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Annual Meeting Held Via Zoom with Packed Agenda


MASWM members attended the June 22 annual meeting held held by Zoom. Also listening were a dozen members who phoned in.
Almost 50 workshops were represented June 22 for the MASWM Annual Meeting. The conference was held via Zoom video conferencing after coronavirus concerns let to cancellation of the original April meeting in Branson.

The intense, two-hour meeting featured a packed agenda with topics ranging from formal election of officers to critical dialogue on workshop funding and MASWM organization.

Although the Board of Directors and some districts have been meeting regularly by Zoom, this event was the first attempt for a large group. In general, the meeting went off without a technical hitch and features such as the ability to share documents were major benefits.

An Unprecedented Time

President Rob Libera began with a review of the challenges that workshops have confronted since March. He noted the Board has video conferenced bi-monthly since that time, addressing issues such as payments by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that were withheld by the governor. A task force was formed to seek solutions, but ultimately a workable answer could not be found.

“We had great conversations, but unfortunately the statutes and historical practices limited us severely,” he said.

Workshop Focus

Several issues involved helping workshops. Dues were approved at the same level as last year but with a $11 lower assessment change shops will pay less for membership. The association will look to reduce costs by postponing action on the vacant executive director position and effectively merging MASWM and its legislative “sister” organization, MESA. MESA’s activities and strategy will become part of the MASWM legislative committee as the original concern over legal limits is no longer an issue.

“We need to focus on our shops and keeping our employees employed,” Libera said. “And we now know, we can continue to do those things (legislative communications) legally through MASWM.” A legislative committee will be appointed to keep those important communications active.

Bylaws

Several bylaw changes were also considered, including one that would allow MASWM to change its districts without changing the bylaws, which requires a vote of the membership. The move was recommended by a committee led by Mike Stroud, who noted districts may need changing because of new workshop members, mergers and other factors.

Other proposals included changing how officers are elected and allowing area directors to serve as officers, rather than the current, separate positions. A key point would add at-large, elected Board members to ensure a better representation of MASWM’s broad membership that includes large and small workshops, rural and urban areas. These and several related issues were referred to committees for additional study and legal research. These changes will not affect the current slate of officers.

In related action, the slate of officers proposed by the nominating committee was approved: President - Rob Libera, Lafayette Industries (St. Louis); Vice President - Brian Hogan, Blue Valley Industries (Kansas City); Secretary - Natalie Couch, Lake Area Industries (Camdenton); Treasurer - Robert Greenwood, Casco Area Workshop (Harrisonville). The appointments are for a two-year terms expiring in April of 2022.

More Workshops, DESE Report

Two new workshop members were announced: Boone Center Industries in St. Peters and SWI Industrial Solutions in Springfield.

Dan Gier, director of the Sheltered Workshop Division of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, reported on the many COVID-19 related issues facing the department, workshops and the nearly 6,000 Missourians with disabilities. One issue involves required WIOA employee training involving Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, the subject of another video conference that was held July 1. The deadline for that training is July 22.

State Funding

The governor’s withhold of DESE’s June workshop funding was a major issue that drew concern from all workshops. A major question will involve what happens in July to state funding, and for following months.

Legislative Consultant Lynne Schlosser reported that she, Gier and Libera had also worked to inform legislators of the severe challenge faced by workshops. “Our number-one ask is to have the (June) money released,” she said. “We provided them with a lot of information to understand how big the impact is.” Several participants noted that some workshops may not recover from the economic fallout and that would result in people with disabilities unable to find employment.

Schlosser said many legislators had not realized that workshop payments from DESE were for work already completed, not for future budgeting. “Many did not understand that the June withhold was for work that was already done,” she said. “I think they were surprised at that.”

Still More Issues

Other topics included rest area contracts reported by Susan Trump and a report on the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (MODDC) from Mike Frazier. Frazier noted MODDC had awarded technology scholarships that helped some shops close technology gaps that became critical with the coronavirus closures.

Future meetings will include the traditional October conference, but whether it will be in person or via video will be determined later depending on circumstances.

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MASWM The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers
If you have questions, please contact:
President Rob Libera – (636) 227-5666 or rlibera@lafayetteindustries.com
or Legislative Chair Kit Brewer – (314) 647-3300 or cbrewer@cuinc.org