I successfully nabbed the video feed off CGTV tonight – I will have to see how hard it is to crop and get ready to upload to the shared website. Going to take a few hours just to download from the TiVo to my computer.
The night started off with an Academic Spotlight (not yet on the U4 website) on Common Core. Which is kinda weird. This wasn’t a spotlight about Unit 4 at all, but rather perspectives from teachers and staff about how they thought Common Core was going to help. Some of the interviewees were extremely positive and have ambitious goals. One teacher caught my attention with the desire to flip the “normal” 80-90% teacher talk content with 80-90% child talk opportunities; she sees her role as the “facilitator” or “question-asker”. I know some of you who read this blog think that idea is ludicrous. I happen to like the general concept, but I want to see it in practice before I decide whether or not it is a good idea.
As I was watching the video, I could not help but wonder where the balanced side of the equation was – no negative thoughts about common core? *grin* No constructive criticism?
Also interesting how the Great Schools, Together logo was splashed on the end of it. More on that later.
Board Member Kristine Chalifoux asked a follow-up question, “When does ISAT actually go away”. Trevor Nadrozny, head of Curriculum, responded with the year 2016. Still a ways out, but best to be preparing now.
Next up, CFT President Cathy Mannen took the podium and relayed a prepared speech. I had the opportunity to catch the Channel 3 news before heading over to the Mellon Center and had noticed that Cathy respectfully declined to divulge comments about the details of contract negotiations; during the CFT timeslice, she talked about how hard the teachers work and how they deserve a new contract. As she was wrapping up, I thought to myself “So how do we show teachers we appreciate them?” [note to self – they really got to figure out the sound system in that room]
Anna Simmon, President of the PTA Council, was welcomed up to the podium next; she expressed thanks and appreciation to the district and board for a successful start of the new year, and relayed some of the events coming up.
Board President Sue Grey then bumped up the item about renaming the Academic Academy to the Novak Academy; lots of heart-felt stories were shared by various Board Members and Mrs. Donna Novak took an offer to address the Board and speak about Greg Novak a little. As a parting gift, Mrs. Novak left a $2 “tip” with the Board, a time-honored tradition Greg was apparently known for.
Next up was a presentation about the Midwest Athletic Center. They are basically planning a monster ginormous complex up on Olympian Drive (surprise surprise) and are trying to find as many interested partners as possible. The more and more the woman spoke, the more and more I become convinced this was all smoke and mirrors. I mean the sheer scale of this beast pretty much speaks for itself – Phase I alone is a 300,000 square foot indoor facility! 300. Thousand. Square Feet! But then she kept rolling out these factoids we were supposed to swallow as real facts:
- Champaign needs a tournament-scale facility
- Champaign needs a convention-scale facility
- This facility will serve over 6 million people ranging from Indianapolis to Chicago to St. Louis
- The money we will save on this facility can be used to more busing (LOL!)
- And the list goes on….
Sorry if I am biased. I just don’t see why we need this. I can see why a certain group that rhymes with Aktins might need this. I can see why City of Champaign might want this. I can see why developers and real estate folks might want this.
Board Member Tom Lockman asked about the timeline. The reps said they are ready to start digging now. Keep in mind they don’t have all their funding lined up yet. The head shed of MAC kinda backed off and said they would be able to complete Phase I within 12 months of getting the green light from all their financial support systems.
Board Member Jamar Brown asked if this thing will go forward no matter what the Board does (“yes”) and what the options are for those in low-income situations. Basically, they said they have ideas and to talk to them. Isn’t that what Jamar just did? ….
Chalifoux asked about how time would be prioritized, and the rep gave some PR schpeel about how if Unit 4 signed on the dotted line today they would be at the top of the list. The other rep mentioned that they will have “lots of help” from other local agencies (did he say the Park District? Really?!?).
The whole thing felt like a bad show off the home shoppers network. Maybe if we buy two of them, they will throw in a couple extra hotels. Act now!
