September 12 - 13, 2009, Board Meeting Minutes

Fall, 2009 Meeting of the ACB Board of Directors
September 12-13, 2009

The Fall meeting of the Board of Directors of the American Council of the blind, held at the Downtown Sheraton Phoenix Hotel in Phoenix, AZ began at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Saving Time. Members present were Pomerantz, Charlson, Dillon, Lieberg, Godino, Campbell, Colley, Farrow, Garrett, Keith, Ruschival, Sheehan, Thom, Trott, and Dresser. Staff present were Brunson and Waters. Gray and Vloedman were absent due to work commitments.

Godino moved and Ruschival seconded adoption of the agenda and that motion carried.

Pomerantz welcomed Marcia Dresser, who will serve as BOP Liaison to the Board for the upcoming year.

Trott moved approval of the July 4 and July 11 Minutes; Campbell seconded and that motion carried.

President’s Report, Mitch Pomerantz. Jim Shaw will chair a Social Security Taskforce, whose mission will be to help educate blind persons regarding their rights under Social Security. Marsha Farrow will work on that taskforce as well.

The Budget Committee will begin its deliberations for constructing the 2010 budget. Pomerantz, Brunson and Waters have met to discuss their first input to the Committee.

All committee appointments have been made, thus committees are staffed and should begin their work soon.

On an upcoming trip to DC, Pomerantz will be meeting with Kareme Dale of President Obama’s staff and with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs .

A motion to transfer $50,000, now in the general fund, from the additional distribution of the Plunket estate to Board-designated reserves was tabled from the May 21 Board Teleconference call, with the understanding it would be raised again at the Fall Board meeting. After discussion, the motion was defeated.

Campbell moved acceptance of the President’s report, Charlson seconded and the motion carried.

Staff Reports, Melanie Brunson. US Treasury. The government issued its report to the court regarding the study for various accessibility options. Statistics projecting blindness in that report were very low, and ACB will be meeting to develop a response to this. Brunson also expects a request for public input.

Kindle. Lawyers will be meeting with representatives from the Department of Justice who have become interested in the case. There have been no further court developments, but depositions have been taken. Board members shared instances of schools, even K-12 schools, moving toward all e-text books. This naturally causes concern regarding the education of blind children.

Social Security. Brunson will be testifying in San Francisco Federal Court regarding our Social Security Case. Brunson says the attorneys are optimistic. Billie Jean Keith will also be testifying.

Telephone problems are being resolved. All messages are now translated into Spanish as well as the Washington Connection.

Brunson reported there are several grant applications pending, and others are being formulated for 2010.

The plaque honoring donors of 6 figures or greater has been completed; names are shown in both print and braille.

Brunson asked the Board to take a more proactive stance in assisting with legislation by ensuring that they have contacted their congress persons when requested to do so. Garrett moved and Dillon seconded acceptance of the DC Office staff report and that motion carried.

Minnesota office staff report, Lane waters. Paul and Partners have handled two mailings for us. The first mailing was in May and cost 40% less than similar mailings done in the past. We had a 6.4% response from the active doner list, and a .35% response rate from the last doner list. After all costs, that mailing generated $2,394 revenue. There is now a post office box in Minneapolis to which all donations are sent, allowing Minneapolis staff to process all payments and do all data entry. Minneapolis staff then report results to Dena Wilson and Paul and Partners. A second mailing was done at the end of August and the stats are not yet in.

Staffing is going well and people are working well together.

Audit services. After looking at alternatives to our current audit providers, Waters recommended that ACB obtain the services of Eide Bally. Trott moved that ACB discontinue the use of Larson Allen and switch to Eide Bally; that motion was seconded by Dillon and carried. Ruschival moved and Campbell seconded acceptance of this report and the motion carried.

Treasurer’s report, Michael Godino
Revenue: $873,154
Expenses: $758,936
investments: $1,697,926
cash in bank: $104,725
total assets: $1,802,651.00. Campbell moved and Lieberg seconded acceptance of this report and the motion carried.

