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.




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


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

  1. pattsi Says:

    Deep in Meg’s article today, she writes that the BOE will choose a developer at the Oct. mtg. this just does not match what was said by panelists and hiring BLDD. Basically one might wonder as to the intent to look at and/or for other sites. It is clear decision fatigue has set in and this is trumping the fact that building a HS is a 50-year imprint on the community and will change the development , around the chosen site. Second, it became crystal clear that no one has run a long list of variables and costs for any site known or unknown. This is disarming since Unit 4 will be asking for a referendum.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    After watching the recording piece-meal (curse you, TiVo), I had several impressions.

    First, I regret referring to this so-called town hall as a “pack the house” event. For all intents and purposes, folks could have been sitting at home watching on their sofas and communicating their questions electronically; there was absolutely no direct communication from the audience to the panelists.

    Having said that, I did appreciate the variety of viewpoints expressed by the panelists. Some of the panelists were exceptionally quiet and maybe spoke once or twice. Others were quite vocal. I totally did not get why Bruce Knight was on the panel, especially after co-chairing various committees like “Great Schools Together” and the Future Faciliities.

    I did not hear panelists talk about the qualities of any specific school, except when Imani took the bull by the horns and attempted to force a “drill-down” of which sites are really under consideration (basically, Country Fair). Imani hinted at her Great Campus initiative and the idea of smaller satellite campuses, and Van Ness hinted at “other sites”, but I wish they had elaborated a bit more. A number of panelists spoke to the issue of “equity”, accessibility (and whether that means accessibility to the building itself, or more generally to resources) and how a new Central would serve its population. My perception, and it seems this was echoed many times (ie, Angie Patton, Imani, Pat Avery), was that there is still no clear plan what this new high school is going to do; I think Van Ness called it the “programmatic needs”. Pattsi implied this in her comment above as well – we are told over and over that we “need” a new high school right away, but we don’t really know what we need it for (aside from “Central is old and decrepyt” and “not ready for the 21st century”). There is no overall plan. Yes, we have tons of data, tons of opinions and thoughts, tons of ideas, but nothing really solid that we can take hold of and call our own.

    Ergo, my biggest concern at the moment is that the district does not have a planner. Bruce Knight seemed proud to highlight the unique relationship the City has with the School District in that they share a planner. Maybe we are unique because no other governmental bodies see this as a good thing. Maybe? If the current arrangement is such a grand thing, why are panelists, board members and parents questing about for an overall plan? Why are we in such dire straits that we are being told we have an “emergency” and need to find a HS site? I am confused.

    The issue of Choice reared it’s head briefly. The Controlled Choice Memorandum focuses on making not only busing equitable, but providing direction to the school district to actively increase and encourage parental engagement, even so far as providing transportation for extracurricular opportunities like PTO/PTA. Based on what panelists have said, they seem to prefer a site “inside the belt”, which I think is the best of the current choices. But I wish we had been more creative in coming up with the original list. A single large high school replacement (for Central) is “easy” from the administrative perspective, and the momentum of the bulldozer is going that way. I am curious how the Board is going to sell this idea to the public; will it be like previous referrenda that split the community?

    A comment was made about how having neighborhood schools was ideal (Van Ness?); call me crazy, but what if we had a “traditional” high school for those that wanted it, but smaller satellite educational centers that catered to specific communities? I believe the community center in Shadow Wood is called “escuela” by the residents, which means “school”.

    Also, why in the WORLD are we hiring BLDD for yet another study? Can we cancel that contract? Why was Holly Nelson’s excellent work buried? If you have not visited her website and read the purpose of her project, I heartily encourage you to do so:

  3. AmyPH Says:

    I attended, hoping to hear about a timeline for the decision-making and building process. Based on the closing statements of the panelists, they hoped to hear this as well. It was not provided.

    Lots of discussion on the importance of accessibility/walkability, which was understandable given the number of far north options listed on the map. There was some talk about finding a central location based on population density, not solely geographical, which was good to hear. As someone new to the discussion, I had wondered why so many locations were so far from the city infrastructure (do bus routes go that far north?). There was also tentative talk of identifying additional potential locations, which surprised me, as I had assumed that part of the process was completed.

