quick updates

I have been offline a bit lately and several things have been happening. I do not expect to cover all of them, but here are some highlights that have hit my mailbox:

Two twitter chats, today and tomorrow

The Champaign County Economic Development Corporation (@CHCEDC) and Champaign Unit #4 Schools (@Unit4Schools) will kick off a new series of Twitter chats during the first week of August that cover various topics relevant to the District and Champaign County. The first two chats—scheduled for Tuesday, August 6 from 4-5 p.m. and Wednesday, August 7 from 10-11 a.m.—will focus on all things back-to-school and answer questions on topics such as enrollment, bus schedules, physical exams/forms, food service, the new District website, and anything else participants would like to ask. Use hashtag #AskUnit4.


Part 2 of the Board Retreat (concluding the first one in June)

The Board and the Administration completed rolling out the 6 goals for the Superintendent this year:

  1. The Superintendent will foster high academic achievement, wellness, and well-being among all learners in a safe, supportive environment.
  2. The Superintendent will align the District’s priorities and resources through a community-involved planning process implemented through focused action plans with regular progress reports.
  3. The Superintendent will retain, hire, and support highly qualified faculty and staff that will best serve the District’s diverse student population.
  4. The Superintendent will effectively and efficiently engage parents and other community stakeholders resulting in strong partnerships.
  5. The Superintendent will leverage the strength of the District’s diverse population to create a rich academic and social environment in each of the District’s schools.
  6. The Superintendent will revitalize, build, and maintain facilities that are safe, sustainable and allow equitable access to programming services across the District.


The goals we have set are ambitious, but I am confident that we have the talent and dedication to rise to the challenges that lie ahead. Below you will find each goal and a description of how we will work to achieve it. As your Superintendent, I will work with each of you to ensure our collective success.


CSUF received a $100k gift for CUScholars



eToys and entrepreneurship

Kerris Lee was officially sworn to the board last night; he brings a bit of experience with the eToys program at Kenwood via the MTSE (Mathematics, Science and Technology Education) office at the University. He has a passion to instill entrepreneur skills in students of all ages, and I am excited to learn more about his involvements at the University, Parkland and Unit 4.

June 24th board retreat

This afternoon, the board held a Special Board Meeting dealing with the goals of/for the Superintendent, Dr. Judy Wiegand. Outside of the Unit 4 employees and the Board Members, I think NG staff writer Meg Dickinson, Chuck Jackson and I were the only others in attendance. There was a NG photographer who swung by, so depending on which pictures are made available, you will see that there were about 32-34 people total.

I appreciated that both Board President Laurie Bonnett and Dr. Wiegand made it very clear that public participation was very much welcome and that there would be a free-flow discussion. I like that format a lot; it probably would be a bit more challenging to adhere to that format if more community members (and more vocal ones *grin*) were in the room.

I was only able to stick around for the first hour. I believe that in that first hour, we only covered the first of the five goals outlined in the one public document made available online. Which reminds me, there were a number of handouts available for the public, but I do not know where they are online (maybe they are not posted? Yet) {updated} Documents now posted on BoardDocs – see the full slide deck for more details on what was covered. In that first goal, the Assistant Superintendents and the Superintendent spent a lot of time covering the “Achievement Framework.” I am still trying to wrap my head around it, and I cannot possibly do it justice here. At least, not yet. There was a lot of talk of utilizing more metrics and constant monitoring, of being very intentional and mindful of key waypoints (ie, Kindergarten, 3rd grade, 5th grade, 8th grade), and implementing Common Core with the idea of ultimately making all kids “college ready”.

Also, in a brief chat with the tech guys before the meeting, I learned that the “screen” (the computer monitor to display the various presentations) would be recorded, and Mr. David Hohman tells me that audio is going to be synchronized after the fact. I do not see either online, yet, but will keep my eyes open. My biggest concern, especially in regards to involving everyone who could not make it, is that the audio might be a bit lacking at times; they had technical difficulties with one microphone and ended up passing another one around which sounded a lot different; many times the mic cut out, and sometimes the speaker (ie, from the audience) was not near a mic. I hope the end result is enough for folks to bite into.

More later. I would love to get feedback from board members as well – we will have to see if anyone wishes to share their thoughts.