Godino moved and Lieberg seconded that the ACB Board of Directors Meeting move to Recess and the ACBES Share Holders meeting convene. That motion carried.

Garrett moved and Campbell seconded that the ACB Board return to session at 12:15 PM and that motion carried.

Convention Report, Carla Ruschival. Most Orlando convention matters have been wrapped up and reports are being prepared. All committees who had functions at convention will receive a report. Charlson requested and Ruschival agreed that officer liaisons would also receive a copy of these reports in order to better assist their committee chairs. There was discussion of whether or not to change the word convention to conference when planning for future conventions. Ruschival moved that in the future, all materials that refer to convention use the wording the American council of the blind convention and conference; the motion was seconded by Campbell and carried. The Committee is looking at ways to decrease the cost of registration, including a change in the process of sending out paper forms. Over 23 thousand forms are mailed with a very small return, since most people register online or on site. Ruschival will prepare an article for the Forum to ensure membership knows of any such changes. $Ruschival also specifically mentioned how well Catalina Roisum did as a blind person assisting with registration. Ruschival recommended holding afternoon events and meetings beginning at 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 to keep program consistency. This schedule would still work for those affiliates holding breakfasts or lunch events; breakfasts would be 7 to 8:30 A.M. Affiliates could meet longer, but would be asked that breaks be standardized. The Committee is working with the hotel to manage other related costs such as AV, menus, etc.

The Board will hold further discussion at its next teleconference meeting as to whether or not to recommend a change to the Constitution and Bylaws Committee regarding the use of the word conference when referring to what we have traditionally called the convention.

Lieberg moved and Thom seconded acceptance of the report and that motion carried.

BOP Report, Marcia Dresser. Prices for the Braille Forum are the same this year as last.

Ron Milliman is expanding the mentors program to share pr how-to’s with affiliates. The Public Relations Committee will hold open quarterly calls, inviting affiliates to send representatives to learn and share. The Committee goals are to complete an ACB PSA handbook as well as develop talking points about ACB.

ACB Radio hopes to involve more special interest affiliate programming. The ACB Radio web site is being redesigned.

Pomerantz requested that the summaries of last year’s meetings be placed into the Forum, as each had apparently been lost. Dresser was asked to convey this to the BOP Chair.

After discussion of other steps ACB Radio could take, Lieberg agreed to request that ACB Radio develop and play spots encouraging donations both to ACB and to ACB Radio.

Colley reported that five interviews for the ACB Oral History project have been conducted. The interviewees must have either been a president of ACB, or have been active in ACB since before 1980. Colley also reported on the DAISY Conversion project. The Braille Forum and Convention Program were converted. It is hoped that if we can produce the Forum in DAISY, money on production could be saved; We now send out around seven thousand cassettes. Campbell moved and Trott seconded acceptance the BOP report and that motion carried.

Interim Report Relative to the ACB Database. Chris Gray presented his report in writing which will be attached to these minutes. Pomerantz recommended that others read the report and be prepared to agendize that report at our next teleconference Board call.

Audio Description, Kim Charlson. Charlson will share various convention concerns dealing with registration and other issues with Ruschival and the Convention Committee. The project is reaching out to ACB affiliates to form a network. There is an ADP page on facebook. Information will be forthcoming about how to locate audio description on TV after the digital conversion. Charlson will ask for a report of funds from sales of the Miracle Worker DVD. Lieberg moved and Trott seconded acceptance of the report, and the motion carried.

Elections. Credentials, Farrow; Internet Oversight, Sheehan ()Pomerantz will find another individual to serve on this committee as Sheehan now serves as Board rep); Public Relations, Garrett; Executive Committee Godino, Dillon Campbell and Farrow.

