Parent Advocacy

I was forwarded a clip from Samatha Carter’s Facebook page which rings a chord with me – this Parent Advocacy Group sounds like it might be an excellent opportunity for some deep conversations and exploring ways to impact our community.


I am so inspired listening to Mrs. Patricia Avery speak at Unit 4 Pipeline to prison/ Social justice seminar. Tonight we talked about how much power our teachers have over OUR kids. More money being spent to house the incarcerated than educate, redirecting negative behavior instead of punishing, showing more empathy for living situations. Did you know some teacher criminalize OUR kids before they even get a chance at life simply by the way they dress? Topics that definitely needed to be discussed. ATTENTION PARENTS!!! We need ur help on forming a parent advocacy group. Minister Angel Johnson, Dr. Evelyn Underwood, Mrs. Patricia Avery, Mrs. Valarie Ammons and I will be organizing this group. We have to help make the change that is much needed in our schools. If you are serious about raising productive citizens for OUR community and not inmates for a prison…YOU WILL WANT TO BE APART OF THIS GROUP. GOD BLESS OUR KIDS!! More details coming soon..


Just to be clear, I am not certain I agree with everything in the post above, but that is the beauty of listening and learning from other people – we are all different, yet we are all special. I believe we share a common core intent – to improve the lives of the children in our charge, and I mean “other people’s children” (re, Lisa Delpit) as well.

A report and opinions from the Chamber’s breakfast with the Superintendent

I was openly included on some email exchanges (not blind copied) – I am not sure why, and I am not going to opine at the moment, just put these out there so you can read it.

UPDATE: I created a page for this thread and will update the page as new emails are received. Feel free to bookmark this:


A Report of the Economic Impact from Unit #4’s 2014 Proposed Bond Projects

While reading the NG today (online), I noticed the economic impact report was listed as a “related item”, but I had never seen it before:

A Report of the Economic Impact from Champaign, Illinois Champaign Unit #4 School District’s 2014 Proposed Bond Projects


I assume it was used in a NG story, but not sure (yet) which one. I did not see it referenced in either of today’s articles about the referendum.

Ah, it is in Julie Wurth’s article:

Math 4 moms and dads



Nicole Lanford, newly in charge of covering Education for the News-Gazette, reports on an event tonight at Central. I would like to take you on a little journey that goes just a tad deeper. Slopes and parabolas are words, names we give to things.


Image provided by Wolfram Alpha

For starters, using the famous formula mx+b, here is a plot of various slopes (m) with various values for x:


If you just want one line (*yawn*):






Image provided by Wolfram Alpha

Want that parabola?

Or the 3d version:





But it is more than just creating pretty pictures (and I love the pictures!). What is especially exciting about what Lindsay Polarek and LaDonna Fletcher are doing goes way beyond the words we use – it is the way they actually teach. I have spoken with both in the past, and I love their approach to teaching math concepts to students; they are throwing in the kitchen sink by allowing students to collaborate, deliberate and explore as they grapple with formulas, functions and visualizing. They make a point of relating new ideas to familiar ideas, to help make the “learning curve” a bit more manageable – ideas are connected, one to another. Students also work together on small projects. In effect, they are already doing “21st Century Education” in their practices.


Math 4 Moms and Dads is a way for parents to see how these teachers teach, or as the article says of Ms. Polarek, an “opportunity to connect with educators”:

“So many people have negative impressions of math, and we want to show that this doesn’t have to be the case,” she added. “We want parents to experience math the way their students are experiencing it — as opposed to how they may have experienced it when they were in school.” (quoted from Lanford’s article)

It is not so much about remembering how to find a slope given a pair of points or what the quadratic equation looks like. I believe it is more so parents can see and “experience” how their children are learning. And from what I gather, there is a lot more fun involved than when I was a kid. 🙂


The event is advertised for Central families (parents and students). But I would encourage you to talk with Ms. Polarek and Ms. Fletcher regardless.


Obligatory plug for Wolfram: while Wolfram’s products are not the only thing out there, I tend to like them because 1) they are local, and 2) their products are powerful and really cool. I am big on visualization, so I like being able to “see” what the numbers are trying to tell me.


