Reaction to DeJong-Richter & BOE Meeting

This is a letter I sent to the BOE last night following the meeting:


Congratulations to all on the first successful BOE meeting of the new board!

Ileana and Jamar mentioned “their” schools With the new board, what are the assignments linking BOE members to specific schools or is this board planning to discontinue this practice?

I see the new wifi setup is complete in the Mellon building. If the expectation is to save paper and yet still have documents available to all, it would help to open the network (without any password requirements) during the duration of each public BOE meeting. 

Among the things I didn’t have time to say about the dejong richter report was the assumption that it speaks for the community. No one addressed how well the public engagement firm actually engaged the public. In my opinion, “every effort” (uttered by Scott Leopold) is an insufficient evaluative mechanism for whether unit 4 board and administration heard from the community it serves. According to Scott Leopold’s own numbers we heard from less than 3,000 people. Even assuming every data point in that report is a unique individual (hardly accurate from anecdotal data) that is fewer than five percent of the total population, it isn’t even five percent of the registered voters in Unit 4. 

To further elaborate on the administration of the public being engaged, we certainly all agree that how a question is asked influences the answer given. Leopold made much of the data obtained. Which elementary, middle and high school option had the most support, for example. Yet, in the comments of the reports were many that essentially said, I don’t like any of these options, the questions doesn’t capture my priorities, etc. Specifically the question on page 6 of the board docs report he reported on, asked us to rank the criteria in order in order of importance when choosing a high school site. Then the response options were both obscure in their wording and inadequate in their coverage. This data answers some question but not what we need to feel comfortable that we heard from the community. 

Kristine, you emphasized the point that this work, the report, was written by the community. I have two issues with that. The first is that the steering committee itself was made up OVERWHELMINGLY of unit 4 people. By my count 24 of the 32 members had direct ties to the district (not including sending their children to school). The second issue is that this final report is very nearly the draft report the Scott brought to the final steering committee meeting. He wrote the report and I didn’t see anything added from his initial draft. It is true that some ideas were omitted from the final report that were in the draft. 

While I like Leopold,  he didn’t give us choices. He proposed one construction plan and two different ways to pay for it. The phasing is different but the construction is the same. Finally, there are several major issues that have not been resolved as a result of the report. We don’t have a site, we don’t have a clear cut system wide plan for what to do with the central building, a building that has “good bones” according to many people and can be used again according to everyone. If it can be remodeled for a middle school, the science labs and all the internal inadequacies you spoke of can be remodeled for a high school too. As such, it is fields and extracurriculars that are driving the move. I remain available to be convinced otherwise. 

I would encourage you to appreciate the effort but to reject this report. It is wholly inadequate to fulfill the requirements of the contract this firm signed. 

I’m hoping this in another invitation for dialogue and not something where you get mad at me. Different opinions are good and I’m always open to revising mine. I share Laurie’s feeling that I don’t like being told no and I remain willing to work to get the best possible educational system for the students and families of unit 4. 

Thanks for reading,
Chuck Jackson

2 Responses to “Reaction to DeJong-Richter & BOE Meeting”

  1. charlesdschultz Says:

    Chuck, will you be posting the BOE response (via Laurie) when you receive it? It’s too bad we can’t have a real dialog on this….

  2. Chuck Jackson Says:

    no response to this point. A few side comments from members but nothing comprehensive.

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