California School for the Blind
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Report Card 2012/2013

HISTORY
1860-1950

Education of
Deaf-Blind Children

Opportunities
in the 60s

Preparation
for the 70s

Challenge
of the 70s

Construction
Crises/Opportunity
Newel Perry, Pupil,
Scholar, Teacher Leader

CSB History
1980-2010

CSB
Superintendents

The following brief history of the California School for the Blind from 1980 to 2010
was written by Stuart Wittenstein and Sharon Sacks for CSB's 150th anniversary in 2010.

CSB History: 1980-2010

The California school for the Blind moved from its Berkeley site to Fremont in 1980. This move was fraught with much upheaval from the community. In fact, the school did not open until October because of a pending lawsuit. Once the lawsuit was settled, CSB’s superintendent, Mrs. Jean Vlachos, implemented a thriving educational program for over 100 blind, visually impaired, and deafblind students. The CSB staff quickly became a part of the Fremont community by developing routes for orientation & mobility instruction. The on-campus Apartment Living Program was inaugurated. In the early 1980s students from CSB started to attend mainstream classes offered through Fremont Unified School District. The California School for the blind Assessment Center offered comprehensive on-campus assessments to students who were blind, visually impaired, and deafblind throughout the state.

In 1985, Mr. Charles “Burt” Boyer became the school’s superintendent. The school expanded its services to students with additional disabilities and visual impairments. The school began work to enhance its assistive technology services, and to provide community outreach services to LEAs and SELPAs. The school began an expansive transition program, and developed a strong partnership with the Department of Rehabilitation.

In November 1994, Mary Anne Nielsen became interim superintendent. Mrs. Nielsen created an assistive technology lab on campus. She fostered a strong parent/professional collaboration by creating a parent/professional library and an active parent organization. She re-instated the school’s art program, and helped to create an outreach department. In addition, Mrs. Nielsen implemented a preschool program on campus.  During this time the school’s residential program moved a seven day program to a five day program, and all students returned home to their families each weekend.

In July 1996, Dr. Stuart Wittenstein became the school’s sixth superintendent.  Building on already strong programs and talented staff, and with the support of state superintendents Delaine Eastin and Jack O’Connell, CSB became a central resource of expertise in blindness education for the state.  Among the initiatives from CSB in this period are:

  • Expanding outreach, information, referral, and technical assistance in all areas of the expanded core curriculum, especially in assistive technology
  • Developing and implementing summer academies for students from local school district programs
  • Initiating short-term placements such as the Middle School Prep Program
  • Providing statewide staff development opportunities to school district teachers; including National Instructional Partnership events with the American Printing House for the Blind, hosting the Biennial Getting in Touch with Literacy Conference, twice hosting the conference of the California Transcribers and Educators of the Visually Handicapped, collaborating to provide 14 annual Lowenfeld-Akeson Early Years Symposia with the Blind Babies Foundation, the Northern California Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the California Association of Parents of children with Visual Impairments
  • Emphasizing Braille Literacy on a statewide and national basis by assisting California to create Braille reading, writing, and math standards; celebrating the Braille Code with the Lucky Touch Braille Fortune Cookie Company; an annual Braille Bee; and the Who Wants to Be a Braille Millionaire? contest.
  • Emphasizing employment for blind students with the Summer Transition and Employment Program, Apartment Living Program; the Rocket Shop Café; collaborations with the Department of Rehabilitation; and a state-of-the-art community-based instructional programming
  • Initiating short (one-week) course, intensive programming in various aspects of the expanded core curriculum for all of California’s blind students.
  • Advocating for fairness in statewide testing and development of unbiased tests and appropriate accommodations for blind students
  • Emphasizing the arts in the school’s award winning music and art programs.

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