Gearing up for the 2012 Lottery

The School District’s way of deciding which school your child will go to has many names; “Schools of Choice”, Controlled Choice, Seat Assignment, School Assignment, Kindergarten Lottery, etc. One of the reasons I started this blog was because there was too much “hidden” information floating around Unit 4, information that was unnecessarily hidden by obfuscation, technical details, and even more obfuscation. My latest effort to help parents as they attempt to tackle this monstrosity is reflected in the following letter sent to the Family Information Center (FIC) and its director, Doretha Simmons. I carbon copied the Unit 4 Board of Education and soon-to-be Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand.

Good evening,

I hope each of you are enjoying a pleasant holiday break with friends and family.
Let me first say that I am extremely grateful for all the efforts of the Family Information Center and the role it plays within in Unit 4. There is a lot of hard work that the FIC staff put into making the FIC what it is today. Having talked to previous directors (Mrs. Hattie Paulk, Mrs. Sandra Duckworth), I am aware that there is always an ear for parents at the FIC, and for that I applaud you. In the interests of improving perceptions, communication, and the experience of the Lottery process, I humbly ask that you consider the following suggestions, with the goal of taking action prior to January 10th, 2012.
I. Simplify the website
As soon as possible, consolidate the information about “Controlled Choice” and “School Registration” on the FIC website. Currently, there are five (5) separate documents each attempting to explain and/or answer questions about School Assignment. Please have just one link. Additionally, Wake County used to have a very user-friendly information sheet about Controlled Choice and the involvement of Dr. Michael Alves; unfortunately, that website is no longer available, but I encourage you to contact Wake County and see how Unit 4’s own efforts can be enhanced.
II. Clear Information
In past years, terms like “overchosen schools” were used during presentations, yet most parents, especially those who are new to the system, have absolutely no idea which schools are overchosen. On top of that, the geographical layout of the schools and their relative proximities tend to be another point of confusion. I implore the FIC and Unit 4 to do the following two things to address these concerns:
  1. Spell out which schools are overchosen. Dr. Alves provides a nice summary after each lottery, and I can provide further summaries and graphs/charts if needed (note: I am aware of arguments about not wanting to scare or dissuade parents from choosing a “popular” school – I recommend couching this piece of information as an example, as historical information. I am happy to discuss this more)
  2. Prepare and present a large (ie, 2′ x 4′) posterboard that shows the entire school district and each school within it, with 1.5 mile “circles of proximity”. I have an example based on Google maps if interested.
III. “Reverse Feedback” during Community Forums
Ms. Doretha Simmons, I hereby request that an explicit effort be made to collect and report on community comments/concerns expressed during the January 10th Community Forum. I realize that Unit 4 and specifically, the Family Information Center, has been quite open about community comments in the past, and I appreciate that. My request is to formally extend that opportunity in the following ways:
  1. Announce that an individual (by name if possible) of the Unit 4 staff will be recording comments with the purpose of publishing a summary on the Unit 4 website
  2. Publish said summary within 3 days
  3. Assign or otherwise attach a response (or an estimated time to expect a response) from a Unit 4 representative, to be published on the website
As an example of this process in action, I point you to the White House’s experiment with We the People; it is not perfect by any means, but in my opinion is does appear to engender more engagement and involvement.
Please understand, I do realize that there is a lot going on; Winter Break is in full swing and most folks are not reporting back to work until after Jan 2nd (or later); new Superintendent; new FIC office/building; lots of preparation for the 2012 Lottery process. I believe that each of the three suggestions above are quite practical and achievable prior to January 10th, yet I am anxious to hear what you think and if you (in the plural) are willing to accept these challenges. On top of that, I am quite willing to join in the efforts. 🙂 If I can do anything to help us all reach these very short-term goals, please let me know.
Thank you for your time.

conspiracy theories and rumors

I usually try pretty hard to stay away from obvious rumors, just because I like to know the truth of a thing before I pass it off as truth to others. So in this case, I am going to play a game. In this game, I am going to make some speculations. They might not be true. You have been warned.