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    @AmyPH: yeah, I think that is the “decision fatigue” Pattsi speaks to; this was just another rehash of work already done. From where I sit, the decision to go with Country Fair has already been made even before the Town Hall meeting.

  5. pattsi Says:

    Yup, as I have previously pointed out this is TJ Blakeman’s choice. There are so many problems with this site that no one wants to talk about–too near Centennial, no chance for individual identity, dumps all of the HS weight into one area rather than servicing the whole community, major displacement of businesses that service the west section of Champaign–where I live–this would create the world’s largest food and shop dessert–more need to get in a car and drive. I was very disappointed in the lack of creative site thinking last night–no mention of the intersection of Bradley and Neil, all four corners–would generate 20 acres at least and maybe more if there was any thoughts about redevelopment nearer Neil than just Bristol Park. If people would step back and look at the possibilities of this site related to redevelopment, connectivity from downtown to Market Place, inter relationship with an elementary school, a potential inter relationship with a junior high–though this is a stretch granted, housing redevelopment for race and class–badly needed in this area–done incrementally so there is not massive displacement. I was disappointed in Bruce Knight’s comment about the Frankline/Spaulding area in that 80 homes would have to be bought Again this is an area that is prime for thoughts of c;ass and race housing redevelopment.
    I have further concerns in that the shift of educational facilities are very concentrated in this area–both HS, junior highs, 4 elementary schools without an over all plan about development other than the Champaign city council want infill development as compared to no more sprawl at the fringe yet all of the sites locations, but CF are on the fringe. Since all of this is in my CB district and I walk the district, I know it very well, especially the northern areas. Very few panelists were concerned about transportation issues. And I do not understand why the architect wants to bring in the MTD.

  6. charlesdschultz Says:

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

  7. Chuck Jackson Says:

    I want someone from the administration to say, “If we had a new high school, we would be able to increase the graduation rate of minority and low income students through the following measure.” and then give us that. There are so many opinions and beliefs confusing the issue, it is no wonder we don’t have clarity. For example:

    A new high school will benefit all students equally.
    How much of the money goes to football, how much to engaging low-income families?
    A new high school will auto-magically improve our educational offerings.
    Better facilities do not correlate with better education.
    If we had a new high school, we don’t need anything more.
    It costs more to run a building than build it, new staff? new programs?
    It is best to be able to walk out the back door into a sports complex.
    Best along what measure? Who are you comparing to?
    Dedicated space is the only way we can function.
    Professors don’t typically have their own classroom, they have small offices and share educational space.

    I think of the Illini Union, it was built around the same time as Central, and suffers from the same issues. It is old, likely did not have a/c originally, there is no parking around it. And yet, go in there on any average day and the place is crawling with people. Spaces within it have been remodeled many times, perhaps dozens of times. No one ever thinks of abandoning it – or even repurposing it for another function, why? Because it is central to campus.

    I see no effort to even consider creative options. If the building is inadequate for the number of students, consider not having to have them all there at the same time. Perhaps we need to change the schedule, English on MWF, Math on TR, each for more than a single hour. The district already owns Marquette school and the former curriculum center, soon (before any high school is built) it will be faced with what to do with the former Carrie Busey site – run shuttle busses (like big hospitals do) from place to place.

    I don’t know that that’s the best option, or even an option I would support. If all these ideas are considered and found wanting, that’s OK but you have a better standing to come back to the community and say, we tried it this way, we tried it that way and none of it fits with our mission and goals. (And by the way, evaluate them in the public realm. I still don’t know enough of the details behind rejecting Spalding but Bruce want us to just trust that their opinion that it can’t work is the final word on the subject. Right now it looks like a decision has been made and it is all about selling it (Dejong Richter, anyone?). Let’s get away from that impression.

    It pains me to say more talking but let’s talk with different people. There are enough critics that they could all sit in a room for four hours and create a report in a week outlining steps to take and ways to move forward. We need leadership to invite more people in.

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