First the announcement: I am inviting a bunch of PTA folks in to get some web pages up and going. We will be taking over the Jan 25th timeslot. So for you others that were thinking of coming, you have been warned. 🙂
Yesterday at Houlihans, Pattsi Petri and I hashed out our thoughts. I am not going to be able to remember everything, so if there are any holes in my story….
I told her about CUWiki (a summary of which I have moved to a new “umbrella” blog) and we discussed the merits of finding community spaces, but we totally lack the understanding of using a wiki to accomplish that. I shared how the CUWiki group has looked at examples like DentonWiki and ArborWiki, and we talked about how similar attempts around Chambana have never really worked out.
We then talked about what is currently happening with Unit 4, the Superintendent, the stuff with the Lottery/Choice/School Assignment. At the time, I had just found out that Unit 4 contracted a Missouri company to work on the FIC website for registration. This afternoon (Jan 5th), I read a rumor (all things are rumor until I hear it from the horse’s mouth) that Unit 4 hired a Houston-based company to do some video spots and develop material for Registration. This totally goes against what ABCD teaches – you use the Assets in your own backyard if you can. There should be a very clear and very strong argument to have to go fishing in another pond. So while I am glad that Unit 4 is moving forward with some improvements, I am wishing that Unit 4 would have considered local people first. Granted, I have no idea what the circumstances are – for all I know, we found resources which are working pro bono. Not very likely, but possible.
The discussion migrated to what is happening in East St. Louis, and the efforts of folks like Martin Wolske to encourage community involvement via internet connectivity and computer literacy; their version of CUWiki is actualized in http://www.metroeastdigital.org/. We then took a turn to The Corner, travelling down dark paths of what happens when people groups are marginalized and the difficulty of building bridges once those bridges have been burned. This related back to our own efforts to building trust within Champaign – so while the two examples of Baltimore and East St. Louis are a bit extreme, they are very poignant examples, and even very real for those in Champaign that traveled down to East St. Louis.
At some point, Pattsi mentioned Mike Pyatok in the context of building sustainable structures. For the life of me, I cannot associate that memory with anything else at the moment. It might have been related to my desire to build sustainable websites for local PTAs. Maybe.
We spent a good chunk of time also discussing the idea of taking this “Wednesdays at Houlihans” thing to the next level. There are a number of grassroots efforts to “do something” about community and Unit 4, and I would hate to see us become stuck in the rut of just talking and not really getting anything accomplished. The work with the John Street Watershed is an excellent, local, recent example of a small group of people clearly identifying a very real problem and taking appropriate steps to get it addressed satisfactorily. Pattsi has given me quite a rather large reading list and I am slowly making my way through it. She has also challenged me. The latest challenge is to set up a real Open Community Forum (one not run by Unit 4) by April. Chuck Jackson, Laura Bleill and I covered this ground last summer, so I feel all the more pressure to bring this thing to life. My biggest hangup (I think) is the need for a bona fide facilitator. Pattsi mentioned “Big.Small.All” as a possible resource for facilitators. She also mentioned Andrew Levy with the Regional Planning Commission (RPC). And maybe even Carol Ammons on the Champaign County Board. At least, in terms of who to talk to next. Lastly, she made the example of how students often can build trust and bridges faster due their complete lack of baggage; as such, maybe I could work with the College of Education to see if they would be willing to do a workshop as I already have contacts via the Rose & Taylor barbershop forums and I-STEM.
Did I miss anything?