Chat with Arlene Blank about the PMPK committee

I had a fantastic talk with Arlene Blank recently. For those who may not be aware, Arlene has been with Unit 4 for several decades, employed in various positions (she reminded me how she hired Greg Novak way back when as the librarian at Edison) both before and after retirement and has served on the board for multiple (different) stints. Arlene also mentioned that she played a role in the 1% Sales Tax referendum; as the Board President of the time, her name was on the document that went to the County Board to be put on the ballot, so she felt some responsibility in being involved in the Promises Made Promises Kept Committee when it was formed in 2009. Although not her intent, she was elected as the board chair and has been so ever since.

 

It quickly became clear to me that there are many different opinions about the PMPK committee (not just between Arlene and I, but with others in the community as well). I hope to do justice to various perspectives and most importantly, keep the door of communication open as the invitation to disagree remains standing.

 

Before going further, Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from the April 8th BOE Meeting

Stig opened the meeting to give special mention of Dave Tomlinson’s last day on the Board, and to open the floor for Board comments praising Dave for all his work over the past few years. Stig honored Dave with a plaque, after which Dave shared how he feels best about advocating for teachers.

No public comments.

Board member comments
Tomlinson: talked highly of the early childhood center, good news about not RIFfing anyone. (note: RIF = Reduction in Force, a practice of letting staff go with the hopeful promise of being hired again)
Jamar: good stuff at college and career center, good “state of the district” address at Carrie Busey, good feelings all around at address; talked about how Dr. Wiegand met all her goals and is changing the perception.
Chalifoux: go vote tomorrow
Van Ness: one positive and one negative. positive = “Gold card” thing, college and career center. Negative = some schools still have no Proximity A – 1) either get rid of Proximity or 2) give every child Proximity A, the 1.5 mile thingy is IRRELEVANT (his emphasis).
Chalifoux: “Gold card” thing is good; asked about doing a REALTORS brunch. Wiegand responds that we are doing them, and in fact one is scheduled for May (if I heard correctly).
Stig: acknowledges present candidates again.
Upcoming events (among the many events, I focused on one)
May 6th, special board meeting to swear in new board members

Item D moved up to the front.

Future facilities presentation:
Steering Team Co-Chair Bruce Knight started; lots of background provided; enrollment projections need to be looked at annually.  I ask (and have asked previously) “who is going to do that?” More on this in just a little bit. Most dense population around Garden Hills. Population shift moving north and east.

In discussing the “opinion polling” by Fallon, Bruce Knight says a majority of they “yes” votes came from low-propensity voters. So his solution is to get more people to vote. I wonder about that; to me, it essential to make sure folks are first educated properly about the issues (and candidates where relevant). In addition to the above, the majority of “yes” votes came from the younger generation, while the majority of “no” votes came from those who are older. Are the older folks just stodgy? Are the younger folks just naive? We cannot really assume anything – we just don’t know.

Given all the Read the rest of this entry »

Preview of Jan 28th board meeting

The Jan 28th board meeting agenda is up. [I still do not know how to deep-link it, but here is the URL for BoardDocs: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/public]

Looks like the new board members (former board members Arlene Blank and Phil Van Ness) will be sworn in right at 5:30 before executive session. Back in open session, one of the first items is:

Dr. Patrick Rice, Director of Field Services from the Illinois Association of School Boards will describe services and training options available to the Board.

That means almost absolutely nothing to me. I know that Board members are required by law to take various training (like OMA) and “How to be a Board Member”. Greg Novak has shared a humorous take on that in the past which I cannot repeat. 🙂

Dr. Wiegand will be introducing three somewhat new committees that formed as a result of the board retreats last year. The one I am part of, the Advocacy Committee, has a website (woohoo!!) and even a public-to-read email discussion list via google groups. I do not know much about the other two at all (Transitions?). What is very interesting to me is that the PDF they have on BoardDocs is a scanned copy of printed documents. Why? Why oh why oh why?!? You have to turn your computer left, right and upside down to read it. 🙂 I don’t get it. Plus, the document for the Advocacy Committee is posted on our website in a true pptx form, which means it is searchable.

Next is the very wordy “audit and reporting system for Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity” (AAEEO). There is a monstrous 162 page report you can look at if you so desire. About half the document is charts and graphs, the latter half being some kind of analysis I think. Wow. I kinda feel bad for whomever had to put that together (Ken?).

And Educational Updates. I actually enjoyed this section. 🙂 Back in October 2012 I spotted a brand-new Drupal website that Unit 4 was working on (and quickly locked down), so during David Hohman’s presentation, he is going to take some of the wrappers off. Exciting stuff. He stuffed it full of colorful pictures and a playful take so as to chip away at the boredom factor. 🙂 Also, he has a “wireless proposal” – I am wondering if we can get some local folks to look at that, and maybe even urge the administration to seriously considering local vendors over distant ones. What do you think? Would you spend 2% more on a local vendor just because they are local? 5%?

Next up Dr. Joe Davis has a couple slides about bids for the proposed renovation projects (Robeson $2.7mil and Bottenfield $7.1mill). I am going to give Dr. Davis a break this time around and pick on the architects just a little. One thing that concerns me is that it seems Canon (and others) are putting a ton of resources into procuring new work, but they are not following-up much on old work. For example, I have to go back to Carrie Busey (but I am sure other schools have issues as well); brand new school with a really cool pod design. The new construction (right now) costs $1.3mil and breaks the pod design, and the proposed addition (some $3.5mil?) further breaks the pod design. No talks about how to fix it. And not to mention the punch list of outstanding issues – however, I am pretty sure that onus is on the construction crew, right?

 

Last of the major stuff, Dr. Wiegand will be sharing “Committee appointments”, a subset listing of committees and which board members are serving on them.

 

 

Jan 14th Reg Board Meeting: new school board members, new school attorney, lots of data

re: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2013-01-14/champaign-school-board-chooses-blank-and-van-ness-new-members.html

It was an interesting board meeting tonight, although I fear “interesting” does not do the meeting justice. I don’t have the energy to write about it all now, so here are some highlights:

  • Another bevy of recognitions, including plaques and commendations for Greg Novak and Gene Logas, presented to Donna Novak and Nina Logas respectively.
  • Scott Leopold presented a veritable plethora of data and information about the targeted phone surveys (I hate using the word “quantitative”) and the latest update about the research efforts of Dejong. Overwhelming in fact.
  • Agenda line-item 10.a was removed from the agenda and then put back on the agenda at 9:50 pm after basically everyone had already left (and the tv cameras had stopped rolling I am sure); Tom Lockman will be the new school district attorney. Vote was 4-1 – oh how I wish I could write more about that.
  • As reported by Meg, a new (permanent) program for emotional disabilities/mental health was approved – board members asked some good questions
  • Oh, also as Meg reported (*grin*), two new board members; Arlene Blank and Phil van Ness. A few other candidates were also in attendance and stuck around to the bitter end.

UPDATE: Meg wrote another article about Lockman:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2013-01-14/champaign-school-board-hires-former-board-member-school-attorney.html

Another conversation starter: Carrie Busey

I usually try not to advertise too strongly that I have a vested interest at Carrie Busey; at least, not on this blog. I think it is more because I want the focus of this space to cover many different aspects of Unit 4. Having said that, there is some exciting stuff happening in and around Carrie Busey. It has to do with what to call the new school building in Savoy.

 

I realize some community folks still have some residual negativity towards a “south of University” school being built in what some consider a middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhood. Still others are like “Savoy? You mean those [insert adjective] folks who voted against the MTD and don’t want to pay any taxes?”. And still, “Savoy? Where’s that?”  Read the rest of this entry »