Magnet Schools now on Facebook

My busy gerbils found a relatively new Unit 4 Magnet Schools Facebook page:


Note that the Magnet schools have had their own domain for a little while also:


Nice that they are getting more into posting pictures – I think that helps parents and the community connect a little better.

yes, still meeting at Houlihans today (11:30)

When I get my act together, I’ll make a couple more updates as well.

Cancelling the September 4th open forum at Salem

Mostly due to lack of planning, but also because we have some better ideas and really want to get some key players involved. Both Chuck Jackson and I have a strong desire to build on the success of Shadow Wood. I will be calling Carla Jones (“Hi, Carla!”) and pursue a couple different avenues.

Happenings II: whitewashed walls

I have included two links below that talk about the City’s efforts to wipe out troubled areas. Perhaps what is most interesting about this topic is the overwhelming silence of apathy, punctuated by the strong voices of the few who know and care about what is going on.


How is this related to Education? Why am I including it on a blog supposedly about Unit 4?


In a nutshell, because we are all connected. Whether or not you agree with Brian Dollinar’s scathing analysis, it is extremely hard to dispute the facts; this is just the latest in a trend of sweeping the troubles under a rug. It looks like some of the problems “just go away”, but that is hardly further from the truth. Here is the meat of the matter for me. There are kids in these communities that we have “erased”. These kids are in our classrooms, they might even sit right next to your little one. How are they being helped by these massive community-wide displacements? What kind of lesson are we teaching them? There is a whole other connected issue of our community’s plans to build a frickin’ $20 million jail. Really? So instead of trying to make better citizens out of our troubled youth, we prefer to shuffle them out of sight? Ouch.


Here is something else that is bothering me that I have not fully formulated into an actionable plan. First, here is what the Illinois School Code says:

    (b) School districts shall not promote students to the next higher grade level based upon age or any other social reasons not related to the academic performance of the students. On or before September 1, 1998, school boards shall adopt and enforce a policy on promotion as they deem necessary to ensure that students meet local goals and objectives and can perform at the expected grade level prior to promotion. Decisions to promote or retain students in any classes shall be based on successful completion of the curriculum, attendance, performance based on Illinois Goals and Assessment Program tests, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, or other testing or any other criteria established by the school board. Students determined by the local district to not qualify for promotion to the next higher grade shall be provided remedial assistance, which may include, but shall not be limited to, a summer bridge program of no less than 90 hours, tutorial sessions, increased or concentrated instructional time, modifications to instructional materials, and retention in grade.



I am confused how we have children percolating through our school district that cannot read at grade level. I may be somewhat blind (I do wear contacts, after all), but it seems to me that a large majority of our children advance through the grades with all their peers regardless. Yet, I have often heard at Board Meetings and PTA Council meetings about how Parkland has to do a bit of remedial training just to get graduates up to speed. I have heard about how we need to focus on literacy and get kids reading at grade level by third grade. Why? I am not trying to poke holes or discredit anyone. I am expressing confusion and a lack of understanding. Why even have a state School Code?


And believe you me, I have become a big support of the need for literacy. I really like the push for literacy by third grade, and the reports that say third-grade reading levels are a good early indicator of whether a child will lean towards the criminal “correctional” system are pretty convincing.


Like I said, these things are connected. Demolishing a troubled neighborhood does no more good to increase the literacy level of struggling students than does slamming the door in their face.


I do want to acknowledge the many good things about Unit 4 as well. I am saving that for the next post, Happenings III.

Happenings I: The UofI shows you how to welcome folks back and a First Day Survey

I loved this – yes, some of it is High Cheese, no doubt, but it is something, better than what we have had in the past. And the comic relief at the very end is dead on. 🙂


In other news, Unit 4 is conducting a very informal survey (via surveyMonkey) of your thoughts and opinions about the first day of school. There are only a few questions; I advise you fill it out once just to get it done, and then do it a second time when you have had a moment to think about the last couple free-form questions.


Attached are English and Spanish versions of a letter from Supterintendent Judy Wiegand regarding an attempted abduction of a Chapaign Unit 4 student that occurred today.

StrangerDangerLt GH 8-23-12

StrangerDangerLt GH Spanish8-23-12

Dear Unit 4 Families:
The following information was reported to police today.
A fifth grade, female student was approached this morning at approximately 7:40 a.m. at the
intersection of North Fifth Street and East Columbia Avenue as she was waiting for her school
bus. The student reported that a white man, in his late 20’s or early 30’s, with short blond hair, a
light brown beard and mustache, and wearing a black t-shirt approached her. The student
reported that the man was driving a four-door, small silver car. The car had a white tiger sticker
in the right windshield. She also observed a key chain shaped like a finger or with the picture of
a finger hanging from the trunk.

The student reported that the man asked her if she needed a ride, and she replied, “No.” She said
he drove past her a second time and asked again if she needed a ride and told her to get in the
car. She replied, “No,” again and began to run toward the home of someone she knew. As she
was running, he made another statement to her. She thought he said, “I’m going to come after

The student made it safely to the home to which she was running. The school was notified of
this incident mid-afternoon.

The police are investigating this incident and encourage community members to continue to
watch local news reports and keep abreast of updates via the department’s website: Any leads or reports of suspicious activity related to this attempted
abduction can be reported to the Champaign Police Department by calling (217) 351-4545, or
callers can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (217) 373-TIPS (8477). Information
can also be reported anonymously via the web at or by cell phone by texting
keyword CCTIP plus the tip information to 274637 (CRIMES).

First day of school

I heard several stories about the usual chaos involved with the first day of school. Feel free to share yours. 🙂 I heard there was a lot of excitement and a lot of confusion at the new Carrie Busey (will have to find out more in just a few moments).


In other news, found this on the MTD site:


And then a sobering and frightening reminder to be on the look out for bad guys (dated yesterday – Aug 21):

In the last week, several area towns have reported incidents involving attempts by strangers to lure younger children to vehicles.  Today, two midday incidents were reported west of Lincoln School in Monticello in which a female and male adult driving a red pickup truck with a topper ask younger children to approach their vehicle for assistance in finding a lost dog.  The children ran from the vehicle and reported the incident to a nearby adult who called the school and police.  The vehicle was not found.  I have reviewed the situation with the Monticello Police department.  Please discuss these types of incidents with your children and tell them to call 911 in an emergency.  The safety of our children is our number one concern.


Vic ZImmerman

Superintendent of Schools

Monticello CUSD #25

Posted in Community. Tags: . 2 Comments »

Recap of Aug 22 Houlihan's meeting

We had a good chat at Houlihans today; Chuck Jackson and I started making plans for the September 4th open forum and we hope to have a flyer/brochure ready by this Friday.

Board Member Tom Lockman showed up a little later and we talked about the open forum a little, the Public Engagement firm (and its purpose), how to address negative perceptions and what to do about them. Tom mentioned that Dr. Wiegand is out in the media a lot (newspaper, radio and TV) – while that is awesome, I had no idea she was visiting with the NG Editorial Board (along with U4 Board President Sue Grey) once a month. Guess those editors don’t like to share much, eh? Chuck mentioned it would be nice to see links to those outreaches on the U4 website, where possible.

We also turned our attention to finances in regards to the Boards announcement of a Public Hearing (Sept 24th) on the district budget. As the conversation ensued, Mr. Lockman mentioned he had some questions of his own he would like to get answered, and one thing leading to another, we finally asked Tom if he would be up for a small gathering between the public, himself and district officials. He agreed and is looking for a timeslot before Sept 24th. I think this would be an awesome way to help those of us who are curious about the budget to get up to speed and on the same page (maybe).

Lockman cautioned us that some parts of the budget are more or less non-negotiable; if I recall correctly, he stated examples like teacher salaries, operations and utility bills. The good news is that if we chop that out of our context, it gives us less to grapple with and a better chance we can fit it in our heads. 🙂

Aug 20th Special Board Meeting recording is available

The August 20th Special Board Meeting:

For those that like to actually download and/or watch the board meetings in true “on demand”, all the videos I have available are:

Ironically, when I missed the Aug 13th Board meeting I attempted to record it off CGTV and was stymied on two occasions. It turns out that the City of Champaign (which hosts CGTV) experienced a “technical difficulty” with the school district’s streaming setup and nothing was ever delivered to CGTV. I also noticed that by Saturday they had actually put up a board meeting, but even though it was scheduled as the Aug 13th meeting, it was actually from July. At some point, I am going to approach Unit 4 and ask them to demark the videos a bit better (the opening couple of minutes where they splash up that blue “welcome” screen) so that you know which board meeting you are watching.

Again, I make these videos available as a demonstration for what I would like Unit 4 to do – and my effort earns a B- by my own scale. I am not just critical of others. 🙂

Houlihans for Aug 22

Most schools will be starting tomorrow – I am not sure if that makes it easier or harder to join us. Or if you want to talk about all the crazy things that have led up to this point. 🙂 If nothing else, Chuck Jackson and I will continue to strategize and plan – first thing on our docket is the Open Forum for Sept 4th.


Also, I have created a Google Calendar if you wish to subscribe to weekly reminders (or to know when we plan to skip a Wednesday):