Next up was the Educational Programming Committee (alternatively referred to as the Educational Programming Team). I have a ton of respect for Dr. Wiegand for her opening statement; no matter how we do the configurations, the class size, the vertical alignment, it all comes down to relationships. I am 100% behind that.
She continued by saying that if we use the Great Schools, Together standards, Dr. Howard is untenable as it is today. For those relatively new to the scene, Great Schools, Together (aka, GST) was this massive effort to engage the community back in 2007-2008. They held several large open forum and well facilitated meetings, had numerous working groups. But it all fizzled out from the public eye; to this day, you can see the old GST webpage that is gathering dust from 4.5 years ago, like walking through a museum. But here’s the thing – GST has lived within the Mellon Center and in fact, in seen in many aspects of the agenda, policy changes and curriculum decisions via GST core values. It’s strange, really, to be adhering to GST when it hardly peeks outside New Street. But I digress.
Dr. Wiegand had a number of slides showcasing a number of “possibilities” with the intent, I believe, of purposefully opening a can of worms to put points on the table. What about a K-8, 7-12 configuration? What about a mix of K-5,6-8,9-12 and k-8,7-12. What about k-2, 3-5? What about a 3rd “specialized high school” in which students can take a class or two? So I respect that these are still on the table. Additionally, she mentioned that some of these configuration options are not really feasible (ie, one monster high school), but she wants the community to have input on it. She was very adamant about that. And I respect that. In her words, she wants to “take time to vet ideas with the community”.
Chalifoux observed that the EPC looks very “facility committee-ish”. Dr. Wiegand agreed and said they will be working closely together. Chalifoux also made a point to emphasize that we will most likely be needing another elementary school soon, not to mention a middle school and most likely a high school in the future. In fact, Brown and Tomlinson echoed these concerns about growth. They asked (I forgot exactly which one) about the 5 or 10 year plan for all the schools.
Lockman then made a strong point that the board needs to seek out the input of the community. Well said, sir!
Grey mentioned that, even though they love the same 20 people that show up to all these things, they really want to hear from everyone else in Champaign. 🙂
Next up, DeJong-Richter. The Board skyped in two reps who gave their little talk and then the Board started asking questions.
Jamar Brown asked a point-blank question; “What exactly are you going to do?” I was not very satisfied with the answer – basically, they are going to find the hot-button topics and go from there.
Kristine Chalifoux asked when the public will finally feel like they are being engaged. The reps stated that they need about 3 months to collect data and information. Which struck me as rather odd.
Board Member Ileana Saveley asked about getting beyond the “normal 20” Sue Grey mentioned. Again, the unsatisfying “lots of things”. From my own experience and observation, it is exceptionally difficult to gather input from a large and diverse body of residents and stakeholders in Champaign.
Tom Lockman then spoke about how it is “incumbent upon us” to go out and engage the community. I assume he meant the Board, but maybe he meant a larger group?
The total engagement period will be 6-8 months.
So here is what gets me. We did GST 4.5 years ago to the tune of, what, $20,000? Now we are basically doing that all over again but 6 times as much?!? I don’t get it. How did that happen?!?
Last but not least, we heard from Cannon Design and Unit 4 Interim Financial Director Dr. Joe Davis about the need to plunk down $900,000+ for two new classrooms at Carrie Busey. Stuart Brodsky talked about how the well fields (geothermal wells) are indeed adequate for the new rooms, and just maybe the additional buffer is enough to handle all future potential classrooms. If I heard him correctly, he said well fields last about 25 years. Did I hear that correctly? Meaning in 25 years we have to go do something about them?
Oh, and one last thing. Dr. Joe Davis spoke about shifting funds from WCB to the Operating Budget to the M Fund (what’s that?). Why are we shifting funds? The money from the WCB is still going to be used what Unit 4 said it was going to be used for, right? No more, no less?
Ok, I saw several of you at the board meeting tonight – please feel free to provide your own perspective.