Letter from Dr. Howard community

The community in and around Dr. Howard have prepared a letter to the Board and have copied it to local news outlets; there is a possibility that there will be something on the broadcast news tonight. The letter details several outstanding issues with the Dr. Howard building and asks for some form of remediation before 2025.




It is impressive how the Dr. Howard community has come to stand together on an issue that they feel is important.


UPDATE: The district administration has responded, and two board members will be attending the Dr. Howard PTA meeting tonight.

Dr Howard Letter 9 18 14

What happened to that transparency audit??

Some of you may have seen the Transparency Audit post I published earlier today; the author, Brian Costin, asked that I unpublish it until he has a chance to run it by the board. Since Bambanek was on the same email, I did not have a problem with his request. Especially because there is a chance Unit 4 can nab a few extra points pretty quickly and Costin might be able to do another audit.


But still the question I posed to all you remains valid; in the context of transparency, and more specifically the Transparency Project, what is important to you?

National Blue Ribbon

re: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-09-17/st-thomas-more-finalist-national-blue-ribbon.html


This post is about Central. According to the article: “Champaign Central was a two-time winner (1989, ’94)”


This is fascinating. Some think that Central is an “outdated piece of garbage school”, and while I agree that Central does indeed need major repairs and overhaul work, I think it is pretty clear that there is much to be proud of despite the conditions of the facility.


It would be very helpful to see a study that calculates the correlation between the average age of a building versus the notorious “standardized” measuring sticks we use to gauge academic excellence. I would be surprised if there were any strong correlation; is it not the people inside who make all the difference in the world? Which makes me very thankful for the totally awesome teachers we have at Unit 4.


Let us assume that the “National Blue Ribbon” is something every school should strive for. We could then look at every school that has won this prestigious award and find out what makes them tick, what makes them successful. Those elements should be our bread and butter, whatever they are. According to the Dept of Ed, there are two paths to achieving eligibility, “High Performing” and “Achievement Gap Closing”. Also, note that other Champaign alumni of this award include Carrie Busey, Dr. Howard, Garden Hills, Middle school at Columbia and Jefferson. Not too shabby, more so that they won before any of them were remodeled or built new.

Couple of announcements/opportunities from Stephanie Stuart

Last week, Stephanie sent out a notice that the League of Women Voters will be hosting a session on the November 4th referendum tonight:

The League of Women Voters will host a public meeting on Tuesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. at the Champaign Public Libarary. Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand will provide information to attendees regarding the upcoming referendum and answer community member questions. All are invited to attend.




Additionally, a couple of enterprising Central teachers will be hosting an informative and fun session on Math for parents and students next week:

What?             Math 4 Moms and Dads

Where?           3rd floor of Champaign Central High School

When?             6:30pm to 8pm on September 25, 2014

Who?              Parents of Central High School math students
Central Students are also welcome

Why?              While technology has greatly impacted the look and feel of the mathematics classroom over
the last decade, a greater shift in the classroom has been spurred by the Common Core State Standards.  In our classrooms, your child should be part of a collaborative learning process allowing him or her to connect new information to prior knowledge, to delve deeper into information, and to demonstrate mastery of content through multiple opportunities for solving and sharing understanding.  We hope you will take this opportunity to experience mathematics as your child does.

More Info?     http://centralmath.org    click on Math 4 Moms & Dads

Contacts?        Lindsay Polarek and LaDonna Fletcher


Tim Ditman (WDWS) is looking for your thoughts on the Nov referendum

Tim Ditman sent this to me and gave me permission to post it:

I’m putting together a story on the Unit 4 referendum and wanted to see if you knew of anyone credible who’s dead set against it.


If this describes you, his email is:


Sept 8th board meeting has a number of interesting topics

There are some fascinating things being talked about at the Sept 8th BOE meeting next week. For those that are curious, you can view the agenda on boarddocs (you have to manually drill down, as the interface does not allow to “deep link” the agenda directly):



Three topics in particular jump out at me:

  • Community Schools Presentation: Dr. Judy Wiegand
  • High School Programming: New Central and Renovated Centennial: Marc Changnon
  • Memorandum of Understanding – School Resource Officer Program: Tom Lockman



Community Schools Presentation

This is the fruit of Imani Bazzell’s Great Campus labor; it is a reflection of the Coalition for Community Schools attempt to forge partnerships between the schools and the community. There is so much awesome wrapped up here, I hope you have an opportunity to look through the documents and digest this a little. Hats off to SisterNet, Root Causes, “At Promise … of Success” and everyone else involved; you all have done some amazing work.

One of the things that tickles me pink about this effort is that it specifically targets the special needs of at-risk kids, not by forcing them into some kind of standardized or institutional “program”, but rather it encourages the local community to embrace the children (and adults) in a way that is mutually beneficial. They are using the Harlem Children’s Zone as a model. I dearly hope that the larger community, not just the target zones on the north end, will be compelled and inspired to join hands with this effort as well. I know I want to plug in and play a small role in improving the community I live in.

Check out these links available on boarddocs:


High School Programming

Mr. Marc Changnon is just a really cool guy. :) His presentation on being “college and career ready” is very similar to what board member Kerris Lee has been saying about the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS). There are a lot of imbedded ideas that really excited me about these initiatives, speaking as one who grew to abhor the traditional delivery of education the “higher” I got. I love the idea of project-based tasks, of students taking control of their educational path and empowering the students to think critically. I love the hands-on nature of these concepts, of not being satisfied with mere theory, but placing an emphasis on doing it, right now. And it really excites me that these experiences are being tied to larger, long-term life goals.


Memorandum of Understanding

Otherwise known as a MOU, this legal document is the result of the discussions and dialog surrounding the contentious decision to move forward with the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. It is my understanding that there is also a concerted effort to more frequently evaluate the program and provide a deeper level of accountability.



Of course, there are other topics on the agenda as well. If something perks your interest, feel free to share.

Next round of numbers

It looks like DLR prepared a document that Unit 4 has started to use in talking about the Nov. 4th referendum. My FOIA request specifically asked about the low-level, granular details – what I received is still very high-level. And I still have questions about it.


NOTE: All Costs below are estimates



  • What are “Indirect Costs”?
  • What are “Development Costs” such that they are listed separately?
  • Why is furniture, fixtures and equipment exactly the same for the old school and the new?
  • What is “Site Construction” over and above “Building Construction”?
  • Where do athletic fields figure into this?


The school attorney, Mr. Lockman, has indicated that these details will be released after the referendum passes and after the design process begins; my take-away is that the exact costs are not yet known until things are fully fleshed out. A few folks that I have chatted with (a school administrator, a “Friends of Unit 4″ member, a parent) have asked me why I need to know the granular details.  While I understand these costs are purely estimates, my main concern continues to center on the high-priority items needed at other schools. We have built three new schools in the past 15 years while recently renovating several others, but leaving some behind. For me personally, I want to make sure my vote is towards the most fiscally responsible decision. I ask myself, is building a brand new high school and renovating the other worth $150 million, given all the benefits and costs?


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