First off, I could not stay for the whole thing; as it was 7:pm by and only up to first half of the High School Initiatives update (Section 7: Reports), I knew it was going to be a long night and I needed to spend some time with family.
Chatted with Meg a little before the meeting – not sure how much she wants me to talk about her article coming up on Wednesday, so I’ll let that little mystery linger. I am looking forward to reading it. Also noticed that WCIA was at the meeting – I wonder how long they stuck around. First time in a long time that I saw the camera rolling like that.
The first part of the Board Meeting was actually quite good, in my opinion. There was no “open comment” from anyone in the audience (and there were a LOT of people there – mostly teachers, faculty, and Architects). Tommy Lockman kicked of the “Communications from Board Members” (Section 5D); in an effort to be responsive to the community, Tommy suggested that the Board re-open discussions and/or possibly not move forward with the working cash bonds. I was thrilled to hear this, not so much because of the working cash bonds itself, but it was (from my perspective) a great way to send the message of “hey community, we hear you”. It will be interesting to see how the Board as a whole responds. Dave Tomlinson did mention something about the legal logisitics (I didn’t quite catch them), something about how at least one Board Member would have to reverse their vote, I think. Anyway, Dave went on to paint the Big Picture (ie, like what I heard on March 12th) and how none of this stuff is new and how the Board has kept their promise made to the community about the 1% Sales Tax. I believe he was responding to the negativity being cast by some of the news segments in the past couple of weeks (NG Editorial staff in particular, but the TV got their edge in as well). Kristine mentioned that there is a lot of false information out there.
Which is strange because if you look at the Unit 4 website, it is exceptionally difficult to connect the dots and get an accurate picture. Gene Logas has been putting up some documents on his Finance page, but …. it only goes halfway, IMO. Kristine did ask that the documents from the 1% Sales Tax be put back up to help with that. We will see…
Next up was the High School Initiative. I had no clue what this was when I read the agenda. And even 10 minutes into this section I was like “What the heck is “Late Start Wednesdays??” The two High School Principles (Greg Johnson and Joe Williams) talked about the huge number of “F” grades and how that is starting to trend downwards (lots of facts, numbers and charts to show this). Then they talked about how “Late Start Wednesdays” has slowly evolved (from twice a month to weekly), how that has made things very consistent and the impact they have observed. And then they each paraded a number of teachers up to the podium to give personal stories of these collaboration times. For this is what Late Start Wednesdays are – when school actually starts almost an hour later so teachers have time to get together and as a group analyze their progress, students, work, etc. I could not help but get the impression this was like peer tutoring for teachers. Which seems like a good thing. I have to confess that my fur was rubbed the wrong way when Mr. Joe Williams started dropping buzzwords like “Professional Learning Community” and telling the Board “This is what you want to hear ….”. It almost started sounding like a sales pitch. And I very much dislike sales pitches. But that’s me.
I forget exactly who, but someone mentioned that it is hard to find the balance between reserving time for teachers to analyze, assess and plan vs spending time with the kids and teaching (I think several Board Member brought this point up; Kristine, Jamar and Tommy). Overall, it sounds like the teachers are benefiting (based on what they shared), and the obvious attempt to show a metric was how “F” grades were decreasing. If teachers are catalyzed and stimulated via this 6-year-old Initiative, I am leaning towards liking it myself.
One question that popped into my head is “Where is the research from the U of I??” I am just curious. Several times I heard one or the other of the principles say that they have maxed out their efforts of creative scheduling. They don’t have to do it all alone…. 🙂
The next section was the second part of the High School Initiative, “College and Career Counseling”. I think I would have enjoyed sticking around, but I had to go.
I have already requested the video recording, and I’ll post a comment here when I finally get it online (hopefully tomorrow night).
Anyone else go to the meeting or watch it via CGTV? Any other thoughts/comments?
PS – Sue reminded me that Special Board Meetings are different from Regular Board Meetings in that the Special ones have more opportunities for 3-minute windows of public comment.