[nfbmi-talk] System 7 issues

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Wed Dec 15 20:12:47 UTC 2010

Looks like this got better for a little while and then went out of whack:
4.  Homemaker Outcomes

Observations:  Table 4.3 indicates that the percentage of individuals who
achieved a homemaker outcome represents a significant portion of all
individuals who achieved an employment outcome.  MCB homemakers represent
more than twice the percentage of all blind agencies nationwide.  MCB's
homemaker policy focuses on the skills that the individual must personally
perform in each of four core areas in order to be considered successfully
rehabilitated:  kitchen skills, travel skills, home management, and
communication skills.

Table 4.3
MCB Employment Status at Closure for Homemakers for FY 2003 through FY 2007

Employment status 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Changes from
2003 Blind agencies total in 2007
Homemakers 123 93 115 85 103 -16.3% 1,036
Percent of all Employment outcomes 43.5% 36.8% 39.0% 31.3%
36.1% -7.3% 15.0%

. MCB stated that individuals who are blind or visually-impaired often
come to the agency first to learn to live independently and are closed with
a homemaker employment outcome.  Later, they may return to MCB to pursue
competitive employment.  However, MCB does not track this trend of
individuals moving from homemaker status to competitive employment status.
. Although MCB has the electronic capability to track applicants that
change from one employment outcome to another during the VR process, MCB
does not track whether homemaker was the initial employment goal chosen by
the applicant or whether it was later chosen during an IPE amendment
. MCB has made efforts to reduce homemakers by referring individuals
55 or older without a competitive vocational goal to the OIB program.
However, MCB does not track the numbers of referrals it makes to the OIB
program for this population.
. While MCB has established criteria and standards for homemaker
closures, MCB has discussed developing more stringent guidelines on these
. Table 4.4 indicates that MCB's total competitive employment outcomes
are 28.7 percentage points lower than blind agencies nationally, despite
meeting the indicator threshold of 35.4 percent.

Table 4.4
MCB Competitive Employment Outcomes for FY 2003 through FY 2007

Employment 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Changes from 2003
MCB Employment outcomes 283 253 295 272 285 0.7%
All blind agencies employment outcomes 8,218 7,462 7,088 6,870
6,922 -15.8%
MCB percent with competitive employment 56.2% 57.3% 60.3% 68.0%
53.0% -3.2%
All blind agencies percent with competitive employment 65.0% 71.8%
76.6% 81.1% 82.3% 17.4%

Recommendations:  RSA recommends that MCB:
4.1 develop and implement strategies to reduce the rate of homemaker
4.2 develop a tracking system to measure the effectiveness of these
strategies so that individuals, especially those age 55 and older, who do
not seek a competitive employment outcome and are referred to the OIB
program can be tracked;
4.3 revise the agency policy for homemaker outcomes by providing more
stringent guidelines than those currently in the policy manual; and
4.4 promote the renewed focus on competitive employment outcomes with
constituents and other key stakeholders.

Agency Response:
4.1  MCB has implemented a process with its rehabilitation teachers that
focuses on providing services to individuals who are 55 years and older to
become participants in the OIB program.  Through this initiative, MCB will
reduce the number of homemakers through a progression.  As a result, MCB
counselors will place greater emphasis on working with consumers to involve
them in vocational training resulting in employment outcomes.

4.2  MCB will monitor the progress of this initiative each year by
reviewing the number of referrals to the rehabilitation teachers program
quarterly to determine the number that will be referred to the VR program
for competitive employment.

4.3  MCB already has criteria and standards for those who wish to become
homemakers.  These standards are a part of MCB's procedures in the policy
manual.  Further, MCB follows the guidelines that all homemakers must
support the primary wage earner or minor children living in the home.

4.4    MCB believes that its primary focus has continuously centered on
assisting its customers to achieve successful employment outcomes.  Our
offices have routinely sponsored and/or participated in job fairs, assisted
customers to attend those fairs and promoted those customers to
participating employers.  This agency's focus on entrepreneurs is a strong
and continuously expanding element of our tool kit.  MCB customers have
started businesses across the state during the review period, resulting in
many successful outcomes.  MCB's partnerships with businesses throughout MI
continue to expand, and those partnerships offer employment opportunities at
all levels to MCB's consumers.  The value that this agency places on
employment is reflected in its outreach efforts to individuals who are in
jeopardy of losing their jobs because of blindness.  In keeping with its
commitment to continuous improvement, MCB will strive to increase its
outreach to potential employers, and expose its consumers to work experience
at every opportunity.

