Minutes — February 2017 Executive Committee Meeting

2017 Council and Committee Meetings


Committee Members Present

  • Mary Durheim, Council Chair
  • Gladys Cortez
  • Kristen Cox
  • Michael Peace
  • Lora Taylor

Council Members Present

  • John Thomas

Staff Members Present

  • Beth Stalvey, Executive Director
  • Martha Cantu
  • Joanna Cordry
  • Cynthia Ellison
  • Danny Fikac
  • Jessica Ramos
  • Joshua Ryf
  • Koren Vogel

Call To Order

The Executive Committee of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities convened on Wednesday, February 8, 2017, in the Cedar/Cherry Room at the Holiday Inn Austin Midtown, 6000 Middle Fiskville Road, Austin, TX 78752. Council Chair Mary Durheim called the meeting to order at 3:00 PM.

  1. Introductions
    Committee members, staff and guests were introduced.

  2. Public Comments
    No public comments were offered to the Committee. Committee Member Kristen Cox reported that her son Kyle has recently obtained an internship with State Senator Charles Schwertner’s office.

  3. Consideration Of Minutes
    The minutes were reviewed and no additions or corrections were noted.
    MOTION: To approve the minutes of the November 2-3, 2016, Executive Committee meeting as presented.
    MADE BY: Lora Taylor
    SECOND: Gladys Cortez
    The motion passed unanimously.

  4. Chair’s Report
    Council Chair Durheim reviewed expected absences for the Council and Committee meetings which include Dana Perry and Brandon Pharris. She also noted that new designations have been made by the Health and Human Services Commission for the DD Act programs in that agency. Jami Snyder and Juliet Charron (alternate) will represent Title XIX/Medicaid and Lisa Akers-Owen and Sue Fielder (alternate) will represent the Older Americans Act. Charron and Fielder will attend Friday’s meetings and have been through orientation which enables them to vote. Orientation meetings for Snyder and Akers-Owen will be forthcoming.

    Durheim reported that she and Executive Director Beth Stalvey attended a meeting in late December with Gaby Fuentes from the Governor’s Appointments Office. Despite outreach efforts, only about eight applications have been received to serve on the Council and some of those do not meet membership requirements. It was noted that the DD Act requires statewide geographic representation and membership that reflects the diversity of the state with respect to race and ethnicity and outreach will continue for applications.

  5. Executive Director’s Report
    Executive Director Stalvey reviewed stipend awards that were approved during the past quarter to the following applicants:

    • Family to Family: Events stipend for up to $4,500 for 12th Annual Conference and Resource Fair on January 28, 2017, in Houston.

    • Austin Travis County Integral Care: Events stipend for up to $7,494 for the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference on February 8-9, 2017, in Austin.

    • Austin Travis County Integral Care: Speakers stipend for up to $5,000 for the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference on February 8-9, 2017, in Austin.

    • The Arc of Texas: Events stipend for up to $6,750 for the 24th Annual Inclusion Works Conference on February 12-14, 2017, in Houston.

    • Attention Deficit Disorders Association – Southern Region (ADDA-SR): Events stipend for up to $6,970 for 29th Annual ADDA-SR Conference on February 25, 2017, in Houston.

    • Jewish Family Services: Speakers stipend for up to $7,500 for the UP Abilities: Gaming, Technology and ReelAbilities on February 9-13, 2017, in Houston.

    • Children’s Disabilities Information Coalition: Events stipend for up to $7,500 for the 28th Annual Children’s Disabilities Symposium on March 25, 2017, in El Paso.

    • The Arc of Texas: Events stipend for up to $3,750 for the Legislative Advocacy Training and Advocacy Day at the Capitol on April 6, 2017, in Austin.

    • Coalition of Texans with Disabilities: Events stipend for up to $5,591 for the 37th Annual Convention on April 5-7, 2017, in Austin.

