Plan B Guest Commentary published

Mr. Dan Corkery kindly cleaned up my guest commentary and published it in the Aug 17th News-Gazette:

Plan B much cheaper than proposed tax hike

 

For those that are new here, I have an earlier post where I give a little more background:

https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/plan-b/

 

There are a couple recent letters to the editor that support the November Tax Referrendum. It is interesting that one letter encourages community folks to visit Central. I have done so myself, but will pass along the encouragement to everyone else. In my opinion, that particular letter was a little bit sensationalistic, but hey, it’s his opinion. πŸ™‚ What I found particularly interesting is hearing from a teacher about his/her own needs – to me, this is crucial as we discuss a new Central:

https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/what-one-central-teacher-needs/

 

My Plan B is actually in a rough draft right now. I propose going with smaller schools, and starting with perhaps buying Judah to offload overcapacity issues (currently, right now) at the two high schools. This immediately reduces the issues that come along with overcapacity, like number of students in each classroom, and the frenetic work done by teachers to prepare for class as they bounce around. Many of the real concerns I hear about our aging schools are actually not heat related (there are some, yes) – all these issues are known to the school district, but they are not documented nor prioritized well for the public to see. Currently I am on a mission to gather such information. I want to see all the issues the district is aware of, and a comprehensive, full priotization of those issues. I fear that the November tax referendum is distracting us from the real issues.

 

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44 Responses to “Plan B Guest Commentary published”

  1. Kathy R. Says:

    I read your Plan B with great interest. I hope others do the same.

    Has anyone ever proposed building a new Central on a compact infill site and using some of the Interstate land for a shiny new athletic complex? Shuttling students for pre- and post-school practice would be simpler with a single destination. Parking lots with capacity for large sporting events could sprawl as large as needed up north, whereas student parking could be limited at an urban school location in favor of walking, biking, and public transportation.

    Creative thinking for Plans B should involve compromises. Not just pointing out that Plan A will only get more expensive.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      @Kathy – Exactly! πŸ™‚ Yes, my impetus is to open the door of conversation – it is not my desire to state “my way or the highway”, but rather to start unshackling the parameters so we can think a little more broadly. And the idea of a athletic complex has been in fact broached before – the idea of a “Midwest Athletic Center” at the north corner of I-74 and I-57 (south-westish of Saint Thomas Moore) was suggested and presented to the board several years ago.

      As you imply, with some creative thinking we can solve a lot of problems. My impression is that these ideas are so radically different than what we have now, it is hard to both 1) gain consensus and thus general acceptable, and 2) show how one alternative is better than another.

      Looking at your idea of rebuilding Central on a compact infill site, which site would you suggest?

      • Kathy R. Says:

        Hmmm… how many acres do you suppose for one 21st century high school, plus outdoor space for PE?

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Someone asked on facebook if Savoy (might as well throw Bondville into the question) will see the same tax increase should the tax referrendum pass. The answer is yes – the tax affects all properties in the Champaign School District. Likewise, only those effected will see it on their ballot – if you don’t see it, you won’t be touched by it.

  3. John Bambenek Says:

    Short answer, yes it was considered in two forms, building up and building out. In both cases you start talking about the same dollar amount just for the remodeling work at Central without athletics as you are building at Interstate with athletics.

    • Kathy R. Says:

      Hi, thanks for your response. Let me clarify, though… I was asking about building a new Central (on an infill site, without the athletic complex taking up space), *not* remodeling the old.

      • John Bambenek Says:

        So, for my clarity, build a school on an in-fill site and then use Interstate as it’s practice-game athleltic facilities?

      • Kathy R. Says:

        Hi John, for some reason I couldn’t “reply” directly to your request for clarity, sorry. Yes – I was wondering if anyone had ever proposed or discussed infill Central (new construction) with Interstate athletic facilities. The difference from Central’s current situation would be that the athletic facilities would be remote from school, but consolidated in one location.

        My larger point is that the local constituency that values infill, compact urban development, and use of walking/biking/public transportation is not going away.

