Unit 4 releases the Fall 2011 Handbook

re: http://www.champaignschools.org/files/district_handbook.pdf

This thing weighs in at 73 pages. Going to take a while to read and digest the tome. Here are some observations gleaned simply by skimming:

  • Quality Two-Way Communication: Hundreds of volunteers work with Unit 4 students each year as mentors, tutors, and guest speakers, as well as providing classroom support. Ad hoc committees allow parents and community members to provide input into district-wide programs in areas like attendance and discipline. Each campus has a Building Council that includes parent representation, and strong PTA/PTSA groups offer support for students and staff. A Key Communicator Network (KCN) provides community members the opportunity for direct dialogue with the Superintendent about issues of interest.” (p 5)
  • Listing of BOE members w/ contact information (pp 7-8)
  • “Unit 4 is committed to transparency and responsiveness. News and information are posted and clearly labeled on our website for your convenience. We have over 10,000 pages of information for the community, parents, and staff members and strive each day to communicate effectively” (p 10)
  • A mere two paragraphs for Schools of Choice (p 21)
  • Educational goals – very ambitious (which is good) (pp 23-24)
  • Almost 8 pages devoted to health information (pp 35-43)
  • About 6 pages for discipline (pp 47-53)
  • 3 paragraphs for the PTA, followed by 2 more paragraphs for other community engagement (pp 67-68)

 

I’ll have to come back to this later. A part of me is wondering what a “bottom-up” handbook would look like.

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3 Responses to “Unit 4 releases the Fall 2011 Handbook”

  1. Karen Says:

    Is it something new that the parents and community members can provide input into things like discipline? I am not familiar with this beyond the Equity committee (which is selectively chosen and quite small). I wasn’t aware of avenues of input available to the average Joe/parent in the community. I am not aware of the school board pointing anyone to such avenues when they have been approached about discipline-related issues that building and admin levels were not responsive to. Perhaps a public forum on school discipline could be held at the Champaign library to which Unit 4 and the School Board would be invited so that we all can become better educated about discipline issues in Unit 4 and how this on-paper two-way quality communication is accessed by the average Joe.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Karen,

    I do think a number of the more vocal community members feel as if such a structure for two-way dialogue does not exist. It is my observation that the BOE depends upon two major avenues for “feedback”:
    1. Board Meetings
    2. Personal contact (ie, email, one-on-one meetings)

    The Board Meetings tend to be extremely business-oriented and not friendly to public debate at all. There is a reserved time for “public input” that is capped at about 3 minutes per person, but the Board does not respond what-so-ever during this time. This is written into the Policies, so they are following the Rules set before them. I dislike it.

    Email and personal face time with Board members is a lot more intimate (obviously), but even in this, there is no sense of “public”; no accountability, no review, nothing gets posted on a website unless someone blogs about it.

    Another structure that is architecturally woven into the fabric of our school district is the PTA and the PTA Council. While I strongly believe this structure is a very good thing to have, the PTAs themselves have come to be modeled after BOE meetings, which is a huge obstacle to open discourse.

    Unit 4 does occasionally host “forums” in which they present a topic and open the floor for comments. I cannot recall a time when the BOE said “OK, at the last forum the community asked about x, so now we are responding to and addressing x”. You can kinda sorta see that in “Promises Made, Promises Kept”, but that has become strongly aligned to the Strategic Plan. What’s that, you ask?

    The “Great Schools, Together” was a massive effort to gather community input on a large scale. To a degree, the school district did a great job holding many forums and attempting to get a lot of people at the table. Over the course of 2 or 3 years, it feels like that massive effort got swept under the rug. In reality, it was still percolating and was eventually culled together into the “Strategic Plan”. While Dr. Judy Wiegand has been doing a lot of work to keep that volume of information neatly organized, it is really hard to find relevant information on the School District’s website (because the Unit 4 website is … how do I say this, it could use a bit of help).

    So, I would say that the BOE is, in reality, attempting to gather feedback, it is just that it is not in a way that some of us want it to happen. And some of us are expecting a certain amount of “reverse feedback”, otherwise it is really hard to connect the dots between what we said and what the Board is doing.

    I am constantly reminded that our hard-working Board Members are strictly volunteers. Yes, they are elected officials and there is a certain amount of responsibility that comes with that. But we don’t pay them anything. They are not getting rich for all their invested hours.

    Karen, if you could lay out some specific concerns and what you hope/expect to be done about those concerns, perhaps we could start there and see what the Board can/will do about it.

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    On another note, I have to toot the horn of Lynn Peisker again. She has been doing an awesome job of filling this gap we are talking about. I confess, it still mostly seems like a one-way street as far as communication goes, but she does have a listening ear.

    Also, Lynn runs the Unit 4 Facebook page. I am not certain how much constructive criticism or feedback is generated via that route, but at least it is a foray into the “social arena” and I think a positive direction.


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