Development of the Idaho affiliate, Berl Colley. A taskforce consisting of representatives of affiliates in surrounding states and Ardis Bazyn as chair of the Membership Committee has met twice. The taskforce recommends that the Idaho charter be removed to clear the way for any new effort to develop an affiliate in that state. Contact will be made with radio stations around Boise so that we can begin to disseminate our PSA’S between Christmas and April, with an eye toward having a team go to Idaho around the third weekend of May to provide information on what ACB is all about. It is the goal to bring an affiliation request from Idaho for the year 2011. Colley moved that the Idaho charter be revoked; Lieberg seconded and the motion carried. Godino moved and Trott seconded acceptance of the report, and that motion carried.

Disposition of life membership funds, Marlaina Lieberg. Lieberg met with Brunson, Dresser and Ruschival to discuss best uses of revenues received from lifetime membership purchases, the first $50,000 of which were dedicated to defray costs for the Braille Forum. This working group recommended that for the year 2010, available funds should be put towards Public relations efforts for ACB Radio, ACB’s web site enhancements, and looking at ways to create new visual interest for the Braille Forum. For example, ACB Radio could benefit greatly by becoming a member of the Association of Radio Reading Services which assesses an annual dues of about $250. In this way, other reading services can have access to our programs as well serving as yet another way to get the ACB word out. It was felt that the bulk of the funding may go toward web site enhancements, but this would be of benefit to ACB since many donors use the web before donating. Lieberg moved and Charlson seconded that the recommendations of this working group be implemented with a report at mid year; the motion carried.

Conflict of interest and confidentiality policies for Board handbook. On Friday September 11, the ACB Board held a training session during which Brunson reviewed in detail the Conflict of interest and confidentiality policies proposed for consideration at this meeting. Campbell moved adoption of the Confidentiality Policy, seconded by Thom and the motion carried. Trott moved and Dillon seconded adoption of the Conflict of Interest Policy and that motion carried.

Brunson advised that this Board may wish to develop an evaluation document; such evaluations are often standard things donors look at when making giving decisions. This will be discussed at the mid year meeting.

Charlson reported that the handbook is in outline form and now that these two documents have been approved, the process can move along. The document will likely be made available on cd and used as electronic files. This also makes it easier to change various components of the handbook as they may need to be changed. She stated that this should be completed by year’s end.

Godino moved that the proceeds of the 2010 raffle go to the funding of the Braille Forum; Campbell seconded, and the motion carried.

Dillon advised that the Auction Committee still has the ability to post items for bid on the web, and is interested in continuing to explore this. There was consensus that if the Committee had the items and could post them, they should certainly do so.

Vehicle Donation Taskforce, Jeff Thom. All is working well and those states who have donation programs are in receipt of their funds, etc. The Taskforce recommends that it is no longer needed, and that funds can be monitored in other ways. Trott moved and Charlson seconded adoption of this report and the motion carried.

The Board recessed at 5:00 P.M. until 9:00 A.M. Sunday, September 13.

The Fall Board meeting reconvened at 9:00 A.M. All Board members were present except Dillon, Gray, Farrow and Vloedman.

Schools for the Blind Taskforce, Ray Campbell. The Taskforce is interested in developing training for ACB members to help create proactive responses around the country as our schools are under threat of closure. It is hoped that the Taskforce will be set to do a presentation for the mid year meetings.

Convention-based leadership training. During the Midwest caucus, concern was raised about the possibility of establishing leadership training at convention. After discussion, it was felt by most that the training should remain regional, and that attempts should be made to apply for grant funding. Ruschival urged that if this is done, coordination occur with convention sponsors. Brunson will work to help identify potential funding sources.

Long range plan. It was agreed that this Board must first review our current plan, then create a subcommittee to look at how to get started with a new plan, possibly including consultants to assist. Charlson and Sheehan will send a copy of the existing plan to the Board list. Charlson, Thom, Brunson and Wilson will compose the sub committee to study next steps. Pomerantz asked that all Board members read the plan by our next meeting in February.

Presidents Meeting Programming ideas. The following is a list of topics Board members felt would be relevant for the next ACB Presidents Meeting.

