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GMSAA Summer 2023 Newsletter

Governor Morehead School Alumni Association

Alumni Connection

Summer 2023


President’s Corner
By:  Dr. Ricky Scott

I wish to report to you on a couple of issues important to all. First, out of concern related to a bill that was pending in the General Assembly that placed GMS under the administration of a Board of Trustees, the leadership of our Association met in March to discuss our position on this issue. The Board voted to oppose this legislative action. Following this vote, the Board agreed that a letter of opposition should be sent to the governor. Later in this newsletter, you will find that letter. Despite our efforts with the letter and many calls from across our state, this bill became law effective April 3, 2023. A transition process was promulgated in the bill. The second issue relates to a conversation held with Director Digs who expressed his desire to host an alumni day where staff at GMS and the Association might collaborate on the planning of this event. In April, a meeting was held with staff members of GMS and  several members of us from the Association. At the conclusion of this initial meeting, we agreed to meet again in two months and also that an alumni day event would be deferred until the summer of  2024 to allow for thorough planning and outreach. As the planning of this event unfolds, details will be forthcoming in future issues of this newsletter. Finally, let me encourage each of you to continue to engage in the work of this Association so that we can continue to have a positive impact on the lives of persons who are blind and visually impaired as well as those with other disabilities.

Letter to Governor Cooper

Governor Morehead School Alumni Association, Inc

P. O. Box 61434

Raleigh, NC  27661

President:  Ricky Scott, Ed.D

Treasurer: Timothy W. Snyder

Vice President: Donna Permar

Secretary:  Tamika Polk-Davis

Governor  Roy Cooper:

The North Carolina General Assembly, with the historic leadership of then Governor John Motley Morehead, first promulgated in 1845 education for blind and visually impaired North Carolinaians with the establishment of the North Carolina State School for the Blind (now the Governor Morehead School for the Blind). Since its establishment  The school has  provided high quality educational services to the blind citizens of North Carolina for nearly  180 years.   Many graduates of the Governor Morehead School have achieved lasting success in a wide variety of vocational and professional fields. The school  currently not only provides a well rounded education  to its residential students but also provides educational services to hundreds of blind children from preschool through high school through its outreach and other programs.


Since 2007, the Governor Morehead School Alumni Association has supported and collaborated with GMS through support of its programs and the provision of scholarships to its graduates and advocacy support to advance the  education of its student population at both the legislative and executive levels of state government.

Our chief concern regarding the education of blind and visually impaired students is with  the recent passage of SB62 that establishes three separate  Boards of Trustees–one  for the Governor Morehead School for the Blind, one for  the Eastern School for the Deaf and one for the Morganton School for the Deaf–to provide direct administration of each school in order to be more responsive to the unique educational needs of their student populations. While each of these boards of trustees will comprise five voting members appointed by the leadership of the General Assembly and the NC State Board of Education, two nonvoting members  (ex-officio) members ,will be appointed to serve. One of these non-voting members will be appointed by DHHS/DSB in the case of the Board of Trustees that will administer the Governor Morehead School and one from the Alumni Association or  the President’s designee. At its March 2023 board meeting, the GmS Alumni association voted in opposition to SB62 because of three issues.  One issue  is that the bill does not grant voting authority to the Association’s president or the President’s designee. Also, the board expressed its second   issue that these political appointees may not have the background and experience necessary to address the unique educational needs of the student population, and the third issue expressed by the Board is that this bill does not provide for the Governor’s participation in the appointment of these boards. . Therefore, The Governor Morehead School Alumni Association strongly urge you to veto this bill. For further consultation or conversation regarding this decision, feel free to contact me at (919) 673-8300 or email at


Dr. Ricky Scott, President

GMS Director’s Report
May 12, 2023

Greetings to the GMS-AAI,

As we approach the end of another exciting year for Governor Morehead School, we are pleased to share some of the recent reports and changes regarding the school community as well as some of the experiences for our wonderful student body. 

