Building bridges with Shadow Wood

Unit 4 finally made good on their promise to return to Shadow Wood after their August 17th meeting (I think that was the last one); a group of residents and a bevy of Unit 4 reps crowded into the Shadow Wood Community Center. Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand opened the evening with introductions, joined by Assistant Superintendents Dr. Susan Zola and Dr. Laura Taylor; Barbara Ramsay had two of her Transportation guys there to listen and take notes, ESL Director Maria Alanis was there to do the bulk of the translating,  Board Member Ileana Saveley also helped bridge the language obstacles and engage the residents, and Central Assistant Principal Bryan Yacko was there to represent the high school district in which Shadow Wood now resides. Champaign City Council Member Will Kyles also dropped by and addressed the group.

The first order of the night was Transportation and the ongoing issues with buses. It was amazing to witness the interaction; the residents spoke about inconsistent pickup/dropoff times and how some drivers are just rude, and the administrators actively listened, showed concern, and then stated what they are going to do about it. That was the best part; “Ok, I hear what you are saying, this is what we are going to do to fix it.” And so on Monday and Tuesday, the bus that serves Shadow Wood is going to have a tail, checking to see what is going on with the route. The residents suspected that the bus was going to Savoy to drop off one child first, and then coming all the way back north with a 99% full bus. Having just done that exact route myself, I know it takes a while, and I also know it makes absolutely no sense for a bus serving Garden Hills to go to Savoy first for dropoff (for pickup, yes, sure, it makes sense). The folks from the Transportation Department said that should not be happening. But they are going to check. They also mentioned that one of the buses broke recently (I had this picture of a bus literally breaking in half) which might have accounted for some disruption today. What was really good, also, is that Maria explicitly said that if after Tuesday things are still not good, they should call her or Ileana. It was clear that the residents felt very strongly about this – and so they should! The mothers talked about how they have to drop off their kids and get to work, and if the bus is not consistent, they are sometimes late to work. It was equally clear that the Unit 4 staff were very concerned and want to make sure things are right. And this is what I love about this kind of environment – the residents were being empowered. They were encouraged to use their voice (and they did!).

Next up, Read the rest of this entry »

Percolating thoughts

The Board believes the District will be most successful when the community is aware of and understands the District’s efforts and goals.

Source: December 01, 2011 EEE Committee Meeting minutes

I would take this further; the word picture I use is like a marriage – the general health and excellence of the relationship is (I believe) optimal when all parties share the same goals within the context of each individual’s whole self. Yes, the District will be better off when the community is aware of and understands the District’s efforts and goals, but I wish to clarify that and hope that the goals are shaped and the efforts are guided by a strong community collaborative partnership. I say that very deliberately – I do not think the goals and efforts should be determined by the state, nor the government (as it exists now). Unfortunately, it is my observation that our schools are currently, largely, a reflection of  legislation.

Allow me to take you a short tour of stories that have impressed me this past week (or so).

  • Vandana Shiva (hat tip to Pattsi Petri): Ms. Shiva is not stupid – she has studied nuclear physics and has researched Quantum mechanics. As one commentor said “I would have hoped that studying physics and quantum theory would lead most students to similar conclusions of social and environmental equality but it cannot be. It must require a love of people first.” Her ideas of interconnectedness are fascinating, to say the least, but it totally makes sense. I could not help but see this report through the lens of education, especially Read the rest of this entry »