      • John Bambenek Says:

        Gotcha. The short answer is not extensively. Dejong Richter was used to develop design assumptions whcih resulted in the “2 high schools with onsite athletics” assumption that the sistrict has been using for the last 2 years. At points in time there has been brief examination of novel ideas, but generally the approach to the facilities master plan was pretty linear from designing assumptions, finding options within them and then weighing them against each other.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      @John, that is a Central with 1700 students, correct? But I believe DLR never considered a smaller Central, did they? Dejong-Richter tossed around several variations, and the 1500-student scenario was favored mostly because of the large number of high school students who voted – if you subtract those votes, a smaller high school was favored (a close run between 1000 students and 1300 students). I have asked, and I have yet to receive a response, how much it costs to build a high school per student. So if I say I have X students, give me Y dollars to build a high school. Granted, I realize there are a ton of variables involved, but surely we can ballpark on one variable. Or heck, make it easier and give me a high school cost formula based on classrooms.

      My whole point is that we need more facts. Even if the November referendum passes, the current Central building will still eat up money in the Capital budget because it is to be repurposed – its not like the referendum magically makes that building either go away or get better. So no matter what, we still need to pour money into Central. My issue is that the citizens do not get to vote on the priority of the work, only a big fat YES or NO to the November referendum – that’s all we got. (Cue Pattsi and “partcipatory budgeting”).

      • John Bambenek Says:

        DLR didn’t come in until after the board decided on Interstate in January. BLDD did do some estimates of both scenarios however. As far as X dollars per student for a high school, I’ve asked for some recent comparisons of other Illinois HS construction projects (there really aren’t many), I can share that data once I have it. That said, I imagine that the cost isn’t linear, bigger school populations probably have some efficiencies in per student costs (though come with other downsides).

        I know comparisons have been done to constructions in past, the problem is that every year it seems there is another construction mandate whether state or federal. For instance, we have to build the new high school to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane. That isn’t a typo. πŸ˜‰

        As far as how referenda are yes/no, I don’t necessarily disagree but there are also problems with open-ended questions too. As for how the repurposing of Old Central will be funded, fair points, we do need some publish some clarity on that but the last I overheard was that it can be done with the existing budgeting for some of the purposes we are talking about. If we move Columbia, Novak and Mellon to Old Central, we have two buildings we can likely sell which will also help (Novak we rent, which saves that money also).

      • Kathy Shannon Says:

        (I’m actually trying to reply to John B.’s comment below, but there isn’t a reply button there.) I’ve been trying and failing to find out anything about a mandate for a school to be able to withstand a category 5 hurricane. I see that as of this June, there’s a law that mandates that new schools include shelters that meet the minimum requirements of ICC 500. That standard has rules for both hurricane and tornado shelters, and states that a shelter can be designated as either a hurricane or tornado shelter (or for both). I’m not a lawyer, but given that a hurricane has never hit Illinois, I’m surprised anyone would interpret that as a mandate to build a hurricane shelter. Do we have a legal ruling on that?

        (Yeah, there may not be much difference between building to shelter from a tornado vs. a hurricane, but at least having a tornado shelter in Central Illinois makes sense to me.)

  4. pattsi Says:

    This is ell rhetoric without even a word about the cost of externalities for everyone in this community in addition to the property tax increase presently being batted around. Think of the pressures on older fixed income individuals who are trying to stay in their present homes.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Having watched my parents get priced out of their own home of 40 years, I do think about this. The root problem, I think, is that taxes are going up proportionately more for older homes than new homes while the level of service remains locked – so essentially the longer you live in a certain location, the more you offset growth of the city at large. The clear incentive is either to die young or buy a home out in the boonies where nothing changes.

      Wouldn’t it be amazing if taxes did NOT go up?

  5. pattsi Says:

    Hum-m-m-m, increase in taxes is set by the county clerk. It is asking for more monies by taxing bodies and general increase in property values that kill off the fixed income individual, especially the individual who has paid off the mortgage, even with the possible exemptions. The insanity and mismanagement of the taxpayer dollars by elected officials is the elephant in the room.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      So let us address the elephant. Isn’t this what David Green says in his Informed Citizens July 13th NG article? Until a critical mass of concerned citizens/voters get pissed off enough with the current system, the current system will not change. Ironically (or the conspiracy theorist would say “intentionally”), the current system is set up so that the everyday citizen is kept from being informed. Adam Andrzejewski will tell us that even the Attorney General’s office, which houses the FOIA/OMA “Open Government” department, is not fully transparent and sometimes works against citizen awareness.

