Referendum Fact Sheets

Stephanie Stuart just released some fact sheets in regards to the Nov 8 facility referendum:

What projects are included in the referendum and how much do they cost? How do I calculate my tax impact if the referendum passes?

Find the answers to these questions and more by reviewing the attached fact sheets.

Find these fact sheets, the long-range facilities plan, and more at the District’s website:

Referendum Fact Sheet

Tax Impact Fact Sheet



Post at the U4BoardCorner – Kathy Richards explains a little more about where the district is at with presentation information and answers in regards to the referendum.



The facilityplanning website has been updated with a lot of information (blog-style) – this is a good place to start reading:

#EdCampCU at The Pyg – September 16-17

EdCampCU Sept 17 FINAL


EdCampCU is excited to announce a screening of the award-winning film, Most Likely to Succeed, to take place in conjunction with the Pygmalion Music Festival.  The screening will occur at the Art Theater at 5:30 PM on Friday, 9/16 to be followed by discussion.  Our goal is to use this screening as a way to bring people from all parts of our community together to engage in honest and productive discussions about the current and future direction of education and how it can best meet the needs of all students.”

Join us and weigh in with your opinions; Friday’s discussion will spill over to the main EdCampCU event on Saturday. And don’t forget to enjoy the rest of the Pygmalion festival.

Register for the Friday screening of MLTS

Register for the Saturday EdCampCU un-conference

November 8 school facility referendum

According to the NG, the Nov 8th ballot will have wording for the school facility referendum as follows:

“Shall the Board of Education of Champaign Community Unit School District Number 4, Champaign County, Illinois, alter, repair and equip the Central High School Building, build and equip additions thereto, and acquire and improve the site thereof; improve facilities at Franklin Middle School, Spalding Park, and McKinley Field; alter, repair and equip the Centennial High School Building and build and equip additions thereto; demolish the existing Dr. Howard Elementary School Building and build and equip a new Dr. Howard Elementary School Building on that site; alter, repair and equip the South Side Elementary School Building and build and equip an addition thereto; alter, repair and equip the International Prep Academy Building and build and equip additions thereto; alter, repair and equip the Edison Middle School Building and build and equip an addition thereto; and issue bonds of said School District to the amount of $183,400,000 for the purpose of paying costs thereof?”


It’s a mouthfull. So I wanted to take some time to break it down a little. If you strip out the details, the ballot question basically says “shall the Unit 4 BOE take out a loan (or several loans) not to exceed a sum total of $183.4 million?” The rest is “legally required” language that tells voters what this money will specifically be used for.


This grid groups and organizes the proposed changes as a way of visualizing the ballot question:

School Building Additions Site
Central alter, repair, equip build, equip acquire, improve
Centennial alter, repair, equip build, equip
Franklin improve*
Edison alter, repair, equip build, equip
Dr. Howard demolish, build, equip
South Side alter, repair, equip build, equip
IPA alter, repair, equip build, equip

*For Franklin, the School District is proposing to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Park District to “share” facilities at Spalding Park. “Add and renovate track and athletic facilities for Central.”


I grouped the schools high schools first, then middle schools, then elementary schools. For me, I found this easier to chew on and digest (compare and contrast).

What exactly is being altered, repaired, equipped, built, acquired or improved? To start chipping away at that question, you can read the recommended “schemes” that came out of the Tier II committee, or read Nicole Lafond’s summary of the board’s final decision (and deliberation) in her August 15th article:


But to spell it out more clearly, here is how the $208.4 million breaks down.

UPDATED with information from the Fact Sheet.

School Work Total
Central -Exterior Upgrades
-Interior Renovations (75% of total square footage)
-Three Story Academic Addition (with CTE)
-Gymnasium Addition (3 courts and expandable to future fieldhouse/LOWER LEVEL lockers & support)
-PE Fields/Competition Soccer (turf)/Competition Softball (sod)
Centennial -Exterior Upgrades
-Interior Renovations (75% of total square footage)
-Two Story Academic Addition
-Cafeteria/Administration Addition
-CTE spaces
-Gymnasium Addition (2 courts/expandable to future fieldhouse)
-Football Field (turf)
Franklin fields, McKinley Field, Spalding Park -Competition Baseball (sod)
-Practice Baseball (sod)
-Additional Tennis Courts
Dr. Howard -Demolition of Existing School
-Three Story Replacement School facility
South Side -Exterior Upgrades
-Complete Renovation with Health Life Safety Upgrades
IPA -Interior Renovations: general minor renovations
-Addition: Cafeteria expansion, Gym, Library
-Secure Entry: Renovate to provide secure school vestibule entry
Grand Total  $208.4M

As stated several times, the Nov 8th referendum does not address all the needs of the district; it is expected that the district will have to return to the voters for another referendum somewhere down the road.

