through the Illinois Department of Human Services' ARC Community Supports Systems project. Family Matters is located in Effingham, Illinois. The Family Support Program offers support, advocacy, information and education to parents in a 26 county region of south central Illinois.
In October 2002, Family Matters received the Parent Training and Information Center grant. The PTI serves the entire state of Illinois outside of the Chicago area. Family Matters has regional coordinators in the north, south, east, west, and central parts of the state. They offer free workshops on special education rights and responsibilities and related topics. One area of particular expertise is related to birth to 3 early intervention services.
Family Matters has an 11-member board of directors. Family Matters has 5 staff and also employs 3 trainers. In order to reach and serve the families that need to be reached, funding and time to meet the great demand continue as major challenges. But, they get the job done anyway. The Family Matters website is: www.fmptic.org
When you see that warm greeting and smile, it is what defines Deb Einhorn, Executive Director, of Family Matters. Deb has served as the PTIC Director since 2002.
Deb Einhorn, Family Matters
Deb commented on her experience as the director of our parent center, "Before Family Matters became a PTI, our small family support program was doing similar things on a much smaller scale with far fewer families. Because our family support staff had received training and mentoring from the Chicago PTI, it really helped us in the transition from a small program to an almost statewide organization."
Deb also noted that, "As the director, having access to all the resources available to the PTIs has been phenomenal for me. The information we get, the assistance from the TA centers and our project officer, the connections with other parent center staff have all been invaluable and have expanded our knowledge, resource collection and our network of support. Meeting so many like-minded people and sharing a mission and purpose with so many other parent driven organizations has been the best experience of my career! Talking with and working with so many families each year strengthens my convictions and my passion for doing whatever I can to promote the strengths of students with disabilities and their families."
And, many of us know that Deb is now a proud grandmother, "Becoming a grandmother this year has been the most joyful experience of my personal life and gives me new perspective on the challenges families face today when raising their children. It reaffirms my desire to have a part in creating a better world for all children." So, when you see Deb, remember to smile because she is always ready to do so first!
NON PROFIT MANAGEMENT
By Jan Serak
Some Region 4 parent centers have inquired recently about updating their bylaws, reviewing term limits for board members, adding a process for voting by phone or email, etc.
Useful resources include: http://www.taalliance.org/pcinfo/manual/index.asp, http://non-profit-governance.suite101.com/article.cfm/how_to_write_bylaws_for_nonprofits, http://www.lectlaw.com/forms/f162.htm, and http://www.nonprofitlaw.com/bylaws.htm. Your Secretary of State may have sample nonprofit bylaws. Region 4 PTAC assistance can include facilitating a bylaws review with your board.
The following, adapted from a 5/29/10 Board Café article, Bylaws Checklist, by Jan Masaoka, addresses necessary elements in bylaws:
Because regulations about nonprofit bylaws are done individually by state, there is much variation. For example, in Ohio, nonprofit boards must have a minimum of 3 members; in California, one. It's important to obtain the applicable state law for your state and make certain that your nonprofit bylaws are in compliance. Some cities have further regulations. Ask your city's attorney's office for guidance.
Three overall guiding principles:
1. Don't put too much in the bylaws. Example, if you specify a board committee in the bylaws, and that committee does not exist, someone could claim that you are in violation of your bylaws. Or, if your bylaws state meetings will be held on 3rd Wednesdays, you can't change to Thursdays without a change in bylaws.
2. Review bylaws about every three years. Because board officer terms make it hard for the board to keep track of bylaw revisions, have this duty included as a responsibility of the executive director.
3. Immediately attach any changes made to the bylaws to the copy kept by the executive director. Highlight the changes in board minutes, so you can easily find them. Too often, everyone forgets about changes made.
- Indemnification. A statement that limits the personal liability of board members.
- Whether the organization has members, and if so, what their rights are. As, in a true membership organization, members have the right to elect officers. If you don't have members with legally enforceable membership rights, such as voting rights, you can still have people called "members," but the distinction should be clarified in the bylaws.
- Minimum and maximum number of board members. Example - minimum of 5 and maximum of 15 board members. (Check state law here. Also, to ensure board composition meets PTIC/CPRC requirements, you may consider additional specificity.)
