Houlihans: property taxes, working cash bonds and petitions, oh my!

So Monday’s Special Board Meeting was rather interesting, and I know Don Kermath is getting a political machine fired up to block the Board from going forward with the issuance of working cash bonds.

In typical Houlihan style, I invite you all to come out and talk about this, 11:30 – 12:30. My hope is to get a larger after-hours forum set up for a broader discussion as well. I’ll have a sign-up sheet if you want to sign a petition, but more importantly I want to take notes and ask how people react to this. You are quite welcome even if you do not want to sign. 🙂

What we are NOT going to do: we are not going to call anyone tyrannts. I feel strongly that the Board members and Administration staff are hard-working individuals with good intent. I personally sent them a word of thanks and appreciation for how much time they invest into the District after the Feb 27th meeting because I truly feel that way. There is no place, in my opinion, for tossing around adjectives with heavy baggage.

We might disagree (and we do), but I am cool with that; I invite disagreement. I totally agree with Unit 4 that we need to fix, repair and upgrade our facilities. The state is utterly failing, so the burden is on our shoulders. What are we going to do if Pensions fall on our shoulders as well? We need to figure out how to handle this mess the state has so conveniently dropped into our lap. I see this as an opportunity to galvanize the public and get people talking, raise awareness and encourage participation. I do not want to see mud-slinging, pointed fingers and name calling. But I also want the public more involved in these kinds of decisions, and I believe the Board does a disservice to itself by feeding people’s distrust. I don’t think that particular effect is intentional – is it out of habit?

References

News-Gazette (Meg is also interacting with readers): http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-02-27/school-board-approves-145-million-bonds-petition-could-force-vote.html

WCIA: http://illinoishomepage.net/fulltext?nxd_id=344852

WICD: http://www.wicd15.com/newsroom/top_stories/videos/vid_4949.shtml?wap=0

Halfway Interesting (Greg Novak has a great response from the Board’s POV): http://www.halfwayinteresting.com/Pages/CityofChampaign/tabid/90/entryid/859/Updated-Unit-4-Tax-Hike-Working-Cash-Bonds.aspx

(still waiting for Don Kermath to get a website up and running – have not yet checked facebook, but I am sure there are pages out there for this)

 

UPDATE (8:22): Meg has a new article focusing on Don Kermath’s efforts:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-02-29/resident-organizing-challenge-champaign-districts-working-cash-bonds.html

Feb 27th Special Board Meeting

After hearing about Meg Dickinson’s article highlighting the working cash bonds and taking a peek at the Agenda, I decided to drop by and see what was going on. In truth, I was very interested to hear about the Great Schools, Together (GST) report and the research on the high school options, both of which have received very little coverage. Both topics consumed roughly 2.5 hours, a long, drawn-out “conversation”. I kept thinking to myself “there has got to be a better way to do this”.

I am going through the notes I took, and I have to apologize that they are not fully organized. But I’ll relate to the best of my ability.

Before the meeting kicked off, Read the rest of this entry »

Big Agenda for tonight's Board Meeting

Apparently, my RSS feeds are seriously lagging – I am just now learning about a number of very interesting things going on at the Board meeting tonight.

From BoardDocs:

7. Reports: New Business
B. High School Options: Judy Wiegand
C. Summer Youth Employment: Orlando Thomas
D. District Technology Plan: Roger Grinnip
8. Action Agenda: Unfinished Business
A. Approval of Resolution: Notice To Issue Working Cash Bonds: Gene Logas
B. Approval of Resolution Expressing Intent To Reimburse Certain Capital Expenditures Form Future Bond Proceeds: Gene Logas

The PDF for the Great Schools Together (GST) is … not as exciting as I was hoping for. The High School Option PDF gives an analysis of what it would be like having one high school, but I did not see where the report is credited to any one person or group.

I am a little concerned about the working cash bonds; $15.5 million is a bit of money, and over the past month since Meg reported on this, I have not seen or heard of any kind of discussion happening about these things. I get the feeling that the District assumes silence implies consent, which is probably the furthest thing from the truth. 🙂

 

The Gene Logas documents spell out the legal requirements, and since I don’t speak Legalese, they don’t mean much to me. The one spreadsheet does give a broad breakdown of that $15.5 million. I see that the wireless ($2.3 mil) and the one-laptop-per-child ($3.4 mil) tie into Grinnip’s technology plan, but I was under the impression those monies came from other sources (the name of the Federal Grant escapes me now). That’s just one-third of the total pie, but a big third it is.

