Anyone willing to share their impressions and "take aways" of tonight's Town Hall meeting?

I was able to catch small bits and pieces via CGTV, and was watching when at 8:00 pm it switch promptly to a commercial. I hope to watch my recording tomorrow and David Hohman says he hopes to have his recording up on Vimeo soon.

For anyone that attended (even if you were a panelist) or watched/listened to the entire thing, care to share your thoughts? From what little I observed, only about 4 panelists got any serious airtime – as I missed the opening statements (and half the closing statements), there were some panelists I did not hear at all. I did see that they were fielding questions via Amanda Porterfield (of WCIA) who was moderating.

Thoughts/comments?

 

UPDATE:

For those unable to attend and unwilling to wait for Friday (CGTV rebroadcast), the town hall has been posted on Vimeo:
http://vimeo.com/75916050

Another correction: "No more jails" event is on Tuesday, October 1st

Correction to my previous post about packing the house:

 

 

The Meeting with the Champaign County Finance Committee meeting is TOMORROW, Tuesday, October 1st. Sorry about that. Following is the full informational message:

 

NO MORE JAILS IN CHAMPAIGN COUNTY!!!

Help Us Pack This Meeting. The Board’s Finance Committee will be discussing the 2014 budget.  Join us at this meeting and show your support for cutting the budget for jail spending and re-directing the money to programs to build our communities.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 6 P.M. AT BROOKENS ADMINISTRATION BUILDING, 1776 E. WASHINGTON, URBANA

Also:

*Send a petition to Al Kurtz, Chair of the County Board to let the County know you support prevention not detention:http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/build-programs-not-jails?source=c.url&r_by=8795533

Check out the No More Jails in Champaign County website
http://nationinside.org/campaign/stop-jail/ ]

Like us on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/pages/No-More-Jails-in-Champaign-County/227996657340161 ]

Unsubscribe
https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6220/c/1340/p/salsa/supporter/unsubscribe/public/  ]

Two "Pack the House" events

Putting out the last-minute call to “pack the house” in two seemingly separate events:

  1. TONIGHT! The “town hall” meeting at the Mellon Center to discuss the future high school site. 6pm – 8pm
  2. NO MORE JAILS IN CHAMPAIGN COUNTY!!!” Tuesday, October 1st at 6 p.m. at the Brookens Admin Building, 1776 E. Washington, Urbana for a public meeting with Dr. Kalmanoff and the County Board. More info on the CUCPJ website

I say “seemingly separate” because most people probably think these two things have nothing in common. However, I would contend that they have a LOT in common, especially in our community. As we think about the future of public education in Champaign, we must also consider why we have so many fellow citizens in our jails. A measure of a successful public educational system should be how ready the graduates (all students, even those that drop out of the system) are to participate in and contribute to society. Overcrowded jails should be a shameful statistic for our entire community.

Some other events this week:

Anti-Bullying Moving Screening, Thursday, October 3rd at 5:30 pm, Centennial High School

A screening of the documentary Bully will kick off this evening. After the movie there will be a panel discussion to address questions, concerns and suggestions the audience has regarding the topic of bullying.

Included on the panel are:

  • Erika Harold, former Miss America
  • Dr. Dorothy Espelage, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Michelle Petty, Eastern Illinois Safe Schools Alliance
  • Champaign Police Officer Ed Wachala, Centennial SRO
  • Principal Sara Sanders, Franklin Middle School
  • Dr. Susan Zola, Assistant Superintendent

This event is free and open to the Unit 4 community

Coming up:

PTA Safety Forum, October 23rd, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Southside Elementary School

"Students Are Masterpieces And Teachers Are Their Conductors"

Sheri asked that I share this from her Resources blog:

 

I wanted to share this thought. I was watching a movie today with my daughter. The movie spanned the decades, touching on historical moments that our changed society. Americans developed from those moments. Wars, presidents, and culture. But at the heart of the movie was one of the spokes within that system of wheels that influenced how our communities grew: teachers.

At the end of the movie, after watching the main character find his way through his teaching career, there is an event to honor him. One of his former students gives this message:

Mr. Holland had a profound influence on my life and on a lot of lives I know. But I have a feeling that he considers a great part of his own life misspent. Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his. And this was going to make him famous, rich, probably both. But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous, at least not outside of our little town. So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure. But he would be wrong, because I think that he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame. Look around you. There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.