GMS – Instructional Perspective:

  • GMS has successfully completed actions regarding the recent NCDPI – Exceptional Children’s Audit. 
  • GMS has begun work on its 5-year strategic plan which includes instructional, parent participation, and external stakeholder improvements. It also focuses on braille-literacy and technology instruction for students as well as augmenting Expanded CORE Curriculum opportunities for students.
  • GMS recently received NWEA Study and e-Schools shout out on a national AI podcast.
  • GMS has completed the initial phase of its accreditation through Cognia
  • GMS has implemented a classroom walkthrough process to monitor regular and special education instruction on campus.

GMS – Human Resources Perspective: 

  • GMS has recent attended job fairs and have sent letters and information to the local Raleigh churches for the recruitment of teachers and administrative staff vacancies. 
  • GMS has recently hired an IT Director
  • GMS is in the process of hiring a Safety & Security Manager
  • GMS currently has two administrative and three teaching vacancies.
  • GMS has scheduled a weeklong, full staff, professional development on items regarding universal design with a focus on Visual impairment access , Autism, VI/AT supports, and various other topics.

GMS – Student Experience Perspective:

  • GMS will hold its Spring Musical Arts concert on May 25, 2023
  • Two students received Raleigh Host Lions Club Scholarships (Wells & Holroyd Scholars)
  • GMS has restarted a Scout Troop on campus.
  • Seven students featured on WRAL for receiving barista certification through our Wake Tech partnership program.
  • GMS hosted a recent health & wellness fair that included activities from the Carolina Hurricanes, local Martial Arts, and local first responders’ groups.
  • Work has begun on the Outside Learning Environment/Playground through a pledge of support from North Carolina State University (Freedom by Design Group)
  • GMS students have successfully submitted a project to administration to revitalize Crockett-Peeler independent life skills area for remodeling and ADA compliance.
  • GMS has re-started athletics competition by competing in two recent goalball events.
  • GMS competed in two Model UN opportunities this academic year.
  • GMS High School Seniors visited Aspen, Colorado for opportunity to participate in a unique VI program for learning skiing and snowboarding skills.
  • GMS student recently visited Morehead City and Shackleford banks in connection with science curriculum in Ocean studies
  • GMS STEM/Robotics class recently attended and presented at the NCTIES conference.
  • GMS student attended the Carolina MudCats baseball game.
  • GMS students recently visited the International Civil Rights Museum in connection with Social Studies curriculum and Black History Month

Although this is not an exhaustive list of accomplishments and events at our school, as the members can see, we are continually pressing forward with mission and vision of Nurturing, Innovating, Challenging, and Empowering our students and staff at GMS. 

Your continued support of the school and alumni association is key to lighting the path to success and a brighter future for the students and community we serve.

Best Regards, 
Melvin A. Diggs, Jr.
School Director
Governor Morehead School

Education Committee Report
By Dr. Ricky Scott 

As you know, one purpose of the education committee is to provide educational opportunities to our members and those in the larger community. We achieve this goal through the provision of informational and community resource presentations at both our annual winter and summer meetings as well as separate seminar presentations during the year. Specifically,   on June 17, 2023, the Association will host two CPR training sessions on the GMS campus. More details will follow in this newsletter. In addition, at the August convention, the Association will also provide presentations related to systems change and advocacy, emergency preparedness for persons with disabilities, fair housing and persons with disabilities and non-24.  To ensure that your interests in seminar presentations are considered, please contact me with suggestions at or at (919) 673-8300.

Convention Committee Report
By Tamika O’kelly
February 12, 2023                          

Salutations GMSAA family and friends;

We are pleased to announce some of the annual 2023 convention details.  The event will be held August 11th through 13th 2023.   We will be staying at the Homewood Suites 5400 Homewood Banks drive Raleigh NC 27612. Room rates are $115.00 per night (King suite).  $125 (Double bed suite) 13.25% tax.  Please call the hotel directly at 919 785-1131 ask for GMSAA block. The hotel does not offer shuttle service, so you will need to arrange your own ride to and from the train/bus station.   The last day to book your room is July 20th.  