- Quorum required. A quorum is the minimum number of board members who must be present for official decisions to be made. Example - if an organization has 15 members, and the bylaws state 1/3 constitutes a quorum, then 5 or more members must be present in order to make official decisions.
- Terms and term limits. Example - two years, with term limits of 3 consecutive terms (making a total of 6 years); after a year off, a board member may be permitted to return. Similarly, the bylaws can specify that terms can be staggered so that, for instance 1/3 of the board is up for reelection annually.
- Titles of officers, how the officers are appointed, and their terms. Example - appointed by majority vote at a regular meeting of the board; an officer term is for 1 year with a maximum of two consecutive officer terms.
- Procedure for removing a board member or officer. Example - by majority vote at a regularly scheduled meeting where the item was place on the written agenda distributed at least 2 weeks in advance.
- Conflict of interest policy. Alternatively, many bylaws simply state that there will be a conflict of interest policy, but keep its exact wording out of the bylaws.
- Minimum number of board meetings per year. Example - four, with one in each quarter.
- How a special or emergency board meeting may be called.
- How a committee may be created or dissolved.
- What committees exist, how members are appointed, and powers, if any. Example - Executive Committee, Finance, Personnel, Development; or - Internal Affairs, External Affairs, Governance, and an Executive Committee (that includes chairs of the 3 committees). It may be easier not to specify committees, and instead permit the board to create and dissolve standing and temporary committees as it sees fit. As a result, the bylaws need not be changed each time a committee is created or changed. Some state laws require certain number and/or type of committees included and a certain number of board members on each committee.
- Conference calls and electronic meetings. Example -meetings may also be held by conference call if all members can simultaneously hear one another. (Note- as Internet usage grows, some boards are adding sections to describe holding a board meeting on the Internet, or whether and how decisions can by made by e-mail.)
Each board member should have a copy of the articles of incorporation, the IRS and state determination letters and the bylaws. Every few years, review the bylaws. Appropriate changes to the bylaws should be recorded in the board minutes, added to copies of the bylaws, and, in some cases, reviewed by an attorney experienced in nonprofit law.
by Courtney Salzer
I was charged with writing a legal update for this newsletter which would normally be a straightforward task for me. However, I must confess that this time I found myself a bit baffled as to what would be the most useful thing to write about. There are still no PART C Regulations to report on. We've heard much talk about reauthorizing the ESEA, but there is no significant update to give on that front. IDEA reauthorization has yet to commence, so again, no update. What to write about then? Well, in my quest to find a legal update that would provide you with... "quality, useful, relevant" information, I stumbled upon an interesting document that I have opted to share with you. The document is a law school final exam designed to test an individual's knowledge of IDEA, Section 504 and other disability-related laws.
Pete and Pam Wright (of the well-known "Wrightslaw") are adjunct professors of law at the William and Mary Law School where they teach a course on Special Education Law and Advocacy. On their website, Pam and Pete have posted the final exam they gave to their to the law students in April, 2009.
In reading over the exam, it struck me that this would be an interesting exam to give to the staff of our parent center. Would they receive a grade? No. But, it could help us identify areas or topics for which we focus future professional development efforts. Who knows, it may even be the tool we use to determine whether a new staff member is ready to begin formally assisting families. (Until now, we have relied on one question to make this determination, "Are you ready?") As I thought even further about the exam, I though that a somewhat shorter or scaled down version might even be a good tool to use to measure the proficiency and readiness of our volunteers.
Now, when the exam was given to law students, it was "closed-book". This helps law professors achieve the Bell curve somehow. (The beloved Bell curve mandates that an equal number of people who get A's must also get F's, with the rest of the test takers falling somewhere in the middle.) My personal recommendation is that if you decide to use this as a tool at your center, consider the notion of making it "open-book", which essentially means that people can look up the answers. There is a tremendous amount of learning that occurs when people go through the process of understanding a question and then seeking the correct answer. I think knowing where and how to find an answer is a much more desirable skill than just memorizing facts for a test.
The best part about this resource is that you can take the exam at your own leisure and then submit an email to Pam and Pete and they will give you the correct answers. I am not afraid to admit that there were definitely questions I had to look up! Enjoy!
