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





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:


small is beautiful, part 1

I have started to read E.F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered”. It is a challenging read on many levels, including the fact that he writes as an economist using the language of the economist. I switched over to the 25th anniversary edition and have been benefiting from the additional commentary of many contributors.

One of the contributors made a statement early in the book (Chapter 2, page 12) that I believe captures the problem:

“Increasingly, it seems that change will come about after we have exhausted every other theory of greed and gain, and the winds of change are no longer metaphorical, but force five hurricanes destroying whole regions. That the world should become so immune to its own losses seemed inconceivable 25 years ago.”

— Paul Hawken


The idea of taking and expanding with no limits has dire consequences, not only upon our natural resources (which, being limited, are rapidly consumed) but upon our global psyche as well – there is no sense of “do we really need this?” or “how will my actions affect others?”


I am reminded of Lin Warfel’s sentiments July 18, 2014 (NG article), which I wrote about the same day:

“Our general position is to limit the use of farmland for housing and development, and so there is resistance to the expansion of the footprint of the city,” Warfel said. “We look longingly at Portland, Oregon, and what they’ve done there, drawing a circle around the city and saying: We’re going to live inside this ring.”


In terms of the growth of our cities and districts, I do not claim to know what size is optimal. But I do know that unrestricted and unfettered growth, like cancer, is ugly.


But here is the real key; we have to care about and for others (Lisa Delpit, Robert Putnam). Our current path is going to lead us to a place where the things we take for granted will no longer be readily accessible – not in our generation, and probably not in our lifetime, but it is inevitable. We can do better than that. People do matter, and we need a mindset that realizes the priority of human relationships. And I believe the schools is where that is going to happen, sooner or later, the easy way or the hard way.


It just economics. Elementary, dear Watson.



#webucation: learn and teach yourself

What amazes me about youtube is the vast array of humanity on display, from the really stupid to the really talented, and litterally everything in-between.

Recently, I stumbled upon this 11-year old girl who taught herself dubstep moves. While it is significant that she has no formal training, what really blows my mind is her philosophy: “If you’re on internet, you can really learn and teach yourself” (1:25)



Which led me to the term “webucation” (and tongue-in-cheek, I would say google it, because that’s the whole point).


Throughout my own journey, I have observed different learner-types, despite the alleged “debunking” via ( Some people (children, adults) will learn well from a tool like youtube, while others simply need a different approach or environment. Most likely, it comes down to a mix of access to resources. Like this little girls says, “If you have internet” – for some people, that is a big if.


I am convinced that there are learners all around us, and unlimited teachers, although most of them would be considered “non-traditional teachers.” Take nature for example – an amazing teacher, if you ready and willing to learn. And some teachers, like conflict and tension, will either break you or make you stronger.


What is most sad is a person who thinks they are incapable of learning. May we work against that.

Gems Computer Science Camp for Girls

From Heather Zike at @IllinoisCS:


For the first time ever we will be offering our camp to females in high school.  This camp will be for two weeks so that they will be able to work in more depth with a CS counselors on a project.  We know high schoolers have busy schedules and they do not have to commit to all day every day.  Once they register they can come during our open hours.


We have 4 themes for our middle schoolers, girls going into 6th, 7th or 8th grade.

Those themes are: Game Design, CS & the Environment, Wearable Computing, CS & the Arts

Students should rank in order of which camps is their top priority.  We may not be able to accommodate every student into all camps requested.  Themes might be the same or similar to past years, but it is a new curriculum that is developed each summer.


To apply and find out additional information please go to our website:



Follow our Facebook for current info.


We are also hoping to create more outreach opportunities within our community.  If you school or organization would like to work with us or would like help planing something CS related for the next school year please feel to contact us.

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



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.