I sent the below note to Unit 4 Dr. Wiegand, the Unit 4 BOE and Unit 116 Superintendent Dr. Preston. What I did not mention in the note was that I had a follow-up conversation with one of the two PhD students (Gabe Rodriguez); I am really impressed by the grad students’ work and am anxious to see how this plays out further down the road. I cannot help but be convinced that healthy, human relationships form the fundamental core of a thriving community (ie, not Facebook, not bottom-line efficiency, not the almighty dollar, not laws, not Government).
Good afternoon, Dr. Wiegand and members of the Unit 4 Board of Education,This morning I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a class presentation on Social Justice at Urbana High School. Ms. Dahlke has 22 intelligent, concerned and forward-thinking students, each of whom shared a little of what their semester-long class has accomplished. Although the focus and direction of the class morphed since the beginning of the semester, their final project was an impressive field study of discipline referrals and suspensions. My personal take-away was seeing how impactful and significant personal relationships are at any level of a community, how students want to be heard and sometimes how the perceptions of students do not match the perceptions of adults and the conflicts that ensue. I saw how important life-skills like conflict resolution are – these are not skills set aside for marriage counseling, but very relevant and applicable to anyone that desires a functional and healthy society.The class made several recommendations. One of which was to form a student union and to enact student advocacy at some level. They recommended better communication, the goal of which would be to provide an opportunity for students and teachers to know each other as humans. I was quite impressed.I have had a couple one-off chats with Board Member Jamar Brown and I appreciate how Mr. Brown attempts to better understand the full story when he is faced with discipline issues. This is not to say that he is the only one, but I do believe that gaining a better cultural understanding makes a huge difference, especially when the statistics show that referrals for African-American men are disproportionately skewed.I understand that a pilot curriculum on social justice is being considered and analyzed for insertion into Unit 4. I applaud this effort, and I hope that the Board and the Superintendent are able to effectively communicate with the wider audience of the community how important and crucial this topic is. I realize “social justice” sounds kind of kooky and may seem like a hard sell. But I believe very strongly that there is something going on here, something worth talking about.May each of you have a chance to enjoy the beautiful warm weather outside.