UPDATE: Vimeo video now available:


June 24th Board Retreat agenda is up

The agenda for the June 24th Board Retreat has been posted – essentially the only item is a 3-page report from Dr. Wiegand about her goals:


The goals all seem good, but very high-level (ie, 50,000 ft view). I hope that the ensuing discussion and any other documents shared at the board retreat find their way to the public domain so that we can all eventually participate. I am sure there is a bunch of other things being planned as well. *grin* No, I have no insider information, just using common sense – I mean, it’s a 3-hour meeting, they got to talk about more than a mere 3-page report, right? *grin* One would hope.

I am curious why the board retreat is not posted on the Unit 4 front page, nor on the BOE “meetings and agenda” page.  I still have no idea how much the public will actually be able to interact, outside the standard 3-minutes/person “Public Comment” time.


UPDATE: Stephanie Stuart says that there will be time for “free-flow” conversation and that the public will be invited to participate in that.

More details about special board meeting and board retreat

The agenda for the June 17th special board meeting is up – looks like a ton of things for Bottenfield are being scrutinized (ie, change orders, etc).

  • Approval of Bottenfield General Contractor Bid: $6.3 million
  • Approval of MET Proposal for Inspection Services at Bottenfield: $26.5 thousand
  • Approval of Champaign Telephone Quotes for Bottenfield Elementary School: $136 thousand
  • Approval of Bottenfield Midwest Engineering and Testing, Inc. Contract: $13.4 thousand
  • Approval of Bottenfield Corson Music Price Quotes: $15.6 thousand
  • Approval of Bottenfield Alpha Controls Contract: $48 thousand

Two other things on the Action Agenda; CFT wanting more sick leave and the Midwest Transit Bus lease.

Also, the board retreat is announced at the very bottom of the agenda; not yet on the Unit 4 website:

Board/Administration Retreat: June 24, 2013 at Central High School from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Reminder: the board retreat is open to the public. Hoping more details come out soon.

Board retreat and special board meeting

I have recently learned that Unit 4 will be holding board meetings over the next two Mondays (June 17th and June 24th). Not all the details have been released yet (like the posted agendas) – however, the board retreat is usually a really good opportunity for a more interactive environment with a wider cast of participants and I again encourage folks to try to attend. However, it is not clear to me if the public is specifically invited to participate in the interactions. 🙂 Tammy Sowers has confirmed that the board retreat will be held on June 24th and open to the public; I think it will be held in the late afternoon, possibly starting at 3:pm. I believe the special board meeting on June 17th will be held at the regular time (exec session at 5:30, open session at 6:pm) at the regular place (Mellon Center) (“same bat-time, same bat-channel”).

June 3rd "special" board retreat

The June 3rd board meeting has been posted on BoardDocs. The agenda is extremely slim so I asked for some clarifying details:

I see that the agenda for the June 3rd retreat has been posted. The agenda is rather bare, showing only two items for Open Session (other than comments), both of which are HR Ken Kleber items. But no extra information is provided whatsoever. I am curious, what is the Administrative appointment and the reclassification?
Also, from talking to Board Members who have attended “retreats” in the past, I am aware that usually a lot of awesome things happen and/or are discussed at retreats. Is the bulk of the June 3rd meeting going to be held in closed (executive) session? If so, why? If not, I am curious what else is being planned?
Also, I noted that various reasons for Executive Session are being highlighted on BoardDocs – please pass along my thanks to whomever made that decision, I appreciate it.


Dr. Wiegand responded:

The administrative appointments will be for the Interim Principal at Garden Hills and the Administrator for the Alternative to Suspension Program.

The retreat on Monday will be facilitated by the Illinois Association of School Board representative, Patrick Rice.  Since it involves self-evaluation it takes place in Executive Session.  I do plan on holding on a Board/Admin Retreat later in June (date not yet secured) similar to what we did in the past, and this will be in open session to discuss goals for the 13-14 school year, along with our work on how to become a more student and family centered organization.


Having been to a a couple of the board retreats (the public ones), I encourage the public to pay attention and perhaps even participate if possible.


As to the Garden Hills Interim Principal, I have heard from a couple parents and I encourage them (you) to make your comments public as you see fit.