      And now are we fully off topic from Plan B? πŸ™‚ Surely we can synthesize a segue…. oh yes, Participatory budgeting! πŸ™‚

  6. pattsi Says:

    Actually, I do not think that we are off topic at all. Your Plan B proposes more data, transparency, fiscal responsibility related to all Unit 4 tax dollars, consideration of the long term–all of which has not been previously done. Where is the due diligence?
    As to participatory budgeting, the engine that drives everything, the CB has set a single study session on 23 Sept so county taxpayers, meaning members of the community, can come before the CB with budget questions, suggestions, comments–positive and negative, etc. I hope the room is filled to over flowing that evening to discuss the elephant in the room.

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    Copying over a facebook conversation, which I think is relevant here as well:

    Julee McKechnie Lee says I am curious about how much time he has spent inside Central. I urge you all to go to the band room and to the science rooms in particular when you are considering your vote on this proposal. The facilities are inadequate. How far should students have to go for physical education activities? Charles’ proposal is only addressing the issue of space in classrooms and not the adequacy of the facilities. In addition, the last thing I want for our high school students is to divide them up further and reduce educational opportunities. Back in early 2000 I had students who had to drive over from Central to Centennial to take my Statistics class because it was only being offered at one building at the time. Do we want to create a situation where more of this driving is required and/or make it more difficult to participate in educational opportunities that are currently offered. I do not.

    My response:

    First, I want to sincerely thank you for speaking up; your voice as a teacher is highly valued, and I appreciate that you have joined this discussion. It is my earnest desire that I never turn away differences of perspective – in fact, I openly invite people to disagree with me.

    I have toured Central on a very hot day last September. I sat in classrooms, I talked to teachers, the principal, and followed-up with questions afterwards:
    https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/these-hot-days/

    I totally agree, the facilities are completely inadequate for a lot of reasons. But I think it behooves us to look at the root reasons. It seems to me, and maybe I am wrong, that a number of those reasons are the sheer number of people in the building; if we reduce the number of people, some of those inadequacies become much more manageable.

    As to “educational opportunities” and having to drive from one school to another, I admit, that is a serious issue we need to consider. What about “distance learning”? All this talk about “21st Century Education” and yet we are locked into a model of classroom that has existed for … centuries?

    Finally, know that my “Plan B” is still in rough draft. I am currently researching and asking the district to provide a list of ALL prioritized deferred maintenance. We will put money in the building that currently houses Central regardless if the referendum passes or not – that is a moot point. The question is, how critical is it? Edison needs work, Dr. Howard needs work, and so do others. The BOE heard a HLS (Health/Life/Safety) 10-year CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) report that outlined things like new roofs, new windows, etc, at most schools. But that only covered at most $6 million – we still have another $144 million to deal with. As a tax payer, I want to know what those items are, and I want a voice in how they are prioritized.

  8. John Bambenek Says:

    Some aspects to keep in mind about your Plan B, many of the construction and health life safety mandates don’t apply to private schools. Now that Judah has been out of Unit 4’s hands for a few decades there are several items that would need to be addressed. Complicating that is when you spend more than X, other mandates start kicking in. We would likely have to deal with HVAC (ducting in particular), fire suppression, asbestos and ADA requirements at a minimum. Certainly considering the size it would be a smaller amount than a new 1700 student school though but other issues would need to be addressed. For instance how to redistrict Unit 4 to be racially balanced with 2 big and 1 small school without absurdities of Savoy students being assigned to “Judah” etc. Do we run 3 sports teams with one set of athletic facilities? Right now many practices run late due to heavily utilized facilities. Not trying to be a naysayer but if you want to develop an alternative, want to give you a few things that need to be addressed so you have a plan that is viable.

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      To be perfectly honest, you have done me a favor by making me think of these other things that are indeed important.

      My “shot from the hip” response is:
      1) redistrict for two high schools like you are already planning to do, make the smaller school(s) part of a magnet program
      2) don’t offer any or many sports at the smaller school

      And yes, those extra costs do inflate the price of Judah. It cannot possible be as much as Central, though, which is listed as $7 million. So on the very high end, Judah would cost $14 million total, but most likely a bit less.

