Response to WCIA "Carrie Busey name" article

re: http://illinoishomepage.net/fulltext?nxd_id=341172

The “comment” section still seems broken. Not sure what is going on, but they appear to have technical difficulties. So here is what I typed up but could not post.

“Leaders say”? Who? “Research shows…..”

I would posit that the “issue” of the school name is indeed a trivial matter at the root. What is much more significant is the dialog surrounding said rumors, “unnecessary controversy” and proposals. It is how these conversations are happening versus how they should have been handled from the get-go back when Arlene Blank brought up the possibility in June 2010 and Culver is reported to have made a promise to the staff. The really important, and very healthy, discussions should have started *then*.

Instead what we have now is no small amount of mud-slinging which deteriorates relationships. And it doesn’t help that the public news media is taking part in the food fight.

It is good that broader discussions between groups (ie, the PTA and the Board President, the staff, etc) are finally taking place. It seems to me that discussions between those who disagree can be very helpful for all involved in terms of maturing as a community and learning to value and respect different opinions. That is what I long for. People are important and their thoughts have value.

 

As an aside, I am amused that WCIA picked up on Sue Grey joining the PTA next week. I am thinking they have someone reading the Carrie Busey PTA facebook page, which was only posted last night. I don’t think Unit 4 has made such a public announcement, yet.

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15 Responses to “Response to WCIA "Carrie Busey name" article”

  1. Keri Pipkins Says:

    Hi Charles:
    I didn’t really understand this article and am curious as to which “school leaders” were consulted or how the author is defining a “school leader”. While I haven’t really seen any mud-slinging, I did just go through everything I could find related to this topic online (mostly meeting minutes from PFHOA meetings (October-December), the November CB PTA meeting, The January Village of Savoy Meeting, the Promises Made, Promises Kept Committee Meeting from 2010, the articles from NG, WDWS, and WCIA, and your blog. I couldn’t find any references on the Unit 4 BOE site. As you mention the way this process has evolved is at the heart of this issue. Very few individuals have been in these discussions relative to the number who have a vested interest, and I have valid concern that opinions are not being accurately reflected (for example, in December, there’s mention of some concern by teachers at the PFHOA Board meeting, but in the January Village of Savoy meeting, the minutes indicate that there has been “no resistance” ). The important thing now is that the issue will be discussed at a PTA meeting with Sue Grey present, and we can rely on actual open, honest dialogue, not meeting minutes. Changing the name of a school has emotional, financial, and logistical implications for the students, staff, district, and community. Hopefully all of these will be considered!

  2. Vav Says:

    “Leaders say” or “school leaders” is news media speak for we have solid information from someone with authority (e.g. board member) but they would not go on the record or would not let us put them on camera. You might be able to infer which “leader” they talked to in the last paragraph. From my conversations with WCIA shortly after lunch, they were aware of the PTA meeting plan at that time.

    I do know that the meeting minutes for the Village meeting are wrong, I went to that meeting. I’ll be contacting them to get them corrected. The News-Gazette article only presented a small piece of the discussion, apparently trying to stir controversy. I spoke at the meeting and described to them how I had met with the principal, teachers, the Superintendent, School Board President and several interested parents. I let them know that I knew of several parents and teachers who were opposed to the change.

    The PTA meeting will be an important way to get input from the parents. The teacher meeting (with board and administration representation) will also be important. Maybe then we can have an open forum for all to discuss. This was originally planned for early Feb, but U4 wanted to have some other meeting and gather other information before the forum. I hope it still happens.

    The big issue remains communication. It concerns me that I had to be the one to start conversations among the interested groups and parties. For this issue, it makes me the bad guy. Hopefully as we push for more open communications inside, outside, and around our community schools we will see improvement. Unfortunately, that culture does not exist today.

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    Keri, thanks. I posted your brief history:
    http://champaignunit4.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/chronology-of-discussions-related-to-renaming-carrie-busey-elementary-school1.doc

    Very well done, IMO. It is nice to have that “big picture” view added to the body of information/documentation.