This report notes that MCBTC "recently integrated a career focus program to
help better prepare individuals for the workforce."  The primary obstacle to
employment for people who are blind is lack of experience.  Consumers who
become blind adventitiously usually possess a significant work history, but
their experience accrued prior to the onset of blindness is often
disregarded.  Consequently, they are not proven in the workplace as
qualified blind workers when they begin the vocational rehabilitation
process.  Congenitally blind consumers rarely find employment during their
teenage years, and as a result, they generally lack work experience of any
kind upon entering the public VR program.

In fact, this program includes an expanded work experience component to give
consumers the opportunity to gain real world employment experience as blind
people, in the community of Kalamazoo, as an integral part of their
comprehensive blindness skill training program.  The four elements of the
Center's career focus program include:  1) exploration and assessment of
skills, interests, abilities, capabilities, and work experience if any;
leading to a career choice.  (Note: if this career selection differs from
that which is recorded in their IPE, that document is appropriately amended
by their VR counselor); 2) development of a resume, cover letter, interview
skills and strategies for finding job leads; 3) informal work experience
inside the Training Center, in an area that relates as closely as possible
to the consumer's vocational goal; and 4) work experience in the community
of Kalamazoo, in the form of an internship, volunteer job or paid
employment.  Making career focus an integral part of MCBTC's blindness
skills training program has already begun to keep training Center students
much more focused on employment than was previously the case.  As consumers
begin to leave the Center with work experience that was acquired when they
were blind, they have references to provide to prospective employers.  These
references, whether they are staff from inside the Center or business people
in the community, are nearly always positive, enthusiastic supporters of
consumers as highly qualified, motivated employees.

As MCB administrators and staff speak about the career building program,
through articles in the MCB newsletter, presentations to blindness consumer
organizations, and word-of-mouth advertisement from consumers who have
completed their Center training and have participated in the program, both
current and future consumers of MCB services (constituents and key
stakeholders) will benefit from this renewed focus on successful employment

RSA Response:  RSA recognizes that MCB has consistently "passed" the
relevant standards and indicators for the issue raised here, but Table 4.4
indicates MCB consistently ranks lower than other blind agencies.  In
particular, rows 3 and 4 of Table 4.4 show MCB's percent with competitive
employment outcomes has ranged from 8.8 to 28.7 percentage points below all
blind agencies' percent with competitive employment outcomes.

Technical Assistance:  None requested at this time.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Larry Posont" <president.nfb.mi at gmail.com>
To: "NFBofMichigan List" <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Wednesday, December 15, 2010 11:36 AM
Subject: [nfbmi-talk] System 7 issues