  9. pattsi Says:

    John, rarely do I read or hear as part of the conversation–we are land locked and only have X” amount of money to use. What all of us hear is we have all of this open land and we want a mansion whether or not a mansion is needed and whether there is money to maintain the mansion or whether the mansion produces better educational outcomes. I would love to build a totally sustainable house right on my present site. This simply not possible financially plus as much as I would like to say I am not dependent on the grid, the cost to do so does my factor when I run due diligence. Indeed, it has been in the minds of boards for 15 years what you describe, but that does not mean it is an appropriate idea today. The public would like to hear discussed what if we did this or that without hiring consulting firms destined to reinforce what the board is thinking rather than a good consultant who would challenge the board’s thinking along with truly involving the general public, not selected public.

    • John Bambenek Says:

      Have you heard this from me, the Genghis Khan of hardright archconservatism? πŸ˜‰

      I can’t speak for what BLDD did by experience, I came on after that. DLR however worked at our direction and not vice-versa. They did bring us ideas we hadn’t considered and expertise we didn’t have. Besides, I assume you know I am not good with being told what to do. πŸ˜‰

      I wasn’t there for GST, Dejong Richter or the selection process. I have, however, read tons of documenta about how we got it. I may have disagreed with certain points but the process was methodical and rational.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        I had a much windier response going, but I trashed it. To get down to the root of the problem:
        1) we are over capacity right now
        2) we have tons of deferred maintenance
        3) there is observable mistrust and bad feelings between the district and some members of the community

        John, one of the things you ran on was fiscal responsibility. It is hard for me, and apparently others in the community, to see how a $150* million tax referendum is fiscally responsible. I agree, it does address root problem #1 and takes a bite out of root problem #2, but even if it does pass in November, we will still have significant deffered maintance to deal with. And not addressing Dr. Howard until 2025 is just a really bad response. It seems to me that if the board did everything it could to educate and promote its fiscal responsiblity, it would address root problem #3.

        I found a 126-page document that lists out and kind of prioritizes $50 million worth of safety issues that are a direct result of deferred maintenance. I was glad to see that the HLS funds will take care of the priority A and B items, but I find that hard to believe – where do we have $50 million laying around? I don’t see HLS funds for Priority A items in the 2014 budget, let alone a way to get funds for Priority B in future years.

        But this isn’t even the whole enchilada – there is about another $200 million in deferred maintenance and projected costs (according to page 6 of the 20-year Master Facility Plan) – even if we remove the $98 million brand-spanking-new Central, that is still an additional $100 million. Where is that list?

        I would like to see the numbers. And to augment the numbers, I would like to see pretty pictures that summarize the numbers. Can you make that happen? πŸ™‚

      • pattsi Says:

        Keep telling yourself. As another individual stated, “people connected with the Unit 4 HS decision are in an echo chamber.” Publicly, I am declaring I am stealing that statement that covers a whole lot of local circumstances.

      • Kathy R. Says:

        If you are in fact the Genghis Khan of hardright archconservatism, it’s awfully decent of you to engage with a bleeding-heart tax-and-spend liberal like me. πŸ˜‰

      • John Bambenek Says:

        No reason to make politics personal. We all have our opinions.

        Feel free to drop me an email if you want to discuss the BCA.

      • John Bambenek Says:

        Charles-

        I don’t think everyone was happy that Dr. Howard wasn’t in the mix and I think you will see that in board comments about the referendum. As to whether putting a referendum on the ballot is fiscally responsible or not, I would say it isn’t a question of fiscal politics. I tend to be quite liberal about what I think voters should weigh in on. It’s up to them to decide whether they think it’s too much, not enough, etc. But in one breath you are saying the referendum is too big, in the other you are saying we don’t have a plan for the other $100M in deferred maintenance (which isn’t entirely true).

        The original idea was to put Dr. Howard in the referendum, that would have put us north of $180M and the consensus was that it wouldn’t pass at that dollar amount. We have a few ideas about how to deal with Dr. Howard, and using Judah is an interesting idea which I am sure we will examine.

