Next Board Meeting (Monday, August 13th)

[updated 13-Aug: Moved WCBs to the top]

Working Cash Bonds will be discussed tonight. Keep in mind this is a 20-year loan (I believe). From BoardDocs:

In February, 2012, the Board approved the Resolution indicating their intent to issue Working Cash Bonds in an amount not to exceed $14,500,000.  The purpose of the Bonds was to provide money to undertake certain construction projects including HVAC, energy efficiency, technology upgrades and a transportation facility.  Administration is now seeking Board approval to issue approximately $9,800,000 in Working Cash Fund Bonds. […] It has been estimated by Stifel Nicolaus that the tax increase on a $150,000 home will be a 5¢ increase for 20 years ($22.50/per year).

I must confess, when the agenda was posted on BoardDocs, I skimmed through it looking for an agenda item to change policy 270.01. Alas, there is no agenda item for that. What is even more strange is that the a very full list of future meetings (at the bottom of the agenda) does not list any special meetings in August; I believe Dr. Wiegand indicated to me that there would be one on the 20th (budget stuff) and one on the 27th (possible first reading of policy 270.01 draft, possible high school options presentation, and something else).

So what is on the agenda?

Aside from the Academic Spotlight, Recognitions and Upcoming Events, the first thing on the “New Business” section is a report on Mentoring and Volunteers from Lauren Smith. Looks like last year was very positive in this sense. As a member of 1-to-1 Mentoring, the numbers are “feel good”, but I also very much want to see Orlando Thomas’s statement of acquiring 100 new mentors this coming year err on the side of being too conservative. With all the churches and volunteer organizations/efforts in our town, 100 new mentors should be easy-peasy! And I personally see mentors and volunteers as such a huge positive for our school district.

The next item is a proposal to change the legal limit at which purchases and bids must go through the RFP process – Administration wants to raise the limit from $10,000 to $25,000. As a taxpayer, I would be able to support this %100 if (and only if) I felt I could keep the district accountable and felt confident with the level of fiscal transparency, and more important, proactive reporting. The district has dipped their toes into the transparency waters by putting check registers and initial RFPs online, and I am thankful for that. I personally think there is still a little more work to be done before the level of trust between the district and the voting public is at a sufficient level where these kinds of caps become arbitrary. But hey, maybe only a small handful of us feel that way. Rather makes me wonder if many other folks even care. 🙂

The third item (C) is a presentation by Orlando Thomas on the topic of High School Climate. The short line-item description perhaps does not do justice to the entire presentation. I’ll try to be brief. I can already hear the mind shutters closing when the term “social justice” is uttered, so I beg you work with me for a minute and I’ll see if this sounds good or not. On paper, it sounds like Unit 4 is finally (after 10 years) taking to heart Dr. Mark Aber’s recommendations about school climate and doing something about it. The district appears ready to attack issues of behavior, delinquency and discipline by incorporating a number of innovative alternatives instead of straight-out punitive measures. For me, I found the presentation to kind of jump from one place to another, but it did a relatively good job of describing acronyms (except RTI – never spelled that one out) and concepts. Unit 4 is going to utilize resources from ACCESS Initiative (from which Dr. Mark Aber is receiving a goodly amount of dollars, I believe) and Community Elements, both members of the Champaign Community Coalition. While I was glad to find the results of brainstorming to be fruitful in terms of not doing things the same old way, I was discouraged to find a lack of down-to-the-ground, real-normal-people involvement. See my paragraph above about mentors and volunteers.

Following in those footsteps, the last “New Business” item is a summary report of discipline over the past 4 years. Overall, there seems to be a slight downward trend in the number of suspensions, but not dramatically so. There are some interesting outliers; harassment was up 50% last year; 33 suspensions at Barkstall two years ago, triple the number (11) at Garden Hills the same year; 75 suspensions at BTW and 63 at R.E.A.D.Y. (just shy of the middle school numbers). For me personally, my expectation is that these numbers should be dropping much faster – with all the programs and alternatives in place, I expect much fewer numbers overall here.

Next up, Action Agenda. To kick off this section, Dr. Susan Zola will be presenting on the Choice RFP. I know, some of you are rolling your eyes, perhaps with good reason. 🙂 This happens to be an area I am keenly interested in, but I do not want to belabor it too much. For starters, we have a rare look at a whole ton of public information about Alves’ Choice Program – the submitted Proposal from his company is a whopping 54 pages (faxed, printed and then scanned – egads!! and some of the pages are sideways!). If one is so inclined, one could read the entire thing and get a much more comprehensive understanding of what this program is supposed to do. There are also interesting elements about the “on-line” portion of the program. While some of it was indeed online for the previous school year (hosted at Alve’s own site), the interface was still horrible. Now apparently Alves has hired a Software Engineer and proposes a $92,000 project to create (Phase I – $27,000) and implement (Phase II – $65,000) this program. *palmface*

Nothing for Ken Kleber’s Administrative Appointment section.

