Unit 4 news: annual report, earlier date for physicals/immunizations, more

School has already started for students at Kenwood and Barkstall – everyone else is around the corner (August 19th). As the new school year kicks off, there may be some items of interest.

 

Most importantly, the deadline for physicals and immunizations has been bumped earlier in the year. NOTE: there is a free (for physicals) clinic TODAY! From board member Kathy Shannon’s Unit 4 facebook page:

This year’s deadline is much earlier–your children in Unit 4 MUST have required physical and immunization records turned in by September 1! There’s still one free clinic this summer:

Physicals & Immunization Clinic Saturday, July 25 at C-U Public Health District (201 W. Kenyon Rd.) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Schools Physicals: Free
Vaccine Cost: Billed to Medicaid, Health Alliance, and Insurance (must bring insurance card)
Uninsured and Underinsured: $23
Must bring child’s immunization records
For appointment, call C-U Public Health District: 217-531-4317

 

 

Dr. Wiegand has released her annual report:

http://www.champaignschools.org/sites/default/files/news/files/Annual%20Report.pdf

It is 12 pages packed with a number of positive things going on in Unit 4 schools, from U4 Innovate to the Art Society at Stratton, from Early Childhood and the International Prep to Novak Academy, with a snapshot of the budget, grants, faculty/teacher achievements and graduates.

 

The Education Equity Excellence Committee (EEE, or Triple E) is looking for some new folks:

http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/10730

The purpose of the EEE Committee is to support the Board of Education’s goal of providing an educational system that meets the needs of all students and leads to the attainment of educational excellence by all students, including students of diverse backgrounds.  Additionally, the Committee will foster two-way communication and collaboration between the District and its stakeholders.

 

 

As the new members of the board explore how to better “do” board meetings and fulfill their roles, keep your eyes for small changes here and there. A few weeks ago they posted a draft of the agenda. This week I found a document that lists out board meeting agenda items for the coming year (mostly recurring items that are already known):

http://www.champaignschools.org/sites/default/files/Yearly_Board_Meeting_Agenda_Items.pdf?v=2015

 

 

Next book: Rac(e)ing to Class

Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms – H. Richard Milner IV

This book was suggested to me recently while I was going through another research paper and also reading Putnam’s “Our Kids”. I just started reading Rac(e)ing to Class, and after a 26-page Introduction (with charts!) and scratching the first chapter, I can already tell it is packed with a lot of relevant and timely information. For starters, Milner makes a big point about not using the term “poor people” but rather “people who live in poor circumstances”; being poor should not describe or define a person, but if relevant, it should definitely describe the environment. Milner also is not afraid to tackle head on the correlations of race and poverty, but he makes some extremely astute observations. For instance, because Blacks and Latinos are over-represented in poverty situations, it is essential that we ask “why?”. But at the same time, on the quest to improve school for all students, the way we address inequity in education for other races in poverty situations will most definitely look different, while no less important. Milner, like Putnam, also highlights the significant role of after-school programs and posits that they can be tremendously advantageous for families classified as living in poverty. A little mischievous thought popped into my head – if afterschool programs are so great, why are they “after” school? Why not just do them all day? *evil grin*

Milner states that he desires a systemic change in the way we approach poverty via education, and he makes that desire explicit by yearning for the day when a superintendent will contact him and ask how to change an entire district (instead of being contacted by teachers or a principal). I get the sense that Milner is mainly targeting educators at all levels (teachers, principals, administrators), but not so much community members. I hope to learn more about this as I dig further.

It does give me a mind to do a bit of research on my own. How exactly has the “achievement gap” evolved in Unit 4 during the past 20 years (roughly starting with John Lee Johnson et al engaged the Office of Civil Rights about inequities for African-Americans)? What efforts have been measurably helpful, which efforts have had no apparent effect, and which efforts have been harmful? How do we gauge “help” and “harm”? What trends do we see with Unit 4 families that find themselves in challenging and vulnerable positions?

