Thursday December 19, 1985

Cedar Valley Times,
Thursday December 19, 1985

Regents want more facts on merger; Anthony, DeMott make emotional appeals

Times Editor

AMES — The State Board of Regents voted unanimously this morning to continue its feasibility study on the proposed merger of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School with the Iowa School for the deaf in Council Bluffs.

     After hearing emotionally-charged speeches by Dr. Richard DeMott. superintendent of the IBSSS, and Dr. S.L. Anthony, spokesman for the Vinton  “Save Our School" Committee, the regents moved on a voice vote to continue their probe of combining the two special education programs on the campus of the Iowa School for the Deaf.

     Calling attention to the "preliminary" status of the report. Regent Peg Anderson of Bettendorf said no decision has been reached on the merger as proposed by Governor Terry Branstad. A more detailed report will be delivered to the regents before their February meeting. Board members were encouraged to tour the Vinton facilities before then.

     Anderson said more "facts" were needed by the regents before they could deliver a recommendation on the merger,

     "How can we make a decision without continuing this study" Anderson asked. " I think it's a disservice to the people of Vinton and to the students of the school to imply that a decision has been made."

     The regents do not appear anxious to complete the merger. One board member, Percy Harris of Cedar Rapids, said if he had to vote on the issue today, he would be opposed to the merger other regents, most notably Charles Duchen of Des Moines, questioned the educational soundness of such a move and cautioned against creating an educational "discount store."

     While opposition to the merger gained support, the S.O.S. committee in Vinton lost ground in the public relations arena. During Dr. Anthony's delivery, one marked by criticisms of the task force's feasibility study and questions about the report's integrity – two regents said they felt insulted by the S.O.S. presentation today.

     "I think you are insulting my intelligence," said Duchen. Other regents went on the record in support of their executive secretary. R Wayne Richey. and his staff, who were labeled by DeMott as people "without expertise and without knowledge" of the educational aspect of the merger.

     The proposed merger is part of Gov. Branstad's plan to reorganize and downsize state government. The governor's plan is aimed primarily at cutting a projected $107 million deficit for the state. According to the task force report issued this past Monday, the proposed merger of the two schools would save the state $1.1 million a year, but also would need an initial $3.1 million for renovation of the ISD and placemen! of the Braille school program in Council Bluffs.

     DeMott was one of five members of that task force, but he strongly disagrees with its conclusion that a merger is 'feasible." During his presentation, DeMott said combining the two schools was not educationally sound nor the "responsible thing to do."

     Saying the proposal was multifaceted, DeMott identified the basic issue as "the education of special education students."

     “What we have here, I believe very strongly, is an educational issue," said DeMott. “It deals with the special education of handicapped children in the state of Iowa.  And it does not deal with just these 63 children residing on that campus. It deals with every visually-impaired child in the state I think it has implications for all of special education.”

     "First of all, we have two very divergent populations," DeMott continued "In many respects, these two particular populations are more divergent than any other groups of handicapped children. As an aside, then why do we find them put together so many times. A very archaic, old notion before special education as we know it today. Special education as we know it is a very recent thing (Combining the two) is not educationally sound."

     DeMott finished by saying the proposal to merge the two schools "runs against the preponderance of the evidence."

     "I cannot as a professional, I cannot as an administrator, as an educator, as a human being who cares about the social welfare and the educational welfare of the students recommend a move that is disruptive and really tears apart an instructional program. This proposal is simply taking us in the wrong direction and in the process it is depleting our resources."