The last Action Item is the Working Cash Bond (WCB). After all the hoopla surrounding this topic, the Administration is finally moving forward with $10mil instead of the original $14.5mil. I still don’t get how a new transportation facility is going to come out of this. The attached legal paper (with the obligatory legalese) does not spell out what the money will be used for at all, only to say “for the aforementioned” purposes. That’s helpful. However, on a positive note, it is exciting that some of these projects are already underway and I am quite certain that many students and staff will appreciate the benefits of improved HVAC an maybe even other upgrades. The technology piece….. we’ll see.

The Consent Agenda is filled with more things to spend money on. 🙂 Driver Ed cars (really, we need to buy two brand-new Fords at the price of $43,000?? What about buying a 2-year old model?), a $17,000 hot kitchen cabinet, a $3mil Title I grant application, outsourcing busing of high school students to MTD for $300,000, etc.

14 Responses to “Next Board Meeting (Monday, August 13th)”

  1. Karen Says:

    Was it Mark Abers who recommended teaching Unit 4 staff about ‘white privilege’–even suggesting something about monetary incentives for attending ‘continuing ed’ stuff on this topic? This could get interesting. Disparate impact going up against equal protection issues. Do they run *this* stuff (content) by the legal department before adopting it?

  2. Karen Says:

    Glanced over the report thing. How is ‘culture’ defined? Is there interest in ‘justice’ (<<interesting term really, as justice is blind) for a similarly situated white kid with a similar behavior record as an African American (non-white?) kid? Or, is the social justice assumption that the aforementioned white kid has enough 'social capital' from being white to offset the negative impact? It hurts the kid less (potentially if at all, per extremists)? I sure hope they don't plan to focus on not excluding to the exclusion of providing consequences! PBIS and NH have as integral aspect of their approaches, consequences (goes hand in hand with consistency). Disparate impact = racism = need for social justice? Can there be social justice along the lines of gender? For if you broke those stats down into male/female groups my guess is there would be a disparate impact on boys. So that must be an -ism some sort. Sexism, I guess. The public school system IMO needs to step away from anything with the word psychotherapy in it, in terms of service provision by general staff/teachers. Extensive training is required to be competent and such dabbling could do far more harm than good. The task force on bullying (state level) states in their report that 'conflict resolution' is not an effective practice (when it comes to bullying) and I know they still use that approach in Unit 4. Are there any BARJ plans for the 'victims' of the students who engage in behavior not consistent with code of conduct? The human side—-the face-to-face stuff can be quite powerful in effecting change and it validates that a wrong was done to the 'victim,' (for lack of a better term). The whole school community model. Making ammends to to the school community for doing harm to a member of it (and all that). And, just for you, Charles, I do like 🙂 the Safe Schools Ambassador program. At least the concept of it. NH was mangled by certain folks here, so I worry about how this program would translate into *ongoing* practice. And, this agenda item just pops up. Didn't some of us ask what was going on with the school climate stuff? I don't know where they stash this information on their webstie or wherever. Obviously this was initiated a while back and there have been updates, etc. Buit, WHERE?!?! Frustrating.

  3. Karen Says:

    The SPARCS thing. Their website states something like: ‘Become a SPARCS certified clinician’ (in a few days). A ‘clinician’?? Through role-playing? Who regulates the certificate holders? What does the Department of Professional Regulation have to say about who can legally practice/represent themselves as a ‘clinician’ in this state? This is no substitute for real psychotherapy provided by a licensed professional. Who is the intended audience? Maybe it’s intended for people who are already licensed clinicians in their disciplines (which could cover a variety of fields, really–even though this sounds like a mental health one). But, Unit 4 says something like ‘…schools will avail themselves of…’ this program/training, and then joins sforces with a program whose website is equally non-specific! with respect ot who can participate in this training. Why is it so difficult? Maybe I am not processing things properly right now, I don’t know. But, to me, this is not self-explanatory.

    •Pre-work/Planning Phase: Manuals sent to all participants. Clinicians, supervisors, & administrators complete the SPARCS Planning Worksheet as a team & participate in planning calls with trainers.

    •Learning Session 1: two day face-to-face training which includes a balance of didactic presentations, demonstrations, role-plays, and mindfulness practice.

    •Bi-weekly multi-site consultation calls: emphasis on clinical application of material, fidelity, flexibility, sustainability, and evaluation.

    •Learning Session 2: two day face-to-face training approximately 6-8 weeks after the start of group.