    Bill, thanks to you as well. For many different reasons. 🙂 Perhaps one lesson to take out of this is how words in electronic format so often lose the richness of words said in person. And 2nd-hand knowledge starts to become gospel and we suddenly have the old fashioned “telephone game” going. What I would like for us to do is to acknowledge what could have been better and then make plans (ie, Action Steps) to proactively avoid the same mistakes again in the future. For instance, when I start to hear folks complaining and perceived wrongs, next time I am going to start making phone calls and get an open forum or panel going ASAP. We have seen from experience that Unit 4 does not do open forums that well; if nothing else, the bureaucratic machine has no formal scripts to follow, no real precedence in setting up an impromptu gathering for people to meet and discuss face to face. I am almost of the opinion of “it doesn’t matter if there are no policies or precedence, let’s do something.” And if I fail at that, it will be yet one more learning opportunity. 🙂 And in my heart, I want to see PTAs (in general) be at the heart of those community engagement exercises. Unless I am totally mistaken, it was my belief that is what PTA is supposed to be all about in the first place.

    I am trying to figure out what role the online forums play. I fear rumor mills and the lack of inflection, the total absence of tonality and body language. But online meeting places can be good for learning basic types of information like general thoughts (or maybe even biases) and in some cases, facts.

  4. Keri Pipkins Says:

    I agree, Charles, and thanks. My chronology isn’t complete in that I couldn’t fully capture all the comments on the articles, blogs, and FB page. And, Bill’s reply to my comment isn’t there because I printed before he posted. But it’s what I could find and, while I realize the text can’t truly capture what was said, I felt it would give me the context for discussion- Bill’s comments regarding the Village of Savoy Meeting Minutes are a good example. What I don’t want to happen is a discussion of the details of who said what when, I’d rather discuss the future our school openly, honestly, and respectfully, recognizing that we’ll still be only a small cross section of stakeholders- but a more representative one than has been together in one place so far.

  5. Lori Says:

    Out of curiousity Bill, why did you have to be the one to start the communication. Why did no one else want to start it? Were they afraid of things? Were people planning on never having the discussion and then making a decision without feedback? If it never got started would the idea have just died?

  6. Vav Says:

    Lori – I started conversations because I am a fan of open communications. I prefer to solve issues and work them where all interested have a voice and ability to be heard, hence I talked to a lot of people. I don’t know what others would have done. I know that discussions were increasing in the background and my desire was to bring them out front so that all who desired could be part of the conversation. I’ve paid a price for that.

    Unfortunately, too much of this has been done via media, Facebook, and websites rather than meetings and conversations. There are several viewpoints that have not come out in these media, but deserve to be heard. My guess why they have not come out is that they have personal, business, or public positions where talking in the open may damage them. Unfortunate, but true. My guess is that these parties are sending information directly and discretely to the U4 Administration and board.

    I am still compiling information from all of the different positions and plan to present it to the decision makers if and when the time is right.

    Ultimately, the Unit 4 board will be the ones to take action. Their action will be based on what they feel is best for the whole of the school district, that is their responsibility. I’m confident that they take that responsibility seriously.

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    I appreciate the question/answer – wish we had more of it. 🙂

    Bill you said “My guess why they have not come out is that they have personal, business, or public positions where talking in the open may damage them. Unfortunate, but true.” I realize you are just guessing, so I am going to go theoretical here. I cannot imagine a situation in which an entity would be damaged by putting their desire to name a public school in the public sphere. My head just goes all twisted ways trying to figure that out. Furthermore, I cannot imagine the Board honoring such “secret pacts” or otherwise discreet communications, especially in light of the FOIA laws. Granted, certain people within the University and our state government seem to flaunt their irresponsibility, but I am going to put on my cheery, rose-colored glasses and say “Surely not our Board!”.

    But this is merely conjecture – we are not talking with facts in hand. So let’s get back to the facts. *grin*

  8. Bill Vavrik Says:

    I would rather that it be person to person conversation or group conversations. There is a lot to be learned from what is said, how it is said, and body language. I’m not a fan of this medium, but since it is started, I’ll continue as best I can.

    Not sure why you cannot imagine an entity not wanting to go to the public square. If you are a board member, business person, or citizen and you get involved in internet communications or other media communications you have a high probability of having what you said or did taken out of context. That leads to villain-making of the people, rather than a discussion of ideas. I have talked with over a dozen people on this topic and very few if any are participating through public media. Given how I’ve been treated as part of this process, I understand their wanting to stay out of the public.