ED Launches Early Learning Initiative Web Page
On July 16, 2010, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launched a new Early Learning Initiative Web page that provides information about:
The page includes presentation materials, a webinar, blog posts, and public comments from the Listening and Learning about Early Learning tour.
- key programs, funding opportunities, resources and publications, technical assistance, and interagency work
- early learning in the Administration's proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
- investments in early learning across Departments
The Impact of Hardship on Very Young Children
Children's Health Watch has released a new brief entitled Healthy Families in Hard Times: Solutions for Multiple Family Hardships (June 2010), which looks at the impact of hardship on very young children. The brief finds that very young children in families who experience a combination of food, housing, and energy insecurity are more likely to be at risk of developmental delay and more likely to experience health problems than children in families with no hardships. The brief provides recommendations for improving the lives of these children through strengthening and coordinating the current programs for which they are eligible.
VOLUNTEER NETWORKING SUMMIT
Friday, November 12, 2010
This Summit will be a great opportunity for parent center directors and staff to come together to share materials, ideas, training modules, lessons learned, etc.
We will be sending registration materials shortly. The packet will include a blank CD and return mailer for all volunteer-related information that you would like to share with other Region 4 centers (as, policies, procedures, forms, training materials, etc.). We will load this information onto flash drives for Summit participants.
Registration and one room night's lodging per center will be covered for you by Region 4 PTAC.
Please register by Oct. 15th - contact Chris Stagge, 877-374-0511 or firstname.lastname@example.org, with any questions about the Summit. Summit participants planning to arrive on Thursday can RSVP as to whether they will join us Thursday, Nov. 11th, at 6:30 p.m. for dinner at the Coquette Cafe
We are very excited about being able to respond to the need expressed by many of you in last year's annual Region 4 PTAC survey for more information related to volunteers.
Testing Your Website for Accessibility
By Nelsinia Wroblewski
WebAIM or Web Accessibilty in Mind is a non-profit organization within the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University that provides the knowledge, vision, tools, technical skills and organizational strategies, to empower organizations to make their own content accessible to people with disabilities. WebAIM seeks to influence the accessibility of the internet in all sectors including: government, non-profit and education.
In addition to valuable resources related to web accessibility awareness, guidelines and Section 508, www.webaim.org offers a valuable feature that can help Parent Centers to test their own website's content for accessibility. WAVE is a free, web-base tool that evaluates any URL quickly and effectively.
By entering your Center's URL at http://wave.webaim.org, WAVE will show your original page with embedded icons and indicators that reveal the accessibility of the page. This means that the tool will detect all features and errors like: incorrect order of headings, empty links, alternate text (available or missing) and the number of heading levels. This will allow people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive impairments to benefit from illustrations, captions, properly organized content and clear navigation.
Principles of Accessible Design-by WebAIM
- Provide appropriate alternative text: especially helpful for people who are blind and rely on a screen reader to have the content read to them.
- Provide headings for data tables: appropriate headers make it easier for screen reader users to navigate and understand the data table.
- Ensure users can complete and submit all forms: every text field, checkbox and dropdown list must have a label and must be able to recover from failure to fill the required fields.
- Ensure links make sense out of context: avoid phrases like "click here" and "more". For example, a link should read: "resources" instead of "for resources click here"
- Caption and/or provide transcripts for media: especially for videos and audios.
- Allow users to skip repetitive elements on the page: provide "Skip to Main Content", or "Skip Navigation" links at the top of the page.
- Do not rely on color alone to convey meaning: colors can enhance comprehension but they may not be available to a person who is colorblind, or to a screen reader.
- Make sure content is clearly written and easy to read: use clear fonts and proper headings and lists. Avoid blinking and moving text to prevent seizures and distractibility.
- Design to standards: HTML compliant and accessible pages are more robust and provide better search engine optimization. Cascading Style Sheets or CSS allows separating content from presentation.
Implementing Web Accessibility
Before anyone can make their websites accessible, they must understand accessibility. WebAIM provides links to resources that promote awareness and implementation of website accessibility. The list includes articles on web accessibility, checklists, videos that demonstrate the difficulties users with disabilities face on the web, and an introductory course on web accessibility.
