Colleagues, I find myself in the unexpected position of writing this report for reasons that have deeply saddened all of us. I would be negligent not to begin with an appreciation for Nancie Payne, whose leadership for the past two years, and whose tireless commitment to LDA over the past decades, has made a huge difference and left a permanent mark. It is because of her leadership that I am able to complete this report.
We have accomplished much, and much remains to do…
Our board of 19 committed members has seen strengthening and renewal, as we have added new faces and ideas while retaining our institutional wisdom. This body, along with the executive committee, showed a high level of commitment to the work, not only exceeding required regular meetings but willingly meeting for extra sessions as the needs of LDA evolved throughout the year. Our 18 committees met diligently throughout the year under the leadership of our diverse, hardworking and skilled group of chairs, and have much to show for their work (see below). And finally, our nationwide network of LDA members and advocates continues the critical work of defending and improving the lives of people with learning disabilities in a world that continues to make exasperatingly misguided decisions, denying equal footing to this group of our fellow citizens.
We remain in the excellent and nimble hands of our office staff, led by Mary-Clare. We saw some turnover in staff, and have added Stephanie Fedro in the role of Operations Manager. Our staff stands at 2 full time; 2 part time; 5 contracted who work anywhere from 3 – 20 hours per week.
Because of Mary-Clare and the Finance Committee’s meticulous stewardship of the organization’s resources, the accounting firm of Stelmack, Dobransky & Eannace, LLC, presented the board with a clean audit on September 26, 2015.
The LD Foundation made several awards this year to LDA:
- $5,862 was awarded to the Education Committee for the creation of a comprehensive handbook to help parents and teachers understand the law and their rights, how to navigate the complex process of advocating for and receiving services, and how to keep track of necessary documentation.
- $8,000 (plus an additional $6,800 for setup fee reimbursements) was awarded to the Marketing Committee to create websites for LDA affiliates, both to help them with an online presence to attract new members, and to bring consistency to the look and feel of LDA nationally across its affiliates.
We have been active! Among the many contributions of our many stalwart teammates are:
- After moving the publication of Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal to Sagamore publishers, we just released our first issue under new arrangements with them.
- Through the herculean work of Jo Anna Barnes, we generated and approved a comprehensive study and report of the experience of people with disabilities who apply for accommodations for high school equivalency exams, spotlighting inconsistencies and lack of access to support services. The report poises us to advocate for a remedy.
- The Education Committee designed a day-long workshop for the training of mainstream teachers to be conducted at the conference, as a first step in creating an LDA teacher training program.
- The Education Committee, with heavy lifting by Vicki Goshon, created a comprehensive Parent/Teacher Handbook for accessing services that was sold at the conference.
- In response to the Flint, Michigan lead crisis, a strong team rallied at lightning speed, under the impetus of Pat Lillie, to draft a letter to educate the public about the catastrophic and long-term effects of lead exposure on learning, and the need to fund long term monitoring of children who had been exposed. Additionally, our PAB chair, Jerry Schultz, used his platform with Huffington Post to write a pointed commentary on the long-term psychological impact on families that the conduct of the government officials would likely have in the long term. He spotlighted the government’s moral responsibility to take that in account in allocating future resources.
- Through the able leadership of Carolyn Phillips and Christopher Lee, the Technology Committee had spearheaded, for the first time, a conference app that will let attendees look up all sessions and materials, create their own schedule, contact other attendees, and navigate the conference space.
- To bolster transparency, all committee plans have been put online and made available to anyone who wants to see them. Additionally, we created an online meeting calendar that anyone can access, and made it clear that all meetings are open to any member who wants to sit in.
- We surveyed committees to guide the establishment of co-chairs to help with depth and sustainability of committee leadership, and for how to structure cross-committee collaboration.
- We continue to participate in the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) meetings with board member Jo Anna Barnes representing LDA at the 2016 meeting.
- We continue to enjoy a strong relationship and participation with the founding partners of Understood.org.
I think it’s appropriate to end with the words Nancie said to us in her final President’s Report last year:
“To each of you who takes time from your family, your work, other hobbies and interests to give so freely to LDA – Thank you. No organization can operate in isolation, without partners and countless volunteer hours. For each of you I am grateful for all you do for LDA.”
The President’s Report in the next issue of LDA Today will be written by newly elected President Pat Lillie whom we warmly welcome as an experienced member of our organization.