I was treated to quite a surprise when I arrived at the Mellon Center today; hundreds and hundreds of teachers will spilling out of the board room. I don’t see how they all could possibly fit inside there.
Meg Dickinson already spilled the beans: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-10-15/updated-champaign-teachers-reach-contract-agreement.html – CFT reached a tentative agreement with the Board. I overhead pretty much the same thing while wandering around with the teachers and listening to a CFT rep (I always forget his name, but I see him at every board meeting). The folks outside were very excited to hear this, a very jolly feeling in the crowd. 🙂
[Download the video here: I got it off TiVo again, hence all the extra black nothingness for that last 30 minutes or so]
The Board meeting tonight was actually rather short. Which is always a good thing. I didn’t have my handy dandy notebook with me, so I am trying to get this down as soon as I can. The first part of the Agenda (Recognitions) actually took a bit of the time; a technical glitch with the Academic Spotlight on Centennial (not online, yet), but when we did see it I was very curious about the Instructional Coaching and the two clubs (African-American Club and Social Justice Club). Lots of cool things going on there. The other part of Recognitions was a long list of excelling students and faculty, most of which had an opportunity to shake hands with the board; National Merit Scholar semifinalists and commendations, National Achievement Outstanding Participants, and Those Who Excel, including one volunteer who is a Chemistry prof at the University (wow!).
I spoke during Public Comment (I wish I had rehearsed, I sounded like a fool); thanked the administration and the board for all their hard work, then urged them on two points. 1) take further steps to gather community input, especially in light of the upcoming “Futures Conference” with DeJong and the need to actually go out to people, not just wait for them to come to the Board, and 2) push the SES program (Supplemental Education Services – private and semi-private mentor/tutor services for those under Title I (free or reduced lunch) struggling academically) a whole lot more, as it is going very underutilized and it is such an awesome opportunity. I am kicking myself for not mentioning anything about an urban planner! Especially in light of some of the conversations that developed a little later during the meeting. I also wanted to thank the board for the “Adopt a school” idea, but alas…..
The Adopt a school announcement was next anyway. I think Dr. Wiegand had some excellent things to say about tying this initiative in with the book study. While I was sitting there listening to Dr. Wiegand, I got to thinking that I hope this becomes a precedent for all future board members. Which would naturally lend itself to a board policy, would it not? Additionally, I got to thinking that this is a serious commitment on the part of board members. Yes, I agree that this is part of the job description and this is what one signs up for when one runs to be a board member. That does not negate the fact that it is still unpaid time. Invested time.
Orlando Thomas spoke again about the Summer Youth Employment Program; Tomlinson said he was all for the program itself, but expressed concern about the significant increase of money being put into it (50% additional). Mr. Thomas explained that the other funding (from the state?) had dried up (big surprise). In the end, the vote was 6-0.
Angela Smith gave a little background on the Education Equity Excellence Committee (EEE, aka, triple-E) and then introduced the three members the administration is asking the board to approve; two of the members are new (I believe), while one (Karl Radnitzer) is returning. I happen to know Karl quite well so I fired off an email to him asking about his participation and thoughts on this committee where it stands now.
Arlene and Stuart from Cannon Design then gave a presentation about proposed changes to Bottenfield and Robeson. To the tune of $5 million! I could not stop shaking my head at how ludicrous this is. Tomlinson got the discussion ball rolling (which turned out to be a good discussion, by the way – I advise you check out the video). This is big money being talked about. Do we really want to put another $3mil into Robeson, a school we are currently planning to renovate?!? Chalifoux piped up as well – both board members talked about how we really need to be thinking about the future, how there are many other options to consider (building up other existing schools that might make more sense, building out on the periphery of town (I heard Pattsi falling to the floor), etc). My head was spinning. Isn’t there a Facilities Committee? No input on the matter? I started kicking myself anew for not mentioning anything about a planner during public comment. Darn it! And here is another concern I have – we don’t know how many students we will have next year. Yes, a demographic analysis is badly needed, but aren’t we going to run into this problem again? 5 years, 10 years down the line? Are we going to build, build, and build and then find that we have way too many empty seats?
That pretty much ended the meeting. But the best is yet to come. Speaking personally, that is.
I stuck around and Scott Leopold of DeJong introduced himself to me. We dove into an awesome chat about the work DeJong is doing, touched on the Steering Committee that meets tomorrow, a little about the Futures Conference. He asked what I thought about the website (I like! – but would like to see progress tracked a little better). We had an in-depth conversation about GIS (and arcGIS in particular – Vavrik would have been salivating), about how to sustain demographic information going forward, sharing information and pushing GIS layers out to the City of Champaign to share with their GeoPrime project. Stephanie Stuart joined us and we continued talking about ways to push the word out to folks (they mentioned marquees and a letter to go home with students on Wednesday). I mentioned that in light of Big.Small.All and Great Schools Together, they have a steep hill to climb if they truly wish to touch on and engage all parts of our community. I think they have the right energy to do it, though.
Stephanie also showed me the new 2012 Fast Facts and Student Scholars flyers – very spiffy, very sharp. Both play up the awesome things going on and put our recent explosion of growth in a positive light. It is good to be reminded about the awesomeness we have right here in Champaign.