Board agenda tonight and Coffee with the Superintendent (not tonight)

For the Coffee with the Superintendent – from the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce:

Date: 9/30/2014
Time: 8:00 AM TO 9:00 AM

Champaign County Chamber of Commerce
303 W. Kirby Ave.
Champaign, IL 61820

Event Description:
The Champaign Unit 4 School Board recently voted to ask voters for $149 million to remodel Centennial High School and build a new Central High School. As part of our efforts to provide the most up-to-date information to our members about issues in the community, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a coffee with Unit 4 School Superintendent Judy Wiegand. This is your chance to have your questions about building a new Central High School and remodeling Centennial High School answered.

This event is complimentary to all Chamber members.

Please contact Caryn Isenhower at or call 217.359.1791 to register.


I mention this because I had a great (but brief) email chat with President & CEO Laura Weis; I was very impressed with the approach the Chamber is taking towards collecting data/information about the upcoming November referendum and their strident desire to listen to the concerns of Chamber members. If you are a Chamber member, I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.


Slightly interesting round up of topics for tonight’s board meeting – under New Topics:
A. Enterprise Zone Recertification: Tom Lockman
B. Presentation of Tentative FY15 Budget: Matt Foster
C. Administrator & Teacher Salaries Reporting: Ken Kleber
D. April 2015 School Board Election – Calendar of Events: Tom Lockman
E. Master Facility Plan: Matt Foster


Only item #C has an attachment, and about 15 pages to flip through. I recompiled the attachment into a one-sheet spreadsheet which is much more friendly. I’ll post that tomorrow.


This morning I seent a note to the board and administration about item #A – from what I have read and researched of Enterprise Zones and Tax Increment Financining, there is an absurd lack of accountability in these programs. Even the US Government’s own Office of Accountability is unable to conclude if these programs are truly effective at spurring growth ( My email urged the board and administration to be very careful and if they decide to move forward with this partnership, to do so with the insistence on proof of economic growth, and with a long (20-year) view in mind.


I have looked over the budget (item #B) from previous board meetings, and I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Mr. Foster suggested I read “Essentials of School Finance“, which I am trying to work my way through. In the back of my mind, I still wonder how we are going to work in the CFT-negotiated salaries from last year, not to mention the “in kind” administrator raises. I am also trying to understand our Debt obligation – the most recent FAQ mentions the Debt Service and how the district can sustain a bit more debt with no worries. But…. is that wise? I just do not yet grasp the bigger picture in this context.


I don’t have my spreadsheet in front of me (#C), but I believe the average teacher salary was about $47k and the average administrator salary was about $85k. Plus, I was surprised to see that we have over 20 “Assistant Principals”, but only 18 schools (counting IP and Novak).


Who is running for the board in April? (#D) 🙂


For #E, I am looking to see if the Master Facility Plan has changed much from the last time they presented it (July 28th). Strange that they did not put it (the new one) up on boarddocs by now.


In the Consent Agenda, one and only one item. 🙂 David Hohman has attached a zip file with an Application for Recognition – for all elementary schools. Two apparently do not have paraprofessionals, but that was the only difference I could find. Not sure what that means, either.


UPDATE: Here is the spreadsheet of salaries:

2014 EIS Salary Benefits Report 09-16-14

Letter from Dr. Howard community

The community in and around Dr. Howard have prepared a letter to the Board and have copied it to local news outlets; there is a possibility that there will be something on the broadcast news tonight. The letter details several outstanding issues with the Dr. Howard building and asks for some form of remediation before 2025.




It is impressive how the Dr. Howard community has come to stand together on an issue that they feel is important.


UPDATE: The district administration has responded, and two board members will be attending the Dr. Howard PTA meeting tonight.

Dr Howard Letter 9 18 14

What happened to that transparency audit??

Some of you may have seen the Transparency Audit post I published earlier today; the author, Brian Costin, asked that I unpublish it until he has a chance to run it by the board. Since Bambanek was on the same email, I did not have a problem with his request. Especially because there is a chance Unit 4 can nab a few extra points pretty quickly and Costin might be able to do another audit.


But still the question I posed to all you remains valid; in the context of transparency, and more specifically the Transparency Project, what is important to you?