June 24th BOE meeting public comment

I have been collecting some of the statements that were read at the June 24th BOE meeting (see Resolution). The Board President mentioned several times during the meeting that comments emailed to the Board about the meeting would be attached to the agenda, but I have yet to see them. I personally find it helpful to have the text handy to augment the video recording of the June 24th Board Meeting. Here are a few I have collected so far (always looking for more):



Facility Referendum endorsements

I am pleasantly surprised by the number of groups that are publicly endorsing the Unit 4 facility referendum – you can read more about it on the “YES” campaign facebook page:


To date, the groups include:

  • Champaign Federation of Teachers (CFT)
  • Champaign Educational Support Professionals (CESP)
  • Champaign County League of Women Voters (LWV)
  • Keep Central Central (KCC)
  • Champaign County Young Democrats
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 149
  • AFL-CIO of Champaign County
  • The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 601


And in case you missed it, Stephanie Stuart, Kathy Richards and Amy Armstrong had a live “facebook” chat – I encourage you to watch/listen to the chat and read the comments posted by participants:


Board members continue to actively meet with various stakeholders. At the October 11th Board Meeting, several meetings were mentioned, including an opportunity the PTA Council had to interact with the board and the administration at the Mellon Center on October 13th.

Teachers Union (CFT) endorses the Unit 4 Building Referendum (Nov 8)

Champaign Federation of Teachers

Local 1925, Illinois Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

For Immediate Release:

October 11th, 2016

Champaign Federation of Teachers Endorses Unit 4 Building Referendum.

“It is clear that the physical conditions of the buildings impact the learning conditions of students and working conditions of adults; our endorsement is a message to the community that something needs to be done,” says Jennifer White, President of the CFT.

The Executive council of the CFT approved an endorsement of the referendum at its last meeting.  Under consideration for this endorsement, the council discussed the following points

  • There might be different views on the cost, location or buildings addressed by the referendum but what we can all agree on is that the need for improving our schools is real and the board has done a more transparent job of seeking community input by having multiple stakeholders at the table.
  • The physical conditions of the buildings are both unsafe and are not conducive to learning
  • There is a relationship between quality schools and property values; if the schools continue to decline so will home values in the area.  School improvement however will help improve property values.
  • Capacity issues must be addressed

The Champaign Federation of Teachers strongly supports the November bond referendum; our students deserve access to quality public schools.

The Champaign Federation of Teachers represents more than 850 teachers working in Champaign schools.

For more information, please contact:
Jennifer White (217) 493-1721


For me, this is a big deal. Why? Because teachers have a pretty darn good idea what is really needed in their classrooms. Much more so than I. Consider also that the CFT just recently completed an extremely lengthy and contentious contract negotiation with the district administration and the school board, and yet they are still in support of this referendum. To me, that speaks volumes. They could have remained neutral or said nothing.

Supporting the Unit 4 November 8th facility referendum

Friday afternoon I submitted a “Letter to the Editor” for the News-Gazette (UPDATE – now published in Tuesday’s edition):

I will be voting Yes on November 8th to support the Unit 4 facilities

It was not an easy decision to make, nor is this an easy letter to write. In
regards to the Sept 25th NG editorial “School tax plan is just too big”, I
understand this is a heavy tax burden. There are some that do not want their
taxes to go up. I respect that – I certainly do not want my taxes to
increase. It is important that we support public schools, and I am willing to
put my money where my mouth is.

I believe the current referendum does in fact move us forward. Therefore, I
encourage you to vote in favor of the school district’s plans on November
8th. I would further invite deliberation with those that believe the
referendum does not move us forward.

There has been a lot of useless “talk” in regards to the funding our local
public schools, and this is a responsibility I lay at the feet of our
community as a whole. The current school board has bent over backwards in an
effort to gather feedback and discuss their options in open session. I would
even say the board has done too much; our community is too complacent and in
general, we fail to exercise real democracy.

To vote is good. To be an educated voter is even better; weigh your arguments
against others. But best yet is to care about other people.

Charles Schultz


In Sunday’s Opinion section, I see that the League of Women Voters has also thrown in their support in favor of the referendum. I heard from a Chamber of Commerce member over the weekend that the Chamber recently sent out a vote, so it will be interesting to hear their opinion as well.

I like the way that the LWV’s letter put it – sure, there are things we would rather change about the referendum (and/or the process that we have taken to get here), but overall, the good outweighs the bad. I have another blog post that will be published soon that is an interview I had with Board President Chris Kloeppel, and the bottom line that came out of that chat was “Does the referendum move us forward?” And I believe it does.

What I would have liked to have seen happen differently is that I would want the board (and administration) to take a step back and force the “Yes” folks to deliberate with the “No” folks, in multiple venues and settings. The community has not owned this discussion (for many years), and thus the community is not well educated. Just read the NG editorials and comment sections for proof. 🙂 And even though Unit 4 goes through the formality of a public budget hearing, there is essentially nobody there. So my one biggest gripe right now is that the voters do not fully understand the budget picture, nor the bigger context of facilities and how all that affects education. As I have said in the past, we do not have a clear correlation between dollars spent on facilities versus academic achievement – granted, it is exceptionally hard to prove it one way or the other.