Keeping Web Accessibility in Mind
Parent Centers must have a clear understanding on how children and adult with disabilities are impacted partially or totally by the lack of access to majority of websites. As a leading source of training and information, Parent Centers must assure the content and features on their websites can interact with all mouse, keyboard, or assistive devices such screen readers and screen enlargers; meeting the "POUR Principles" (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust) in which the International Accessibility Guidelines are based.
Region 4 PTAC will be hosting a Webinar on Website Accessibility and 508 Section on Wednesday December 1, 2010 from 1-2:30pm CST.
Visit http://www.section508.gov/ to learn and understand the implementation of Section 508 and how it affects Federal agencies' electronic and information technology.
RESPECTFUL SPEAKING BUT ALSO RESPECTFUL LISTENING
By Don Rosin
When we go to meetings or other kinds of gatherings, it seems that there are always one, two, three, sometimes four people who dominate the conversation. Throughout times, Native American people have used various tools during meetings to insure that make sure that all present are heard and listened to.
The talking stick is a ceremonial tool that was traditionally used by some tribes during council meetings. Passing the talking stick from speaker to speaker was a respectful way for individual members of the tribe to communicate and share opinions without interruption. This was especially helpful in keeping disagreements from getting out of hand. It also enabled all who wished to speak to do so. Respect was given to each speaker without outburst or interruption of a person's turn to talk. Whether positive or negative in your own opinion-you kept it to yourself until it was your turn to speak and give your own opinion. You talk about issues and not about a person or persons. Other tribes sometimes used a feather or shell instead of the talking stick but the same respectful meaning was given to the tool. Conversation is important and everyone in the group is important-so respect as you would want to be respected.
You are probably asking yourself, how does this impact me or my center? On a personal level, it teaches me to be patient and most of all to listen to others without reacting or interrupting when another person is speaking. In our professional lives, it teachings all of us to honor and respect other's words and to listen to what they have to say. We show others respect and honor when we listen to their thoughts and words, this shows them that they are a valuable member of our organization and team. This could be also instituted in board meetings by giving all members a chance to speak without feeling that they are going to evaluated or criticized. This would make meetings go very smoothly with all members feeling that they have worth and their opinions are heard.
Honor and respect make things go a long way and also promote a positive work environment which makes coming to work a good experience. On a personal experience, it teaches me that I need to do some personal insight and see if I do show honor and respect to others. This can be done by doing a self assessment of me. One way to do this will be discussed in the next newsletter article entitled, "Medicine Wheel".
T A & D NETWORK
www.earlyliteracylearning.org and is full of information and resources, including a short overview video. CELL is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, Research to Practice Division and is a major initiative of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at the Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute.
The main goal of CELL is to promote the adoption and sustained use of evidence-based early literacy learning practices by early childhood intervention practitioners, parents, and other caregivers of young children, birth to five years of age, with identified disabilities, developmental delays, and those at-risk for poor outcomes. CELL's website is located at:
Parent Practice Guides Released
The Center for Early Literacy Learning (CELL) has released final versions of the CELL Parent Practice Guides for Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers. These guides include practices that help parents engage their children in everyday early literacy learning activities. They have been rewritten to be used by parents who read at a 5th to 6th grade level or higher. The guides can be accessed by clicking here.
ICAP REIMBURSEMENT FORMS ARE DUE!
Region 4 Nonprofit Programming Webinar, 1:00-3:00 CST
September 1, 2010
Region 4 Nonprofit Programming Webinar, 1:00-3:00 CST
Topic: Information Management and Technology
(required for 2010 mini-certificate)
September 22, 2010
Region 4 Webinar, 1:00-2:30 p.m. CST
Topic: Schoolwide PBIS
Presenter: Dr. George Sugai, Director, Center for Behavioral Education & Research
Topic: Supervision Skills
(required for 2010 mini-certificate)
October 22, 2010
Annual Data collection to National Parent TA Center
November 3-5, 2010
New Directors Conference, Hyatt Regency Crystal City
(by invitation only, evening reception 3, full day on 4th, half day on 5th)
November 12, 2010
Volunteer Summit, Hotel Metro, Milwaukee, WI
December 1, 2010
Region 4 Webinar: 1:00-2:30 pm CST
Topic: Understanding Web Accessibility, ADA and Section 508
Presenter: Jared Smith, Web Accessibility in Mind