Still missing the point

There have been a number of NG articles about Unit 4 lately; I am glad to see them and that Unit 4 is getting such coverage. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that roughly 80 community members attended the Board of Education meeting last night at Mellon Center, including prominent figures.


There are a number of things that caught my attention.


1. School Resource Officers (SROs, or the pejorative “cops in schools”)

Based on what Tim Mitchell reported in the NG, it seems like a bulk of the those attending last night’s BOE meeting were there for this topic; whether the board should keep the SRO program going or pursue an alternative (someone suggested some kind of security guard for example). There are good arguments on both sides of the fence, and obviously some very passionate folks who support either side of the argument.

But it seems we are being distracted from some of the root problems. Why is it that 19 out of 21 children arrested last year were black? This tells me that something in our society and even in our schools is utterly failing. I would even go so far to ask why is even one child being arrested? Where have we (collectively, you and I) screwed up? I have often quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Edna Olive on their views of the purpose of education; it is our moral and societal obligation to do all we can to make sure each child is successful and supported.

So we want to spend $291k/year on two(*) well-meaning and well-trained officers. How much are we spending on prevention, and truly educating and providing for the success of these children?

* We pay for two, but we actually get 5 SROs, as the Champaign Police Department pays for the other three


When I talked to a barber at Rose & Taylor, he readily echoed what Jamar Brown has been telling us about the “north end”; they are much less concerned about the location of the high school, but rather they are very concerned about discipline equity issues. I feel we need to take a long, hard look at the “whole enchilada” and figure out how to dig at the root of this vexing issue.


2. High School capacity needs

DLR painted a pretty grim picture last night – we are led to believe that by 2022 (eight years from now) we will be short by 33 classrooms, 4 small classrooms, 15 science labs and 7 PE stations. I do not necessarily agree with the “need” for all that, but let us assume they are all legitimate for the time being. This is going to be one of the pivotal arguments in building a brand-new Central and remodeling Centennial. It is winding up to be a huge tax referendum, one that is complicated by many factors such as the fact that we are two months out from needing a firm number and language for the November ballot, but we have neither. A number of folks have expressed dismay about the north Neil site suggested to the BOE, which has caused the BOE to double-back and spend extra effort and attention (and surveys and open forums, etc) to tackle whether or not the Spalding area would help the referendum pass.

But again, it seems to me that their are some serious distractions going on. If capacity is such a huge issue (and I believe it will be somewhat soon), and a monstrous tax referendum has very little chance to pass, why don’t we address the capacity issue in a more simplistic and less expensive manner – what about a third high school? It can be smaller, and gives the district the necessary agility to better respond to future oscillations in enrollment. In my opinion, large high schools lock us into a certain size mindset and further set a precedent that I think is unhealthy.

From what I can tell, the surveys and all the hundreds of thousands of dollars we are pouring into “experts” and “consultants” are all narrowing our perspective instead of broadening the horizons. Hence all the strong passions, both for and against. There is a unfortunate lack of other alternatives.

Lastly, we must be careful about how much we tax the lower income brackets. I have slowly come to realize that the poor among us are desperately in need of understanding and compassion. Not pity. Not empty sentiments. The Urbana school board has taken the stance of not raising property taxes at all but rather to fund their capital expenditures as money becomes available via the 1% sales tax (“Renovation without taxation“, also 2). Hmm…. that seems to be what most Champaign residents were led to believe as well.


3. Yet another administrative position

After seeing 5 new appointments (as reported in the NG and broadcast by Stephanie Stuart), I was curious about this “Director of Elementary Teaching & Learning” position. So I have asked Stephanie Stuart a couple questions and am waiting to hear back. I am unable to find it in any of the org charts or responsibility matrices, which makes me think it is a new position.


UPDATE from Stephanie:

This was Trevor Nadrozny’s position. The title changed from curriculum to Teaching & Learning during this school year.



