an observation on innovation and taxes

By now, I am sure “everyone” has heard that the Board has moved forward with the $150 million tax referendum (actually, it is $148,945,462):

News-Gazette (Jeff D’Alessio and Tim Mitchell)

Unit 4 (Stephanie Stuart)

WILL (Jim Meadows)

WICD has a story, but I don’t know how to link it


Also, Dr. Wiegand will be featured on WDWS with Jim Turpin this morning at 9:am. That should be interesting.



From what I have read so far, I have noticed a trend from the folks at the Mellon Center last night – everyone is thinking big. It’s funny when you start talking about large amounts of money (tax-payer money in this case), it acts like a magical key that mysteriously unlocks the creative side of human thinking. This post is largely positive, but I do have one overriding question that I ask of everyone anytime I hear a fantastic idea – how is it going to work?


I have been talking with Todd Lash quite a bit lately, and I really love how Kenwood is pushing the envelope in the things they are doing. I have asked Todd on multiple occasions how exactly he intends to implement some of these awesome ideas he has. He also has an uphill battle, but I like his approach, and I have become convinced that these are not just happy thoughts or fashionable buzzwords the tech crowd is tossing around. So I turn this same question to all the folks at the Mellon Center last night who talk about “new learning”, and re-labeling classrooms as “collaboration spaces” or “learning spaces” or whatnot. Exactly how are we going to accomplish those things? I want to learn. To me, that is so much more significant than the minute details of how much A/C costs, how much athletic fields costs, etc etc. People are really excited! But what exactly are they excited about?


For me, I am thrilled that people are starting to uncork their thinking caps and unleash their creativity. That is totally awesome! I wish I could have been privy to some of the ideas that have been shared by select members so far. I want to learn what is underneath the covers of the new jargon that everyone is tossing around so freely.


It is fascinates and boggles me what amazing ideas people can come up with when there is no longer a concern about money.  For another example of something that is totally out of the box (and yes, expensive), check out this “suspended bicycle roundabout” (hat tip to Pattsi):


You can click on a few of the relevant links to find more examples as well.


What is it about big money and big ideas? Why is it hard to come up with big ideas when money is an issue?


8 Responses to “an observation on innovation and taxes”

  1. Karen Says:

    How will it work and WILL it work? It’s just assumed because it sounds nice? fun? different (even though it’s not)? I bet there are ways to configure current classrooms into fill-in-the-blank-with-current-fad classrooms. What it would require IS creativity. The (erroneous IMO) given, though, is that it can’t be done in ‘old’ space so ways to do it are not even considered. IMO great creativity comes from working within constraints. Pie-in-the-sky creativity is much easier IMO. Why the enthusiasm over open spaces? Is what will occur in them something that can’t occur with lower ceilings? What is the curriculum going on in these spaces??? Why is it better than the curriculum occurring in older buildings? Are offices moving to more open space concepts this century? I thought the cubicle was still commonplace in offices. Shiny, new, bells and whistles is what some people think makes for a good education (both building and curriculum). What’s the general track record, though, ya know(?)

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Karen, earlier this morning I asked for details on what the board considers “21st Century education”. I also want to know the answers to your questions.

      Frankly, it sounds like a ton of sound-bytes to me, lines that only a consultant could come up with. My fear is that the board has swallowed those empty promises without first deciding exactly what they want. I hope to be proved wrong – this is an open invitation for board members to dispute. And I will look for answers on my own.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    There is obviously a flip side to my post. I am tempted to make a full blown post out of Kathy R’s find – a school district in which the board chairman blogs (“What?” Yes, for real!) and talks about a serious consideration for renovation. I encourage you to read this if you have not already:

    This also is in line with John Dimit (Urbana school district board chairman) and his cry for “Renovation without taxation”.

    The point of my post is to highlight why it took a massive amount of money to suddenly unlock the desire for creative thinking. Why couldn’t we unlock those juices before talking about such a large bond issue? This confuses me. In fact, a lot of times it seems that the board stymied out-of-the-box ideas and shut them down instead of fostering an environment where such ideas were welcome. Again, I am not pointing my finger at individuals per se – the board stonewalled on Imani Bazzell’s “Great Campus” idea, which was very creative, very original, very collaborative. Which makes me ask, now that we are faced with a mega-million tax referendum, why all the sudden are board members willing to embrace creativity and change?

    • Rebecca Patterson Says:

      Hopefully you will see this because I was browsing around and when I reread this section I thought of something. If you are trying to sell something and you need supporters you buy what they have, even if you aren’t committed to it. You can always change your mind later. They are trying to sell a new building. I get the feeling they will do anything to do it.

  3. kshannon617 Says:

    I am less encouraged by the creativity. Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the 70s, but both my husband and I had some experience with creative classroom design, and it had a lot of problems. I assume that the people who designed our schools (different ones, in New York and in Madison, WI) had similar ideas about the need to get rid of older style classrooms and walls, and add collaborative spaces. But they found a TON of disadvantages, and ended up adding walls (some temporary, some permanent). It wasn’t a bad compromise that they ended up with. But the real point is that any of this can be done with existing space! It just requires MORE space. I agree that we need more room for students, and that both schools are overcrowded. You can do many more fun & flexible things in a school with space. But I didn’t see anything in that presentation that couldn’t be done in a building with bigger classrooms, lots of outlets, and wi-fi. I heard a lot of buzzwords that didn’t seem to make any sense at all. (I swear that the consultant making the presentation said that the furniture would be “self-interactive”, and the immature child in me had a hard time keeping a straight face at that.)

    I was gobsmacked by Dr. Weigand’s comments about PE in todays News-Gazette article: “Our P.E. curriculum is really taking a look at healthy lifestyle. Throwing out the ball and having court activities are not those types of things that students are going to carry on into their adult life. But going to some sort of fitness club may be.” It wouldn’t take a whole lot of imagination and creativity to figure out that walking and biking are some of the most accessible fitness activities for people at all economic levels, and that getting students to incorporate that into their daily commute can make a tremendous difference in people’s health throughout their life. That’s the kind of creative thinking I’d really like to see in a high school. Sigh.

    Oh, and I should clear up one point. There are two Kathy’s commenting here. I’m Kathy S., and I’m the one who linked to the blog post and spoke at an earlier board meeting. My dear friend Kathy R is the one who wrote the eloquent letter to the News Gazette. 🙂

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Kathy S, thanks for your comments. And even though I have not met either one of you, I think I am keeping Kathy R and Kathy S separate in my mind. 🙂

      Creativity is a funny thing. I agree that we cannot be victim to lots of crazy theories just because they sound cool, catchy or innovative – the real driver must be how it ultimately impacts the learning experience for those that are going through it (both the teachers and the students). I think we have seem massive problems with Common Core for the same reason – lots of good ideas, but poor communication and poor implementation have crippled those good ideas.

      Which is again why I look at what Kenwood is doing. They key factor there is that they have some marvelously dedicated, passionate and resourceful staff. True, some teachers, some students and surely some parents are not exactly on the same page, yet. It is only natural that some will struggle with change. But I think the most predominant element of their future success is not the proliferation of buzzwords, but rather the emphasis on creating an environment where students and teachers thrive.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        One might ask, why am I focusing so much on Kenwood? There are tons of good things going on at other schools. But I am only one person and I can only dive in so much. If only we could have many other area parents dive into various schools and report out what they observe…

        But here is something I love about my take-away from the CU4TechCon – they (those who support and implement flipped classrooms, blended learning, computation thinking, etc) are working in the absence of a top-down directive, but rather a ground-up initiative. For the meantime, the district is affecting a lasseiz-faire attitude, stepping out of the way to allow Kenwood to blossom as it will. If the district is allowing such growth at one school, I have to believe that other schools will be allowed the same freedoms. Again, I am only one person and I do not have experience in all the schools. It gives me something to ask about at my daughter’s school were I already spend a bit of time – my focus has been rather narrow at the moment, so I intend to open my eyes a bit more and learn.

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