Tuesday November 19, 1985

Cedar Valley Times.
Tuesday, November 19, 1985

In fight for students, Vinton Unlimited
prepares position paper.

Times Editor

VINTON— Behind doors closed to the news media last night at the Vinton Country Club, members of Vinton Unlimited and local officials discussed "preliminary strategy” in keeping the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton.

     Morris Eckhart, chairman of a special Vinton Unlimited action committee, said today the meeting served as a preliminary strategy session. After hearing input from a Braille school official and others last night, Eckhart said today he is all the more concerned.

     “We’re convinced we’re right,” said Eckhart. “We have to look after the best interests of those kids and with all of this talk about saving dollars everyone is forgetting that.”

     Gov. Terry Branstad is recommending study by the board of regents of a proposed merger between the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton with the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs. It is a part of the governor’s overall plan to downsize state government.

     Director of the Iowa Department of Adult Corrections Hal Farrier and R. Wayne Richey director of the state board of regents, were at the Braille school today, touring the facility with Dr. Richard DeMott, superintendent of the Braille school.

     Should the Braille school be moved to Council Bluffs, the Vinton campus could be converted into a minimum security prison for drunk drivers, according to Branstad’s proposal. The regents and Farrier have been told to explore that possibility. The next meeting of the regents is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in Council Bluffs.

     With a payroll that is budgeted at $1.9 million for the present school year and with the possibility that the city could lose an estimated 100 jobs, the economic effect of the merger to the Vinton community has been at the forefront of discussions.

     “That’s selfish anyway,” said Eckhart, “and a little shortsighted." Said Dave Vermedahl, president of Vinton Unlimited, “I have to admit, when this whole thing began to surface I was concerned about the economy of Vinton. I’ve changed my priorities.”

     The Vinton Unlimited committee is preparing a position paper that it will hand to the governor before Branstad makes announcement of his proposal the first week in December. Norm Cruse, executive vice president, said Vinton Unlimited will send a six to eight member delegation to Des Moines soon to meet with Branstad.

     The main thrust of that paper, to be presented in part at a public meeting this coming Monday night here in Vinton, is expected to focus on the proper educational atmosphere for the blind students. Selected members of the committee are in possession of statistics and studies that indicate blind students and deaf students would not be served as well in a combined facility as they would in separate facilities.

     “In all this furor they seem to have forgotten what will happen to the students,” said Cruse. “Their education should be based on the least
restrictive environment and putting the blind students together with the deaf students would not serve that purpose.

     One facility cannot serve a dual role because there are different needs. We are going to fight to save it (the school) and we think we have enough material to make a convincing case.”

     Asked about figures from the state that indicate the per-pupil cost for 63 Braille students this year is estimated at $42,000, Cruse said, “There are a lot of figures to show that this is not entirely the case. It’s always nice and easy to take the total budget and divide by the number of students but there are so many other things to consider.

     “Our whole tack is positive,” said Cruse about Vinton Unlimited’s effort, “to consider the education of the students and their best interests, and to that end, to keep them here in this facility.”