    Stalvey provided several updates on TCDD staff. She reported that Sonya Hosey is on extended medical leave and has applied for disability retirement. Interviews will be conducted in February for Grants Management Specialist position vacancies. Stalvey noted that Megan Regis is no longer with TCDD as a Public Policy Specialist. Two interns have been selected to work part-time with TCDD on a contract basis in the public policy and communications areas. Jeremy Cana is a senior at the University of Texas studying Government and Chris Frasquieri is a senior at St. Edwards studying Environmental Science and Policy. Stalvey also reported that due to a change in the administrative needs of the agency, Fernando Rodriguez will now serve as an Operations Assistant and will provide more general support to all divisions in addition to grants management and planning. Chair Durheim expressed her gratitude to members of the Grants Management division and specifically commended Grants Management Director Cynthia Ellison for additional work during the extended vacancies in that division. Stalvey also noted that although Governor Abbott announced a hiring freeze for state agencies, TCDD should still be able to fill vacancies as needed since our positions are 100% federally funded.

    Stalvey reported that the Annual Program Performance Report was submitted on December 31, 2016, and that she will provide highlights of the report at the Council meeting.

    The Partners in Policymaking project continues to make progress and is now marketing to the public to recruit applicants. Social media sites are available and the website will be live this week. Applications for class participants will be accepted through May 1, 2017. The Project Advisory Committee will assist project and TCDD staff members in the selection of class participants.

    TCDD recently received an upgrade of leased computer equipment with updated software, coordinated through Texas Education Agency. Staff members are expanding their use the video-conference equipment recently purchased for the conference room including the GoToMeeting software. The Nominating Committee meeting was conducted with this technology and received positive feedback.

    The Committee discussed upcoming conferences including the Disability Policy Seminar which takes place in March in Washington, DC and the NACDD Conference which takes place in July in Salt Lake City, UT. Members who wish to attend should contact Stalvey or Durheim.

  6. Disproportionalities and Disparities
    Executive Director Stalvey reviewed a document on special education disparities for English Language Learner (ELL) students that will be further discussed in the Public Policy and Project Development Committees. She reminded members of the State Plan goal that calls for TCDD to collaborate with three community-based organizations to reduce disparities arising from linguistic and cultural barriers that prevent individuals who are Spanish speaking from receiving services by September 30, 2021. She noted that 7.3% of ELL students receive special education services compared to a national average of 13%. She also referenced a bill filed in the 85th Texas Legislature that would eliminate the requirement and funding for bilingual special education services and make it optional to provide services in the primary language for schools with 20 or more students speaking that language. Members discussed the outcomes for students who need but do not receive these services and Chair Durheim recommended contacting Salvador Hector Ochoa who is an author and nationally recognized expert on the assessment of culturally and linguistically diverse students for further education on the subject.

    It was suggested that a database or repository of information about cultural disparities as they related to people with developmental disabilities would be helpful for members and it was noted that the DD Network Partners have discussed similar resources. Stalvey reported that TCDD has applied to AIDD on behalf of the DD Network to participate in a National Disparity Leadership Academy that focuses on disparities and the application cited the specific topic of disparities of ELL students receiving special education.

  7. Grant Activity Reports
    Grants Management Director Ellison reviewed the Independent Audit Status Report noting that three projects had independent audits during the previous quarter and there were no significant findings. She also reviewed the Risk Assessment of TCDD Projects and reported that the Building Community Capacity through Collaboration project at Volar has been moved to Extensive Risk monitoring due to issues from the recent onsite review. Ellison noted that the information contained in the Grants Monitoring Exceptions Report has been simplified to note which projects received an onsite review, the date of that review, and if the review is complete or documentation is still pending.

  8. TCDD Quarterly Financial Report
    Operations Director Martha Cantu reviewed the FY 2017 TCDD Administrative and Expense budget, noting that expenses are on track for year-to-date expenditures with 22% of the budget spent. The second letter of federal funding for FY 2017 has been received and the final letter is expected in April with a level equal to FY 2016.

