School district report card

At the Jan 11th BOE meeting, Dr. Wiegand presented the district report card (an annual event). The report card is available in several places, but the one submitted to ISBE can be found on ISBE’s website:

Additionally, Dr. Wiegand shares a little more on the district website:


I asked a few questions on the U4 Board Corner prior to the meeting, most of which were addressed during the Jan 11th meeting. My goals in “sharing back” here are:

  1. report on the public answers made at the board meeting (since they are not explicitly documented, one would have to watch the entire video otherwise)
  2. provide a little heads-up for the Feb 8th BOE meeting
  3. show you how you can engage the board with your own questions, and listen for answers 🙂


Note: the number in parenthesis denote how far into the video I found these items.

And a caveat: if you disagree with my interpretations below, feel free to leave a comment. Especially if I made a factual error – I would appreciate having that cleared up ASAP.


Question 2

According to page 1, the district has a higher school dropout rate, higher chronic truancy rate and a lower attendance rate than the state average; what can we do about those stats? (My question was a bit more oblique when I first posed it)


(43:58) Dr. Wiegand addressed the high rate of mobility and poverty, saying that these are certainly areas of concern that affect how the district responds and supports such situations. I did not hear anything about dropouts, truancy or attendance, however.


Question 3

How is it that we have 100% parental contact?


(44:38) It comes down to how “parental contact” is defined. The ISBE says that any type of communication, including any type of mailing or flyer sent home in backpacks, can be considered “parental contact”.
I would love to see us break that down an aim a little higher. For instance, what if we define parental contact as a phone call or face-to-face visit?


Question 4

I asked several questions about how much time we actually devote to teaching subject matters. I note that most of our high school periods are 47 minutes long, but everyone know you don’t teach every single second of the period. 🙂 I am also curious about how much time is taken out for test prep and administration. (for a related but different can of worms, I am not a fan of how we do testing at all)


(45:20) Again, it comes down to what ISBE defines as time spent teaching, and apparently for the sake of consistency, it is purely by bell schedule.


Question 5

I asked several questions about the budget, specifically why we spend more on Operation than Instruction, and why we have a $8+ million Debt Service.


(47:47) I appreciated that both Dr. Wiegand and Mr. Lockman took the time to delve into this a little more. According to Mr. Lockman, “the devil is in the details.” Apparently, due to the district-wide Schools of Choice system for grades K-8, we have a larger-than-average bill to foot for transportation costs (Operational budget).  We also have a number of service professionals that have instructional capacities but are listed under the Operation category, such as librarians, social workers, psychologists, etc. And lastly, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a bulk of the Debt Service ($7 million) is actually covered by the 1-percent Sales Tax, and our property taxes cover the rest (roughly $1.6 million). Of course, the obvious downside is that all the 1-percent money is tied up until 2025, affecting the conversation about the future referendum and how we do Capital expenditures.


Question 6

I asked about this strange thing called a “5-year graduation rate”, since our high schools are grades 9-12 (four years).


(53:12) Dr. Taylor responded that we have contingency plans and intentional support for two groups of students, 1) those with IEP plans that need to take things a little slower, and 2) those are highly mobile and enter (or re-enter) the system needing some remedial work to catch up. I found it interesting that Dr. Taylor would not provide raw numbers, even though Dr. Wiegand was kind enough to ask. 🙂


Question 7

I asked what the PARCC results really meant, since they show that the average school in Illinois has about 60% (or more) students not meeting expectations.

Question 8

And finally, what are going to do with all this information moving forward? What are we working on this coming year?

Answer to both

(55:50) I appreciate that Dr. Wiegand suggested to the board that there be a more in-depth reaction to the PARCC results at the February 8th BOE meeting. Dr. Wiegand has also indicated that she will be providing a report of Superintendent Goals to the Board in the near future (she did not specify a date, but I wonder if maybe we will see some of that on Feb 8th). I look forward to learning more on the 8th.

School Board member applications

The school board is hoping to receive a large number of applications to fill a current vacancy on the school board. I would encourage you to consider this opportunity, especially since now is an excellent time to be a part of the board. Most notably, there is already an excellent cast of characters on the school, so you would be joining a synergistic team.