We are bringing the talent showcase back for the 2023 after luncheon event. Anyone that would like to participate in the talent showcase should contact      Mr. George Littlejohn @ (816) 825 0303 no later than 9 pm or email at

Further/final convention details are TBA in the coming months

Looking forward to seeing you in August

GMSAA Convention Committee.

R&D Committee Report

Please Note:

This committee report contains information regarding its current status as well as accomplishments. The composition of the committee has changed since the 01/28report was issued. We are looking for 2 committee members along with 1 volunteer to assist the Chair and Tamika Polk-Davis with fund raising projects for the remainder of this year.  Therefore, I graciously welcome any   interested      GMSAAI members to contact me VIA of the following options:

Home Phone:  *202* 7220752

Cell Phone: *202* 744-4666

Work Phone:  *202* 205-4109           

  1. Please Note:  These Belk Charity and personal safety alarm totals     are from 2022in the amount of $340;There was no2023 Belk participation. 16 Safety Alarms have been recently  ordered for distribution amongst GMSAA members. 
  2.   R&D chairman has contacted The US Senate for contributions and   obtained the necessary 524 forms for that purpose.   
  3.   Dr. Ricky Scott is anticipating financial success as a result of his requests to: NC Lions Foundation, LCI and Vanda Pharma for support. 

Douglas M. Davis

National Action and Advocacy

On March 10, Harriet Tubman Day, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and supporters rallied in front of the White House and marched to the U.S. Treasury to highlight the ongoing fight for accessible and inclusive currency for all.

As a result of this rally, five members of the American Council of the Blind met with representatives of the U.S. Treasury and Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and for the first time, touched the certified tactile feature that will be included as part of the $10 bill redesign in 2026. The U.S. Treasury agreed to quarterly meetings with the American Council of the Blind to provide progress reports on the key milestones as they work toward completing the redesign of the $10 bill by 2026.

American Council of The Blind | 1703 North Beauregard Street, Suite 420, Alexandria, VA 22311

The Braille Laptop Computer

Press Release

Anaheim, California – March 14, 2023

AccessMind and Orbit Research announced the launch of the Optima™ Braille Laptop Computer today at the 38th Annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference.  Providing all the capabilities of a state-of-the-art laptop computer and adding complete modularity and flexibility in hardware and software, the Optima Braille Laptop pioneers an entirely new class of products.  

Traditional braille notetakers are extremely expensive, have very limited hardware capabilities, lock users into a closed system that is obsolete the day it is released and offer software upgrades that are few and far between.  These notetakers require both students and teachers to learn specialized proprietary user-interfaces and then have to re-learn the use of mainstream computing platforms such as Windows or Mac computers as they enter the workplace.  

The Optima changes this forever by offering all the power, features, functionality, configurability and upgradability that people have come to expect from common desktop computers.  It is an optimal combination of a full-featured mainstream computer with braille and speech output and a QWERTY keyboard in a sleek and compact handheld form-factor; a high-performance Windows-based machine that can accomplish any task from word-processing and internet-surfing to highly demanding professional workloads such as video editing and software development.  It is the only product that puts users in complete control by offering them complete configurability before they purchase it and full upgradability after.

The modular platform allows users to configure every aspect of the hardware and software.  Built upon state-of-the-art hardware, the Optima offers the latest generation of Intel Core i5 and i7 laptop processors, memory options from 8GB to 64GB, onboard storage from 256GB to a massive 2 terabytes and beyond. A choice of braille technology options is also available – Orbit’s signage-quality and affordable TrueBraille™ or traditional piezo cells.

With the latest WiFi 6E standard and Bluetooth 5.2 technology, Optima allows fast and reliable wireless network speeds. The product is also the first Thunderbolt 4 certified Braille device, offering industry-leading data transfer capabilities with speeds of up to 40 GBPS.  It also includes the peripherals expected in a high-performance mainstream laptop, such as high-quality stereo speakers, beam-forming microphones, and a fingerprint sensor and adds accessibility enhancements such as haptic (vibration) feedback.