    My understanding of how private and public boards work is that there is little that is done at the board/business meeting. Even from what is done, there is even less that is put in the minutes. While this is frustrating, having notes/minutes not capture the conversation correctly can be more harmful. (Prairie Fields HOA is the exception, our meetings are where business happens and our minutes are verbose) This is not duplicitous, but the way that boards work. The work is done outside of the board room among those who are interested and engaged in the issues. Often with public boards the board members make themselves available for public engagement and they meet with people who are engaged and ask to meet and talk.

    There are no secret pacts, no OMA violations, no duplicitous dealings. These are generally volunteers who work for free. They are trying to serve their constituencies to the best of their abilities. Web flare ups like this make people want to not volunteer because people don’t pick up a phone or schedule a meeting, they blast over the internet their displeasure.

  9. Lori Says:

    I look forward to the meeting tomorrow night. I agree. It is easier to understand people face to face. This has been an extremely frustrating situation. And yes it is unfortunate that you, Bill, have had to pay the price for starting communications, but it is unfortunate for the Carrie Busey community. We are worrying about something that has become a bigger issue than it should have been. It has made the new building lose enjoyment.

    I have to say, besides you, Bill, and reading notes of what Robert DeAtley Dick Helton has said in meetings, I do not see other people who are talking about the changing of the name in communications. I would love if you could point them out, so we know who to talk to. If there are people who are letting you “take the fall”, if you will, that concerns me.

    I can only speak for myself in saying that it is hard to trust people in positions of power, which is funny, because I have been in management, so I guess I am my own worst enemy. 😉 Anyway, it’s hard to know if leaders intentions are pure or ones of self gain. As a person who is being told that my school name might be being changed and then it quickly goes to the press that this is a possibility, it is hard to believe that the “little people” will have a true voice in the process. I realize it makes me sound jaded, but history has proven that this is how things work typically.

  10. Carey Says:

    Tuesday night will be helpful in opening the line of communications, but I think we need to be honest that up to this point there as been very little productive communication with the stakeholders that being the Carrie Busey Community/Family. I am thankful that Bill you tried to begin this process in the fall, but for numerous reasons it failed to get to the correct people until stories came out in the media. In my opinion an open forum was needed the moment the talk of changing the school name came back up. Instead, the Carrie Busey Community was led to believe that if the staff was against this, it would be dropped by the PFHOA and the village board. The communication from my readings/conversations and understanding at this point was then occurring in board meetings, etc with information provided in written minutes that at the time I feel most did not know these discussions were still happening. Just like the Carrie Busey Community should have a say in this, don’t you think the PFHOA community should have had a chance to vote or at least respond to a survey about the issue, since we were being represented by the board? The perception was that people in this neighborhood wanted the name change just because we live in the neighborhood. I know we can’t change what has been done by the media or how the decisions have been made or changed up to this point, but Tuesday allows us to begin to change the process as we move forward and to hopefully prevent the same mistakes from happening again. We need to have open and honest communications in order to move forward and begin the healing process from this.

  11. Keri Pipkins Says:

    Charles,
    I will email you an updated chronology. I found one more discussion at a Jan 4 Village of Savoy Meeting, very brief, and I took out comments since there are just too many now for me to include them all. I included links to this blog and to the No New Name FB page so folks can view the discussions occurring online.

    I too am looking forward to the discussion. Bill, I am sorry that you feel you’ve been viewed as a villain in this process, but I also think there are positive lessons to be learned here too. Had there been notification to those of us who are members Carrie Busey Community (and PFHOA) that these issues would be brought up and/or discussed at meetings, I think people would have tried to attend. But, no one knew these discussion were occurring unless they were at the meeting or were actively reading meeting minutes. I do wish there had been Open Forums much, much earlier in this process. I actually do read the agendas for the PFHOA meetings, but missed that this was even being discussed. I think it just was not on my radar that it was something that even would be discussed at a PFHOA meeting. I am new to the neighborhood and did move, in part, because of the school, but I guess I still expect to receive information about the school from Unit 4 or the PTA. Anyway, I think that’s where some of the frustration comes in. There was no public announcement that these conversations were occurring. And, I somehow missed the small paragraph from the November PTA meeting, though there wasn’t much there to suggest that anything was moving forward yet.

    Anyway, we will have the opportunity to discuss face-to-face tomorrow night and my hope is that we can give an opportunity for more open discussion as well as opportunities to submit written feedback. Many do not have schedules that allow them to attend evening meetings due to family and/or work responsibilities, and those voices should be heard too. With over 400 students, plus their families, teachers, staff, and administrators, we must be intentional about creating opportunities to share feedback in ways that are available and accessible to all.

  12. Greg Novak Says:

    I guess that I will take full credit and blame for this issue.

    In that last three years I have had multiple (more than 20) conversations with different individuals who asked me if the school in Savoy could have a different name once it opened. Now according to Board Policy 450.2 the School Board has the right to name facilities – so the answer was yes it could. However in each case I also added that the Board would wish to see a formal request come forward from some body that had an interest in the matter. Until that happened – nothing would be done.

    Now a few comments on history with Unit Four. Traditionally names of buildings have been assigned to sites. The function of a building may change, but the name does not. Consider the case of Columbia on the corner of Neil and Bradley. For many years it was Columbia Elementary Building. When in the early 1980’s the district reduced the number of middle schools from three to two, it closed Franklin Middle School.

    At that point the staff and students from Columbia moved to the Franklin building – which became Franklin Elementary School and Columbia ceased to be an active building.

    In the mid 1980’s more Middle School space was needed – and the district reopened a “magnet” middle school at the Columbia site – and so Columbia Middle School was opened there. It remained at that spot till the early 1990’s when due to the need for space – the middle school moved back into the Franklin building, and the elementary returned to Columbia. Again staff an students were move as a block – but Franklin Elementary and Columbia Middle School disappeared and were replaced by Franklin Middle School and Columbia Elementary.

    A few years later the staff and students from Columbia moved a block south into a new building – which was named Kenneth O. Stratton, and became Stratton Elementary. Columbia now became home to Columbia Alternative School, a facility for grades 6 to 12. That facility lasted until the mid 2000’s, when it was closed. Now in 2012, the facility operates as Columbia Place, and is home to various district offices.

    Schools do come and go in Unit Four – Gregory, Lincoln, Lottie Switzer, Lawhead. Colonel Wolfe, Marquette, Bondville, Hensley and even Savoy have disappeared from the rolls of Unit Four. Barkstall and Stratton have appeared. It is part of the way things work.

    Should the name of the school in Savoy be different than Carrie Busey? It’s an interesting question – but till someone comes forward and asks the Board to do it one can’t have a discussion on the topic. Those people who have raised the issue are doing what is necessary to start the discussion – nothing more.

    In my opinion the waters have been muddied by promises made by individuals in the administration that should not have been made. A central office administrator can state that he/she would recommend that the district could/should do something in their recommendation to the School Board – but he/she can not take the authority of the School Board upon themselves and make that promise. The Board is a collective body on which no one person has authority – it speaks only as a group when it takes action. No one person can make promises on behalf of the Board – they can recommend, they can suggest, they can request – but the School Board has the final say.

    My personal choice for a name for the new school is not even in the mix of names suggested – and I will not put it forward for a number of reasons.

    I am not sure if I muddied the waters as well – but again – until there is a request on this issue – the Board is not in a position to talk about it.

    My.02 – and the blame

    Greg Novak

  13. Keri Pipkins Says:

    Mr. Novak:

    Thank you so much for that history lesson! This helps very much and provides some historical context for the discussion to occur tomorrow.

    Though I’ve been very “vocal” online of late, I can’t say that I am angry or looking to blame anyone, rather I just want to make sure that there’s a more intentional effort to provide opportunities for the Carrie Busey Community to learn about this issue and weigh in.

    Please consider joining us tomorrow at the PTA Meeting, if you wish.

  14. Greg Novak Says:

    Keri

    I am on baby sitting duty tonight – but may try to drop by depending on what happens

    Greg

  15. Lori Says:

    Greg, thank you for sharing the history with us. And if you do get a chance to visit the meeting tonight, that would be great!
    Lori


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