Aug 24th BOE meeting (with new “candid conversation”)

Just dashing off a quick post here, but last night’s meeting was certainly intersting. The News-Gazette’s Nicole Lafond has a couple articles, one from the meeting itself, one from others who were not able to make it:


The district also posted a Vimeo video of the entire thing so you can watch it yourself, and I imagine the live-typing notes will be available in the very near future (probably already is online, just have to find it).


Lots was said, and there will be more. One thing that stuck out to me is that the board is going to try to host a moderated forum for Q&A with the community. They will start by asking that community members send email to, and they will then post those on a forum where they will respond. I imagine that will evolve – almost seems like it would be better to have a truly moderated forum and just bypass the email. But we will see.


More to come.

Helping our children

At the August 10th BOE meeting (vimeo link, agenda items 9.F. and 9.G), we heard about the good work going on at Operation Hope, Operation Hope Junior and Lead 4 Life. One board member pointed out that given the positive impacts of these programs, why not have an Operation Hope Junior Junior (ie, pre-K).

There are many programs that are aimed at helping our children, and I love it! While caring for all our kids, we also build community and camaraderie. In addition to those already mentioned, several other programs I have learned about include Tap-In Academy (which had an amazing summer with field trips and impactful lessons), Freedom Schools (which I wrote about earlier), Tech-Time at Kenwood, the after-school homework programs at Garden Hills and Stratton, and the food program at Dr. Howard. I am sure there are many more. I am amazed that so many volunteers are doing good work to benefit our children. Thanks to all of you.

Freedom Schools is facing a very uncertain future for funding. As such, I have decided to help kick of a fund-raising campaign to raise $10,000 by September of 2016. I set up a donation page that gives a bit more information, and I will be seeking advice on how to do this fund-raising thing properly. I invite you to join me in donating monthly to build up this reserve SOS pool.

Fundraising page:

You will also see this donate button on the right-hand bar:


A new kind of board meeting

From the agenda posted on boardDocs for the August 24th board meeting:

“The Board of Education is interested in beginning an open dialogue with the community on the development of a facility plan that addresses the needs of older buildings such as Dr. Howard, South Side and Edison Middle School and the capacity and programming needs of our high schools.  Beginning with tonight’s meeting, the Board will discuss possible ways to facilitate meetings that allow for an open dialogue and exchange of ideas.  The public comment section of the Board Meeting will be held after the Board’s discussion in order to allow for input from the community.  Again, the main objective for tonight’s meeting is to discuss the process for facilitating meetings related to facility planning.”

The other two items on the agenda should move along pretty quickly. This is a very good transition in terms of how we do board meetings, I think. The next step will be how to adequately and effectively moderate the discussion. I trust someone will be taking notes, but we need someone who is skilled at facilitating open discussions to be willing to make hard calls when they are needed, and to coax the “quiet ones” to share their thoughts as well.

A question I will ask the board members: “Will public comment be limited to 3 minutes per person?”

Love it. Kudos to the board for taking this initial step.

More info in comments.

CTRL-Shift: August 4th gathering

Maya Israel, Michael McKelvey, George Reese and Fam (Debbie, Lisa), David Hohman, Mike Royse, Travis Faust, some blogger, Katrina Kennett, Kerris Lee

Maya Israel, Michael McKelvey, George Reese and Fam (Debbie, Lisa), David Hohman, Mike Royse, Travis Faust, some blogger, Katrina Kennett, Kerris Lee. Photo credit: friendly stranger holding Maya’s phone.

We had a fun evening filled with stimulating conversations. What is truly awesome is that everyone brings something to the table; I think I am one of the few who has never been to grad school, but even so I am invited to participate in the free flow of ideas and thoughts. Some of you might ask “but what did you accomplish?” I’ll get to that.

I invite others to fill in the gaps, since I cannot possibly recount everything. But here is what comes to mind.