Schools for the Blind Taskforce presentation; database management program update; moving press releases foreword; filing IRS Form 990S; confidentiality/conflict of interest; oral history project and how affiliates can participate; tips on negotiating for state conventions; how to outreach to the deaf-blind community; question and answer session regarding Phoenix Convention; and Rehab Issues Taskforce presentation.

Officer Liaison Reports. Many committees have not yet met, but the ones who have are working well together and well with their liaisons.

Campbell moved and Trott seconded that The meeting adjourned at 10:45 A.M. the motion carried and the meeting so adjourned.

Marlaina Lieberg
Submitted September 22, 2009
Attachment: Database Report, Chris Gray
Attachment: Database Report submitted by Chris Gray
Since I am unable to attend the Board meeting in Phoenix, the following serves as a report you requested regarding the ACB Membership and Affiliate Database. Please send any questions to this list and I will do my best to answer them.

As was discussed at the post-convention Board meeting in Orlando, much of the back end functionality of the database is completed. Not only does it do what we need for a modern database, but it can be readily expanded to do much more down the road. I'm thinking about donor databases, organizational management, statistics generation, and the many things we need so desperately to conduct business in the 21st Century.

Right now however, the important business at hand is to begin building a front-end user interface (UI) to take advantage of all this hidden back-end function. That has been a significant portion of the work done since Orlando. However, one caveat to that has been that in building up a front-end user interface model, we are inevitably discovering some back-end functions that need expansion or need to be added. In the work over the summer, these back-end additions have related to searchability. In other words, we expanded searching functions to allow a person using the user interface to search on many more fields than had first been considered. This was a significant amount of work.

Regarding the user interface, test screens have been put in place for all user and affiliate functions. At present, users can be located and sorted by name, city, state, and so on. A user record can be viewed, edited/modified and deleted. New user records can be added and the available defining fields for each user are greatly amplified. As an aside, these additional fields were created after consultation with Sharon and Melanie. Adding new ones however is now trivial so don't be concerned if we dream up many more that we want and need. We are not working under the same constraints as we had with our original software. Affiliates can be viewed, modified, deleted and added. THere is an easy mechanism for entering affiliate officers and tying those entries back to database members.

At the moment, my assistant and I are testing all functionality for users and affiliate records. We have found a very few glitches so far, although actual use of the facilities does provide us the ability to recognize certain necessary changes. We expect to have provided all required changes to the programmer, have one more review, and get this portion of the UI in place by the end of September. Assuming we don't find things of any greater magnitude than we have already, this is very achievable. Should we find more serious problems, assumptions and dates below may need to be revised.

The next major piece of work on the UI is to fine-tune the management of users. In other words, each affiliate must have a person responsible for managing their data. For our part, we must put the infrastructure in place of setting up logons and passwords, isolating each members ability and reach into the overall database, and setting in place the rules for member and affiliate updating. As an example, when the designated person from Illinois logs into the database, that person cannot modify records of people who are not members of Illinois Council. Similarly, when a record is updated, a mechanism will be in place such that the affiliate-designated manager of their members and the Braille Forum editor communicate about that change and come to a mutual agreement about it. We anticipate having this work finalized by October 15. The programmer has already implemented some of this functionality while debugging of user and affiliate UI is completed. We are trying to leap frog one another in tasks if you see what I mean to keep things moving.

Next, we must formalize the certification process used by ACB and integrate those activities into the database. This is probably the last really large job for the UI. It is my hope to have a test bed version of Certification available for testing by November 15. I'm anxious about this date and please do not interpret my placing it on the table for discussion as a commitment. It is however very much a goal and if met and if the debugging phase does not uncover serious issues, we can safely anticipate significant database testing by affiliates for the 2010 certification process.

On balance, I'm excited and optimistic about the progress made since our conversation in Orlando. Several major milestones have been met and progress is good, more than I expected. Let us hope that momentum can continue.

Respectfully Submitted,
Chris Gray