Technology Committee

Yesterday Roger Grinnip, Director of Information Technology with Unit 4, invited me to serve on the District’s Technology Committee. I am not sure if this is a new committee or an existing one, and while Mr. Grinnip did provide a few details, it is still foggy in my mind. “Your knowledge would be an asset to planning for the next three years the plan would cover.” Is he talking about databases, because I know databases pretty darn good. 🙂 Most other things, though….. I know enough get things working, but would not consider myself anywhere near “guru” status.


Anyway, why not? We will see what happens. He wants to meet three times before Thanksgiving; if nothing else, it will give me further insight into how Unit 4 operates, to see the good, bad and ugly. 🙂 I have this secret hope that we can even talk about bringing the Kindergarten Lottery in-house.


More to come.

Congrats to Lynn Peisker and Beth Shepperd


The Champaign Community Unit School District #4 has received three state level communication awards from the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association.  “Marketing our Magnet Schools”, a campaign to introduce Booker T. Washington and Garden Hills Elementary Schools to the community, earned the Golden Achievement Award for Community Relations Coordinator Lynn Peisker.  Peisker, along with Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Community Relations Beth Shepperd, earned a Communications Contest Award for the District’s “Fast Facts Brochure.”  “Academic Spotlight”, the District’s video highlights of each school, earned a Communication Contest Award for Peisker and videographer Brandon Minett.

Professionals who have earned their accreditation in Public Relations judged the Golden Achievement Category, and the communications category awards were judged by members of the National School Public Relations Association from Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and the Chicagoland chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

“These awards constitute outstanding recognition of Unit 4’s external communication tools.  Lynn Peisker is to be credited with bringing creativity and innovation to Unit 4 communications.  She is the reason for these awards, and it is outstanding to see such recognition during her first year in school communications,” said Shepperd.

“Fast Facts” brochures, which contain academic, financial and demographic data about Unit 4, are available at the Mellon Administrative Center, 703 S. New Street.  “Academic Spotlights” can once again be seen on Champaign Government TV on Cable Channel 5 in Champaign beginning September 1st.

Return on Education Investment

Found an interesting flash-based interactive map that tallies the “return on education investment”:



I have not had the time to do a thorough analysis that focuses on Champaign, but here are some things I did quickly learn several things [NOTE: The authors recommend caution in interpreting the report – visit the site to read about their goals, especially about starting a national conversation about this topic]:

  • Unit 4 spends a little more than average per student, but our student achievement is slightly less than average.
  • Unit 4 seems to be doing much “better” than Urbana, but “worse” than Mahomet, Monticello or even Tolono.
  • Unit 4 has a lower “Adjusted ROI” than several other schools with lower achievement scores; notably Pecatonica and Yorkville (both are rural, with a combined student population of 2000).
  • The school with the highest “Adjusted ROI” is Indian Creek; the school with the highest achievement index is Dunlap.
  • Dunlap is one of the few schools that has a high ROI in conjunction with high achievement (as seen by the top 10). Other standouts are Rochester and Mount Zion (not in the top 10 for achievement, but still pretty high).
  • Many school districts could boost student achievement without increasing spending if they used their money more productively.
  • Without controls on how additional school dollars are spent, more education spending will not automatically improve student outcomes.


It is an interesting study. I do seriously wonder what kind of impact it will have. My own personal perspective is to look for other schools that are “doing things well” and see if we can apply any of those practices, or in a sense, go after the “low hanging fruit.”

Unit 4 is busy with the Superintendent search, but the RSS is silent


I recently managed to piss off members of the Board because I, in email, made it sound like the Board was not doing anything about the Superintendent Search.



So I recently was enlightened about all the work that is going on in the context of the Superintendent search. And I even found some new items online that I had not seen before. It turns out that, if you are like me and consume information online a lot, you either have to setup RSS feeds on EVERYTHING, or you really have to go scouring for it. For example, I learned that during last weeks “Media Friday” (an event where the media is invited to the Mellon Center every second Friday at 10:am, the last one being August 12th), the Board discussed the Superintendent search “at length”. I did not hear about this from any of my existing feeds (News-Gazette, Unit 4, a couple blogs here and there), so I had the opportunity to hunt down the following stories:

WICD:  (text is poorly formatted, btw)


Apparently, the NG ran a story in the print-only edition. So I hear.