> National Federation of the Blind of Michigan
> 20812 Ann Arbor Trail
> Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
> December 15, 2010
> Dear Jo Ann,
> Below are 2 emails from 2 of the most dedicated people in the MCB.  They 
> are speaking out about one more system within MCB that is
> broken.  As you are aware, much of the relationship with RSA is data 
> driven.  That is, the agency performance is measured and
> evaluated in quantitative measures.  There are few, if any qualitative 
> measures.
> The RSA recently completed a monitoring report which was a very poor 
> reflection on the agency.  As you read the comments from Karyn
> Silky, you can sense her frustration as she tries to do her work and 
> cannot do it efficiently and meet the demands of the
> administrative management information system (System 7).  As she points 
> out, even the accounting is broken.  She cannot charge costs
> to the proper accounts.  If these are not caught and manually corrected, 
> RSA will, again, find that MCB is misappropriating funds.
> The bottom line here is that System 7 is failing.
> If that were the only major administrative problem in MCB it would be very 
> serious and demand immediate and drastic action.
> Unfortunately, this is only one among at least 4 other systems that have 
> failed within the past year.  Or should I say, more
> correctly, which have been reported in the past year.  Certainly the 
> monitoring report covers a broader time span and shows ongoing
> mismanagement by the Director.
> Here is a brief recap of some of the failed and broken systems at MCB:
>  1.. 37 MCBTC staff are sitting idle and did so all last week at a cost of 
> more than $75000/week, because there was inadequate
> planning to anticipate issues that may arise in commencing a major 
> construction project.  This project has been in some stage of
> planning since around 2005; it did not sneak up on anyone.  This failure 
> alone ought to be enough to demand drastic action from the
> board.  It is easy to predict that Pat will blame Melody Lindsey, 
> Christine Boone or Sherri Heibeck.  He will not ever take
> responsibility for anything.  Who is accountable?
>  2.. The Business Enterprise Program is in meltdown.  With 15 facilities 
> on the bid line and not enough blind people trained to
> fill these positions it is just going to continue to cause major problems 
> for MCB.  Sooner or later, there will be a major incident
> someplace which will create public relations problems and possibly attract 
> negative legislature attention.
> The last BEP training class of only 8, had no one in charge.  Trainees 
> were left to sit unsupervised with no assignments and no
> oversight.  An interpreter at $40/hour was allowed to sit while the person 
> for whom they were to interpret had no activity.   Fred
> Wurtzel, the retired BEP administrator called James Hull and offered to 
> supervise the class during John McEntee's absence.  No
> teacher was apparently better than a 20 year veteran.  There have been 
> talks of early retirements for years.  It could be
> anticipated that such an event would occur, yet there was absolutely no 
> planning.  This is difficult to understand, since placements
> of blind clients are down and there allegedly very few jobs, except there 
> 15, today in the Business Enterprise Program.  Who will
> take the fall for this.  Will anyone take responsibility?  Will anyone be 
> held accountable?  Certainly not Pat Cannon, Heaven
> forbid.
>  3.. The RSA monitoring report showed a monumental lack of oversight and 
> numerous instances of violations of the law and rules.  It
> is alleged that RSA is wrong and MCB is not to blame.  It is doubtful if 
> this argument will hold water.  Consumers have brought many
> of these issues to the attention of the Commission Board, the MCB director 
> and various staff people over the years.  Some of these,
> consumers could not easily detect, like misappropriation of funds by 
> serving ineligible clients below the age of 14.  Pat alleged in
> a meeting with the NFB that he provided a copy of the preliminary 
> monitoring report to you, Jo Ann, more than a year ago.  You have
> denied having a copy.  I'm not sure of the truth, here.  It certainly 
> appears that Pat is, again, dumping responsibility on you and
> not taking his own responsibility.  Who will be blamed for this? Will it 
> be Leamon, the MCB Board, and the counselors or, as we
> heard, it is RSA's fault.  Amazing!
>  4.. Back to System 7.  This is the very heart of managing the MCB.  RSA 
> will use data from System 7 to evaluate the agency
> performance.
>  5..
>  6.. Yesterday, in the Services Delivery Design Team meeting staff 
> expressed much dissatisfaction with System 7 and MAIN. it was
> mentioned that blind staff, after how many years, now, still cannot  do 
> many of the administrative tasks which most state employees
> must do either as a regular part of their job or as incidental parts of 
> carrying out their duties.  For example blind staff in state
> government cannot even complete their own time sheets, let alone do a 
> large number of tasks required for state jobs.  The Commission
> may become the only place where blind people can work if they need to use 
> MAIN. The whole "MAIN" system is inaccessible and Pat