        We do have a plan, loosely speaking, with the rest of the deferred maintenance but I realize that the document that’s out there is not entirely user-friendly. The 1% sales tax figures into that and the big variable is whether consumer spending increases or decreases over the long haul which would impact what we collect. But a more user-friendly plan is not something I think is too much to ask for, will see what I can do.

      • charlesdschultz Says:

        Thanks, John, you make some good points. How about I summarize my position thusly: I think the $150 million is too much for two high schools, and does not give enough attention to what I consider higher priorities like decades of deferred maintenance. Again, I grant there is some overlap, but I am not about to vote in favor of $150 million when I do not fully understand how that $150M addresses the most critical needs of the district. If you have a plan, let’s see it. πŸ™‚

        As to giving power to the voters, yes, I totally agree and I appreciate that you continue to rest that burden on the shoulders of the voters. My qualm is that we need informed voters; voters who shoot from the hip or are only partially informed is, in my opinion, hurtful.

        Just as a sidenote, as I talk to more people about a 21st Century Education, that was already happening at Kenwood last year, in their old building, even before they moved to the Kirby revolving door. Just saying.

      • John Bambenek Says:

        Fair point on the costs for two schools. A big driver is the mandates which don’t help. For instance, building the facility to have a storm shelter for all students and staff that can withstand a Cat 5 hurricane. I understand your position on the deferred maintenance issue, I would say it’s a judgement call. We have capacity issues now and they ramp up real quick. We could manage that with trailers while we deal with deferred maintenance but likely passing a referendum just on deferred maintenance would be a tough sell. However, with this one, we can deal with at least the HS deferred maintenance and the capacity which frees up the 1% to be used for deferred maintenance and provides flexibility in our facilities to creatively address other issues (for instance, consolidating services to the old Central, perhaps selling Columbia and Mellon to use those funds for other items, etc).

        As far as informed voters, I agree. One of the reasons I ended up voting yes is that really, small number of people are participating and getting informed now. As imperfect as it is, a campaign is the best way to spur people getting informed. There are people who make the “no” case and there will be people who make the “yes” case, but the vast majority have not participated. A campaign forces that issue in a sense and that is why I’m really glad we are doing this in November and not April. A whole lot more voters will be weighing in, getting informed and making their voice heard.

        If the vote ends up being no, there is no better way I can think of to move this conversation forward than a referendum campaign.

  10. kshannon617 Says:

    Sorry I am late to the discussion, but I want to at least say thank you for sending in your guest column Charles. I think the more time we spend discussing alternatives, the more excited people will be about the possibilities.

  11. Karen Says:

    Has the district aked their architectural consultants what they can get for X amount of $, Y amount of $, etc.? The district has the plan they like but it’s too costly. How about going back to the arch people and say now give us a plan that preserves the things we like (in concept), but, costs 20 million less, 30 million less, or whatever. What would that look like (think ‘murphy-bed’ features that can make a space dual-use, easily and quickly, or, modular spaces that can be adapated as education fads come and go and/or ‘best practices’ methods of teaching change over time. Can Jefferson be renovated to ‘expand’ Central? The 2 schools could share athletic fields/facilities (and those 2 schools could be the primary sports schools?). Could a trade school-type facility be worked into that space/area? Parkland is close by. Could Central be a Uni high type school (which could probably be done as-is, right now–go visit Uni to see why)? Could Judah become Jefferson? What is wrong with Edison (why is the district looking for a ‘new’ Edison)? With the much talked-about 21st century learning and technology, why do students (who take statistics, per above post) have to physically go over to another school for instruction? Can’t they use Skype (<<probably way outdated–I am not a tech person–but, you get the point) or something?

    When did the Columbia school get window box AC units? When the FIC moved over there? How was it prioritized? What was the cost of the units and new windows (on Bradley?) that might have been needed to accomodate them?

    Instead of asking the limited 'How many Central students currently walk to school?', how about asking:
    Will the Interstate location be a more or less time-consuming site to reach? (or no change/neutral)
    Will the Interstate location be a more or less costly site for your family to reach? (or no change/neutral)

    I don't agree with the argument that that end of town will become central. There is only so much room to develop, no? before you're into the next town or whatever. Boundaries/city limits. UIUC isn't moving. Carle and Christie campuses aren't moving. Kraft isn't moving. These are some big employers in this community and with Central where it is now I think it is the case that dropping kids off at Central or in the vicinity of Central is something that's not too out of the way. Is housing out the Interstate way attractive to potential employees of this community who have school-aged kids? And, if that is envisioned to become a central area, why all the big renovations on the elementaries? Won't you have to rebuild them in the new central location? Why was the Mellon building a priority with construction if it's slated to go?

