Had a busy day today:
- Mentored at Edison (which I do every Thursday)
- Chatted with Angela Smith at Franklin
- Walked the neighborhood around Douglas Park (BTW)
- Had supper with the superintendent (BTW)
- PTA Council meeting at South Side
I am a tad tired so this is not going to be a comprehensive post, but I wanted to get as much down as possible before it slips away.
My talk with Ms. Smith was quite enlightening and full of energy. When I asked Angela about her trip to DC and Florida, she mentioned that she had not even had time to debrief yet, her life had been so chocked full of “go go go”. She took a moment to catch her breath and related the story of her journey. Sure, seeing the President and speaking at a convention has the makings of grabbing headlines, but what she was really impacted by was all the events that led up to her arrival. It was a great personal testimony. She started with the email that arrived in her inbox; she thought it was a hoax and in no mood for games, but eventually someone convinced her to take it seriously. And decided it was not for her – she was too busy with her work at Franklin. But eventually, her community of friends and colleagues convinced her that it would be good to take the opportunity of a trip out to the nation’s capital. She relayed to me how her team rallied together to bolster her confidence, arrange for her to be gone and help take care of accomodations. She mentioned at one point that she realized she could not do this alone. And that was the root story of the success at Franklin – it is the community and culture at Franklin that is strong, heroic and embracing. So even though Angela is moving on up to the Mellon Center, the people that remain behind will continue to be strong and fostering a supportive environment for the next principal. When I asked her about the thought of getting farther away from the kids, she said it felt like a natural progression; when she was a teacher and about to move up to being a principal, she was initially afraid that she would be more distanced from the children. Instead, her scope merely widened from 30 to 400 or so. And now the same thing is happening – her scope is widening from one middle school to three. She is very much excited about this transition, and I can tell that she is very passionate about reaching and educating children.
(quick side note: while waiting for Ms. Smith, I came across a poster about Operation S.T.O.P. – and I had to wonder, do kids really want to go to school 24/7? Props for doing something about truancy, though)
The neighborhood walk was quite interesting. The Community Coalition has quite a few partnerships (as mentioned earlier); on top of that, there were some significant figures (Mayor, Chief of Police from both Champaign and Urbana, Julia Reitz, many others) and the requisite parade of media (although for the life of me, I am not finding much online – strange that). I’m not sure how many of them actually got out and walked with us. We split up into many small groups (ours had 4) and we went knocking and ringing doorbells. It would be really interesting to see what the overall response was. The goal was two-fold; to give out information about Unit 4 (we were targeting households with Unit 4 children) and to ask if families were in need of anything. The Coalition hopes to provide assistance via the many partners, so a list of about 10 sample things (summer camp, help finding employment for older teens, food assistance, etc) were handed out on a card. It is not clear to me how effective that will be, but again, I give kudos just for doing something. If nothing else, it is a first step in letting the nearby residents know that somebody cares about them. I personally think that is significant in and of itself. In order to be truly effective, it must be consistent, as we talked about later at the Supper with the Superintendent.
For me, these kinds of events are great for networking – rubbing shoulders with folks I do not normally come into contact with. I learned that Orlando Thomas was one of the big pushers for Unit 4’s involvement with the Community Coalition and I told him I want to talk more about this thing at some point in the near future. Had some great talks with members of the NAACP, Unit 4 Administrators, Board Members, Will Kyles, other community members and even a student who was in choir at Centennial, now at Central, and going back to Centennial next year. I’ll try to cover more of what we talked about later (and let readers who were there fill in *hint hint*); but I did want to briefly mention a informative chat with Craig Walker. Pattsi said I should to folks like Craig and “just learn from them”, so that is what I did. 🙂 I asked about what some of his major concerns are, how he has been involved and some of his goals for Unit 4. And I did indeed learn a bit.
And then I zipped over to South Side for the PTA Council meeting, showing up late but just in time for a “round the circle of what is going on at your school”. Not quite what I expected at all. But at least it gave everyone a chance to speak up a little. Sherri Williamson is continuing to do some really awesome stuff with the “Resource Day” concept, and the next one will be September 8th and all schools are invited. A few other things were shared but now I officially have a headache and have to call it quits here.