[nfbmi-talk] Fw: for what it is worth
drob1946 at gmail.com
Wed Nov 25 13:27:10 UTC 2015
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From: joe harcz Comcast
To: David Robinson NFB MI
Cc: terry Eagle ; Mark Eagle
Sent: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 6:13 AM
Subject: for what it is worth
School for the Blind leadership draws questions, inquiry
Tim Willert by
Published: November 23, 2015
MUSKOGEE — Concerns over changes in leadership and direction at Oklahoma School for the Blind, including the appointment of an interim superintendent with
no traditional education credentials, has prompted an inquiry from Gov. Mary Fallin's office.
Parents and others with ties to the school claim conflicts of interest and questionable hiring practices by Department of Rehabilitation Services Executive
Director Joe Cordova have compromised the integrity of the school and jeopardized in-state transition services for students.
Cordova's critics accuse him of operating under a cloak of secrecy by not disclosing why he suddenly fired popular Superintendent Jim Adams in May and replaced
him with Christine Boone, a noneducator and the wife of Doug Boone, the agency's director of visual services.
Cordova reportedly told Adams the agency wanted to go in a "new direction" with the school, a residential facility founded in 1897 that serves about 90
blind and visually impaired students.
“The problem is not that they fired Mr. Adams,” said Rocky King, whose 17-year-old grandson attends the school. “The problem is the way they went about
it. They didn't let anyone know. They didn't explain it.”
Cordova defended his actions Friday, including the decision to hire Boone, an attorney who previously worked for Cordova in New Mexico when he was head
of that state's commission of the blind.
“For them to say Christine is not qualified is a big stretch,” Cordova said of critics. “She has the credentials I'm looking for. She has years of (experience)
in blindness education and rehabilitation.”
Boone, who is blind, qualifies for alternative certification as a superintendent and will test for the credential in the coming days.
“I can't do anything about the background I have,” she said. “It doesn't change my passion for blind children and the need to provide the best possible
education for them. It doesn't change the fact that I've devoted almost my entire professional life (to their cause).”
As for Adams, Cordova said they shared “a very different set of philosophies for blind kids,” citing years of low outcomes for Oklahoma School for the Blind
students once they left high school.
“Very few have gotten good quality jobs after graduation, and they often drop out of higher education, and we have the data to prove it,” Cordova said.
“What we ought to be doing is preparing students for higher education or good quality employment.”
Cordova, who also is blind, says he has high expectations for blind children and wants to examine how braille is taught at the school.
“Are they reading at a level that is equivalent to sighted readers?” he asked.
He also favors students learning how to navigate with a long white cane.
Steve Mullins, Fallin's general counsel, said “public outcry” over the way the school is being run led him to meet individually with Cordova and each of
the department's three commissioners earlier this month.
“We asked them to become personally involved in resolving the issues,” Mullins said Thursday. “We expressed to them that we thought this was mainly a communication
Mullins cited a difference in philosophies held by supporters of two membership organizations — National Federation of the Blind and American Council of
“There is a belief that one will be favored over the other,” he said.
Cordova said his department works with both organizations.
“It's not fair to affiliate with just one or the other,” he said.
Jade Day, the mother of a 7-year-old son who attends the school, characterized Doug Boone, his wife and Cordova as “hard-core proponents of NFB.”
She claims Doug Boone has moved to “wipe out” in-state transition services for 16- to 21-year-olds, choosing instead to direct those services to National
Federation of the Blind facilities outside Oklahoma.
“It puts a hardship on parents because most can't send their kids out of state,” Day said. “Before, we had a choice. Now he's denying us that choice.”
Cordova said that's not the case.
“For years, there have been comprehensive centers for the blind that teach a full range of skills for blindness,” he said. “We don't have one in Oklahoma.
We have in-state services, local transition programs for blind people. We don't make them go. They have the right, and they have the choice.”
Jack Tucker, a Department of Rehabilitation Services commissioner and Cordova's chief critic, says braille should not be forced on Oklahoma School for the
“I'm low vision and I don't know braille, and I'm doing fine,” he said. “In a school setting with 15- and 16-year-old kids that are not totally blind, getting
them to learn braille is an arduous task. You have to want to do that. It's my understanding NFB wants to force this on everybody.”
Mullins, meanwhile, has asked Cordova to conduct a nationwide search for a qualified superintendent.
That search will include Boone, who Cordova says he trusts to implement his plans for change once she has the necessary credentials in hand.
Not everyone, however, is sold on those plans.
“My concern is we need someone with the educational background and experience to bring the school forward,” Tucker said.
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for...
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