    Cantu next reviewed the Summary of Funds report and noted that Grants Management staff are working with grantees to ensure that all FY 2015 funds assigned to those projects are spent appropriately because any unspent funds from that fiscal year must be returned to AIDD. Although some funds may be returned, it is expected to be minimal. The report shows a small negative balance for FY 2016 but staff have identified projects that are not expected to spend all allocated funds so the balance will not remain in the negative. The negative balance for FY 2017 will likely not remain because funds are held for planned projects that have not been awarded.

  9. Consideration of New Grant Awards
    TCDD Planning Director Joanna Cordry provided a review of past youth leadership and development projects and discussed the current Youth Leadership Development Request for Proposals (RFP) with funding approved for up to three projects for up to five years. The goal of the RFP is to train 150 people between the ages of 14 and 22 in self-advocacy with at least 5% moving on to advanced training and 10% of attendees continued participation in statewide advocacy organizations.

    Nine proposals were received and Planning Specialist Danny Fikac presented the summary noting that one proposal did not complete the required application process and three proposals were not ranked by the independent review panel or considered eligible for funding. Fikac presented comments from the Independent Review Panel for five ranked proposals. Cordry reviewed the checklists completed by staff which evaluated criteria such as consistency with the TCDD State Plan, reporting and fiscal compliance with previous projects, meeting the needs of under-served populations and geographic areas, and responsiveness to the RFP requirements.

    The proposal from SAFE Alliance presented a goal to create an experientially-based youth leadership development program to support transition-aged students (18-22) with developmental disabilities to share information, develop skills, and establish personal plans to become advocates/leaders. Strengths of this proposal included inclusion and input from people with disabilities in its development, promising practices for sustainability, experience in similar projects including components of a nationally recognized program, a detailed work-plan, focus on safety and self-advocacy in interpersonal relationships, and serving diverse populations. Weaknesses cited were a missed opportunity to focus on individuals in the foster care system and the limited target age of 18-22 instead of 14-22 as well as questions about match funding for later years of the project. The checklist completed by TCDD staff did not raise significant concerns for this applicant. The proposal was consistent with the RFP and was noted to be unique because it involves relationship building in addition to training.

    The proposal from Volar presented a goal to provide youth with the opportunity and experience to learn and share information, acquire leadership skills, and develop long-range advocacy plans that will empower them to reach their maximum potential and be contributing citizens in their community. It would also partner with organizations to provide training for parents to support the leadership and self-advocacy development of their children. Strengths of the proposal included well rounded and inclusive practices, involvement of parent organizations, youth mentoring youth, strong collaborative efforts from other organizations, and outreach to the colonias. Weaknesses included questionable sustainability following the conclusion of the project, limited scope of a proposal for a 3-day forum, and no inclusion of youth in the Project Advisory Committee (PAC). The staff-completed checklist cited concerns with a current Volar grant in spending patterns as well as deficiencies noted in desk audits for 2013, 2014, and 2015. In response to questions from Chair Durheim, staff acknowledged that the current project requires staff time “above and beyond” other projects.

    The proposal from Mounting Horizons would establish a Young Adults Advocates Leadership (YAAL) club to engage and educate 150 youth with developmental disabilities from area schools to promote sustainable leadership through personal exploration and experiential learning. Strengths include inclusion of people with developmental disabilities on staff and in the PAC, outreach to racially diverse groups, advocacy and opportunities at multiple levels, and inherent public awareness, outreach, education and advocacy. Weaknesses include ambitious and questionably attainable milestones for the first year, curriculum that has not been specifically used and would need to be modified for people with disabilities, implementation (after training) that would fall on local school districts, and questions of sustainability. The staff-completed checklist cited no concerns, and noted that Mounting Horizons has not had previous projects funded by TCDD. The project proposes to work in Galveston county which is an urban but not inner city setting and does not note specific strategies to do outreach to under-served populations.