> cannon is the state ADA coordinator.  Michigan is at risk for a giant ADA 
> suit such as the ones in Arkansas and New york.  These
> states had exactly the same problem with their statewide accounting 
> systems.  Is the Governor aware of this threat?  Pat Cannon
> cannot even advocate for his agencies' constituency, himself or anyone 
> else it seems.  Who is at fault for this system failure?  It
> must be Connie Zanger, right?  She has been doing the job for the past few 
> months and did not fix it.  Or, could it be Sherri
> Heibeck?  She was in charge for several years.  Or is it Libera?  Did they 
> follow the MCB specifications incorrectly?  Or, is it
> DTMB for not monitoring the system progress.  Oh, how about Pat Cannon? 
> Could he, as administrator be accountable?  No, he is no
> computer guru, so it must be someone else.
> These are just 4, (did I say "just" 4?) items that, in most places of 
> employment just 1 problem of the magnitude of these would have
> caused major disciplinary action, that are plaguing MCB  Yet, given all 
> these, you just gave this man a satisfactory job rating.
> This seems inconceivable.
> How about some other items like the firing of Christine Boone on false 
> pretenses with no MCB Board oversight, though the board is
> the direct supervisor of the Director and P.A. 260 calls for such 
> oversight, 2 instances of breaking and entry into the MCB office
> where computers were stolen, allegations of misuse of travel by a staff 
> person, questions about BEP inventories, questions about bep
> judge shopping resulting in overturned administrative hearings?  How many 
> more do you need?
> Read both Bernie's and Karin's messages.  They are afraid of reprisals. 
> Pat Cannon has managed by bullying and intimidation.  Why
> should an employee be afraid to report problems with the software they are 
> depending on to do their jobs?  This is the very software
> the agency will depend on to report accurately to RSA to account for the 
> $20 million the agency is entrusted with each year to serve
> blind people.  Fear is the management style of preference and as you can 
> see from the list above it is not very effective as a
> strategy.  When will someone take responsibility?  Are blind people so 
> inconsequential that a person earning more than 120000 per
> year is allowed to behave in any manner they choose wit impunity?
> It is up to you.  We are depending on you as the legally appointed body to 
> oversee the Commission to take charge.  When will this
> madness stop and who will stop it?
> Sincerely
> Larry Posont, President
> National Federation of the Blind of Michigan
> 517-482-1800
> Email: president.nfb.mi at gmail.com
> Web page
> www.nfbmi.org
> Subject: RE: System 7 issues
> All,
> Good afternoon.
> Is this another case of Manager's making decisions WITHOUT ANY INPUT OF
> I can't even count the number of times we have just shoved stuff down the 
> chain,
> (in our case the West Region) to Field
> Staff and
> Administrative Support
> .
> What affect does this have on the overall push down to us; to increase 
> Competitive
> Closures?
> There most surely is POLITIC with this latest decision to revamp System 7? 
> It must
> have to do with funding to LIBERA?  Appease RSA?
> Does anyone hear, or read of staff and
> administrative support
> input to the latest from Libera?  Does anyone care about this
> Staff
> ; BUT, particularly here in the West Region?  Kisiel and I do!  Some of 
> the West
> Staff may not agree with me; and that's OK.
> How much more can this agency from Commissioner's, right down thru the 
> OF COMMAND" ask of this
> Staff?
> For one time can we be straight and honest to the hardest worker's we 
> have?  OK;
> worker's may not be a good title but is this how MANAGEMENT sees it's
> front line employees
> ?   Sherry Gordon, Lisa Kisiel and the writer have always tried to put our
> STAFF first.  We tried
> but maybe never enough
> , to stand up to what we felt was right?   I always lived with FEAR, i.e., 
> what can
> "they" do to me?  And, I am a former Colonel in the United States Army.
> I have sat by for many days now; first thinking WHAT CAN THEY DO TO ME if 
> I respond?
>  In good
> conscience I have to
> !  I have the highest of respect for the professionalism that Karyn Silky 
> and ALL
> STAFF of this agency bring to the table.
> For so many years I supported the Director's approach which began upon 
> arrival in
> 1999.  As a Manager I became a learning person as was suggested to me, not 
> by my
> Boss then; but the Director.  Eleven years ago I honored that attempt.
> It pains me to see after these eleven years, that I have to ask;
> have we made any progress
> ?  THIS IS A BURNED OUT FIELD STAFF in the West Region.
> West Region Manager
> Michigan Commission For The Blind
> 350 Ottawa NW
> Grand Rapids, MI
> 616-356-0183
> Subject: System 7 issues
> Julia,
> First, thanks for being patient with all of us as we struggle through this 
> mess.
> My comments below are not directed toward you, please know that.
> My first question is why can't we be allowed to view all consumers who are 
> in the
> System?  I needed to check to see if someone from the other side of the 
> state was
> currently open etc. for a new referral that came in with the same first 
> and last