For an interesting stroll through public opinion against the referendum, I encourage readers to go through the 28 pages of the Online Survey Open Ended Responses, or the 14 pages of the Phone Survey Open Ended Responses. I am thinking a forum on that alone would be a good place to start off a “town hall meeting.” 🙂

Upcoming community-engagement events

As we head into the last month before the election (November 8th), there are a number of opportunities for the community to engage in various aspects of decision-making within the context of the school district.


Now through October 19th – Online Superintendent Search Survey

On Wednesday, Stephanie Stuart stated that a superintendent search survey is now available online. I encourage you to consider what kind of traits and priorities are most important for a superintendent and respond accordingly (note – there is a free-form response section as well).


Champaign CUSD 4 Board of Education is conducting a search for a new superintendent.  The selection of a new superintendent is probably the most important decision a board of education has to make; therefore, the Board has hired the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) to assist in this process.

The Board of Education is seeking community input in the search process.  The Board requests that community members complete an online survey provided by the IASB, linked below. The survey will stay open through October 19.

The results will be tallied and used by the Board and Screening Team to develop a brochure to advertise the position.

Thank you for taking time to complete the survey.

English version: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HG58V38
Spanish version: https://es.surveymonkey.com/r/HG3NDMC
French version: https://fr.surveymonkey.com/r/Z2LWJ98

October 6th – Alliance to Reclaim our Schools Walk-in Day

Walk-in events are being planned at  Robeson, Jefferson, Westview, Carrie Busey, Garden Hills, Edison, Franklin, Stratton and Central. You can learn more about the Alliance at the AROS website:


They have 5 basic tenets:

  • Full funding and support for neighborhood-based community schools: don’t close or privatize them
  • More teaching, less testing
  • Positive discipline policies and an end to zero tolerance
  • Quality, affordable education from early childhood through college, including for undocumented students
  • A living wage that lifts people out of poverty


I know Carrie Busey has put information on their PTA email list, and I hope others will as well.


October 11-12 – On-site Superintendent Search sessions

At the September 26th Board Meeting, Board President Chris Kloeppel mentioned that two IASB representatives will be meeting in various locations all day October 11th and 12th. There will be specific sessions for teachers, students, community members, etc. Keep your eyes open for more news.


October 13 – PTA Council hosts a tax referendum Q&A session with Unit 4 + BOE

The PTA Council has announced that they will be hosting a session that allows the public to interact with representatives of Unit 4 and the school board on the topic of the November 8th Facilities Tax referendum.

We have scheduled the first meeting! We have been able to work with Unit 4 and the School Board to create an open venue to ask any questions you may have about the district and upcoming referendum. We will also talk about how the Council works with the district and take nominations for a new slate of officers.

Date: October 13
Time: 6:30pm
Topic: Connecting with the District: Open Forum to discuss the upcoming referendum
Location: Mellon Admin Building
Dinner provided.

Please do let me know if you are able to attend so we can have enough food.
Everyone is welcome to attend, please share this information with your schools.
Thank you,
Anna (anna.c.simon3@gmail.com)



In other news, Unit 4 has updated their Referendum FAQ – a number of relevant questions have been asked and answered:


“Own your own education”

This post is a little long – for those that are impatient, here is the “tl;dr” version (google it if you don’t know what that means).

From the ISBE SARC public hearing, it is clear that there is still a bit of controversy surrounding PARCC; some believe it is better than what we had, others believe it is too detached from what students really need. There was a significant lack of student voice, and that particular silence rings loudly in my ears. We must ask ourselves, over and over again, what exactly is the purpose of public school?


My take-away actions steps are to:

  • Form two or more local focus groups, one primarily of students, with two goals; 1) providing feedback to ISBE SARC, and 2) identify changes and the resources to make those changes happen. Right now, I am leaning towards the EdCamp approach.
  • Talk to local SARC member Jean Korder (Urbana Schools 116); apparently, she knows a ton about assessments, and I would like her local perspective on the “good, bad and ugly”
  • Push for more involvement and engagement in the local opt-out group that resulted from the last EdCamp. I very much want student input, and I very much would like to see it not die on the vine. On top of that, I want to learn what minorities think of this effort.


Continue reading for more. Read the rest of this entry »

Last minute news: provide feedback on PARCC directly to ISBE

Going to make a quick post, which I will update later. I just received an email giving notice that the Illinois State Board of Education will be holding a public hearing via video conference tomorrow to gather feedback and talk about PARCC. Aside from being very last minute, the only two locations are at the Springfield office and the Chicago office. Here is all I know at the moment:


In other news, the State Assessment Review Committee (SARC) is holding a “PARCC listening tour” to gather input from students, parents, teachers, and administrators about the second administration of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, which concluded in June.