7 Responses to “Still missing the point”

  1. pattsi Says:

    Turn this into a guest column and send to N-G. What you have written needs more eyeballs.

  2. Citizen4 on Monday’s Champaign school board meeting. « Says:

    […] with the city of Champaign to have city police serve as School Resource Officers according to this post on […]

  3. Local Yocal Says:

    2010: Centennial, 65; Central, 48
    2011: Centennial 53; Central, 48
    2012: Centennial, 53; Central, 49
    2013: Centennial, 50; Central, 48

    FROM THE 2011-12 SRO REPORT:
    It appears 814 Unit 4 students at all levels, elementary, middle and high school accounted for
    1,322 total suspensions in the district in the 2011-12 school year.
    (put in perspective, 8,368 students in Unit 4, [91%] were never suspended.)

    1,028 of the suspensions were leveled at African Americans
    76 of the suspensions were against Hispanics
    8 were against Asians
    1 against American Indians
    38 against persons listing themselves as “multi-racial”
    171 suspensions were against whites.

    It’s worth looking at the SRO report for yourself and it can be obtained online by a request to the Mellon building or a school board member.
    The numbers don’t add up for me, but there is more context to the numbers,
    and only a very small percentage of suspensions are for “disobedience” and “disruptive conduct” which could be considered an infraction that might be influenced by cultural factors. The rest of the infractions are for physical confrontations, verbal threats, weapons, drugs, theft, and sex crimes; all stuff that is probably not made up and would be fairly straight forward.
    What can’t be measured is whether white students engaged in such infractions are getting a free pass and not getting suspended for their behavior. It’s virtually impossible to measure if that phenomena is happening. (I doubt it is.)

    What is shocking to be sure is how many suspensions are occurring at the elementary and middle school levels.
    Nonetheless, the most important number is that 91% of the students DON’T get suspended, making the sky less than falling.

    In 2011-12, there were 51 arrests,
    45 arrests were of African Americans
    5 were white
    1 was latino

    I would encourage anyone to look at the SRO report for yourself, (sorry, don’t know how to link it here)
    before drawing any major conclusions about the numbers above.
    I think the black community needs to articulate what they believe to be wrong with the current system
    that is unfair. Only on-the-ground, from-the-ground testimony would begin to understand what makes all this unfair and bias.

    The measurement never recorded that seems most important, is whether the SRO’s are generating intelligence gathering that results in arrests, prosecutions, and jail sentencing post-high school. How many 18-25 year olds are catching adult cases, particularly adult drug charges based on intelligence provided by SRO officers?
    Until a study is done where sentencing considerations are tracked, we won’t know what impact juvenile proceedings occurring in the schools is having on sentencing as adults. It’s certain that the State’s Attorney’s office is collecting the SRO information and count it against a young adult in later considerations.
    Violent behavior later on as adults is found to be correlated to how much violence the teen is subjected to in their household and environment; and substance abuse.
    No doubt, police departments are willing to pay for 3 SRO’s to use the data they have access to, to begin prioritizing patrols based on what is now called “Intelligence-led Policing.” Sgt Skip Frost from the U of I’s Police Training Institute defines “Intelligence-Led Policing” as “past behavior predicts future behavior.”
    In the Post 9-11, Digital Age, we record, compile and track our kids’ behavior sooner to identify future security risks faster.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      @local yocal: if you either send me the links or provide them here, I can link them in properly. Alternatively, you should be able to provide links when you make a comment using html markups – sometimes just copying the link via your OS copy and paste does the trick as well.

      In the meantime, I’ll hunt around to see if I can find those documents myself.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        For anyone interested, I contacted Mr. Orlando Thomas and found out these reports are not on the Unit 4 website. Mr. Thomas was kind enough to email me the word documents for the past two years, and I have requested the one for 2013-2014 when it becomes available:

  4. pattsi Says:

    By chance did you request that all of these documents be made available on the Unit web site?

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