  12. craigwalker48 Says:

    Two questions an a comment :

    1. Please demonstrate where your proposal is working in a city similar to Champaign . The reality is that it doesn’t exist and why would the citizens try an unproven model for our kids education to satisfy a few people’s uncomfortableness with traveling 3 miles past Central to North Champaign.

    2. Since you have a critical opinion on everything the District does why don’t you run for school board to see what the people really think of your pie in the sky ideas . Arm chair critics like yourself are a dime a dozen .

    Also while you are at it why don’t you go to Central tomorrow and sit in the 100 degree building and see what you can write or be productive about for an 8 hour period ? Because it will be the kids suffering while you chase some unrealistic utopia that will never happen. Experience that suffering yourself for a change.

    Champaign deserves a modern high tech High school with nice athletic facilities for what is about $20 a month to each resident . If you believe staying in a dump building for several more years then all I can do is shake my head in disbelief and disappointment .

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Craig, to whom do you direct your questions and comment?

    • charlesdschultz Says:

      Ahh, reading your News-Gazette rant, I see you were getting personal and you have specifically addressed it to me. Fine, I can deal with that.

      1. As I said earlier, I do not know of one and, as I said, I will go look for one.
      2. You are generalizing – there is nothing in this for me to respond to.

      As to the comment, I have already stated that I have done exactly as you have said – I sat in three classrooms and sweated right along with students and staff. In my opinion, the staff have it worse because they have a strict dress code that is much more stuffy than what the kids get to wear. And next week I will be visiting with students to talk to them directly about their thoughts (our schedules did not work out for this week). But to make this a productive conversation, I agree it is a good idea for any concerned citizen to go sit in one of those classrooms. And while you are at it, go visit Dr. Howard and Edison as well. All these facilities have decades of deferred maintenance that get pushed back year after year after year.

      So by your last statement I understand that you are shaking your head in disbelief and disappointment because even if the referendum DOES pass, we will still be in “a dump building for several more years”. Where is your solution for that?

      You can continue to bring personal attacks and use as many adjectives as you can to describe what you think of my opinions – I don’t really know what purpose that will serve, but you have the right to free speech. The beauty of this whole thing is that we all have our own opinions, and by putting them in a public sphere, we add to the much-needed conversation. Ironically, now that the chips are down, we are finally have serious conversations where people are thinking about the consequences and ramifications.

      • craigwalker48 Says:

        I was not launching personal attacks. I was pointing out your solution is non sense. Advocating for a model that does not exist anywhere else is not realistic and a waste of time. It doesn’t help the discussion and is a distraction to the core issue of facility needs in Unit 4. That is not a personal attack that is a dissection of a point of view that has no real world application.

        Now calling you an armchair critic may be seen by you as a personal attack but it was a description of your constant attacks on the Board and staff while offering unworkable , unproven , and pie in the sky alternatives. That is a factual description of your blog since the last school board election when your good buddy lost. Sour grapes by you is what it looks like to me . I have yet to see you try and engage in a positive dialogue and support anything substantive the District has tried to accomplish since the last SB election.
        You certainly do have the right of free speech and I really hope your “Plan B ” becomes the alternative embraced by those who oppose the referendum like yourself. I have total faith in the people of Champaign to see a rational well thought out plan for a great new school in Champaign for the first time in 50 years as realistic, a source of pride for our community and vote yes in November.

  13. craigwalker48 Says:

    Pattsi I respect your information and opinion. However in Illinois 8 of the top 10 high schools in terms of academic achievement (US World &News Report) have over a 1,000 students . The #5 and #8 have over 4,000 students . Almost all of them have facilities less than 20 years old and some as little as 5 years . None have facilities over 25 years old. Facilities count in a big way for the appropiate learning experience for Kids in today’s world.