> name, and I was not able to view any case information because I wasn't 
> assigned to
> the case.
> If the response is that the counselor assigned to the case must change it, 
> then this
> is just not acceptable.  What if the counselor/teacher doesn't do it in a 
> timely
> fashion?  What if the person assigned to the case has retired?  Doesn't 
> Libra understand
> how this complicates service delivery for consumers?  Not everyone sits at 
> their
> desk 8-10 hours per day - most, if not all of us, are out in the field for 
> the majority
> of the week.
> Secondly - why can't our support staff be able to do IPE amendments for 
> counselors/teachers?
> Apparently the counselor/teacher assigned to the case must do the IPE 
> amendment,
> approve it then our support staff can follow through and do an 
> authorization.  Again,
> this is not allowing us to do our jobs in a timely manner.  It's not that 
> support
> staff are actually writing the auth - it's that some of us might 
> call/email in a
> request to have support staff input the information into system, with all 
> the particulars,
> when we can't access or get to the system for various reasons like being 
> on the road.
> If timely service delivery is being asked of staff, this problem does not 
> make it
> very feasible.  It's insane that all of the methods we used to have in the 
> old version
> aren't still there.  The new requirement to go into the IPE and Amendments 
> and date
> when services were rendered and the outcomes is also a huge issue.  How 
> are we supposed
> to know when this has been done if we didn't have the case when original 
> services
> were planned?  This process does not make our system "efficient" - it is 
> taking an
> incredible amount of time for staff to even do a simple IPE amendment. 
> Case note
> entries should document that services were rendered.  Sounds to me like 
> someone doesn't
> want to review case files to get this information and want a "quick fix".
> I'm concerned that management does not have a full grasp on how difficult 
> this "upgrade"
> has made our jobs.  I would suggest that those supervisors without case 
> loads sit
> down and try to muddle through this mess and get things done in a timely 
> fashion.
> I mean actually try to write an IPE amendment, try to print one out and 
> see what
> happens, try to do an authorization, add a new consumer, try to find an 
> existing
> consumer etc. . .   and do this without having all the rights that you 
> likely would
> have.  The upgrade is not acting like it did in training nor is it working 
> like it
> did during the testing phase.  I'm appalled that there doesn't seem to be 
> an upper
> management statement being made to Libra about the urgency of fixing these 
> issues
> if not taking us back to the old way of doing things.  If it is being done 
> on the
> Director or upper management level, it would be nice for staff to know 
> that this
> is happening - communicate with us on what is being asked to be fixed or 
> corrected,
> let us know that you are all supporting our concerns.  I know that I am 
> speaking
> for most if not all of my colleagues when I say that we are fed up, tired 
> and angry
> with what has been occurring.
> My last issue is huge and has been asked of Libera already, but is 
> creating a serious
> problem - staff (all staff) must be able to plan and do authorizations 
> from the appropriate
> accounting codes.  Can't anyone see that when authorizations are being 
> done, they
> are being pulled from AARA funds versus VR because it can't be changed? 
> What about
> YLV students - what if they are VR and we need to do both YLV 
> authorization as well
> as a VR service?  It won't let you do this.  Why are we being required to 
> do ILOB
> plans when only IL was supposed to have plans.  While I'm on it, what is 
> the definition
> of an IL consumer versus a homemaker?  When do we serve someone as IL and 
> not VR
> homemaker?   This question was asked during the testing phase of the 
> upgrade when
> we learned there would be a split in the funding for IL/ILOB.  That was 
> months ago.
> How can you implement a new approach to fund and serve IL/ILOB without 
> defining for
> us what that means?  Leamon, you must address this issue because there 
> will be and
> possibly are consumers out there not getting services through general IL 
> who have
> the right to services and/or are being put in the wrong program.
> This "upgrade" is not an upgrade - it is a completely new system. 
> Upgrades only
> fix minor issues - not create disasters.
> I feel sorry for whoever will be in charge of gathering financial data at 
> the end
> of Fiscal 2011 because the way things are going, nothing will be accurate.
> My appeal to all staff who are trying to use this system is this - if you 
> are struggling
> with all of these issues, let management know directly via email or phone 
> calls.
> Specific issues must be identified to them and how it is impacting your 
> job, how
> long it is taking to do tasks (literally track the time) is absolutely 
> necessary
> in order for users of the system to get our point across.
> I might be putting my neck on the line sending this, but frankly, I don't 
> care anymore.
> Karyn
> --
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