So here is my continuation of part 1, but in this post I am going to present a smorgasbord of what’s been going on, as viewed through my particular lens.
The Midwest Athletic Complex has a nascent website just starting. Right now all you can really do is ask for more information or download the presentation the president of MAC has taken on the road (ie, School Board meeting). I am reminded of several thoughts I first had when I saw the presentation, first “Holy smokes, that thing is monstrous!!” and secondly, “Where did the population of Champaign-Urbana indicate that they wanted something like this?” Another thought that starts seeping in my brain is “Where does all the money come from?” which makes me want to start a little inquiry into the money trail. I have heard rumors about how the Atkins group really really really really wants the MAC to come and be a part of the giganormous Olympian Drive push for northern sprawl. Since the MAC President has boldly stated “look for us in 2014”, this is starting to feel like a “build it and they will come” kind of thing. At this stage of the game, especially after reading and learning about the abuses of TIF districts, Bass Pro hunting shops, I am cynical that a small number of people stand to gain a whole lot of money and leave the rest of us holding empty pockets.
Oh, right, this is a blog about the school district.
The map provided by the MAC presentation is strangely skewed such that North is about 80 degrees (meaning you have to either turn your head or turn the screen 80 degrees (counter) clockwise to make north point straight up). When I look at google maps, I try to imagine where the new high school potential site might sit (as announced at the Sept 24th meeting); I am thinking it will be bounded by 57 to the north west, 74 to the south west, and Mattis to the east – the google satellite map shows a bunch of empty land (no offense to the farmers working that land) there right now. I have a hard time seeing a high school that is so locked in by two highways and a major arterial road. But hey, maybe I am wrong about where they want to put this potential site – it’s not like anyone has provided more specific details. *grin* (I am asking, though)
[Update: Dr. Wiegand reports that the new site is on Mattis opposing Greenview and UHaul]
Next on my list.
I had a parent-teacher conference this morning. When going over the report card and the curriculum they are covering this year, a small little statement caught my attention and sparked a fire in my head. Why do we cover “Colonial America” as a part of Social Studies? So keep in mind that I really hated history classes when I was in elementary school (and junior high and high school). Why is Unit 4 throwing the colonial times at second graders, and then hitting them up with the Revolutionary War?!? Wow. As a “integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence” (thanks Wikipedia)? Really? Even more interestingly this led to opening a can of worms with another teacher in the building, who had pretty strong feelings about this curriculum being jammed down the throats of teachers from a group out of Texas. If you are not familiar with that group of out Texas, well…. I’ll just leave it at that. But the can of worms was opened, and I learned that some teachers are particularly frustrated by this. And I thought to myself, wow, that would really kill anyone’s motivation and incentive to teach, let alone teach well.
On a better note, I heard evidence of the hard work teachers (including our Enrichment and Music teachers) are doing – I am again amazed at these awesome people. The projects they have lined up, the opportunities…. it makes me want to be a kid again. 🙂 For instance, our enrichment teacher is spearheading a Science Night. Our music teacher is not only getting students to memorize and sing the Star Spangled Banner well, but also what it means. This afternoon I heard about how the Science Tech teacher at Jefferson is hooking up with the UofI STEM to do eToys in class to teach the basics of computer programming (something near and dear to my heart *grin*). And that is just a small sampling.
In Dr. Wiegand’s most recent newsletter, she addresses the concerns expressed to her about the time of day in which the Futures Conference is being held. According to DeJong, this is the time of day that most families are flexible with their time. [Warning – Hat of Cynicism just appeared on my head] Which families are most flexible at this time? I have no doubt whatsoever that a goodly number of people will rearrange their schedules to make this happen (I will be one of them). When I met with Stephanie and Scott Leopold on Thursday, we had an interesting exchange about gather community feedback. I confess, I am very much skeptical of DeJong’s focus and reliance on social media and the web as a mechanism to reliably sample the diverse myriad voices in our community. Especially this community. Sure, they will get a large number of people, but I very much fear that significant voices will not be heard; for example, seniors, low-ses, those who do not speak english natively, those who have tried and failed to affect change, etc. I encouraged Scott and Stephanie to “take the show on the road” and the need to reach out to various communities. I warned Stephanie that I will be bringing this up again and again. 🙂 And I am going to have to remind folks that Tom Lockman said the very same thing at the Sept 10 Board Meeting.
Even having said that, I still firmly very much believe that if we want to get the most bang for the buck, we have to jump on board and ride this one out. I am not idly sitting by the sidelines and tsk-tsking them. Stephanie gave me a bunch of flyers and I am busy getting the word out in Savoy; I started with Winfield Village (slightly lower income housing, I believe) and Parkview (a senior residence). I am promoting the event via the school newsletter, our neighborhood newsletter and am passing out flyers. Why? Do I really think this is such a good thing? Here is the way I see it – one of these days, Unit 4 is going to put a referendum on the ballot asking for bunch of money. Do you want to have a voice in that? At all? Do you want to understand why they are asking for money? Do you want a voice about where the money is spent or where a new highschool or two are going to be planted? If you do, then why not get involved now?
Another piece of the pie.
- This morning the City of Champaign hosted a “Shadow Wood Engagement Initiative Workshop“. I heard that the attendance was a little low, but overall considered a success. And I believe meeting minutes will be posted next week (somewhere). I gathered that the workshop was the start of bringing together resources that can aid the specific issues in Shadow Wood, not unlike previous efforts the City has made with Bristol Place and Garwood.
- Also today, Jose Antonio Vargas (you might have seen him on the cover of TIMES Magazine) was at the Friday Forum, in part sponsored by the active local Immigration Forum.
- Pam Dempsey (CUCitizenAccess) helped to coordinate a massive collaboration with Hoy magazine on the topic of the changing demographic face in downstate Illinois.
- Unit 4 is doing another transportation-focused forum at Shadow Wood on November 2nd.
I wish I had the time to go to one or both of the events today. There are so many issues dealing with immigrants (both legal and illegal) right here in our backyard, and I believe most of us “non-immigrants” have skewed perceptions of their reality. And I believe it is a reality that is impacting us in such a way as to demand our attention. Pam interviewed a woman as a part of one her articles, and I really appreciate what Ms. Alvarez had to say:
“I could change their thinking about our families. They are not here to take the jobs,” Alvarez said. “I was an immigrant myself and I was undocumented at one time, so if they give these families an opportunity, the (families) can become good community members.”
My point to all this is that we have people in our community one way or another. If we help our neighbors become “good community members”, do we not all improve? And this is the down-to-earth, nitty gritty details I would attach to the label of “social justice”.