Tuesday December 17, 1985

Cedar Valley Times,
Tuesday December 17, 1985

Says task force report "tailored" to governor's cost-savings estimate.

S.O.S. gets mad; takes case against merger to regents


Times Editor

VINTON — It's no more Mr. Nice Guy for members of the “Save Our School" committee as they prepared this morning for an upcoming appearance before the State Board of Regents in Ames.

     Upset with various aspects of a proposed merger of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School with the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, the committee met today at 8 a.m. in the State Bank of Vinton Community Building and discussed strategy for their 5-minute appearance before the regents.

     Members of the committee are angry with a “rubber stamp" report prepared by a task force of the regents, with the "throttling" of Braille school Supt. Richard DeMott, and with the 5-minute allowance a local delegation will have to present its case to the regents

     The local delegation, headed by S.O.S. chairman Morris Eckhart and Dr. S.L. Anthony, will attempt to discredit the task force report, suggest the Braille and deaf schools be allowed to continue their independent operations, and suggest alternative uses for the Vinton facility to reduce per-pupil costs

     The committee is also set to defend Dr. DeMott, who admitted in an interview yesterday, he is "being warned to keep out of the public eye because action may be taken against me or the school, particularly if these comments do not agree with the task force report."

     DeMott. a member of the task force appointed by R Wayne Richey, executive secretary of the State Board of Regents, said yesterday he did not agree with the conclusion of the task force report and, "I have been told bluntly not to talk to the press."

     DeMott reiterated his allegations this morning, telling the committee, "I'll be honest with you I'm incensed at the whole thing. The board simply will not talk to me. I've never been this stonewalled in my entire life. I get phone calls reaming me out."

     "Apparently the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to you." said Eckhart.

     "Apparently not," said DeMott.

     The task force report also states that DeMott "expressed his view that the question as to whether the two schools should be combined is inappropriate and should not have been raised. Dr DeMott declined to elaborate on this statement with the task force and indicated that he would provide his views to the Board of Regents."

     The task force report, a preliminary study issued yesterday at 1 p.m. states it is possible to combine the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School and the Iowa School for the Deaf at the campus in Council Bluffs. "The report also notes, however, that the task force "did not have sufficient time to undertake a number of things which need to be considered in depth prior to a final decision" and recommended the task force continue its study and report to the regents in February, 1986.

     The study focuses most of its attention of the economic feasibility of the merger, and estimates $1.1 million a year can be saved by the state government after an initial expenditure of nearly S3 million for renovation of the deaf school.

     The report also states the economic impact on the community of Vinton would be S2.2 in annual salaries paid to Braille school employees and an estimated $5.6 million in retail trade. The study suggests, contrary to a legislative interim committee report issued recently, that a 200-bed facility for convicted drunk drivers could be placed at the Braille school, and in part, would cover $4 million of the retail trade loss here.

     'Those are guesstimates, not estimates," said local attorney Keith Mossman this morning Dr. Anthony also criticized the report, saying the economics were "tailored" to meet Gov. Branstad's $1 million estimate of savings for the state.

     "It's too coincidental enough for me that four weeks ago the governor said they could save a million dollars and now the report says they can save a million dollars," said Anthony, a local physician and 18-year former member of the Vinton school board. "That's no big study I think we ought to tell them (regents) that It (the report) simply isn't honest and they're not being honest if they put a rubber stamp on it."

     Anthony also suggested that the delegation "appeal to their (regents) integrity and honesty and the fact that they are representing the people of Iowa It's very hard not to say 'You people (regents) are defending freedom of expression and academic honesty."

     For the second time in the past week, the delegation of Vinton citizens will be on the road lobbying against the proposed merger. The delegation will appear before the regents in open session this Thursday at 9 a.m. a meeting open to the public.

     Dr Everett Hidlebaugh, superintendent of schools for the Vinton school district and a member of the S.O.S. committee, took a stab at the 5-mmute allowance before the board of regents for the Vinton delegation to present its case, and called for support for DeMott.

     "1 have a tough time wondering just what country we’re living in, I really do." Hidlebaugh said. This is a public meeting I just don't quite understand how this whole thing operates.

     “The whole thing that bothers me is I've never heard our board (Vinton school board) say to people who are even upset that you have five minutes then shut up and get out "

     Last Friday the delegation traveled to Des Moines and met with Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Robert Anderson. It was announced today that Anderson, who pledged his support last Friday to the Vinton cause, would be visiting the Braille school soon for a tour and further discussions with the S 0 S committee.

     Meanwhile, Eckhart is preparing a news release for the media in attendance at the regents' meeting this week, a recommendation on the proposed merger of the two special schools, and a general critique of the task force report.

     The recommendation will carry alternative uses of the Braille school in addition to the continued education of the blind students.