Applications are due this Wednesday (January 27th). For more information, read the Unit 4’s news item:


If you have any questions, I implore you to ask.


Update: Here are the applications of the eight that were selected to be interviewed on Feb 1st:

G. David Frye:$file/Frye.pdf
Virginia Holder:$file/Virginia%20Holder.pdf
Holly Wilper:$file/Holly%20Wilper.pdf
Heather Vazquez:$file/Heather%20Vazquez.pdf
Jamar Brown:$file/Jamar%20Brown.pdf
Marisela Orozco:$file/Marisela%20Orozco.pdf
Gianina Baker:$file/Gianina%20Baker.pdf
Bruce Brown:$file/Bruce%20Brown.pdf



The video of the candidate “forum” is on Vimeo:



From the vimeo video, I have extracted the 7 questions that were asked of all the board member candidates, including timestamps of each section. I also took note of when Ms. Gianina Baker responded, since she was awarded the position; it is not my intent to sleight the other remarkable responses, I just have not yet bookmarked them all.


Opening Statements
Begin: 18:37   Baker: 18:37

Question 1: As a member of the board of education, you will be a representative of the community. How do you plan to communicate with various groups within the Unit 4 community?
Begin: 31:41  Baker: 41:08

Question 2: Expulsions ultimately rest on the shoulders of the BOE. What do you see as a strength and a weakness for you in this area?
Begin: 42:36  Baker: 50:15

Question 3: Please share what your experience and familiarity related to Unit 4 and the consent decree.
Begin: 54:10  Baker 1:02:11

Question 4: Please share what has been your level of involvement in community-based organizations.
Begin: 1:07:38  Baker: 1:13:49

Question 5: One hallmark of a successful school board is the ability to distinguish between board work and staff work. Please describe what this means to you.
Begin: 1:27:42  Baker: 1:30:16

Question 6: Do you support collective bargaining rights? Please explain why or why not.
Begin: 1:35:34  Baker: 1:37:26

Question 7: Describe the ideal relationship between the community, board, the administrations, and the union(s).
Begin: 1:44:45  Baker: 1:44:58

Closing remarks
Begin: 1:55:10  Baker: 2:04:33



#EdCampCU 1.30.16


Photo from EdCampCU
September 2015




EdCampCU is a place for teachers, pre-service teachers, administrators, community members, university students and faculty, high school and middle school students, as well as anyone else who is interested in talking and learning about education and ed innovation. EdCampCU is free professional development for you, by you.



EdCampCU will be held at the University of Illinois
College of Education

1310 South Sixth St.
Champaign, IL 61821


Folks will start gathering at 8, the fun starts at 8:30. Coffee will be provided – courtesy of Mid-Illinois Computing Educators (MICE). There will be bagels and light pastries from Pekara as well.

I’ll see you there.

Posted in Community. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Another HS referendum option to consider

The details are not yet public, but according to the agenda published by Unit 4, it looks like the board is chewing on an another option for the voting public (and the newly formed Special Board Committee to Develop Facility Plan) to consider: refurbishing and expanding Central HS at its current location.


Please note that none of these details are set in stone by any means; they are just ideas, options for us all to consider. Board President Chris Kloeppel mentioned to me that he talked to several land owners in the area around Central, and to his surprise found that with only a few willing sellers, Unit 4 could easily expand the footprint of Central to the north, with cooperation and blessings from the City to close off Park Street and maybe even create a foot bridge over Church Street. This certainly opens up a number of ideas in regards to what can be done at the existing location, and keeps the Interstate Drive area essentially as a land-bank, or even possibly as one way to consolidate outdoor facilities for Central. Again, just ideas. Hopefully a map will be made available soon. And I expect Nicole Lafond and others will be getting a word in with Mr. Kloeppel as well. (UPDATE: Lafond’s article is now online:


I am lead to believe that the Board and Unit 4 administration have been approaching this carefully and ethically, talking to interested parties and addressing legal issues with the intent of making this option public at the Jan 25th Board meeting. As such, I believe that steps have been taken to legally secure an agreement with some of the various landowners in the suggested area. In fact, look at the Jan 25 agenda items:

D. Approval of Real Estate Purchase Contract – 711 Sherwood Terrace: Tom Lockman 


E. Approval of Real Estate Option Agreement – 603 W. Church Street, 606 W. Park Street, 201 N. Lynn Street, and 203 N. Lynn Street: Tom Lockman 


F. Approval of Real Estate Option Agreement – 605 W. Hill Street and 602 W. Church Street: Tom Lockman  


G. Approval of Real Estate Option Agreement – 500 W. Church Street and 606 W. Church Street: Tom Lockman   


In the end, the district has a strong desire to address the very serious and real needs of the physical buildings; the whole maintenance issue has been “kicked down the road” for far too long, and now the price of fixing buildings has snowballed. There is also an oft-repeated need for “capacity planning”, and we have frequently been told of the dire need to create more learning spaces as we are currently over capacity in our high schools, and quickly nearing capacity in other buildings. It seems like such an option is meant as a way to address all these concerns and make a future referendum more acceptable to voters.


One thing I hear others asking, which I would ask myself, is “what is the plan to make sure we don’t end up in this position again?” What are we going to do differently so that maintenance is not deferred to such an extreme in the future? It would be my expectation that the new special board facility committee will tackle that one.


UPDATE: According to twitter, Nicole’s article about this new option is on the front page of Saturday’s paper. It is not yet online.

Kenwood presentations

I had the opportunity to contribute (in an exceptionally small way) towards the work of an University class on Advertising that focused on Kenwood. I also received some of the cool products they generated, and am excited to share them.






Posted in Community. Tags: . 2 Comments »

“Most Likely to Succeed” (#MLTSFilm) and CTRL-Shift

I drafted an email to the CTRL-Shift email list, and decided it would be more appropriate as a blog post. For a little background information, there have been several email threads on the CTRL-Shift email list and a Tuesday night conversation about an educational documentary called “Most Likely to Succeed“; I have been reading the book.


The more I read Tony Wagner’s and Ted Dintersmith’s MLTS book, the more I think about how important it is that we have these conversations with people who fundamentally disagree with the premise of the book. Why?

There is already a huge audience of people who agree; both Deborah Meier and Sir Ken Robinson each have sizable followings, and I would say all their viewpoints align with those of Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith (Meier and Robinson are both referenced in the book). Everyone I have talked to at CTRL-Shift also seems to share these ideas. Are we not the choir?

Wagner and Dintersmith want communities to have these stirring, impactful, district-shaking conversations. They want teachers and administrators to be bold enough to get off the sinking ship and sail a new one. So it seems to me that we should seek out those who are resistant (for any number of reasons, some that are actually realistic and sound, perhaps *grin*). Not to beat them over the head with a 10-pound bible, but to have a healthy argument, a dialog, to debate.

It feels good to surround oneself with a bunch of “yes” people. But I think that would be a wasted opportunity. Having said that, there are already lots of you sailing new ships, and I celebrate that; the work at Kenwood is amazing, Katrina Kennett is working on a “school-that-is-not-school” and EdCamps, and Laura Taylor is spear-heading social justice efforts from the Mellon Center, just to name a few. Even though it is unwritten (I believe), it seems that the purpose of CTRL-Shift is to get administrators, teachers, students and parents marching to the beat of a different drum. That’s the “shift”, I think.

To wrap it up, I love how the book asks the fundamental question “What is the purpose of education?” I have asked that many times, of many people; unfortunately, sometimes the ideal in our head does not match what we actually practice in the schools. I have also come to realize that it is a moving target. For me, the ubiquitous and interminable undercurrent is that we are humans, and we are wired to live in community, and there a few axioms that make the machine of society run well and long. First and foremost, love others as we love ourselves. What would happen if that is what we learned in school?

Draft agenda for the Jan 11th BOE meeting

The draft agenda for the January 11th BOE meeting is up. A couple things I noticed:

A. Special Board Committee – Facilities Plan: Dr. Judy Wiegand
B. State Report Card: Dr. Judy Wiegand


More details will be available on boarddocs on Friday once the district and the Board President finalize the agenda.


UPDATE: Now on boarddocs.