Some items that I have not been able to find (I will update this post as I find them):

  • A detailed breakdown of proposed projects for each school
  • A final prioritization of all projects (HLS, 10-year Capital Plan, Tier II recommendations)
  • Plans to pay for future maintenance (such a plan is talked about at board meetings, so I believe one exists)
  • A cross-reference of which HLS and 10-year Capital projects are not covered by this referendum




How fast is education changing?

I sometimes teach an evening class at Parkland College. In my “Intro to SQL” class, I have been experimenting with open digital badges. One of my latest excursions led me to, a badging platform that incorporates online portfolios and attempts to form bonds between the educator, the student and the employer. Recently I had an excellent chat with Ben Roome, co-founder of Which led to me reading his own blog post on the intersection (or lack thereof) of higher education and employment:


Ben makes a strong point about how the pathway from “school” to a job is changing. Specifically, the growing trend where learners are taking learning into their own hands:

Millennials have grown up in a social-media-saturated environment where an individual’s contribution is measured in part by their ability to navigate the wilds of the internet and extract meaning without external guidance. This growing importance of self-directed learning can be seen as a natural response to the increasingly rapid pace of change all around us. But this trend also represents something of a cultural shift away from industrial age hierarchies and towards internet era meritocracies–collaborative communities of empowered individuals.


He uses the example of HackReactor, which sounds very impressive (12-week commitment, 98% of grads get a job). But this got me to thinking…. we here in Champaign-Urbana have grown up in a Big Ten University town. This “industrial age” research institution is still pulling in significant numbers of students, and the baby sister Parkland is not doing half-bad either. This tells me that there are still large numbers of students who believe the “old school” school is the way to go.


As I talk to more and more people, I see that “education reform” is happening all the time – it’s just faster in some places than in others. And it doesn’t always look the same, it really depends on what one needs. As cool as things like HackReactor and open digital badges seem, I realize they are not for everyone. The “industrial age” school works for some people. Not for everyone.


So the question I have to ask myself is two-fold: 1) who is not being served well by the current system, and 2) what can we do about it? And while I am ready and willing to support those who are not well served, it is not my place to judge or label anyone. I stand ready to help, just let me know how.


If you want to measure the speed of change in educational systems, ask some key questions. What is the purpose of education? What does education look like? What exactly is a “school”?


Finding the good: board meetings


As with all posts in this “Finding the good” series, it is quite easy to find things that are bad, need improvement, or candidates for complaint. But the point is that there are also good things if one is willing to look a little harder.


finding_good_1Take Unit 4 school board meetings for instance. The current board has taken significant steps to listen to stakeholders, constrain their discussion of public matters to public meetings, and reflect openly on their progress. On top of that, there are often times many excellent informational items that broadcast the priorities of the district. Let’s look at a few examples.

Back in early February, the Administration kicked off a series of “Goals and Indicators” for High School, Middle School and Elementary School. Each document spells out the relationship between Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, fortified with details of the the players involved (and how they work together) as well as specific programs used to reach these goals. For indicators, the presentations focus on how tests are used, how often, what is being measured, etc. Over and above the documents by themselves, the “live” presentation (as one can watch via the Vimeo recordings) were much more charismatic, lively and the presenter often went into much more detail. My point in raising this as an example is that the district is throwing open the doors – there is nothing hidden here. If you want to know how education happens in Unit 4, you can dig into these resources.

Another example are the times when various programs are featured; lots of amazing awesomeness being shared with Operation Hope (and Operation Hope Jr), PBF (Positive Behavior Facilitation), social justice clubs (RISE, “Real Talks”), and recently at the July 11th meeting, Marc Changnon spoke about ‘Education to Career and Professions’ (ECP) and the Summer Youth Employment Program/Summer Trades Apprenticeship. This is just a very small sample of really cool opportunities that our students have. There are also the other partnerships and afterschool programs that we learn about; United Way, Champaign Urbana School Foundation, Tap In Academy, Freedom Schools, etc.