One last thought. As I read Milner, I am reminded of Michael Alves work; much of what Alves was trying to accomplish with his choice program falls in line with Milner’s method of determining how vulnerable a family is, using metrics like parent educational achievement, size of household and support network, above and beyond just enrollment in the Free and Reduced lunch program.

I will circle back when I have finished reading the book.

In other news, board meeting tomorrow (Monday). The Board posted a draft of the agenda more than a week ago (did anyone else see that?), and while some things have been altered (inserted or removed), I don’t see much of a controversial nature.

Catching a dose of Suli Breaks

Just stumbled upon this guy while browsing, very thoughtful and intellectually provacative.

Why I Hate School But Love Education [transcript: http://lybio.net/suli-breaks-why-i-hate-school-but-love-education-spoken-word/education/ ]

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate [transcript: http://lybio.net/tag/i-will-not-let-an-exam-result-decide-my-fate/ ]

Personally, I do acknowledge that college and higher education does indeed open the doors towards upward mobility for some people. While at the same time, I see many kids getting saddled with huge debts. I don’t know how long it will take for Obama’s dream of free higher education to become a reality, but I think the whole point of what Suli Breaks is trying to make is that you have to decide for yourself what your destiny is going to be. As one quote goes, either you work towards your own dream or you work for someone else’s dream. To me, this is the guts of democracy; informed people trained in the arts of critical thinking.

Deep respect for Suli Breaks. Guy’s got talent.

UPDATE:

Credit to YouTube’s Education Channel – they got a bunch of fascinating videos linked:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3yA8nDwraeOfnYfBWun83g

School Choice: “What if we had a Champaign Metro School District?”

I was recently sent an article about how Louisville (Kentucky) tackled desegregation:

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/03/the-city-that-believed-in-desegregation/388532/

It is a long article filled with quite a few graphics, but well worth the read, I think. Especially helpful is that it not only shines the light on a very common-sense-but-radical approach to racial relations, it also showcases some of the obstacles and problems encountered along the way. It takes the Champaign Unit 4 model and puts it on steroids and scales it out. There is also a comparison to Detroit, a city which has taken a very different path.

The article also falls in line with the current theme of posts on this blog; building community. “The only way to make people comfortable with people from different backgrounds is just to spend more time with them…”

How important is desegregation to us? Why?

Your feedback and opinions are most appreciated.

“It takes a village to raise a child”

Time and time again I have circled back to the thought that one or two parents cannot possibly bear the weight alone of nurturing, educating, training and preparing a child to live “in community”. And every time I bounce to this thought, I wonder “why?” What is it about parenting and raising kids that make it nearly impossible to do in isolation? And it occurs to me that parents themselves have not yet learned everything about parenting; we don’t magically acquire perfect child rearing skills once a kid pops out. And yet there is a much more subtle undercurrent that begs for attention on the topic of raising kids in society; “community” is not merely a telephone book of anonymous individuals. We see each other on the streets and sidewalks, we rub shoulders in grocery stores and libraries, we provide commodities and services for each other, we worship together in churches, but perhaps most importantly, we relate, socialize, talk with, and learn from one another. We are constantly changing, growing, learning – we don’t “arrive” at being parents, rather it is a long journey.

Having just finished Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis“, I came away with three main points:

  • it posits an excellent argument that by investing in the “have-nots” (whether you call them poor, low-SES, low-class, less educated, etc), we better our community overall more than if everyone only looks out “for their own”
  • throwing money at “problems” does not automatically fix them; the more impactful approach is listening to and caring for one another
  • there are no fast-acting, overnight solutions, much less a panacea; we have to be committed to the long-haul

The main point of Putnam’s book is that there is an “opportunity gap” widening between the “haves” and the “have-nots” of our nation. And perhaps what hit me the hardest is that a child does not have a choice into which environment she is born, yet that very environment stacks the deck either for or against her. Putnam carefully researches the differences in opportunity between 1960 and 2000 and discovers that one of the biggest factors in the “opportunity gap” is that the “haves” used to mingle with the “have-nots” much more than they do now. There is a strong correlation between the “opportunity gap” and how well the various classes are integrated. If Putnam were to expand his scope to other countries, I wonder if he would have found the same to be true elsewhere (I am thinking “yes”).

