Monday, September 7, 2015


RantWoman is aware that she should address Gov. Jay Inslee directly. RantWoman intends a polite, respectful email saying “here’s a blog post. Would you please consider adding more blind people to the committee defining the nationwide search process for the superintendent of the WA State School for the Blind ?”

 But the blog post is because something needs a little crowdsourcing. RantWoman is unclear that her blog has enough of the right readers to provide the needed crowdsourcing, but RantWoman feels compelled to offer an opinion anyway, and for complex reasons to offer her opinion as RantWoman rather than in a more subdued and respectful voice. The opinions here are RantWoman’s. RantWoman despite being the chair of a state committee for one of the national blindness consumer groups is speaking ONLY for herself, from her own perspective and without any effort to come to joint agreements with anyone else.

 WA State School for the Blind Superintendent Dean Stenjhem is retiring on a timeline conducive to a nationwide search. The problem with the search process so far, according to conversation at a recent meeting RantWoman attended: there is only one blind person on the 5-person committee defining the process of the nationwide search. EVEN THOUGH this is only the committee defining the process, RantWoman thinks probably there should be more blind people on this committee AND that the nationwide search should provide whatever process evolves ample opportunity to work with a variety of blind people.

 Look, blind people are really diverse. It’s not fair to anyone to expect one person to represent all of us. If you put more than one of us in a room, half the time we cannot even agree on reasonable lighting. Lighting? YES because only about 3% of people classified are totally no light perception blind but a lot of the rest of us have all sorts of approaches for managing light and whatever is not happening as preferred with our eyes!. Mix in educational approaches, nylon, graphite, or aluminum canes or a whole bunch of other blindness esoterica.

RantWoman has no basis for knowing whether the one person on the appointed committee is a member of either major national blindness consumer organization. Both organizations are represented on the WSSB board. RantWoman knows and is impressed with the people on the WSSB board from both organizations.


When RantWoman is striving for fair and balanced, she thinks if either organization is to be involved in defining the search process, both organizations should be represented. At a minimum those putting together the search process need to be aware:


·       There is more than enough advocacy and education work for two or more organizations.


·       One organization exists because many affiliates and individual members were expelled from the other organization at one point. Many of the oldest members of the former organization are in that number.


·       One organization does not care whether people belong to local chapters of both; many chapters and affiliates of the other organization expel people who join the counterpart organization. Further, RantWoman knows a number of VERY on-the-ball blind people who have been expelled from the latter organization or who avoid both national consumer groups because of this contentious history.


·       One national organization has an LGBT affiliate; the other does not.


·       In college RantWoman had a blind roommate who spent considerable time lobbying for the creation of a feminist affiliate of the latter organization. This did not occur.


Today, RantWoman personally prefers to cultivate diplomatic relations:


·       RantWoman’s Tweet stream includes insightful comments from the keynote speaker at the second organization’s national convention.


·       RantWoman holds in high regard several people she knows from the other organization…


·       RantWoman tries to pay attention when she has stepped on someone’s toes.


·       RantWoman cringes sometimes in conversations where people speak with vehemence of either organization and then cringes again for the ongoing conversational awkwardness.


In fact, although RantWoman would definitely like there to be more blind people on this process definition committee and certainly involved in the search process, NO, RantWoman does not automatically assume that people should come from either of the national consumer organizations.


There are plenty ofboth highly functional blind professional and awesome underutilized blind people all over the country. RantWoman really hopes that any search firm involved in this process comes away with a sense of inspiration about the value of working with blind people and considering them as regular candidates, never mind matters of blindness.


If an article is helpful to this process, RantWoman would say you could do worse than this one.


As for points RantWoman considers important in a new superintendent:


·       Solid commitment to Braille. Knowledge of Braille is associated with superior spelling, better employment status and many positive outcomes. WA has historically had a strong commitment to Braille education and RantWoman does not expect it to go away. RantWoman mentions this anyway just to underscore its importance.


·       Attention to the needs both of residential students and to students who attend school in mainstream classrooms but benefit from summer residential programs. RantWoman says this based on knowing people who benefitted greatly from options for summer activities in other states even though they were mainstreamed.


·       Global vision and commitment to collaboration and distance education.


That’s probably enough to start. And NO, RantWoman has not said one way or another whether a new superintendent should be blind. RantWoman has different opinions on different days about this.


There. Comments?


Note: RantWoman moderates comments but would be GLAD if these modest offerings generate vigorous discussion.

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