Champaign PTA Council President's Dinner

Last night, the PTA Council hosted a PTA President’s Dinner honoring PTA Presidents for all the hard work. I was quite impressed by the representation of school principals and members of the BOE. I had an opportunity to finally meet Angela Smith (Franklin Principal who has been in the news lately).

 

What was really awesome about this time was the Panel discussion held right after dinner with members of the Board; in attendance were (right to left) Greg Novak, Sue Grey, Tom Lockman, Kristine Chalifoux and Jamar Brown. Dr. Bob Malito was also sitting on the panel and spoke a few times.

 

A question was asked about the two newly soon-to-be-empty positions (Beth Shepperd and Dorland Norris), and both Sue and Dr. Bob reiterated what they spelled out in yesterday’s letter to parents. Malito made a point to emphasize the fact that five very solid, very intelligent retirees (Mary Muller, Dr. Carol Stack, Pat Lewis, Dr. Margie Jobe and Arlene Blank) are filling two spots (actually, if you count Susie Solis, that is three, right?). What I found most intriguing is Dr. Malito’s comments on the discussion surrounding the requirements for a Deputy Superintendent – is it really needed? I really like the direction of those thoughts, because for a while I have wondered about the necessity of all these positions with the Administration. He spoke about “leveling things” out, and it will be very interesting to see where that discussion goes.

 

They got to talking about how the Superintendent search is going, and I followed up asking each Board Member to summarize the qualities they are looking for. I did not associate the following list to individual members, but here are the qualities/criteria that were mentioned:

  • Diverse; not merely ethnically, but also in pedagogy and methodology (ie, think outside the box)
  • Inspiring; “brings together” and catalyzes collaboration
  • Experienced
  • A Challenger, and one who dives into challenging situations
  • One who is vested and in the community (several members mentioned this)
  • Has a long vision
  • Strong leadership
  • Sets an example, is a role model

 

These are the qualities that our Board Members are looking for in the next Superintendent. Our Board Members are the ones who will make the decision on who to hire. Another question was asked about salary. Apparently this is a tricky one and several board members danced around the topic; they don’t want to get shoe-horned into passing out a firm number because they desire flexibility. There was talk about how Culver’s rather high income has unfortunately already started a domino effect on other school districts, and the Board stated that they will be competitive.

 

Another question was raised about high schools and we got started on several related discussions dealing with possible changes to how we “do” education. Jamar Brown has been a point-person at the center of talks with area businesses due his own experience and observations transitioning from the school system to the workforce. He is rather passionate about creating a deep-seated desire within students to “learn what they want to learn”, a desire motivated giving the kids a larger role in shaping their future (an idea reiterated by Novak). If we look at what skills are needed to enter the local workforce, we should be able to train up students to fill those spots. Better yet, if we can “turn on the lightbulb” for students and get them into internships or otherwise out into the Real World, that might be a higher priority then pushing them into a college path that holds no fire. Again, I think everyone in the room realizes that some people do better by going straight to college, the emphasis is on those who have no desire to continue their education, or lack any strong commitment in that direction. In some ways, this topic bleeds over to the “votech” philosophy that Greg Novak has spoken about several times. I personally found this subject matter quite compelling and want to delve deeper. Hoping to meet with Jamar Brown and talk more.

 

To wrap things up, members of the Board emphasized that they really do want to hear from the community. This is a great risk they are taking. 🙂 I say “risk” because they open themselves up to negative comments along with the positive. And I give credit to Sue Grey for tooting this horn earlier in the year. It is a good thing. They are inviting (begging?) people to attend Board Meetings (said with a chuckle on their part); there is one on Nov 14, and another on Nov 28. I got the strong impression that the Nov 28th Special Board Meeting was hyped up a bit more due to the fact that they will be presenting several new high school options and alternatives. I hope to invest this a bit more – if the Board can spill the beans just a little bit, I am thinking more people will come prepared with good questions. I truly hope they are seriously considering the ideas I have heard Dr. Bob and Greg Novak talk about.

 

One last final thought about the Board wanting comments/feedback. I have talked with several folks (including some of you readers) who have a mild to strong negative experience/relationship with the Board. In fact, just this week I have heard four different stories of getting rubbed the wrong way or not being adequately listened to. This goes back to the whole “where does negative perception come from” post. So now my question is, how does one get over those bad experiences? What is required? In 3 out of the 4 people I talked to, it was one isolated incident that soured their opinion. One bad apple spoiled the bunch. How does the Board re-invite the alienated community to come back to the table? I am thinking that perhaps those who feel ostracized and/or shut out could state their expectations so that Board Members know what is on the table. I am also thinking that along with the mantra of “we want your feedback”, that BOE could also make a determined effort to convince everyone that they are valued as an individual, regardless of what they say. Is that overly optimistic?

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2 Responses to “Champaign PTA Council President's Dinner”

  1. Karen Says:

    Where has the concern been from the board (or anybody else at any level for that matter!) about all of the families who have pulled their kids out of unit 4? The reasons for pulling out were documented on the forms people had to fill out to remove their children from Unit 4. You would think that if they cared they might have looked into perhaps a pattern of serious reasons why people pulled their kids out. If they didn’t take seriously/weren’t responsive to complaints/concerns previously brought to them, you would think that when the parents reached the tipping point and finally pulled their kids out that there would be some flickering towards a lightbulb moment with respect to a disconnect between problems occurring in Unit 4 and Unit 4’s responsiveness to them. This would involve assuming though, that Unit 4 practices their on-paper/spoken concern for ALL students (ALL, in the literal sense of the word—–as opposed to ‘ALL’ within select groups at the assumed collateral expense of other students). We should have the most awesome school district a 100 times over by now if all that is/has been written were actually practiced. Up to this very day, it’s business as usual as far as I can tell. How to invite back the alienated? Admit wrongdoing and lay down a road map for fixing it vs. continuing to support it. Start to practice what you preach. These are a couple of good starting points.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Karen,

    I have indeed wondered about that for quite some time. Which form are you speaking of? I look at a Transfer out form, but did not see any place to offer an opinion. If we can locate the exact form, I am thinking we can FOIA the comment section. Maybe – that might cross the line as to what is truly in the public domain.

    Regardless, I think it would be quite valid to ask how the BOE and the Administration responds to the aggregate of people leaving Unit 4 (not necessarily on an individual basis).


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