Train-your-mind-to-see-the-good-in-every-situationI will wrap up with the approach this current board has taken to governance. There have been changes, some small, some more noticeable; a new BOE blog maintained by board member Kathy Richards; the Board President now reads through and sometimes asks for details in the Consent Agenda; there is a metacognitive exercise in the form of the question “Whom did we affect and whom did we tell?” at the end of most meetings; communications to the board, in the context of the referendum and facility planning, have all been published on the district website, as well as any responses. In fact, did you know that a majority of the board members were always in attendance at every Tier Two committee meeting? I found that to be quite impressive. Last week, at the July 11th BOE meeting, the board took some extra time to talk in open session about their thoughts and opinions on the work and recommendation of the Tier Two committee. As Dee Shonkwiler was spotlighted as the only member in the audience, the rest of us can watch the video. I point out that the board took time to discuss in open session because, in my experience, this kind of lengthy dialog between board members while in open session is somewhat rare. Why should you care? Because you elected these people to make decisions, and here they are reflecting on all the feedback they have received and telling you what they think about it. We need to do our part and urge others to make their voice known as well – without your participation, there is no democracy. This board is listening to you.

“Own your own education”

This post is a little long – for those that are impatient, here is the “tl;dr” version (google it if you don’t know what that means).

From the ISBE SARC public hearing, it is clear that there is still a bit of controversy surrounding PARCC; some believe it is better than what we had, others believe it is too detached from what students really need. There was a significant lack of student voice, and that particular silence rings loudly in my ears. We must ask ourselves, over and over again, what exactly is the purpose of public school?


My take-away actions steps are to:

  • Form two or more local focus groups, one primarily of students, with two goals; 1) providing feedback to ISBE SARC, and 2) identify changes and the resources to make those changes happen. Right now, I am leaning towards the EdCamp approach.
  • Talk to local SARC member Jean Korder (Urbana Schools 116); apparently, she knows a ton about assessments, and I would like her local perspective on the “good, bad and ugly”
  • Push for more involvement and engagement in the local opt-out group that resulted from the last EdCamp. I very much want student input, and I very much would like to see it not die on the vine. On top of that, I want to learn what minorities think of this effort.


Continue reading for more. Read the rest of this entry »

Last minute news: provide feedback on PARCC directly to ISBE

Going to make a quick post, which I will update later. I just received an email giving notice that the Illinois State Board of Education will be holding a public hearing via video conference tomorrow to gather feedback and talk about PARCC. Aside from being very last minute, the only two locations are at the Springfield office and the Chicago office. Here is all I know at the moment:


In other news, the State Assessment Review Committee (SARC) is holding a “PARCC listening tour” to gather input from students, parents, teachers, and administrators about the second administration of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, which concluded in June.


There are several ways for you to provide feedback, including an online survey and a PARCC public hearing to be held via video conference in Chicago and Springfield on July 7. More details are available in the newsletter below.


I encourage you and members of your school communities to take the time to share your candid thoughts about the successful aspects of the test and what could use improvement. This feedback will be included in SARC’s final report and will also help guide our efforts to make the PARCC assessment as useful and beneficial for educators and students as possible.


Members of the public can share their input in three ways:

1.      A “focus group”- style conversation with one or two members of the SARC committee;

2.       A survey via the following links:

o   Teacher survey:

o   Student survey:

o   Parent survey:

o   Parent survey (Spanish):

3.      A SARC public hearing will be held via video-conference in Chicago and Springfield from 1 to 4 p.m. on July 7.

o   The Chicago location is the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) video conference room on the 14th floor at 100 W. Randolph St. The Springfield location is the ISBE video conference room on the third floor at 100 N. First St.

All feedback will be included in SARC’s final report.


I may be going to the Springfield office tomorrow – if you would like me to forward any concerns/feedback, feel free to drop an email or a comment below.


The number is directly below.  Participants will be in listen only mode until the public comment period begins at which time an operator will provide instructions to participants. This will allow us to make certain that we don’t miss anyone that is intending to speak, and that we don’t have background noise that may disrupt the ability to hear.

  • Callers need to state that they are with the State Assessment Review Committee call.


Dial In Number (Participants – Muted):  1-800-230-1092



Agenda is posted

  1. Introductions
  2. Approval of prior minutes
  3. Overview of 2016 PARCC administration
  4. Review of survey responses
  5. Review of focus group conversations
  6. Strategy for future engagement
  7. Review of 2016 PARCC administration report plan and timeline
  8. Public comment
  9. Closing