    • Kathy R. Says:

      Hi Craig. As I’m sure you know, just because a school has both new facilities and high test scores, it doesn’t mean that one (new facilities) causes the other (high test scores). Both factors could be the result of a third, unrelated factor (like rich residents). Which of those top 10 Illinois high schools that you mention are in cities most similar to Champaign? Because you are right, it would be instructive for all of us to look at those successful schools more closely.

      • Rebecca Says:

        I did spend a little time looking at the top public schools in Illinois in US News and World Report. (I looked only at public schools, not charter, magnet specialty schools). Although Craig is quite correct that some of those schools have many more students than we do in Unit4, a telling difference is in the number of “economically disadvantaged” students. According to USN&WR, at Champaign Central, 52 percent of the student body is economically disadvantaged. Of the top public high schools in Illinois most come nowhere near that number (range was 2 to 20 percent, with an average of 10.5 percent).

        There was one school that was in that top group, however that had a similar number to Champaign: Lincoln Park in Chicago. Their percentage of economically disadvantaged students was listed at 54 percent (which if included in the top group of public schools average, it raises the average percentage to between 13 and 14 percent). Lincoln Park has over 2000 students and its main building dates to 1900! But according to Wikipedia “Lincoln Park High School is made up of four smaller programs. There is the neighborhood Chicago Public high school, the Fine Arts/Performing Arts school, the International Baccalaureate Program, and the double honors/honors high school program.” So although the number of economically disadvantaged students and the age of the building are similar, how they handle the student programming is very different. I’m not sure how far into the list you’d have to drill to find a similar high school to CCHS in student body demographics AND programming. I do think it would be interesting to look at what Lincoln Park is doing and how.

        Interestingly, the top rated public high school (Adlai Stevenson, economically disadvantaged population of only 4 percent) has a college readiness score of 68.7. CCHS for comparison is 24.6. And Centennial’s (47% economically disadvantaged) is even lower (with a newer building!) at 21.6. (For the record, Lincoln Park’s is 55.0; the top ranked national public high school has a college readiness score of 100, but again with low numbers of economically disadvantaged students.) What does all this mean? Well, for starters, even our best public high school in Illinois could do better. I’m thinking programs and support make all the difference. There are some truly wonderful teachers at CCHS, but the school district does not have enough money (I won’t say inclination because I would like to assume that given the resources, Unit4 would want every kid to succeed) to create/sustain programming that could make a difference for some of these kids.

        I’ll say it again. I am pro new high school. I do not think (without the will to use eminent domain) that Central could be renovated in place to meet the needs of 21st century high school learning. However, Unit4 needs to get their ducks in a row before I think this referendum has a prayer of passing. Their numbers are not based on an actual design because they don’t want to limit themselves when it comes to bids, but without a design and a PLAN that goes more than five years into the future, it is hard to see how a new building by itself is going to improve learning significantly here at Unit4. So what is the plan to engage kids and raise test scores? Where will the resources come from to keep kids from falling through the cracks? We need to have both pieces to create an excellent high school.

      • craigwalker48 Says:

        No question demographics play a role in performance. However I believe you would be hard pressed to find a school of high Achievers with facilities over 50 years old. I’m not saying a new school will solve all problems but I do believe the path to improvement has to include replacing Central. It’s shameful a community that hosts the University of Illinois has such an old decrepit hot/ cold stanky building for its youth .

  14. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    It’s interesting that some of the brightest students in the world come to this community to attend college in facilities that are over 50-75 years old. There was a lot of deferred maintenance there too. Kids can learn anywhere.

  15. Karen Says:

    ‘I believe you would be hard pressed to find a school of high Achievers with facilities over 50 years’
    There’s Uni, locally (and public).

  16. Rebecca Patterson Says:

    I found this on Fema’s site. There is no difference between types of wind storms. Just picture to yourself some of those schools after a tornado has taken out the whole community while school was in session and you can see why a school should have safe rooms.
    http://www.fema.gov/safe-room-resources/fema-p-361-design-and-construction-guidance-community-safe-rooms

  17. Why I voted “no” to the $149 million bond referendum | Citizen4: A citizen's blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] and call it a day, I suggest an alternative. In the past I have referenced a “Plan B“. That plan continues to morph and change as I learn more from those I talk with. For […]


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