Fight or Flight? Which one comes to mind when you think about the high school siting saga? More importantly, if our community were a living body, what kind of neurotransmitters would be coursing through our collective circulatory system?

I am concerned that there is a lot of emotion building up over this one topic. To be clear, we have many issues before us that grab our attention and cause our heart rate to spike; pension turmoil, Obamacare, now the holidays are upon us, slick roads, the promise of more taxes, Common Core, potentially big Primary and General elections next year… The list goes on. I am not saying emotion is bad; Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer will point out, with many words and anectdotal stories, how emotions play an important role in our decision-making process. But we have to balance that with a method of rationalization as well.

So I ask, in terms of the high school siting issue, what really is most important? What really is the core issue that is stirring up our emotions?

I have a lot of my own questions for the Board and the Administration. For example, how is a multi-hundred-million-dollar high school going to effectively address the achievement gap? How does it serve the population of low-income families and engender engagement? I have sent these questions to the Board on December 3rd and have not heard anything, yet – I am hoping they will be addressed at the board meeting tonight.

The way I see it (as mentioned previously), we are currently suffereing from a lack of sound, viable planning that should have occurred over the past 40 years. It didn’t, and these are the cards we have to play with. We are in a quandrary of a growing school population and a lack of seats to put them in. One party wants to build a sparkling new high school that is ready for the “22nd century” (whatever that means) and grandiose facilities. Another camp wants to “keep Central central”, but so far the Board says they have not been presented with a good way to do that. On the one side, people are fed up with all the talk, talk, talk and want some ACTION! On the other hand, some are not yet convinced that the right people have been talking in the first place.

The Promises Made Promises Kept (PMPK) Committee will tell us that the 1% Sales Tax has a goal of securing land for the high school. That has been the “plan” – once the land is purchased, the PMPK Commitee will check that off as one more promise kept. I guess that is a start. The 2008 “Great Schools, Together” project recommended that we explore the questions of “fewer larger schools or more numerous smaller schools?”. We kind of took a stab at that via Lisa De La Rue’s “literature review“, and I believe the district is using that one factor as the bulk of their “keeping two high schools” argument. However, U of I Law professor Laurie Reynolds points out that a lot of work needs to be done before we seriously consider a high school north of I-74. Of the 2011 options, “it is a cavalier, dismissive, almost farcical treatment. The clear focus is to make the case for building a new school.” While DeJong-Richter took it a step further, the options did not change much and the focus has still been to make a case for building a new school.

Ok, time to get real. For most people reading this blog, and for myself, higher property taxes are not really going to hurt us too much. Maybe we eat out one less time in the year, maybe we hold off on buying the new TV for a month. The people that feel the pain the most are, in my humble opinion, the ones we should all be listening to. It is my perspective that if (a big fat if) the low-income population legitimately votes in favor of the high new high school, given all the nuances and ramifications of how those families are affected in the long-term, I say let their vote carry the day. In terms of a true democracy, I see my job as supporting those that need more help. Sure, yes, I have a place to voice my own opinion (hence this blog), but really, who is that helping?

What if all us upper/middle class folks make it a point to listen to and relay what those less fortunate are trying to communicate? I wonder.

A short article in the NG today prompts readers to proivde one last bit of input to the Board as the Board makes the final call on which piece of land they want to purchase for a high school. Due to the way the Board works, it is often hard to see how input makes any difference at all because the Board goes into closed session to deliberate on a number of big decisions, and in this case, they have already declared (as with last week) they will not announce the winner. This is not the kind of “transparency” I had expected.

I am going to let my norepinephrine level die down a little. We need to choose our battles, not blindly fly into them. What really is worth fighting for?

PS – there is a very real flip side of this coin as well. For too long we taxpayers have allowed our governing, elected officials to do whatever they want, sometimes getting away with murder. We have to demand accountability, and we have to pursue it relentlessly. But the focus must never become “what I want.” The focus must be “how can we all have a voice”.

7 Responses to “norepinephrine”

  1. pattsi Says:

    The mega disappointment right now, other than all of the urban planning issues that I have posted ad nauseam, is the extreme amount of taxpayer dollars spent on a myriad of consultants–the total amount could easily pay the salary of an urban planner as a Unit 4 staff member–with an end result no different than the wants and desires of the school board on which Scott Anderson served and succeeding boards.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    But isn’t this yet another emotional response? Again, not to diminish the reality of the feelings; my point is, what is the root issue that we can fight for right now? We have asked Unit 4 several times to hire a planner, but they have not (and continue to disregard this as a priority). What next? Where do we go from where we are now? Stop hiring consultants? *grin*

    And yes, we can make an argument based on dollars alone. I’ll see what I can do about that.

  3. pattsi Says:

    No this is not an emotional response, but a factual one. Hasn’t it become exceedingly clear that making the “ask” does not work As someone posted online at the N-G when you stated there has beeben noise, but has this been organized noise. The answer is “no.” I have pointed in the direction of the success of the CPJ due being exceedingly organized, doing lots of research, and making organized noise. This has never happened connected with Unit 4. There still are no letters-to-the-editor, no guest column, no white paper, etc.

  4. Karen Says:

    I guess I am in a minority among your readers then, as when I ‘get real’ with the issue, higher property taxes will, indeed, hurt me (and my kids). I have also seen no proof of how the new building will reflect a 21st century learning environment/classroom model (buzz word Bingo time!). Who knows what that would look like. I really do mean exactly that: *who* has predicted and laid out what that is? Unit 4/the Board has bought into it. So they obviously know the specifics, right(?) Where has it been detailed, publicly, what classrooms will look like 20 years from now and for what Unit 4 is pushing so hard for? And, I guess I don’t undertand the passive role of the school board. Nothing has been BROUGHT TO them… Add to that the lack of transparency WRT to how these decisions are being made (is there ever a time the school board discusses<<REALLY discusses– things in public so that we know what the heck their opinions are–they supposedly represent us??). If anything, the tax payers are owed a refund for the very poor stewardship of their money. DeJong-Richter. As predicted. Conflated to 'community wants this/that' statements when their methods precluded the power to ever make such 'consensus' statements? It was all by design though. Delphi method and all that. Accountability? If you think it's important you are considered mean and against kids having the best. If bells and whistles and bright and new are what 'the low-income population'(your term) wants, then they will be relieved to know that they aren't missing out on much at some of the local private schools, not to mention Uni. I also don't understand what part of letting a number minority carry the vote is democratic. Then again, I have no caffeine in my system right now.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      I am thinking this is where I do better in person, as opposed to explaining things electronically without aid of body language and all the other non-verbal nuances.

      Right, I understand that letting the low-income crowd carrying the vote is not democratic at all (see my PS). But in our day and age, it seems that the those who actually need the most help are the ones least heard. This is a blanket statement, so of course there are exceptions. Dr. Wiegand’s thesis paper explained it quite well, describing a set of people as “squeaky wheels” (my words, not hers) and that the squeakiest (again, my terms) get the most attention. That is our current democracy. Which isn’t a true democracy at all, in my opinion.

      Pattsi has challenged me to go look at the real numbers in terms of property taxes and income levels. I will accept that challenge, but I would gladly accept any help I can get. For starters, how would I find out how much my taxes could possibly change next year? I’ll leave out the Federal level right now, and maybe even the State level and just focus on Champaign County. I need to find out exactly what tax referrenda are being considered and how much they are. Then I can extrapolate that out against average income levels per the Census blocks. However, even if I do all that, I have no idea what discretionary income is for anyone except myself. This entire exercise is more challenging because families get used to a certain income level and their “wants” become “needs” over time.

      Which brings me to your other comment about making the budget smaller. Oh yes, I love that idea! And I say that with euphemistic optimism – no sarcasm, but perhaps not very realistic. Yes, this is the best way to go. Our budget, like our taxes, always seem to go up. Why is that? It isn’t purely because of inflation. We could point to unfunded federal mandates, but I am not certain that accounts for all the growth. For me, the bottom line is that we just do not understand the budget that well (and Pattsi is going to cry out about “participatory budgeting” *grin*). And while I think it would be awesome if we all understood the budget by tomorrow, it ain’t gonna happen.

      So perhaps we need to break this down into bite-sized chunks. It seems the high school site is probably one of the highest priorities in regards to the school district at the moment. We could chase that down while at the same time learning a little more about the budget process, the CFT negotiations for higher salaries and more fair educational environments for teachers, and the importance of programs and facilities. We could learn who is most at need in our community, and who stands to gain the most by all the changes currently on the drawing board.

  5. Karen Says:

    Make your budget smaller. Ask for less. Maybe this is all part of the plan, as I have mentioned before. Go outrageous to begin with; contrast effect. Door-in-the-face technique Ultimately it’s manipulation and that makes me not trust. If you’re keeping it real, there’s no need to manipulate. YMMV.

    • Karen Says:

      Never mind. After watching bits and pieces of the meeting video the sports people seem quite serious about their wants (feel free to fundraise?) and the Centennial student ambassador actually expressed in a seemingly serious manner that finding a parking spot was a worry of hers/a high school teen. 21st Century priorities in education? Come on taxpayers…do it for the parking spaces! Would these so-affected students still be all over prioritizing ‘ample’ parking if they had to pay a fee for it?

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