Optima’s hardware flexibility extends to its ports, allowing users to pick any four from a wide range of popular ports including, USB Type C, USB A, HDMI, SD cards and storage expansion modules.  The modular ports offer plug-and-play interchangeability and can even be swapped on the fly.  Optima also provides a Braille Terminal mode and can be connected to any smartphone or computer and used as a braille display and keyboard.

The software on the Optima Braille Laptop is equally flexible.  The unit comes pre-installed with the Microsoft Windows 11 operating system, the best mainstream computing platform for accessibility and productivity. With Optima, users no longer have to use out-of-date versions of operating systems or wait for the device vendor to push updates to them. They can always stay secure and up-to-date through Microsoft’s upgrade facilities.  Since it is a standard Windows computer, the user also has a choice of screen readers, with support for NVDA, JAWS, Narrator, and Supernova screen readers. The Optima comes with the NVDA Screen Reader pre-installed, configured with speech and braille output and ready to use out of the box.  

For users who prefer a dedicated braille-optimized user interface, the Optima includes AccessMind’s specially developed BrailleUI software.  BrailleUI provides a simple notetaker-like custom-designed braille-first user experience for a set of common applications such as a book reader, braille editor, calculator and file manager to seamlessly bridge the gap between a dedicated user interface and the mainstream Windows experience.  BrailleUI also includes high-quality speech synthesis from Cerence (Vocalizer), in addition to the voices built into the Windows operating system.

Weighing just over 3 lb. and measuring 11.7 x 7.5 x 1.3 inches, the Optima is compact and lightweight but rugged and durable.  The Optima Braille Laptop will begin shipping in the first quarter of 2024.

After the transformative changes that have been brought about in the educational and professional assistive technology field by Orbit’s breakthrough products such as the Orbit Reader and the Graphiti, the Optima now further levels the playing field by offering a no-compromise solution that bridges the gap between mainstream and assistive technology products.


Visit for more information. 

About Orbit Research:

Orbit Research develops and manufactures innovative and affordable products that enable an independent lifestyle for people who are blind or visually impaired.  Founded with the mission to fulfill the urgent need for affordable assistive technology products, the company has introduced breakthrough products like the Orion family of accessible scientific and graphing calculators, the iBill Talking Banknote Identifier Orbit Reader family of refreshable braille displays, the Orbit Slate family of multi-line refreshable braille displays, the O and the Graphiti family of interactive tactile graphic displays that define the state-of-the-art in features, functionality, convenience, and affordability. For more information, visit 

About AccessMind:

AccessMind is a new enterprise founded by Orbit Research and a team comprising Adi Kushnir and Avi Mann, with a mission to transform the Assistive Technology industry by bringing the benefits of mainstream technologies to products for people who are blind or visually impaired.  With decades of experience in the Assistive Technology industry and a proven track record in developing world-leading breakthrough products and technologies at affordable prices, the AccessMind team brings a unique combination of a modern, innovative mindset and tremendous depth of skills and experience to usher in a new era in Assistive Technology. For more information, visit 

Contact details:

Carla Morris

Orbit Research LLC

Tel:  1-888-606-7248


Community Activity Announcements
Blindness and Glaucoma Webinar
Friday, June 16
12:00PM ET

Please join Accessible Pharmacy Services as we discuss blindness and glaucoma with expert presenters:

  • Elena Sturman – President & Chief Executive Officer of The Glaucoma Foundation
  • Dr. Aakriti Shukla, MD – Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center. 

To register for FREE, please click the link below:


Accessible Pharmacy Services, LLC | 8 Neshaminy Interplex Dr , Suite 102, Feasterville-Trevose, PA 19053 


Health and Wellness Activity

CPR Training

On Saturday, June 17, 2023 between 10:00 AM and  4:00 PM the Association in collaboration with Wake-Raleigh Council of the Blind will be sponsoring two CPR sessions provided by certified instructors in CPR from the NC Emergency Management Office. The two training sessions will last for approximately one and ahalf hours each beginning at 10 AM with a break for lunch at 11:45 AM with the second one and ahalf hour training session beginning at 1:00 PM. For each of these CPR training sessions, space is limited to twelve participants in each session. Therefore, to ensure your participation in one of these sessions, a registration fee of $10 is required by all individuals who are interested in receiving the CPR training.   