Review of the Oct 8th Board Retreat: the conundrum of public education

Tonight’s post is partially inspired by an Old Spice commercial featuring Bruce Campbell and an intriguing statement by Henry Ford. You can google the commercial if you like – I am not going to link youTube because that can lead to all sorts of unknown troubles, but it starts of “If you have it you don’t need it. If you need it, you don’t have it.” The quote from Henry Ford I am going to steal is “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.”

First off, a couple of announcements came out of the retreat:

  • The state of Illinois is going to mandate a state-wide climate survey. This year! (I presume this school year, not this calendar year) Upon asking Dr. Wiegand for more details, she indicated that she is going to pass the buck to the Executive Director of LUDA and hopefully get back to me.
  • The Board and the Administration will hold another retreat in the Spring (TBA)
  • Unit 4 is forming two ad hoc teams/committees, one for Parent Advocacy and another for Transitions (ie, entry into Kindergarten, 5th to 6th, 8th to 9th). I ask for and received assurances that each committee would have its own dedicated webpage on the school website and that the chairs would be asked to keep the web spaces well maintained.

Dr. Laura Taylor got us started off with her “Social Justice Wheel“. This is the same wheel that was used for the Social Justice Committee (Sept 27th); in fact, Dr. Taylor even divided the room between those who already started that conversation so they could jump to the next application – what keeps parents and children out (in the context of the night’s focus on “Services for Parents and Students”)? We discussed this at each table – I ended up at a table with administrators since there were like…. zero other “parents” there (and by “parents” I mean someone who was not either a Unit 4 employee, Board Member or Media). In fact, I highlighted this point, sweeping the room and saying “look who is not here  – why are they not here?” For truly Read the rest of this entry »

Things be a-happening

Tonight is the School Board and District retreat (leaving in 30 minutes). I don’t know what to expect. I am hoping for good things. 🙂


Also, the Social Justice Committee has a dedicated page on the U4 website: http://www.champaignschools.org/sjc/. Check out the “Social Justice Wheel” and tell me what you think. I am still trying to figure out if “social justice” or “academic justice” is more appropriate. In that, I hope to find out if the difference matters. 🙂


Had good meetings at Houlihans past couple weeks that I need to blog about.


More later – got a few things to wrap up.

Unit 4 public retreat – October 8th, 5:30 – 7:pm

From the latest newsletter: http://www.champaignschools.org/news/news_files/2012-10-04_WeeklyNewsletter.pdf


Improving service to parents & students

The retreat will be held on Monday, October 8 at the Mellon Administration Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and I welcome your attendance and participation.

We will build off of the good intentions discussed in June and discuss specific areas to improve our service to parents and students.  The items we plan on discussing include parent advocacy—what we currently have in place, where gaps exist, and how can we fill those gaps.

Another item of discussion is how we welcome our students and parents at critical times of transition, such as kindergarten, sixth and ninth grade.  As an organization, we want to improve on how we work with our parents and how we partner with them in the education of their children.

The Purpose of the School Board

This post started out as a deeper review and research of the recent Urbana School Board Policy 2:82 that got Jim Dey’s and Jim Turpin’s attention. But as I dug, I started asking bigger questions. Questions about the purpose of the school board and political engagement. But let me start from the beginning…

A few days ago, NG Editor Jim Dey wrote an editorial that stung the Urbana School District Board of Education and I started exploring his article in a post. Over lunch today, I took some time to dive into this whole thing with both feet.

First I contacted USD 116; I emailed the Board, Superintended Dr. Preston Williams and Assistant Superintendent Don Owen (and various administrative aides), asking where Policy 2:82 was published on the USD website. I must have missed it the first time looking through the Board Agenda, but the policy is indeed on the Board’s Agenda website:


As I was reading through it, I tried to ignore Dey’s perspective and form my own (which is rather difficult, actually). In reading through it, I can definitely see a sense of control being exerted. Control, in and of itself, is not inherently bad; I say that explicitly because even though it is obvious, we seem to want to escalate any desire for control into the realms of “bad” and “evil”. Certainly it can be used for bad. Is it? Also, I had to remember that these are expectations – when I read this, I did not see any ramifications stated if expectations are not met. Some call that kind of thinking devious, others call it thinking outside the box. (*evil grin*)

I also Read the rest of this entry »