There are several ways for you to provide feedback, including an online survey and a PARCC public hearing to be held via video conference in Chicago and Springfield on July 7. More details are available in the newsletter below.


I encourage you and members of your school communities to take the time to share your candid thoughts about the successful aspects of the test and what could use improvement. This feedback will be included in SARC’s final report and will also help guide our efforts to make the PARCC assessment as useful and beneficial for educators and students as possible.


Members of the public can share their input in three ways:

1.      A “focus group”- style conversation with one or two members of the SARC committee;

2.       A survey via the following links:

o   Teacher survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/BJYKK7K

o   Student survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/B5LHMMR

o   Parent survey: www.surveymonkey.com/r/H2GYWVX

o   Parent survey (Spanish): www.surveymonkey.com/r/M8FRW5X

3.      A SARC public hearing will be held via video-conference in Chicago and Springfield from 1 to 4 p.m. on July 7.

o   The Chicago location is the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) video conference room on the 14th floor at 100 W. Randolph St. The Springfield location is the ISBE video conference room on the third floor at 100 N. First St.

All feedback will be included in SARC’s final report.


I may be going to the Springfield office tomorrow – if you would like me to forward any concerns/feedback, feel free to drop an email or a comment below.


The number is directly below.  Participants will be in listen only mode until the public comment period begins at which time an operator will provide instructions to participants. This will allow us to make certain that we don’t miss anyone that is intending to speak, and that we don’t have background noise that may disrupt the ability to hear.

  • Callers need to state that they are with the State Assessment Review Committee call.


Dial In Number (Participants – Muted):  1-800-230-1092



Agenda is posted

  1. Introductions
  2. Approval of prior minutes
  3. Overview of 2016 PARCC administration
  4. Review of survey responses
  5. Review of focus group conversations
  6. Strategy for future engagement
  7. Review of 2016 PARCC administration report plan and timeline
  8. Public comment
  9. Closing

Town Hall meetings

Instead of updating my previous post, I’m just going to make a new one. From Stephanie Stuart of Unit 4:

(UPDATE: link to Unit 4 press release)

town_hall_meeting_flyerTown Hall Meeting Flyer

The Unit 4 Board of Education will host two Town Hall Meetings on June 23 and July 14 to gather community input on the school facility plans under consideration.

This school year, the Board of Education embarked on a collaborative planning process and formed a Special Board Committee comprised on community representatives to provide recommendations on a long term facilities plan. On Monday, June 13, the Tier II Committee is expected to present those recommendations to the Board of Education.

In order to gather input on these recommendations and determine next steps, the Board will host two Town Hall meetings that are open to the public.

  • Central High School on Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.

610 West University Avenue – Enter at Seely Hall on Park Ave.

  • Centennial High School on Thursday, July 14, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.

913 Crescent Drive – Enter at North Visitor’s Entrance

This summer, the Board of Education will also conduct a community survey to gather input. Information on this survey and how to participate will become available in the coming weeks.

Information about the collaborative planning process is available on the project website, facilityplanning.champaignschools.org.

This work is also explained and discussed on the Unit 4 Board Corner Blog at u4boardcorner.blogspot.com.

November referendum: two town hall meetings

Two dates to keep in mind:

June 23rd at Central

July 14th at Centennial


The new Facility Planning Tier Two Committee has been generating a ton of discussion, which you can catch up or follow via a number of ways:


Yesterday, Nicole Lafond posted her story of last night’s (June 9th) Tier II Committee meeting to the NG:


In the last paragraph, she mentions that Unit 4 will be hosting two town hall meetings in the near future:

“town hall meetings have been scheduled for June 23 at Central and July 14 at Centennial”


Here’s the important part I hope people realize – it is healthy to disagree, and important to voice your opinion. But to do so in respect. Just because the Tier Two committee is passing on their recommendation to the board, and just because the board has moved in several directions already (like securing options to buy land), does NOT mean that your voice is meaningless. Even if you totally disagree. In fact, in some ways, I am of the opinion that if you do disagree, it is even more important for you to make your voice known. Better now than when the referendum is up on the ballot – because in the ballot booth, your voice gets whittled down to a YES/NO response, which is hardly representative of your own thoughts. Further, it is important for those who disagree with each to hear from each other.


I strongly urge you to attend one or both meetings. Bonus points to those who invite others.

June 23rd at Central

July 14th at Centennial



Save the date: #EdCampCU in June and September


Source: https://edcampcolumbus.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/screen-shot-2012-03-07-at-8-56-25-am.png



EdCampCU is upon us again. Two dates to put on your calendar:


June 18th, Urbana Middle School: I am not an organizer, but it is my hope that there will be a little more large group discussion at the end, with “homework” or some kind of action-step to be taken after we all leave.


September 17th, Champaign Train Station: Helping to kick off the growing Pygmalion festival! There is an effort to show a certain Dintersmith/Wagner film to be followed by provocative discussion.


Visit the EdCampCU weebly blog for more information and to register: