chat with Dr. Wiegand: Dr. Alves, and top priorities

I had an excellent, succinct and very informative phone call with Dr. Wiegand this morning. I continue to be blown away how much different the current administration is then what it was a year ago. I am really excited about this transitional period that Unit 4 is in.

Caution: this is a blog, and I am merely a parent. Just because I write something here, it should not be construed as being authoritative or have any legal binding whatsoever. I am just commenting, observing and giving my perspective.

The premise of our call was to chat about Dr. Alves’ contract. Unit 4 does not have “Schedule One”. Or at least, they cannot locate it. This just blew my mind – I even told Dr. Wiegand I was speechless (funny how “speechless” is an oxymoron in this sense). I’ll let the obvious lay there for you to contemplate. *grin* She mentioned that she is talking directly with Dr. Alves to get “Schedule One” from him. I made it quite clear in my emails that I am asking about Alves’ contract as a way to ascertain what services he provides exactly so as to relocate those services to Champaign; Judy acknowledged this and stated that she and Sue Grey have similar thoughts, and they are considering a new RFP to go out, possibly even as soon as late Spring.

I also asked about some of the top priorities on her mind these days, alluding to Sue’s top priorities of funding issues. Wiegand confirmed that these issues are also pressing on her a bit; in addition to waiting on the state, she also mentioned a few other items:

  • Trying to evaluate and analyze Health Care costs; generally taking a closer look at all expenditures that have been inherited from the previous Administration and justifying them.
  • Revamping the Literacy program (LAR – Language Arts Recover, I think). Judy very much wants to close the literacy gap by grade three.
  • Working with Tom Ramage (Parkland College President) on more dual-credite courses, more attention to career- and tech-ed.
  • Climate in Buildings; Dr. Wiegand really wants to pay attention to the climate, and the perception of climate. We chatted about Dr. Mark Aber’s reports and she is going over them again.
  • Introducing a new course based on social justice. I was thrilled to hear this! She is going to send me the course packet so I can look it over. If you are one of those people who hear “social justice” and think to yourself “meh”, I would love to talk more with you about this. 🙂

We did not talk about High School options at all. I think that is a huge looming thought on the backs of our minds; some times, it seems too big to talk about in a mere 15 minutes.

I very much appreciate that Dr. Wiegand took the time to chat with me this morning. If you are one of those who have been spurned, frustrated or generally turned off by previous Administrations, I urge you to schedule a time to talk with either Sue Grey or Judy Wiegand. Things are changing. It is an awesome time to be involved.

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5 Responses to “chat with Dr. Wiegand: Dr. Alves, and top priorities”

  1. Karen Says:

    (1) Any thoughts on why the Schedule 1 is mysteriously MIA?

    (2) WRT school climate, making the ‘perception’ distinction (as though it doesn’t match up with reality?) is going down the wrong path IMO. It’s deflecting from the real issues, from the get-go. Unit 4 needs to LISTEN TO REAL LIFE FIRST HAND EXPERIENCES MANY HAVE HAD (AND ARE CONTINUING TO HAVE) WITHIN UNIT 4 BUILDINGS! Work on stuff at ground zero and the perception stuff naturally flows. IMO this shouldn’t be a PR campaign to fluff up Unit 4’s image. Work from the ground up and get serious and committed about enforcring policies in place that affect school climate and you won’t need to be ‘marketing’ an image. It’ll be the real deal. I was very disheartened recently to hear of continued identical problems, for lack of a better desrciption, occurring in Unit 4.

    (3) It’s a very fine line to walk to teach a course in Social Justice in the schools. The only way it would fly, legally, is if it were taught in an objective manner. It would surprise me if Unit 4 could do that. I take significant issue with the way objective data are interpreted in the 2009 School Climate Survey. If any of the recommendations from that survey were incorporated into the content of a Social Justice course in the schools here, it wouldl invite legal challenge. I guarantee it. Also, WRT to the 2009 School Climate Survey, people on the EEE committee were supposed to have selected their top-3 choices from the recommendations, the results were supposed to have been tabulated, and the top-3 recommendations from the committee to go to the Board for approval. The timeline/deadline for this has passed. It hasn’t been done. And it’s just more of the same ‘we’re thinking about it, looking at it, considering how best to…etc.’ IT’S GOING ON 3 YEARS! Now, in taking such drawn-out consideration of the data, they can add a new consideration of are the data even relevant anymore??? How much was Abers paid? And did he falsely sell this school district on the notion of Stereotype Threat? As a Psychology? prof, he knows better than that (the scandal behind it). What he sold Unit 4 seems like more of an agenda (of his and similarly minded people). Unit 4 needs to become discerning with how they spend money. It goes out, but, then they can’t detail what it was contracted out for exactly? Look into Tom Grove, while you’re at it. How much was he paid? Nurtured Heart implemented wrong does NOT serve all children well. It coddles bullies and their victims suffer additional insult. I have seen first-hand it not being implemented properly. And, no, I haven’t sat back complaining about it and doing nothing.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Karen,