    The proposal from Texas A&M University proposes a scale-up leadership project which aims to train 200 self-advocates and elevate leadership training to a level that would produce 15-20 advanced and active leaders who can lead change at state/national levels. Strengths include previous success with training in this area, strong collaborative efforts and increased public awareness, highly qualified staff, inclusion of other grantees’ program participants in the advanced training, and focus on a rural lower-income area of the state. The main area of weakness for this proposal is that many of the described programs are already in place and this project would expand the number of participants. Staff noted that it would expand training from basic to advanced levels. In the staff-completed checklist, it was noted that previous projects have had a difficult time meeting quorum requirements for PAC meetings and that monthly Requests for Reimbursement reporting was required due to slow expenditure of funds.

    The proposal from Educational Programs Inspiring Communities, Inc. (EPIC) would provide employment training, advocacy training, health and wellness education and a mentoring program for youth aged 16 and older. The major activity would be the creation of an innovative school-year program for 25 students aged 18-22 and a summer program for 25 students aged 16-22 to serve a total of 50 unduplicated participants each year. Strengths include collaboration with non-traditional partners such as the Houston Food Bank which improves opportunities for sustainability, extensive research into participant needs, inclusion of students in the foster care system and a mix of learning and experience that is likely to maintain student interest. The main weakness is the targeted age of participants but this is necessary due to the employment focus. The staff-completed checklist cited no concerns with previous grants and noted a commitment to recruiting and including members of under-served populations.

    Committee members discussed the merits of each application and debated the strengths and weaknesses of each application individually and made recommendations for funding.

    MOTION: To approve up to $125,000 per year for up to five years in grant funding to SAFE Alliance for a Youth Leadership Development project.
    MADE BY: Kristen Cox
    SECOND: Lora Taylor
    The motion passed unanimously.

    MOTION: To approve up to $111,302 per year for up to five years in grant funding to Mounting Horizons for a Youth Leadership Development project.
    MADE BY: Kristen Cox
    SECOND: Lora Taylor
    The motion passed unanimously.

    MOTION: To approve up to $125,000 per year for up to five years in grant funding to Educational Programs Inspiring Communities, Inc. (EPIC) for a Youth Leadership Development project.
    MADE BY: Lora Taylor
    SECOND: Gladys Cortez
    The motion passed unanimously.

    Chair Durheim directed Grants Management staff to negotiate start dates for these projects based on staff availability.

    Cordry next presented a proposal for an Outreach and Development project from Kings and Queens Community Center which was evaluated per policy by TCDD staff members. She noted that although the organization proposes needed supports and services, they are not specific to people with developmental disabilities and does not meet the intent of the RFP. No motion was offered from Committee members.

  10. Consideration of Review Panel Members
    Planning Specialist Fikac presented four names and stated qualifications of individuals who have submitted applications to serve as Independent Review Panel Members. He noted two additional applicants who did not provide sufficient detail in their applications and attempts to contact these individuals were met with no response. Members discussed the applications presented and recommended to add two individuals to the Review Panel list.

    MOTION: To approve John Morris and Stephens Hesma to be included in the list of potential TCDD Independent Review Panel members.
    MADE BY: Lora Taylor
    SECOND: Kristen Cox
    The motion passed unanimously.

    Members also discussed the required content of the application to serve as a member of an Independent Review Panel and asked staff to revise the application to include additional information about qualifications.

  11. Conflict of Interest Disclosure
    Committee members reviewed updated conflict of interest disclosure information for Council members and staff. No concerns were noted.

  12. Other Updates
    It was noted that Jason Sabo of Frontera Strategy will present advocacy strategies for the legislative session to the Committee of the Whole.


Chair Durheim adjourned the Executive Committee at 5:30 PM

Beth Stalvey, Secretary to the Council