News: budget, communication, still meeting at Houlihans

First: I have nothing major planned for Houlihans today. I’ll be there if you want to come and chat. I might be reading a tome on ecological justice and transportation decisionmaking.

 

Mr. Gene Logas followed-through on his attempt to get the (preliminary) budget documents posted online (hat tip to Will Kyles).

 

I have yet to go through them with a comb. I recommend skipping the “presentation” one if you want to go straight to the meat section.

 

On top of that, the NG and WCIA are both releasing pieces today that talk about the budget. Meg Dickinson has an article that focuses on the transportation building (RSS showed me pictures, woot). I am excited to read what she wrote and see how the pictures help tell the story. WCIA sent Amanda Porterfield over to my house yesterday evening for an interview. Her questions were rather open-ended, but it was mostly about why Unit 4 needs to spend money and what they are spending on, and how that affects perceptions. I attempted to communicate how I acknowledged that Unit 4 (Administration and the Board) is trying to make lemonade out of lemons but that the community at large interprets the current events in a different light; I used the analogy I have used here, that Unit 4 thinks they have a bank account of trust built up, but the public sees the balance as much lower. I also told Amanda that I would love to see the media (print and TV) do more to tell the truth, not necessarily to “sell” Unit 4, but to show the real picture of what is going on. Both Unit 4 and the community have their own sets of weaknesses and strengths – let us acknowledge them and get to work building a better community. That news piece is supposed to air tonight (I believe it was mentioned last night during the first piece about the budget)

I only hope I do not come across as an utter and complete fool.

 

Lastly, the video recording for the March 26th Board Meeting is waiting for me at the Mellon Center; I have to go pick it up and upload it soon.

 

 

As to why I am reading about transportation decisionmaking (and also Majora Carter), I believe ultimately that ties back to how we as a community collaborate, cooperate, live and have our being together. Education is a significant piece, but yet only one piece, of that pie. I believe it is important to walk in the shoes of the underserved – a practice I must confess I have not engaged in much. Yet I hope to do so.

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12 Responses to “News: budget, communication, still meeting at Houlihans”

  1. charlesdschultz Says:

    Meg’s article was posted at 8:am – RSS is running 3 hours behind.
    http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-03-28/champaign-wants-replace-bus-building-bond-issue.html

  2. Karen Says:

    What has the transportation decisionmaking link have to do with Unit 4 and/or the bond issue? I must be missing something here.

  3. Karen Says:

    ‘one of my favorite budget quotes, “A Budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t stop us from buying it”. William Feather’

    Hmmm. Fundamental difference there in how I work a (personal) budget. I guess maybe I don’t ‘get’ economics and budgets. I would think such a quote would not reflect well on what kind of steward of tax money an admirer of it is. Eventually you run out of other people’s money–isn’t that partly why this state is so broke? Somebody has to pay for government (social) programs. When times are tough–no–people can’t afford ‘just a little more’–especially when they don’t see much return on their dollar after decades of giving just a little more.

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    Karen:

    Sorry if I did not connect the dots thoroughly. I’ll attempt do so now, but feel free tell my I failed. 🙂

    Remove the word “transportation” and focus on decisionmaking. What I am reading out of that huge monstrosity of a document is that practitioners and agencies, if they wish to truly engage in meaningful conversations with their constituents and shareholders, must go beyond banal board meetings and do something more. This is a very similar theme I am running into with ABCD, the Education Summit and the local Rose & Taylor Barbershop forums. I put Majora Carter in the same sentence because of her work with “ecological justice” and the movement to bring underserved communities together to have a voice and improve their surroundings in positive, meaningful, impactful ways. This is much like what the Faith Coalition for the Common Good is doing with the local community (not just the schools, but Springfield neighborhoods as well). This is what ABCD does. This is what I hope Champaign starts to do (more of).

    So what does that have to do with Education? And the bond issue? The link I make is “communication”. I give examples (both in theory and in practice) how communication works. I then wish to present Unit 4’s lack of effective communication as an opportunity, a challenge, to galvanize our community as other communities have been united.

    It is not my intent to say that Unit 4 does not effectively communicate at all. Dr. Wiegand and Lynn Peisker are talking to people all the time. Mr. Gene Logas was recently in the news. Board Members talk to groups and individuals. But when things like the working cash bonds pop up and the ensuing “bad press” and a petition drive, that sends a flag up the pole for me saying that something ain’t working. We have room to grow. And this is a ripe time for growth. And I am excited about it!

  5. Karen Says:

    I am beginning to wonder who *is* served by Unit 4. What about ‘average’ kids? Do they have a ‘place’ in the public schools any more? It seems many students in this country here under illegal circumstances can step right up and get free this, that, and the next thing, at the expense of tax-paying ‘stakeholders.’ This is where the ‘justice’ stuff gets very muddy for me, personally. My ‘average’ kid is falling through the cracks in Unit 4. My experience has been that there is a huge disconnect between what is touted about Unit 4 and what actually goes on at the classroom level.

    I understand the egagement of various ‘stakeholders.’ But, seemingly, more often than not, the term ‘stakeholders’ rarely seems to include ‘average’ folks. Tax payers with no children are stakeholders. There just seems to be such a narrow focus of ‘engagement’ of ‘stakeholders.’ When the focus is all on special interest groups, you end up disengaging a sizeable segment of the community (and off to private schools they go–what’s more important than your child’s education–you’ll send them where YOUR child is ‘engaged’ by the school and ‘counted’). What are the current demographics of Unit 4, I wonder. Have the underserved become the majority being served (well)?

  6. charlesdschultz Says:

    I have heard it said that Unit 4 is currently “adult-centered”, as opposed to “child-centered”. I am not exactly sure what that means, but it makes me think; is the Administration, like our Federal and State government, too large?

    In terms of who is being served and who is being heard, I do think you might want to read bits and pieces of that massive document. I read the Executive Summary (about 6 pages I think) this morning and I think it pretty much lays out the cards – start with that. The problem, as I see, is that some people are really good at making their voices heard in the current system. Then there are those whom we never hear from, which probably comprises the “average” folks (like you mentioned) and the “underserved”. What makes “average” folks average? That is ambiguous. These are real people with real names and they do real things. Why are they average?

    As I mentioned, I am taking the Education Summit as a great working example; they tried to gather as many diverse voices as possible and just plain listen to what they had to say. Surely, since only 100 people showed up out of the entire population of Springfield, some groups were not represented and some were probably “over represented”. But the fact I wish to point out is that this group made an attempt to listen. The decisionmaking paper (as well as ABCD) focus on identifying ALL groups. But that is hard work. How do you do that? It is my conclusion that you have to find and build relationships with representatives of those groups, who then become your link. Even that is hard work.

    Karen, you have pointed out many weakness. What do you suggest as an alternative? How should things work?

  7. pattsi Says:

    Why not have a group of you divide the budget into sections. Each individual take a section and study this to death. Then get together and share what you have learned, question, want to know more about, question, etc. This is a great way to dissect a huge budget and learn to love it.

    As Myles Horton and Paulo Friere have written, there is talking the talk and then there is walking the walk.

  8. Karen Says:

    I think there is too much smoke and mirrors illusion of ‘engagement’ vs. real listening and actual engagement going on. And I don’t think that’s accidental. There are methods of manipulation used in various arenas to promote particular agendas. They don’t really care about your opinion. They only care about making you feel as though you have had a say, were part of a process that led to a given ‘consensus,’ when in fact the consensus was already in place before they went though the (illusory) motions of arriving at a ‘consensus.’ Intended to make people feel some ownership of the end result, when in reality the decision was already a foregone conclusion. I think that’s why there is such a disconnect between those in power and those served by those in power. So much lip service to parents and the community being partners, etc. but, when people approach with that expectation it seems kind of resented and as almost runnning interference. It’s not really welcome. Was there truly community engagement with the superintendent search, or, was there just the illusion of it. Again, massive disconnect between what was sold by those guys in suits (‘we have an outstanding pool of applicants’…so…what happened to them? why did the outstanding ones not get selected for interviews?), and what actually happened. From the mysterious process of how the selection committee was selected (contained ‘select’ people) through how the Chamber of Commerce got to be the only? community group in on the actual interview process, through to the end result. It feels a little like the commnuity, at large, got punked. Didn’t Sue Grey defend the Chamber being privileged with involvement in the interview process because it makes sense, economically, for the district? I could be wrong on that (we’re relying on my memory here). Well, who is the district hitting up for money right now? Maybe it would ‘make sense’ to hit up Chamber of Commerce members first, before heading lower down the ranks of ‘importance’ to spend beyond your current means.

    As for what actually goes on in the schools, teacher colleges today focus on the promotion of social agendas. I think that is far too emeshed with political philosophy and has little business being taught and supported by school admins. Schools need to get away from political indoctrination and back to the basics. Content vs. process. Many more thoughts on this but gotta run.

  9. charlesdschultz Says:

    Ok, now I am looking for action items. Feel free to add to this list.

    – gather a team of volunteers willing to analyze the budget
    – do a “book study” of the preliminary document
    – divide and conquer: break out sections of the budget in somewhat equal sections (can’t do it by Fund – too skewed)

  10. Vav Says:

    Waiting for my assignment.

  11. charlesdschultz Says:

    I’ll eventually start a new thread for “assignments”, but here is my first thought.

    As painful as it might sound, listen and watch Gene Logas’s presentation (1:41:00 – 2:05:00) at the March 26th Board meeting while going through the Executive Summary side-by-side. This is to build a background understanding of the current budget and why Gene is going this direction. Might also help to watch the segment after the presentation where the Board Members ask questions (2:05:00 – .2:09:30)

    If you already have a thorough understanding of the budget, start working on the larger document.

  12. Houlihans: identifying objectives and goals « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] can sink our teeth into and take measured steps with. The budget is one item that has been broached recently, and I suggested that we start looking into that more seriously (and provided links to the March […]


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