Filling in details for the April 17th Open Forum

At our Houlihans meeting this afternoon, we covered a lot of ground. Much of it was discussing ideas for the April 17th Open Forum, although we did briefly talk about a certain candidate forum as well.

While I cannot say we have finalized anything, our Houlihans session was really good at uncovering some very nice ideas. For instance, next week we are planning on having “wondercards” (as Chuck calls them) at the open discussion on Tuesday; if you wonder about something, have an idea, a question or a comment, fill out a card. Our intention is to have a display board or three that we can group the cards on and at the end of the evening have a full board that we take pictures of and post online. These will be our proof that many people had a hand in developing ideas – far be it from us to be the sole voice. The whole point of these forums is to open up communication channels. We are also talking about using a 12-minute Ken Robinson video as a way to break the ice and jumpstart conversations.

An overall list of goals we think we want to address would be:

  • Communications: The current system of communication has a couple holes. We don’t necessarily have all the answers, but the major reason we are having these forums in the first place is to kick the tires, uncork our brains and see what happens.
  • Teacher/staff isolation: After talking with some teachers, we learned that some teachers would appreciate a little more support, and a little more connection with other teachers, not to mention with Administration and community members.
  • Student Climate: This one we intend to address bullying and lack of respect; not merely from students to teachers, but also the other way as well.

Again, this is just a working prototype, something to give us a little direction as we start to listen to more people and developer a bigger picture.

We also talked about the importance of including Urbana. While I do not personally know the most active folks in Urbana, I am sure people in USD 116 are indeed concerned and want to have a voice as well. We truly do want to open the doors to communication, so let us know who you are. 🙂 We also looked at several similar efforts in recent history (no names, I am sure you can recall what they were) and we are trying to learn from them. First, we are starting small. And simple. We see that it is important to be somewhat organized and have future opportunities established to keep the ball rolling, so we are going to announce a rough timeline of two more forums as well. Keep in mind these are tentative.

  • May 15th (Tuesday), 7:00 – 9:00 pm, Lewis Auditorium at the Urbana Library
  • September – date and location TBD

We are thinking of devoting one or more future gatherings to invite only teachers and have them chat about their teaching conditions to address Teacher/Staff Isolation, what they need to be more successful, or whatever. It is open. We also want to look into using public spaces at schools (Stratton has already has an offer on the table, I understand).

Granted, there are many efforts underway to start conversations – it is not our intent to say we are better at anything. We are just creating another opportunity for those interested. For instance, Dr. Wiegand has already held one “Supper with the Superintendent” and will be holding another one May 3rd. The TALK Foundation has held one anti-bullying forum, as has Dr. Wiegand and the NAACP. And there are more. I am really excited about all that is happening, and I am very much looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Big thanks to those who joined us today!

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