What if Dr. Wiegand was hesitant to submit her application to be Superintendent because others in the Administration would have made things more challenging than necessary? What would that look like to a casual observer? What would Unit 4 say about that?

What if certain factors changed over the course of the application period (and even beyond the deadline) such that said challenges were to …. go away. Literally.

Again, how would Unit 4 spin that? What would the Press Release say to describe those events?

What if the Culver era was more than just Mr. Culver himself? And what does the end of that era really look like? How would those that were once under Culver respond to the change in leadership at the top?

How would the Unit 4 Board publicly state that the candidates they received from School Exec Connect were absolutely disappointing?


I ask myself these questions. I ask in a public manner so as to start discussions. My hope is to ask these questions seriously and to look for answers. Is this truth? If it is truth, how is it communicated? If these things are true, how does one do the “eggshell dance”? (a mixed metaphor) How does one say what needs to be said in a way that benefits others?

A disturbing trend

Saw this on the PTA Facebook wall/page:


I commented on the facebook page itself (how do you link to a specific Facebook post?); I am not a big fan of churning out students for the sake of increasing industry. In fact, I am very bothered by it. We suffer from so many problems, our national competitive edge is just the tip of the iceberg.


What boggles my mind is the two completely different angles the article takes. The first half is all “rah! rah! let’s pump kinds into tech-heavy jobs” while the second half is about community, about questioning “tradition” and engendering a “let’s work together on solving social issues” attitude. Perhaps I have my polarized glasses on and am reading with a bias?

Meet your new Superintendent

Wow, that didn’t take long:


Granted, it is only 10:08 am and the news release is slated for 2:pm. But we all know what they are going to say. This is quite shocking. Dr. Wiegand went from not submitting her application to submitting it after the deadline and flip-flopping on her decision to this. As my head is spinning, I am trying to gather my thoughts about this whole “transparency” thing. School Exec Connect said the BOE was being very transparent initially. But there are some gaping black holes, especially surrounding Dr. Wiegand’s application.

Please note that I am not saying that Dr. Wiegand is a bad choice – in fact, I would say she is the best choice out of the 4 we have (had). I just don’t like the circumstances around this whole thing.



systemstate dump (aka, flushing out my head)

Over the past week or so, I have been reading and searching (is that called researching?). I am a bit overwhelmed and so for the sake of my own sanity, I am going to dump it all right here in a post. I apologize up front if this is in a format that is hard to consume.

Warning: Clicking “read more” may give you a link-heavy wall-of-text. Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday at Houlihans: update

So first off, no “official” gathering next week (Dec 21). But don’t let that stop you from reinforcing the habit of dropping by at 11:30 on a whim. 🙂

This week (Dec 14th), we continued to have some excellent discussion. Again, I fear I am not going to do justice to all that was said, so I am hoping (again) that others pipe up and share their thoughts. We had with us a Champaign Council rep, an EEE Committee member, a Prairie Fields Homeowners’ Association BOD rep, myself and Chuck Jackson. Looking back at that list, I am realizing that all those folks wear multiple hats as well.

Wanna hear what we talked about?  Read the rest of this entry »

Questions for Dr. Darryl Taylor

  1. What did you take away from your experience with Rodney Estvan and giving your special ed kids the alternative test in 2009?
  2. Since hindsight is 20/20, what, if anything, would you have done differently since taking on the mantle of Superintendent for Lincoln ESD 156 in 2007?
  3. Please provide some examples of how you have directed day-to-day operations of the District.
  4. Under your leadership at ESD 156, what goals (short-, midterm-, longterm- ) were you immediately responsible for?
  5. Everybody makes mistakes. Please provide an example of your greatest learning moment in the past 4 years.
  6. If you were to be chosen by the Unit 4 BOE to be the next Superintendent, how do you intend to deal with reorganization in the Administrative office given that several key members of the previous Administration will have left by that time?
  7. What key challenges faced ESD 156 prior to your start as Superintendent, and how exactly did you work with the District to address those challenges?
  8. Based on whatever research you have done so far, in your opinion what are the top 2 or 3 issues facing Champaign Unit 4 today, and how do you intend to tackle them?