 

References:

BoardDocs: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/public

Meg Dickinson’s article from today: http://www.news-gazette.com/blogs/schoolhouse-blog/2012-02/champaign-school-board-vote-working-cash-bond-issue-discuss-merits-on

Meg’s Jan 23rd article: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-01-23/champaign-school-board-consider-high-school-possibiities-issuing-cash-bond

Previous blog entry: https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/concerns-about-where-the-administration-is-going/

 

My head is starting to spin. You all have 30 days to gather some 9,000+ signatures if you want to petition the cash bonds.

Jamar Brown now reporting on U4 BOE every 4th Monday

re: http://www.halfwayinteresting.com/Pages/CityofChampaign/tabid/90/entryid/858/Whats-Happening-at-Unit-4.aspx

Jamar Brown writes at Halfway Interesting:

It seems like it has been forever since I have made a post, but in reality I just have a new date.  I will now be featured on the fourth Monday of every month. 

 

Jamar gives us a brief glimpse into what he is involved in and some of the cool things going on in Unit 4 schools. I am hoping to engage with him a little so we can see what is on the BOE’s punch list. And I truly hope that folks take the opportunity to interact with Mr. Brown via Halfway Interesting.

 

Good stuff!

 

PS – I am also asking the site maintainer (Eric Bussell) about an RSS feed specifically for Unit 4 and/or Jamar Brown. I can see direct links that might work as a substitute (but not compatible in Google Reader):

Jamar’s Authored posts: http://www.halfwayinteresting.com/Pages/CityofChampaign/tabid/90/authorid/139/Default.aspx

Education & Schools Category: http://www.halfwayinteresting.com/Pages/CityofChampaign/tabid/90/categoryid/118/education-schools.aspx

Supper with the Super

I thought I had posted about the upcoming “Supper with the Superintendent”, but I cannot find it.

 

re: http://www.champaignschools.org/news/news_view.php?action=view&news_type=captioned_photo&id_news=253  (and numerous other places)

Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand will host Supper with the Superintendent on Thursday, March 1 at 6 PM in the cafeteria at Stratton Elementary School. This informal meeting with a light meal is designed to continue the conversation between community members and the administration of the school district. The public is invited to attend. The meal will be catered by the Advanced Foods Class at Central High School, part of the Career and Technical Education program at Unit 4 high schools.

 

I highly encourage… well, everyone to go. 🙂 Especially if you have not met Dr. Judy Wiegand, yet. Don’t just take my word that she is a very sincere and attentive Superintendent, go find out for yourself. If you have burning questions, are curious, or just want to observe, this opportunity to “continue the conversation” is awesome! I dearly hope this is only the first of many such events.

Education Summit: Springfield is getting their game on

re: http://illinoishomepage.net/fulltext?nxd_id=343822

This is exciting! “Communication can create change”. 4 big words. I saw this and started thinking, “Hmm…. Unit 4 should do this. Better yet, what about getting Unit 4 and Unit 116 (Urbana) to do this?”

I really like that the children (ie, the students) are a part of the process. They bring such an invaluable perspective to the table. I really like how they started with a very visible and very troubling topic (racism and violence). And the idea of putting everything on the table is just amazing. I sincerely want something like that to happen locally.

I tried to follow the links (http://www.springfield.k12.il.us/about/), but am not finding much about the Summit. I hate it when a news story goes out and the web stuff is not ready. 🙂 I found one “Education Summit” from November 2011 – maybe that is the one? But no further info on it, like who organized it, where that infamous FAQ is, etc. Google showed me a Springfield Journal article (http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x2112945713/Local-group-hosting-schools-summit-on-Feb-25) which takes FOREVER to load (try this one for a faster copy: https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/copy-of-sj-education-summit/). It appears to be a summit put on by a “local faith-based group”. Which harkens me back to Dry Grass and how social centers like churches get involved in big ways. The wheels in my head be turning….

“Our whole focus is, ‘How can people within the community — parents and community members and teachers — how can we work together to really change the way that some things are done so that all students can achieve academically?”

Yes. Indeed. Next stop – chatting with Pattsi Petrie and going to start walking this walk.

 

UPDATE: Going to be talking to the Faith Coalition for Common Good later this week as well.

Literacy

Several recent conversations have me thinking about “big issues” in Unit 4. The kind that really matter. I am not saying I know what they are or that I have found all of them, but I am beginning to see that Literacy is a big deal. More so because it is not isolated to Unit 4 and definitely crosses over into community responsibilities as well.

First I would like to paint a background picture of what is framing my thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »