Future Reflections Convention 1992, Vol. 11 No. 5


by Debra Smith

     "What a great meeting! Even the elections were fun!" This was just one of the many enthusiastic comments made following one of the most lively and productive annual meetings ever held by the POBC in our nine-year history.

     The meeting began at 1:00 and was conducted at a brisk clip so we could adjourn at 3:00. President Cheadle took advantage of the increased amount of meeting room space our convention arrangements gave us this year, and scheduled five concurrent workshops from 3:00 to 5:00. Somehow, Mrs. Cheadle managed to cram a presidential report; elections; state division and committee reports; a presentation from our Educator of Blind Children award winner; and a presentation from Student Division representative, Melissa LaGroue into two hours.

     One of the highlights of the meeting was a presentation from our 1992 NFB Educator of Blind Children award winner. This award was created by the National Federation of the Blind four years again order to emphasize our organization's commitment to excellence in the education of blind children. The 1992 winner is an educator who is especially well known to parents who attend our national conventions. Ever since she attended her first Federation convention, Ruby has made it a point to make herself available to any parent or teacher attending the convention. Over breakfast, lunch, or dinner; between meetings and sessions; and late at night, Ruby fills her time listening, teaching, encouraging, and sharing her vast knowledge with parents and teachers. She regularly participates in the annual parents seminar and helps conduct various workshops for parents. 1992 was no different. She gave an outstanding presentation at the parents seminar on Sunday (see page 10 in this issue) and conducted one of the finest IEP workshops POBC has ever sponsored. Mrs. Ryle's award was well earned, and we know that she will continue to earn it by giving outstanding service to children she serves directly, and by indirectly improving the lives of other children though her volunteer activities in the Federation.

     Melissa LaGroue, a recent college graduate, a former NFB Scholarship winner, and an active leader in the NFB Student Division, talked about what our blind sons or daughters will encounter when they become eligible to take the PSAT and SAT tests. Some of the rules regarding taking the tests in adapted formats are reasonable, some are troublesome. President Cheadle said she had asked Scott LaBarre, president of the Student Division, to provide us a speaker on this topic because parents and students should join forces in addressing the issues related to national testing services. Parents were definitely interested in the topic, and there were more questions than could be addressed in the time we had. However we will be hearing more about the issue in the year to come and at next year's parent’s seminar or annual meeting.

     Various state and regional POBC divisions and chapters also gave brief reports on their activities in the past year. President Cheadle first called on Maryland--her own state--to give a report. The POBC of Maryland has been very active indeed. President Loretta White reported that the NFB of Maryland finally prevailed in our fight for Braille with the passage of a Braille Literacy bill. Naturally, parents had played an important role throughout the months leading up to this victory. The POBC/MD sponsored their usual projects and activities--a trip to the farm, a Christmas party, booths at conferences, fairs, etc.; an open house at the National Center for the Blind. New projects included: a $1,300 grant from a private foundation to send parents to national convention; a grant from a local Lions club to fund a White Cane Bank for blind children in the state; and a liaison between the POBC/MD and the nursing and social work departments at the Johns Hopkins world renowned Wilmer Eye Clinic.

     One of our newest POBC divisions, New Jersey, gave a report which indicates it is well on the way to becoming one of our largest and most active POBC divisions in the country. President Carol Castellano and Elizabeth Klunek did an outstanding job of organizing the new POBC division. The division meets monthly, publishes a newsletter, and is beginning plans to conduct a parents seminar this coming Fall.

     The POBC of Colorado, headed by Julie Hunter, reported on what was perhaps the largest and most ambitious projects yet taken on by a state POBC division. With funding from a local church, the NFB and POBC of Colorado sponsored a regional two-day conference for parents of blind children in December, 1991. The conference drew parents from Wyoming, Kansas, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. Running concurrently with the parents conference were two special workshops for blind children and youth who were invited to attend with their parents. College students and students from the NFB Colorado Center for the Blind also participated in the workshops. Nationally known speakers on the agenda included Ruby Ryles (the 1992 Educator of Blind Children award winner), Fred Schroeder (Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and one of the top Braille experts in the country), and President Barbara Cheadle, who gave the keynote speech at the conference.

     We also heard reports from a good many other state POBC divisions, regional chapters, and NFB affiliates which have had activities for parents and children in the past year. (Although we do not have an organized parent division in every state, most NFB affiliates have committees or projects concerning blind children, their parents, and the education of blind children.) 1991-1992 has been a great year for the NFB Parents Division all around the country.

     Finally, the meeting was wrapped up with elections. Because of our growth, the POBC board had sought--and was granted—approval from the NFB board to expand our board by two positions. We now have five officers and four board members, for a total of nine on the POBC board. Officers are elected for two-year terms, and board positions are one-year terms. This year, all positions were up for re-election. Barbara Cheadle was re-elected president by acclamation and received a standing ovation. Also receiving a resounding unanimous vote of approval were first vice president, Ruby Ryles, Washington; second vice president, Carol Castellano, New Jersey; secretary, Marty Greiser, Montana; and treasurer, Debra Smith, Iowa. The elections for board positions took a little more time since there was some lively, but friendly, competition. Board members who were elected for the coming year are: Kathy Watts, Arkansas; Sunny Emerson, Michigan; Julie Hunter, Colorado; and Myra Lesser, Pennsylvania.

     Following adjournment, members were given the choice of attending one of five workshops. The workshops were: IEP Workshop, chaired by Ruby Ryles; Introduction to the NFB, chaired by  Denise Mackenstadt; Technology and Blind Children, Tom Balek; Tactile Pictures for the Blind, Dr. Morton Heller and Dr. Paul Gabias; and Organizing and Strengthening NFB Parent Divisions, chaired by Sharon Maneki with panel members Loretta White, Carol Castellano, Dorothy Cofone, and Elizabeth Klunek.