The CPR training sessions will be held on the Governor Morehead School campus in the Weathers-Hill Dining Hall located at 329 Ash Avenue, Raleigh, NC. Between the CPR training sessions, lunch will be provided to all registered participants beginning at 11:45 AM. As mentioned previously, since space is limited to twelve individuals per training session, it is essential that your registration fee is paid no later than the deadline of June 10, 2023 with your preferred training session of morning or afternoon. While your preferred session may be in the morning, it can only be taken under consideration. You will be notified prior to the training as to which session you are assigned. All checks or money orders should be made payable to GMSAA and mailed to P. O. Box 61434, Raleigh, NC, 27661. Should you have any questions, please call me at (919) 673-8300 or email at    

Dr. Ricky Scott, Chairman Education Committee 


GMS Frederic Douglas McEachern Community Garden Fundraiser
By William  Bubilleja 

 Hi, I am selling these pins with magnetic backing to raise funds for the GMS Frederick Douglas McEachern Community Garden. They are $10.00 each. You can pay through PayPal or VenMo. Message me with your mailing address and I’ll ship your order to you.
VenMo: @william-tubilleja
Image Description: Curcular 1.5 inch metal pin with a GMS bell graphic, print “GMS”, print braille “GMS” in school colors, gold and blue.


Governor Morehead Foundation Fundraising Event
By Deanna Welker


Alumni and friends,

  The Governor Morehead Foundation will be hosting a charity event this fall in support of the Governor Morehead School.  “The Giving Season Gala: A Night of Grateful Gifts” will include a catered dinner, a silent auction of fantastic gift items, and entertainment by GMS band and choral students, with all proceeds benefiting the school.  The event will take place on the GMS campus at 301 Ashe Avenue on Thursday, November 2 (!).  Table sponsorships are an option for those wishing to bring a group.  Individual tickets will go on sale in September.  To learn more, contact Francisco Chavez, GMS alum and current GMF Board President, at    

Lights, Camera, Action:  The Spotlight


In each issue of the Alumni Connection we will spotlight alumni of The Governor Morehead School or individuals who have had a positive impact on the school and its programs.  If you wish to recommend someone please contact the Editor.  


Spread the Word…


Becoming a member of the Alumni Association is easy.  Go to and click on Join GMSAAI to fill out the registration form.  Print out the form and mail it to us with your $20.00 annual dues.  It’s that simple! 

What is the purpose of GMSAA?

1. To promote goodwill among the blind and deaf communities.
2. To work with The Governor Morehead School for the betterment of the student body.
3. To provide merit and charitable awards and scholarships to blind and deaf students who are
pursuing vocational training or post-secondary education.
4. To promote and encourage the education of blind and deaf children and adults throughout North Carolina.

Who can join GMSAA?

Any person who has attended the Governor Morehead School, any campus of the North Carolina State School for the Blind and Deaf, any school that may be established by the state of North Carolina for the express purpose of educating blind or deaf children, or any person who is interested in helping the Association.

Coming Soon to a Newsstand Near You!

The next issue of the Alumni Connection will be distributed at the end of August 2023.  The deadline for submission of articles, committee reports, and announcements will be  August 21, 2023,. 

Let Your Voice be Heard

Who’s on the Board of Directors?

President – Ricky Scott, 
Vice-President – Donna Permar
Secretary – Tamika Polk-Davis 
Assistant Secretary – TBA 
Leola Dorsey
Tifiney Parson 
Yvonne Wright-Kea
Glenn Permar
Carla Smith
Tamika O’Kelly 
Johnna Simmons 

The Board of Directors meets quarterly.        

For updated information on meeting agenda items, meeting dates or times, or other information please contact Dr. Ricky Scott, President at 919-673-8300 or  

Contribute to the Alumni Connection

The Governor Morehead School Alumni Association reserves the right to edit for grammar, content, and formatting any material submitted for publication in this newsletter.  All submissions must include the name of the author. Submissions can be e-mailed to