So, first the WICD news item. We hear that a lot is happening and that things are moving in a good direction. Great. Unfortunately, I am the kind of person that wants more details than that. 🙂 We hear that over 800 surveys have been returned. Great! I am looking forward to hearing a summary or analysis of those surveys. During the last few seconds before the video abruptly stops, the anchor says that the search firm (School Exec Connect) will be at Centennial on September 12th and the community is welcome. This is not in the printed text, and is so crammed into the last few seconds I had to replay the segment just to digest it. No time is given.


The WILL article not only mentions the Centennial forum but spends a few words on it as well. “In the evening”. The WILL article also mentions “Champaign-Urbana Days over the weekend in Douglass Park” – I would like to learn more about this (feeling really clueless now *grin*).


The Board has elaborated a little on what else they have been doing.

  • The September forum is apparently in coordination with the Junior League
  • A letter from the Search firm will go out soon(tm) to school parents
  • Small focus groups are being organized
  • Community Interview Committee will be announced soon(tm)


So my goal in making this particular post is to simply pass along information that I found. I still wish Unit 4 would put this stuff on their own website, and I am really puzzled why they don’t. In fact, they only thing they do have is this little dinky “Search Page“, which is obviously outdated even now.


I have followed up with WILL and asked about how to get a feed on specific Story Categories, since I have no desire to RSS the entire site looking for interesting stories. Going to pursue similar things with WICD and WCIA, but that might be a bit more difficult. If you already know how to do this, please let me know! 🙂


*UPDATE*: Mr. Lockman just informed me that the September 12th Community Forum is at 7:pm.



Reduced-cost internet for families receiving free lunches


This sounds promising. I acknowledge up-front that there are going to be many naysayers about this program, and some of them might even have legitimate concerns. Martin Wolske has striven to provide Broadband access to impoverished areas of Saint Louis, and after talking with him, I was highly encouraged to hear how such a project impacts the residents. Which is why I think this news from Comcast is promising.

I say this on the heels of Peisker’s latest update concerning “To The Point”, which is going paperless. It becomes a question of how folks consume news, which varies more and more as technology evolves. Some still like the tangible, tactile nature of printed things. That is how I personally prefer to read books. But some like RSS and feeds (count me for RSS feeds of Facebook and news). And there are many other options. Most of those options are online, especially the “cheaper” ones. In reality, “cheap” just means you are pushing the costs from one category or entity to another. Perhaps the only real “free” form of communication is face-to-face.

News from Lynn Peisker (Great Schools, Together; new staff; etc)

Lynn Peisker of Unit 4 continues to crank out helpful and informative tidbits. Her latest is the next installation of “To The Point” and includes an update about “Great Schools, Together”. I have not yet had a chance to read it, but hope so soon. Lynn has also been very active in updating the Unit 4 Facebook page (which I encourage you to subscribe to).


More to follow soon.


Here is a syndication of what she supplied to the KCN:

Today, we welcome new administrators approved by the Board of Education at last night’s meeting:

Barb Daly has been approved the Champaign Unit 4 Board of Education on August 8 as the Interim Principal of Westview Elementary School.  Under Ms. Daly’s leadership as principal, Bottenfield Elementary earned Unit 4’s first Illinois State Board of Education Academic Excellence Award.  She also served as Principal for South Side Elementary, as well as a teacher and a teacher’s aide during a 34-year career in Unit 4.


“It is exciting to have an educator with Ms. Daly’s skill and experience available to lead Westview.  Her expertise will allow students, families and staff to make a smooth transition and have another successful school year.  We are elated to have her back in Unit 4,” said Dr. Robert Malito, Interim Superintendent.


In addition, The Board of Education has approved:


James P. Eastin has been named Assistant Principal at Garden Hills Elementary School.  Mr. Eastin holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Milliken University and a Master of Science in Educational Administration from Eastern Illinois University.  He was most recently the K-12 Principal at Oakland CUSD #5 in Oakland Illinois.


Christopher D. Gilbert has been appointed as Assistant Principal at South Side Elementary School.  Mr. Gilbert holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Ohio State University and a Master of Education from Cleveland State University.  He most recently served as a Resource Teacher at the Achievement Center for Children in Highland Hills, Ohio.


Rachel Maehr has been appointed as Assistant Principal at Barkstall Elementary School.  Ms. Maehr holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois and Masters’ Degrees in Social Work and in Education, Organization and Leadership, both from the University of Illinois.  She was a School Social Worker at Centennial High School and previously served as Student Services Coordinator at Barkstall Elementary from 2005-2009.

Registration happening tomorrow

Just parroting here.. 🙂 Too tired to do much else atm.