    I suspect “Schedule One” got shredded along with some of the other Consent Decree material. It is entirely possible it is sitting in some forgotten corner of a dusty cabinet somewhere. Regardless, the whole fiasco raises eyebrows.

    Climate. And the Climate Survey/Study. Forgive me for laughing at your concern about “going on 3 years”. Aber’s original study was conducted back in 1999, and if you want some opinions of the acerbic variety, go hunt down Sasha Meinrath. There are so many questions tied up in the topic that one could easily get stuck in the labyrinth (for it truly is a maze). I would agree that there appears to be a severe lack of accountability just looking at these two examples. Having spoken with Dr. Mark Aber personally on a few occasions, I am convinced that he has good intentions and that he has a sincere desire to see good things happen. So I don’t really want to get started on a witch hunt – what was done was done, and there have been significant changes since then. And by that I am focusing on Wiegand replacing Culver; obviously she is not a Dr. Malito, but she brings a genuine desire to hear from people. And it is this to which I would say “climate” can be properly appreciated – several of Aber’s recommendations are to create “safe environments” where people can talk without fear of being punished or ostracized. I truly want to grab that particular bull by the horns and make sure it happens.

    So, Karen, you say “listen to real life first hand experiences”. I am in full agreement. I spoke with an ex-principal who has gained a “bad apple” reputation for her opinions. It saddens me that folks have to endure this negative stigmatism if they speak out. From what little I know, it appears that those that are passionate start small, and just get louder and louder the more they are ignored. I think if they were listened to earlier in the game, the conversations would have been more congenial, more conducive to bi-lateral exchanges. Instead, I have this picture of the Administration sticking their fingers in their ears (remember, we are talking about the old Administration). So if Judy Wiegand does get out and pound the pavement in the school buildings and talks with small groups of teachers, would that do the trick?

    On a related note, I am very curious, if folks are not happy with the pace Unit 4 is taking, why are we waiting for them? If we want “safe environments”, lets just create some. I apologize, I realize I am naive, but seriously, what’s holding us back? Oh, yes, I am not the Superintendent – if you talk to me, I can do absolutely nothing about it (except make more noises). But here is my vision; if we create these spaces where people can talk freely, can we not invite Unit 4 to come to us? And I believe they will. At the bottom of my heart, I truly believe we can do this.

    Karen, you make a number of critiques in your comments. What do you see as solutions? What do you propose be done to address the issues you raise? I believe you when you say you have not “sat back … and doing nothing” – allow me to see and know what you have done. Are doing.

    Social Justice is a different ball of wax altogether. Tempted to make it another post. At the very least, I’ll save it for another comment. Let’s deal with what we have here first. 🙂

  3. Literacy « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] indicated that Literacy is one of the top things on her radar. She mentioned this during a recent phone chat, but more prominently in the Winter “To The Point“: Literacy—Foundational literacy […]

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    @Karen,

    For tonight’s Board Meeting, Dr. Wiegand has a PDF Report about GST, and one of the pages (Appendix “A”) states the 4 recommendations that the BOE chose as a result of the Climate Survey:

    1. Provide high quality professional development for both academic and non-academic staff focused on teaching and supporting students of diverse backgrounds.
    2. Create safe and competent spaces for staff to engage in ongoing discussions of diversity issues (particularly, but not limited to race and racism). One model is Learning Communities. It could be organized to make opportunities available.
    3. Create safe and competent settings for students to express what they are experiencing in school. Provide opportunities for students to develop and express voice and resistance.
    4. Develop and provide elective for credit courses at the high school level that identify and develop venues for students to critically engage issues of social history and race

    I am particularly happy about the “safe spaces” (#2 and #3). However, I do not see any action steps towards these goals. How are we going to implement these desires?

    On the flip side, I am disappointed that the BOE did not choose to address the culture of distrust (recommendation #5), engaging the University (#7) and a method for accountability (#8). I hope that #8 is implicit – if one is choosing any recommendations to follow, it would be foolish to not be willing or not seek out accountability; there is no good reason for #8 to take up one of the “top 4” slots in and of itself. Right?


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