Like Lisa Delpit’s “Other People’s Children“, Putnam points out the many advantages of viewing all kids as “Our Kids”. I would go further and say, in alignment with Dr. Edna Olive of Rocket, Inc, that we are morally obligated to take responsibility for all the children in our community.

Todd Lash, an Instructional Specialist at Kenwood, recently wrote the first of many blog posts (*wink*) documenting the work going on at Kenwood via CTRL-Shift. Titled “Shifting Education Through Local Community Building“, Todd talks about the “powerful and transformative” impact of local learning communities for teachers (and building staff). He mentions that they often develop more questions than answers, which to me is perfect – they have formed an inquiry-based group that is traveling together on a journey. This is just one example of community coming together to make the educational experience for children more relevant by empowering students (and teachers) and providing students with the tools they need (ie, critical thinking skills) to live well in community.

Putnam highlights another “school-community approach” known as the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). Local activist Imani Bazzell has worked with a number of groups to form “At Promise … of Success”, a form of “community schools” approach based on HCZ and tailor-designed for the north end areas near Garden Hills, Stratton and BTW. It is an excellent “wrap-around” system to provide for the educational and social/mental health needs of children and families in need.

Putnam does have a suggestion for those that want a “quick fix”. First, he suggests that all “pay-to-play” schemes for extracurricular activities be addressed, removing any and all barriers for those of “low opportunity” to participate. Second, he suggests you become a mentor. Or if I may extrapolate that a bit, be the “village”.

I will conclude this post by reflecting on a meeting I had at the United Way offices yesterday. I really love how the main thrust of United Way, both worldwide and locally, is to promote and sustain unity as a way to have a positive impact on their three pillars, Education, Health and Income. I learned about the different funding initiatives, how decisions are made, the desire to fund programs and not agencies, and even some of their struggles. In a sense, they are providing a basic “asset-mapping” service in regards to taking the pulse of the community, learning what the needs are, and working to facilitate those needs by partnering with service providers and donors.

I love that there are so many good things going on in our community. We have many awesome people, even some that are yet undiscovered. Who is awesome in your “village”?

Basic building blocks of community: trust and relationships

I have been referred to a number of books, research papers and TED Talks in the past couple of months, and I have observed a common lens through which I am viewing most of these resources – the blueprints for how people optimally work with each other.

Since this post is a little long, I’ll give you the cliff note up front (aka, “too long; didn’t read” or tl;dr). If you want things to get better in our community, you gotta put your pride on the shelf and go listen to someone else. You gotta walk in someone else’s shoes for a little while.

Make sure you check out the references before you completely walk away from this post; the TED talks in particular are quite engaging (Mitra, Semler, Sirolli, Varty).

And now for the full-blown version…. Read the rest of this entry »

This is racism, and it is absolutely wrong

This morning I was forwarded a news article about the “cleansing” of Haitians from the Dominican Republic:

http://m.dailykos.com/story/2015/06/14/1393198/-Dominican-Republic-to-be-Socially-Cleaned-in-two-days?detail=facebook

 

Google shows me several other news stories along that line. And it makes me angry. How can you possibly treat other humans that way?!?

 

Is there even another lens to view this through? I mean, under what circumstances is this even acceptable?

 

Lastly, how does this tie into a Unit 4 blog? As the article starts off, we do have racism in America, just not quite as bad as the Haitians have it, apparently. So on the one hand I am glad we are not dealing with this level of crap. On the other hand, I am reminded that we need to look out for our fellow humans, our brothers and sisters.

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