Friday November 15, 1985

Cedar Valley Times
Friday November 15, 1985

Effort underway to keep Braille school here

Times Editor


VINON — The wheels are turning in a local effort to keep the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School here in Vinton.

     This past Monday, Gov. Terry Branstad cited the need to cut $130 million from state spending and announced a tentative plan to downsize and restructure state government.

     Part of the governor’s plan, to be finalized in early December, is to merge into one agency the Braille school in Vinton with the School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs. While the plan is tentative, it is believed by some state officials that the two schools will be housed under one roof.

     Hoping to convince state officials, particularly the governor, that moving the Braille school out of Vinton would be devastating to the community’s economy, Vinton Unlimited’s board of directors will meet this coming Monday at the Country Club with a group of six local officials.

     Norm Cruse, Vinton Unlimited’s executive vice president, is calling the 7 p.m. meeting a “fact-finding” session.

     "We are taking a logical, positive approach,” said Cruse. “When we go to Des Moines to present our case, we should go down as a group. We have been asked why we aren’t jumping on this. We are jumping on it, but we are doing it in a factual, rational, organized manner."

     Dave Vermedahl, president of Vinton Unlimited, backed Cruse, saying, "We have to respond with our minds and not our hearts. We don't need irate letters to the governor.”

     What the city needs, the two men emphasized, was a concerted and convincing effort to keep the Braille school, its $1.9 million payroll, its students, and the educational program here in Vinton.

     Persons who have been called to speak with Vinton Unlimited’s board of directors are: Ann Jorgensen of rural Garrison, a former member of the State Board of Regents; Kyle Hummel, this area’s representative to the Iowa House; Dr. Richard DeMott, superintendent of the Braille school; Dr. Everett Hidlebaugh, superintendent of schools for the Vinton-Garrison School District; Dr. S.L. Anthony; and Keith Mossman, a local attorney.

     In talking with "reliable sources” in Des Moines, Cruse said it is "confirmed that a merger of the two will be done. The only thing that hasn’t been finalized, and this is where we are hanging our hats, is that they haven’t decided where it will go.”

     Cruse added, "There is a feeling that they are leaning towards Council Bluffs because it has a newer, larger facility.”

     Arguments, Cruse said, for keeping the Braille school or a combination of it with the School for the Deaf in Vinton are wide ranging, not the least of which is the economic effect a move out of town would have locally.”

     “The disruption it would cause to a small community of 5,000 persons is catastrophic compared to a city of 80,000,” Cruse said. "Especially in these economic times, rural Iowa can no longer stand anymore upheavals.”

     Rep. Hummel and Dr. DeMott have indicated that the economic impact is not the only concern of the proposed merger.

     In an interview earlier this week, Hummel said "I want to make certain that all alternatives have been pursued and I will need significant information to show that it (the planned merger) is in the best interest for the blind students...Their interests have got to be paramount."

     Dr. DeMott agreed. "My primary concern is that they look at the educational concerns of the students.”

     Cruse also cited other factors:

—— The state’s center of population is located east of Des Moines, and as such, Vinton would be more centrally located than Council Bluffs.

____ Vinton is located closer to the University Hospitals and Clinics.

—— The Vinton school system has an excellent record of "mainstreaming” Visually impaired students into regular classes. Also, the Cedar Rapids school system has one of the state’s "out-standing mainstreaming programs for the hearing impaired.

--— The facilities at the Braille school are “more than adequate to handle all of the students” of both schools.

     After Monday night's meeting Cruse said 'We’ll have a meeting with the city. This is Vinton’s problem and Vinton is going to have to take a band in this.”