The same can be said of each of our teachers. Our children are molds. And each teacher leaves an imprint on them. Looking back at my own years K-12 there were teachers who always had a smile on their faces. Their tones were always sweet. Their instruction always nurturing. I may not remember exactly what information they taught me, but I know I wanted to learn in their classrooms. There were teachers who just through hallway interactions could brighten your day. And there were teachers who got you hooked on a subject, so much so, that your college application was written on the foundation they created with you.

I know the arguments are about money. And that’s truly unfortunate. That our students are affected by money. Sure they may not have a clear appreciation of how money is the focal point of the current negotiations… and we should be thankful for that. Because what would they say if they really understood? Some parents don’t even understand why the issue is being contested. I wish I could say “money aside,” but no one can say that. What I can say is that the same teachers we are leaving in limbo are the same ones who have never faltered in their mission to serve our students. They have come to work without a contract and taught our children. To those who think this is about money to them… it’s clearly not.

While we may not all agree on the outcome of this situation, I encourage parents to share their thoughts about this situation. All your thoughts, good or bad. You’re welcome to share in comments on this post or via email (swlmsn79@gmail.com). For those sharing via email I would like to post your message on my blog, omitting the name of the sender.

One voice may create a stir, but many voices will create a storm.

CFT negotiations

Both the CFT and the Unit 4 BOE have released their version of the story in regards to the ongoing contract negotiations as they attempt to get past yet another bottleneck. For your reading pleasure, here are the official releases:

Unit 4 BOE – Summary: http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/6297

Unit 4 BOE 39-page monster: http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2013/09/26/Champaign_school_district_proposal.pdf

CFT: http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2013/09/26/CFT_contract_proposal.pdf

The first thing I noticed is what appears to be a glaring disparity between what the BOE said they offered (3%/year for 3 years) to the CFT in terms of Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA) and what the CFT said the BOE offered (1.3%/year for 3 years). Am I blind? Did I miss something obvious? Was it a misunderstanding?

The parents are making their voice heard in support of the CFT and the teachers in general. It is starting to look like it is the administration and the BOE on one side, and the CFT, teachers and parents on the other side. This division concerns me greatly! Specifically, as someone who has put in an application for a board member and helped another to run for the Board, it pains me to see the BOE lined up across the line from the parents. At least, this is the perception I have of how this is shaking out.

Having said that, I do have other issues with the offer the CFT has made public. For instance, I personally am very much against vague “Step increases” – I do not believe people should receive “longevity rewards.” I MUCH RATHER pay more money to a REALLY GOOD teacher who has only been teaching for two years than a REALLY BAD teacher who has been teaching for 30 years. And therein lies the core issue – how do you know if a teacher is really good or really bad? How do you get rid of a bad teacher once that determination has been made? And under the current system, how in the world do you reward a really good teacher? We could listen to Michelle Rhee’s suggestions for how to grade teacher performance, that is one possibility. There are a few others out there that sound very similar (ie, peer grading, student/parent grading, etc). That could use some more discussion. But as it is now, I do not like “Step increases” at all!

Another issue with the CFT public proposal; while acknowledging the many good things in the Unit 4 financial landscape (and using that to say Unit 4 would have no problem affording the proposed salary increases), the CFT has not accounted for the problematic future of less federal/state funding and pension reform. Perhaps even more significant, the CFT has not publicly identified how exactly the budget can be shuffled in order to accommodate their requests. It is almost like robbing Peter to pay Mary, except that in this case, we all know Mary and we have no idea who Peter is. Would the CFT propose cutting…. High School band? Special Ed? What goes on the chopping block to make room for higher teacher salaries? Oh, you say administrator salaries…. now that would be an interesting discussion….. But herein lies yet another root issue – who really understands the budget? On September 23rd there was a so-called “public hearing” on the 2014 budget. I did not see any discourse; no questions, no outrage, no encouragement, no real explanation. Yes, a bunch of slides, but it painted a very high-level picture and I got lost while trying to wrap my head around it. The public cannot possibly hope to suggest, with confidence, that the budget can or cannot be shuffled one dollar in or out simply because we just do not understand it. How much does the CFT really understand it? And if they do, maybe they can provide some alternative budgets.

This is not to say that the Unit 4 BOE proposal is without fault. The 39-page detailed offer is a double-edged sword, as it is extremely thick and intimidating while at the same time, very thorough and comprehensive. It is a totally different read from the CFT proposal. I do like that they offer a bevy of explanations and rationale. On the issue of teachers being limited to 20 minutes of non-instructional time, I felt that the Unit 4 BOE proposal was exceedingly over the top. $1.7 million for 22 so-called “aides” to help ensure a “safe and secure school environment” comes out to a whopping $79,800 per person!! Crikey! So, my take-away is that the district rather spend money on people who do police work rather than people who do education. Interesting….