Travis Faust made a grand entrance with his Scratch reference material, two full-color items, one intended to be 2′ by 3′ quick reference “card”, the other a 8.5″ x 11″ tabbed book with more granular details. I believe Travis will be sending that to George in the near future, and perhaps George will blog about it on the CTRL-Shift website. :) We had some back and forth about pros and cons, some scratchideas/suggestions, and in general much appreciation. Its kind of like a layout and quick users guide for a toolbox; sometimes when you are using Scratch, you want to pull out a certain block but you may not remember what it is called or which functional area it is stored in. In these cases, the color-coded reference card can help you find it quickly. The book could be really helpful if you are looking for a certain task, or if you come across a block and have no idea what it does. And of course, all this merely augments what is already available online. One of the benefits of having a physical copy is that you can minimize the context switch when looking at a small screen; another benefit is that you can write on them. :)

unit4_schools_correlation_of_ses_vs_test_scoresAddendum: In the initial post, I forgot to include a conversation George started with me via email about the correlation between low SES/minorities and test scores. He was specifically interested in charts and graphs that might capture that data via visualization, so I turned to the online Illinois Report Card and what I found was actually rather depressing. What I found is that while test scores in general decreased as standards became more strict (thanks NCLB! :(  ), the gap between white and black populations increased at an alarming rate. George also found a scatter plot showing the correlation between SES and AYP (shown at left). There is an obvious trend in that the higher the low income population, the lower the number of students that meet test score standards. George noticed the outlier in the upper-right (100% low-income, 94% meets AYP) and decided to contact Eisenhower Academy in Joliet to see what they are doing. It turns out the Eisenhower Academy is cherry picking the best students from area schools.

Maya and George shared a little piece of exciting news; their NSF grant has passed the “recommended” stage, which sounds like is the final step before it goes before the ultimate decision makers. The grant, as I understand it, will provide a huge amount of support for local teachers to integrate Computational Thinking (CT) into the curriculum. The Kenwood staff got the ball rolling this past spring/summer, collaborating and smashing ideas together.

Katrina shared her “school that is not school” idea (my words, she is still hunting for a good label). She has a Venn Diagram showing three different phases; Inquiry, Project-Based Learning (PBL) and an applied mini-research project that is done in the community (she had a technical name, but I do not recall it at the moment). There is a heavy emphasis on community volunteers to provide mentorship, subject mastery, guidance and assistance along the way, along with what sounds like an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Phases last about 6-8 weeks. It sounded like an exciting work-in-progress. (apologies if I got any of that wrong – corrections would be welcome)

I also asked Katrina a little about the EdCampCU coming up, which I learned is slated for September 26th tentatively at Kenwood. She also mentioned that this unconference will change a little bit from last year where folks will submit questions instead of straight up topics. My small exposure to the EdCafe style last year impressed me because it seems much more organic, more of a natural way to find a group of people who can dive into a common shared interest.

Maya and Dave were having a fascinating conversation about Al Franken. Not being a SNL fan myself, I was totally clueless; it sounds like Franken has made a very successful, albeit risky and not easy, jump from comedy to politics. Based on what I was hearing, it sounds like Franken is pushing for some truly helpful bills in regards to Education in his state, and how crappy some of these other bills are (some of which are already laws). I would have to ask Maya and Dave to fill in details. That conversation morphed into how we do teacher evaluations, and Dave filled me in a little with some of the efforts the district is forging together with the local teachers’ union. I had a chuckle when Pearson was dropped as  a four letter word. It surprises me how many influential hands are in the proverbial cookie jar, and yet how few of those hands belong to “the common people.” Why are most people so blasé about Education policy, and politics in general? (sidebar: Travis shared that the etymology of politics is poli, which means many, and tics, blood sucking bugs)

The conversation further morphed into how the model of school is in flux. Of course, I opined that I want to see more community involvement since I believe there should be a much more fluid boundary between school, community and life. I have followed up with Dave on some questions and will spell out more about that conversation later.

