Lot’s of significant things happening, of all stripes. Where to begin, where to begin…..
To start things off, it is interesting and noteworthy to observe how the district is reacting to various parental (and staff) concerns. However you feel about social media, at the very least it does deliver a certain perspective of opinion and thus information. For instance, notice the interactions reported by various individuals in these recent situations:
“A Dangerous Prospect“: families and concerned Clark Park citizens discuss the obstacles and challenges about Prospect near John Street and South Side school. The latest post has some responses from Dr. Wiegand, and so far it is relatively well-received. More important (I think), the “ginormous” signs that popped up recently are sending a message (at least to some parents) that the district is listening and acting in some fashion.
Kenwood PTA: Likewise, the Kenwood PTA has raised some concerns about the status of their “balanced calendar” schedule when they are up for renovation and temporarily move to the Carrie Busey building on Kirby. My impression is that the floor has been opened for parent feedback (using tools like online and paper surveys) regarding what kind of schedule they want in the context of all the renovation being planned. So far, it seems like the Kenwood parents appreciate this gesture.
CP4T: Champaign Parents For Teachers: A new facebook page/group that desires to show teachers they are supported by parents and that the board takes them seriously. Apparently there will be some discussion tomorrow, a call for a show of support at the next board meeting (next Monday, the Town Hall meeting, 6pm, Mellon Center), and a hint that there may be an opportunity to interact with representatives of the Champaign Federation of Teachers (aka, CFT, “Teacher’s Union”) at some point in the near future. No official word from the district, yet.
Next up, I mentioned the Town Hall meeting next Monday. Did you all know the sites being considered? A map is posted on the futurefacilities website; if you zoom in, you will notice that only the Country Fair and the Clearlake sites are somewhat near the current major population density (I had not even heard of the latter – that must be recent?). I am asking that Chuck Jackson bring the two large-format GIS maps to the Town Hall meeting; I believe these maps, aside from being very tangible, give a great sense of scale and scope. The PDF on the U4 website is not very interactive, and in my opinion, the lack of detail and the ability to zoom in even more makes it harder for me to conceptualize the pros and cons of these sites.
I am particularly curious why parents support outlying sites. Yes, I understand the draw for “more land” for the school, which may translate into a more robust athletic offering. For me personally, I weight that against the significant costs of transportation (which we already struggle with). I also understand the argument for “more land” for future growth. I mean, we should have been thinking about the future 50 years ago, but at least we are thinking about it now. Personally, I would rather us find a practical and valid plan that works for the next 20-30 years, one that does not include a $500+ million referendum (or two), and collaboratively plan out “future growth” with the City that may include a future high school later on.
Finally, on a totally different note, Stephanie Stuart recently gave us a couple pieces of “cool things” going on in U4 schools. One is the progress of the Industrial Technology class at Central (as showcased by a 15 second time-lapse video) and the other is a new focus at Kenwood called “Technology and Literacy for the Community.” The latter features the integration of eToys into the curriculum and the collaboration with the University of Illinois. I had a change to sit in on an eToys class last week, and I talked to Dr. Martin Wolske and Kerris Lee today about this program. On the surface, some people are really going to love the focus on computer programming and some are really going to hate it. I would suggest caution at forming a first impression, because there is so much more beneath the surface. According to Dr. Wolske, one of the implied goals is to bring community together to address and solve various problems. What I found very encouraging after talking to both men is that they have a passion to address “big issues” like poverty and illiteracy on a relatively small scale (Champaign) as a stepping stone to attacking it at a larger level (Chicago, other big cities, overseas). How? By giving kids an open platform for creativity, instilling employable skills (both the hard skills of logic and programming, and the softer skills of interpersonal relations and conflict resolution) and teaching kids not only how to read, but to talk, listen and write as well. Of course, there are pitfalls and obvious issues. For instance, we all know there is no silver bullet, no panacea that will address all the issues. When I was working with the kids on eToys, it was obvious to me that some kids really got it (I saw some VERY impressive graphic artists), and some kids really struggle with basic instructions. Parents will be the same way. I am not sure what to do with that.