CORRECTION: the $1.7 million is to be spread over three years, bringing the aide salary down to $26,600/year.

In regards to salary, the BOE is offering (they say) 3% raises for the next three years, totaling 9%. They estimate that this will cost $3.5 million. I do not really understand how this fits into the budget. We are told that times are tight, the future is uncertain, that the school districts needs a certain amount of money in reserve, etc. Where is the $3.5 million coming from? And why is the CFT painting a picture that the BOE is being stingy? I must have missed something.

Also, why is the CFT only wanting a one-year contract, and the BOE offering a three-year contract? Contract negotiation is painful and expensive – why would the CFT only want one year contracts? For that matter, do we really need them? I know, I am asking the stupid question here. But look, teachers are teaching and getting paid with no contract currently. What if we just didn’t have contracts?

In conclusion, I believe there are two core issues we all need to tackle:

  1. how to assess and reward or improve educators (including principals)
  2. how to understand the budget

These are two very big issues, and I fear that the BOE nor the CFT nor the expensive Mediators are going to help us progress on those topics at all. And thus, we are setting ourselves up for yet another repeat next Fall. Oh joy.

Times are changing. While there are many interesting aspects to the single-room schoolhouse of yesteryear (yestermillenium might be more accurate), we must adapt and change as does technology/pedagogy and most importantly, fight the unintended consequences of today’s corrosive norms (eg, “school to prison pipeline”, overly individualistic “American Dream” chasers, etc).

"Superintendent Wiegand to Host Community Conversation at the Research Park"

community_conversationFrom Stephanie Stuart:

Champaign Unit #4 School District Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand will host a Community Conversation at the University of Illinois Research Park as part of series of informal community meetings be held throughout the school year.

 

“As Superintendent, it’s important that the work taking place in our schools is leveraging the diversity and expertise that exists within our community,” said Superintedent Wiegand. “The University of Illinois Research Park has put Champaign-Urbana on the map as one of the fastest-growing tech communities in the nation. We want to build strong partnerships with this.”

 

District and University of Illinois representatives will be on hand to share how Unit 4 is working to integrate technology in the classroom. Research Park employees and community members are invited to ask questions and share ideas how our schools and the CU tech community can work together to build strong partnerships.

 

“Developing a technologically savvy workforce is critical to our community’s future,” said Laura Frerichs, Director of the University of Illinois Research Park. “We look forward to learning more about Unit 4’s approach to STEM education, and how we can leverage the Research Park and its resources to work together meaningfully towards a common goal. Research Park is excited to welcome Dr. Wiegand and Unit 4 to discuss these issues and hope this event marks the beginning of a continuous dialogue.”

 

One collaboration that will be highlighted to kick off the conversation will be the work done through the Entrepreneurial Leadership in STEM Teaching and Learning (EnLiST) grant, specifically at Booker T. Washington STEM Academy.  These collaborations have included the development of several new high school science courses, middle school science units, and “flipping” classrooms.

 

“Over the past five years, EnLiST has collaborated with Unit 4 on developing the capacity of a cadre of fifty K-12 teacher leaders through intensive, long-term professional development coupled with the seeding and nurturing of innovative and transformative initiatives,” said Dr. Fouad Abd-El-Khalick, Curriculum & Instruction Department Head at the University of Illinois College of Education. “At Booker T. Washington STEM Academy, EnLiST faculty and teacher leaders have engaged elementary students with nanotechnology (3D printing and polymer balls), a “Drones for Schools” program, and inquiry learning in chemistry, entomology, and geophysics, all supported by a network of UIUC STEM faculty and graduate students, high school teachers and students, and BTW teachers. EnLiST continues to support Unit 4 teachers as they create and implement transformative innovations for K-12 students in STEM education.”

 

The event will be held November 5, 2013 from 5-6:30 p.m. at EnterpriseWorks Incubator (60 Hazelwood Drive, Champaign).

 

Stephanie Stuart

Community Relations Coordinator

Champaign Unit #4 School District

217-531-0252

quick note on Sept 23rd special board meeting

The agenda has been posted; got some interesting items from the RPC about a study on transportation effects of a new high school (I have not read them thoroughly, yet). Also, a “public hearing” on the budget. I would like to hear from folks who have never been to one what you think it is. 🙂 Couple other odds and ends.

 

I also expect to hear things during public comment about CFT negotiations, and maybe even from Kenwood parents.