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: 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:


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 »

Review of June 21st Board Retreat

It was hard to know what to expect from the Board Retreat; the agenda certainly covered some interesting topics, but what was the format going to be like? Who would be in the audience? Who would be allowed to speak?

The retreat was held at Parkland’s brand-spanking new Applied Technology Center; this place was so cool it almost deserves its own blog post. 🙂 Suffice it to say that I wished I was a young college student taking automotive classes. Aside from the Board, most of the Mellon staff was there as well as a goodly number of school principals (my guess would be about 85% of all the school principals). Meg was there representing the NG and I was there merely being me – no other community members other than those already mentioned.

We started off with public comment, which was funny in some ways. I was tempted to fill out a comment card, but then I thought – we are supposed to be having a discussion, right? So I rolled the dice and skipped the comment card. Probably a good thing. Dr. Wiegand gave a little intro, and while we waited for Board Member Sue Grey to arrive, the Board acted on the two items tabled from the previous Board Meeting. I thought I heard that we have $39,000 in outstanding food fees. Wow, really? Surely I heard that wrong – I need to go back and look at the BoardDocs when I get a chance.

We jumped Read the rest of this entry »

Houlihans today: 11:30 – until I get tired :)

Anyone planning on coming today? Some topics to help seed conversations:

  • What Board policies really need to change?
  • Should any topics be introduced during “open comment” at the Board Retreat tomorrow? (I have heard rumors that Bullying might be added)


I’ll be sitting outside and reading a book. I can share some updates from what I have learned in the past few days if anyone is interested. The discussion you all are having about Garwood/Bristol Park is fantastic! 🙂 Not to mention the whole racial talks.

Board Retreat: June 21st at Parkland

The official public notice went up late last night or early this morning:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Board of Education of Community Unit School District No. 4, Champaign County, Illinois, will conduct a Board Retreat at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 21, 2012, at The Applied Technology Center[*] at Parkland College, 2400 W. Bradley Avenue, Champaign, IL.

Here is the agenda. A little concerned about the normal boilerplate wording of the closed session. But “Items for Discussion” looks good:

  • Facilities
  • Finances
  • Schools of Choice
  • Student Centered Organization

Very interesting…..

I also see the two action items that were held over from the previous Board Meeting. Very much looking forward to “discussion” – what will that look like? 🙂 Audience participation?

* – the newly constructed building does not yet exist on any map. Here is a BLDD Site map to help out.

Two items: Upcoming Board "retreat" and expansion of classes

I was informed that the Board has set the date and time of their next retreat, which I am told is open to the public.

When: June 21st, 8:am – 12:pm

Where: Mellon Center (??)

In the past, Board Members have told me that these retreats are very helpful and they got a lot of out of them. In fact, Greg Novak had this to say of the last retreat:

BEST   –  BOARD   –   MEETING   –   EVER  !!!!      Got a great view of the district and its issues and strengths from an experienced outsider it was the Superintendent – seven board members – no one else – serious and open discussion (in open session no less) of issues facing the school district today – including lack of district engagement with the community.

I have never been to one before and I am not sure if many members of the public have been either. It is not exactly the most convenient time for those of that work, but the same goes for the existing Board Members as most (if not all) of them will have to take time off work.

Not seeing anything on the District homepage yet, but I would expect them to post a formal, if brief, agenda.

Secondly, concerning all the new classrooms and teacher shuffling going on, Trevor has finally come out and laid out the cards:

However, I would still like to hear more from the district. For instance, Robeson is getting a ESL class. What about all the support structures that go along with ESL? Where are the new teachers coming from? This makes me wonder what else is happening beyond the mere mention of “adding classes”. Another thought I have, it seems just a tad odd that these decisions were discussed and completed internally with little communication with the public. And perhaps little communication with the Board? I have heard a number of parents who were affected by these changes; for instance several Latino parents were told they were moving to Robeson. They were not asked, they were not included in any of the decision-making. The picture that was painted to me was that this was quite abrupt and disruptive for those affected. To give the District a little credit, I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were in a rush to make some big decisions. Certainly, they need to do something about the larger Kindergarten and First Grade classes. I am hoping that in the future there is a bit more of a collaborative effort between the District and the community to address larger issues like this.