    •LC participants consist of teams of at least 2 (preferably 3 individuals): 1 administrator/ supervisor and 2 clinicians.
    •Attendance at both full days of both Learning Sessions.
    •Participation in 80% of consultation calls.


    •Pre-work planning phase
    •Two 2-day face-to-face learning sessions
    •Associated training materials

    •Bi-weekly consultation calls and email support occurring over 8 months ‘

    From the document attached to the Board Dosc agenda for August 13th:

    ‘…difficulty learning appropriate behavior…’
    That characterization certainly does not ‘fit’ all behavior at issue. And then comes the issue of what is considered ‘appropriate’ from a ‘cultural’ perspective. Should anything be respected just because it’s presented as ‘cultural’? History would tell us no, and that sometimes ‘cultures’ need to change. But, there is so much that is explained as ‘cutlural differences’ these days that I really wonder if there isn’t anything that one might explain away as ‘cultural,’ no matter the detriment doing so perpetuates.

    Unit 4’s discipline categories:

    I wonder how many of those suspensions for physical confrontation with other students were bullying-related. It has been interesting to see how Unit 4 presents their numbers (not just here). There are no suspensions for bullying, yet, physical confrontation with other students can certainly qualify as such.

  4. Karen Says:

    From the Unit 4 powerpoint? notes?:

    ‘When a student has difficulty learning appropriate behavior…
    we punish and exclude!’

    Well, there are other students in the picture, often. Particularly in that ‘physical confrontation with other students’ category. And, those other students have rights, as well. A kid has the right not to be mowed down at recess on a regular basis by another student. It’s great to work on stuff, but, until the work has stabilized, exclusion of that child might be very appropriate and necessary to protect the rights of the kid s/he keeps hurting. The ‘collateral damage’ assumed while we wait for this or that intervention to ‘work’ is often unacceptable (IMO). All the focus seems to be on the troubled offender–their life trauma, etc., while at the same time we seem to leave the now-traumatized targets of these offenders wide-open for more trauma at the hands of the offenders. I have heard so many times the argument of what’s the point of excluding, as this or that child will just be home watching TV or whatever and they’re just missing out on the education time they have a right to. Well, my response to that is the flip side of the coin. If the offense were committed against another child, if the offender is excluded, that’s one day that that child sees their rights protected in the school setting. They get in the education time they’re entitled to (kids bullied/physically attacked/harassed suffer from loss of classroom time too–in the forms of school avoidance, inability to concentrate due to anxiety, etc.). I am not saying exclusion all the way. I just don’t think it is an absurd (as the ‘!’ emphasis kind of implies in that Unit 4 PowerPoint thing) concept.

    Mark Abers recommendation:

    ‘Provide opportunities for students to develop and express voice and resistance’

    ‘Resistance’…….in a socialist concept sense?

    (More) diversity training:

    ‘Options with different content foci (e.g., cultural differences as relates to
    discipline and student behavior, racial identity, cultural sensitivity, privilege and power, whiteness, etc.)
     Designed to engage participants to develop critical perspective
     Designed to build a critical cohort of staff within each building
     Designed for participants to earn board credit tied to salary increases’

    ‘credit tied to salary increases’

    IMO Mark Abers suggestions don’t seem to logically follow from what respondents/stakeholders expressed in the school climate survey. IMO he seems to have a particular narrative/agenda. Maybe this is the niche he has carved out for himself in the lucrative world of business consulting. Which brings me to Michael Alves… Oh, never mind!

  5. charlesdschultz Says:

    Karen, your new nickname is “Wall of Questions!”. 🙂

    Thanks for all the inquisitiveness, the looking under the leaves and rocks, tearing things apart and chewing them up. You have provided a ton of feedback and I am frankly overwhelmed, but that is not a bad thing. It will just take me a little longer to process this.

    If nothing else, I hope this provides grounds for further discussion.

    Karen, will you be going to the Board meeting on Monday to express these thoughts? Communicating with Board Members outside the meeting?

  6. Chuck Jackson Says:

    I am interested enough in the climate stuff that I’m planning on attending. FWIW

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    Per request, I have made mention of WCBs at the top of the post

  8. Karen Says:

    As far as I can tell there is no discussion with the public at board meetings. I will try and go to listen to the presentation/s hoping that some of the nonspecifics I have questions about are fleshed out, but, I don’t anticipate that the board will truly discuss anything (publicly). The board does have a say in curriculum and thereby so too does the public (even though it seems the Admin ‘governs’ the school board vs. the other way around–strange and frustrating), but, I guess it will remain a closed-door united-front secret how each board member feels with respect to teaching critical race theory in Unit 4 schools.

  9. charlesdschultz Says:

    Karen, I am working on that. 🙂

    But yes, as of right now, there is no real discussion happening. In fact, it is often so boring as to drive one to tears. I do feel it is important, whether at a board meeting or in a more private setting (ie, email, phone call, one-on-one meetings), to alert them of your thoughts. I totally get how sometimes it feels like you are talking to a brick wall, especially when it doesn’t seem like anything changes. It is not my place to apologize for that, but I am working on changing it.

  10. charlesdschultz Says:

    I must confess, I was disappointed how this worked out. Right now, all I have to go on is Meg’s article, and she focused on two things, the WCB and the Choice RFP (I have requested the DVD recording and will be posting that either late tonight or tomorrow).

    First I am disappointed that more folks (from the public) did not voice an opinion about WCB during Public Comment, but more so during the Public Hearing last month. And please, let me be clear – it is not that I am against WCB, but more that I have heard many folks complain about it and yet there is no deliberation. There is no sitting down together in the same room to talk about the pros and cons. Even with the current WCB that we have, we have this vague idea of what the money is going to be used for and the door left open for something “technological” next year. What happened to Don Kermath, John Bambenek and Craig Walker? It’s like they made a big ballyhoo and then completely disappeared. And Jamar has been asking about alternatives – really, we have absolutely no alternatives we can present to the board?!? But wait, Mr. Walker did present an alternative. What happened to that? Again, my rant is more about the process, the way this issue was handled, not the issue itself. From my point of view, I see that the HVAC needs work and I can afford the property tax increase for that. I don’t mind the expenditures for lighting. But what about the next thing that comes up? How do we, as a community, address these issues? Our process sucks.

    No doubt, the opportunity for deliberation may seem as squashed if one waits on the Board to create such an opportunity. But the Board did create such an opportunity. What happened? Not advertised well? So what needs to happen next time? How do we make this better?

    And the Choice RFP thing really sucks. Ok, I can grit my teeth and say we can use Alves for another year while we work on this task force, but to swallow the hook, line and sinker of his new on-line project just smells all sorts of rotten. The purpose of the RFP was to go fishing to see if we could find local talen; most likely, Unit 4 will put out another RFP next year. Then what happens to this new online software package we agreed to buy? It bothers me that we will be using Alves not just for the stuff he has been doing for the past decade, but now also something new.

    Hey, maybe I am jaded. Maybe I am biased and cynical – maybe this new online thing will be awesome and full of transparency and goodness. Maybe.

  11. pattsi Says:

    This interests me that there was no deliberation about the WCB plus there is no comments following the N-G online article about the meeting. WCB are one more added to the growing list of regressive approaches to generate monies used by these home rule communities and the state. Just as a reminder–1% sales tax for the schools, 4 cents local fuel tax on top of the state fuel tax that is the 3rd highest in the USA, now these WCB with a promise that there will be more next spring, the increase of the state income tax, any fee increases such as on your cable and phone bills, and last but not least the stormwater fee, not tax, that is going to be imposed sometime next y ear. To read Charles write “I can afford the property tax increase for that” must be the mind set of the elected officials who are imposing this growing number of regressive taxes and fees. These decisions are being made by individuals who have elasticity within their discretionary monies without any consideration of the subpopulation within this community that does not have such elasticity, for whatever reason. How do I know that there is no consideration given? Periodically for two years, I have been mentioning the inequity of the proposed stormwater fee to the city committee charged with this task. Yesterday, I did the same. Not one member of the committee nor the city staff felt any compunction to re-exam the fee structure, the incentive and rebate structure, or the set tiers to help those who live in smaller abodes on smaller sites have to pay a lower set fee. Most of these abodes are in the lower-income census tracks. And then here is the fixed-income elderly who stays in loan-free home that the individual can afford, but for the growing number of regressive taxes put onto the property tax bill.
    This community is brimming with creatively brilliant individuals who could construct progressive tax and fee processes that would be equitable. And this can be done in the home rule communities. Unfortunately, one more lost opportunity to demonstrate the robustness of thinking for our fellow citizens.

  12. charlesdschultz Says:

    Good point about the regressive nature of WCB – apparently I need to be reminded of that from time to time. My apologies for keeping my focus small, and thanks for reminding me to pay attention to the larger scope.

    How do we tap the creatively brilliant mindstorm around us? I am wondering if perhaps we need to be shown the way, as it were. I don’t see why we have to lose this opportunity – can it not still be a springboard?

  13. pattsi Says:

    Use the people in the Business Instruction Facility, political science faculty, urban planning, College of Education, etc. Ask for examples from other communities. Read the literature. Talk with the Unit 4 attorney. Get outside the box.

  14. Putting things in perspective « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] vendors who have expressed an interest, not to mention the University). [previous posts: 1, 2, 3] The first step is rewriting the RFP so it is friendly for local businesses, and perhaps even […]

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