There were often multiple discussions happening at the same time. Some times my own little conference was with just one person, but then the next moment everyone was listening to one person. I missed a ton of other things, and even those that I participated in are not fully fleshed out here. So, if you were there, please help paint the picture. :)

What was the “take away”? How did we benefit? For me, one of the most significant aspects of these kinds of gatherings is just the simple, pure networking – meeting people and getting to know them. I was able to meet Mike Royse and Maya Israel, learn a little more about George’s family and gain an appreciation for what folks like Dave are doing in Unit 4.

Second is the open information sharing. On the one level, there are events and opportunities that I learned about. Another significant factor for me is witnessing how some of these pieces fit together; you don’t just throw some fancy buzzword like “computational thinking” on a piece of paper and then magically all the sudden you have kids practicing this method. It takes work. Lots of hours meshing talents and knowledge. In some ways, it is like one giant project-based learning effort.

Lastly, I gained a much deeper sense that there are people who really care about our community. Yes, we always say “it’s for the kids”, but these CTRL-Shift people are putting in some serious hours to turn it into reality. And I would go so far as to change the narrative it a little; it’s for all of us. We focus on kids because that is where we believe the biggest impact is, but the end goal is that we can live in a place where people respect each other and are willing to share, not only their material possessions, but their life. I know, it sounds totally unrealistic, I get that. But I have yet to find a better alternative.

Upcoming opportunities

From Katrina Kennett:

1. EdCampCU will be on Saturday, September 26 – location TBA but most likely in Champaign. 8-2 again, and we’re going to ask the Cracked truck to be there. Like before, our sessions will be titled with questions that bring us together. See our previous schedule for some inspiration.
2. The Educational Theory Summer Institute is hosting an on-campus free to the public conference on Wednesday, August 19. I’ve attached the papers and the schedule below. The organizers asked me to put together a ‘roundtable’ that intentionally invites practitioners and presenters to consider why this topic matters for classrooms today. So, after the coffee break, we will all choose different tables and play with reading/writing technologies (things like GingkoApp and Twine) and talk about what they could mean for practitioners and theorists. It’s less of a ‘roundtable’ and more of a ‘structured EdCafe’ and, I hope, centers the questions we all bring to the technologies we use.
I hear the EdCampCU will probably be at Kenwood. I plan to attend on September 26th and am excited about it. Also, another EdCampCU is being planned, for early February I believe.
Dedication of BTW library this Friday (August 7th)

A dedication ceremony will be held on August 7 at 4 p.m. to name the school library at Booker T. Washington STEM Academy after Ms. Dorothy Vickers-Shelley, a long-time educator and advocate. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony at the school’s library.

UPDATE: Totally forgot to mention the CU4 TechCon this Saturday:

Elementary School
1801 South Prospect Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820

August 8, 2015 8:30 am- 3:00pm 

Plan to attend the CU4Tech Conference on August 8th 2015, where we will showcase  current movements in Educational Technology.   From interactive technologies to 1:1 computing, there are sessions for all interest groups.  Participants will be engaged with a variety of 21st Century tools and activities to use in the classroom.  You won’t want to miss this!

Back-To-School Flapjack Fundraiser at Applebees (north Prospect) on August 15:

Get a short stack for a TALL CAUSE! Join CU Schools Foundation as we celebrate the new school year with a pancake breakfast. Servers include district superintendents Judy Wiegand and Don Owen, as well as three principals, five school board members, and two city council representatives! Tickets are only $5 and include pancakes, bacon and a beverage.

For tickets, contact Molly Delaney (217.398.2873 or

Parent Forum: August 1, 11:30 – 1:30

macuv_parent_forumParent Forum

Sponsored by The Ministerial Alliance of Champaign-Urbana & Vicinity

When: Saturday, August 1, 2015, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Where: New Free Will Baptist Church, 601 E. Grove, Champaign

Important Information for parents and students including parent presenters sharing their experiences on parent advocacy, student achievement, and other information to avoid the school to prison pipeline and focusing on Saving the Future of Our Youth!

Free Pizza, Drinks and School Supplies Provided

Also on facebook:

Contact for More Information:
Elderess Melinda Carr (217-714-2435,
Pastor Angel Johnson (217-979-4864)

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:

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:

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):




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