Keep your eyes open

Just a few things to mention.


Monday, November 17th is a “special” board meeting, which typically means there are more opportunities for public comment. However the agenda is exceptionally small this time around, with the one and only thing really being discussed is a “public hearing” (*cough cough*) on “Physical Education Waiver Request”.


Last Thursday, Tim Ditman wrote an article covering how board member Kerris Lee is “exploring other Central High School sites“. Perhaps what I found most odd is that there are zero (nilch, nada, none) comments to the article. Granted, while Dodds Park and Bristol Park do offer some really interesting possibilities, they seem like extremely remote possibilities, but hey, Kerris is good at getting people to talk, so I dare not say impossible.


Next Thursday (November 20th), the national Learning Spaces Collaboratory will be holding a webinar on “Connecting the Dots between Planning and Assessing 21st Century Learning Spaces: Lessons Learned from the Field“. There is a $125 registration fee, so not for the faint of heart. I am hoping to hear from some local folks that attend this webinar and are willing to report out.


And lastly, save the dates for a few Saturdays in January; we are starting to make plans to offer design charrettes around the topic of the Unit 4 High Schools. Tentatively you can pencil in January 10th, January 17th and January 24th. I have spoken with the fine folks at the Douglass Center as well as the principal at Stratton and there is a distinct possibility we will be able to use their gyms. Pattsi, how can I help get your “charrettes 101” material online and available to all?

this might pinch a little

Whenever my ex-dentist used to say that, I cringed and prepared for an excruciating pain. And oh did it hurt! I learned later, after that dentist had left for “other opportunities”, that he had been doing the procedure wrong the entire time, and the new dentist demonstrated the same procedure with me hardly noticing anything. Still I was scarred, and those false words of promise buried themselves deep inside me.

You can hear the same empty mantra from elected officials. Taxes go up and “its for the kids”. Surely every single tax dollar that is sucked out of our wallets is used for mutually beneficial and good things. Right? Why are you looking at me like that?

While I will focus mostly on the schools, I am going to blame two distinct groups of people; 1) officials, leaders, legislators, policy-makers and every other cherry chum that sees taxes as free money, and 2) you and me and everyone else who lets them get away with this inexcusable atrocity.

Let us take a little spin down TIF lane. TIF, Tax-Increment Financing, sounds innocuous enough – or perhaps, more realistically, vapid and vacuous, as it doesn’t really say much of what it is doing. Read the rest of this entry »

Laurie Reynolds editorial (Feb 6th , 2011)

I posted a copy of Laurie Reynolds 2011 Editorial (with her permission):


This piece is extremely germane to the conversation of where to put Central. I highly encourage you to read it. I will be peppering Ms. Reynolds with questions when she gets back, and maybe even get her to comment on the blog a little. 🙂


I am “backtracking” to all the posts about “high school site selection” with this tag:

reminder: charrette this afternoon, CPL room 222, 1:pm – 4:pm

So the bad news first; I will not be able to make it.

The good news is that Chuck Jackson will get all the fame for running it solo.


Here are some of my expectations:

  • Between 10 and 20 people show up overall
  • At least half the people who arrive will help put their ideas (no matter how old, how new, how strange, how pedantic or mundane) up on the wall
  • someone will take lots of pictures
  • And most importantly, some really cool ideas will be shared (Chuck already has several interesting ideas floating around from our trial run at Houlihans)


Remember, the idea is to have fun but take a fresh look at the facts.

A grassroots future facilities charrette


char·rette [shuh-ret] noun

“a final, intensive effort to finish a project, especially an architectural design project, before a deadline.”

Unit 4 has given us lots of data to process, but still, what does it look like to put a high school near the Centennial site? What about on Olympian Drive? What about Neil and Bradley?

Come explore with us; we will have large-format GIS maps that we can mark up with pencils, pens, and lots of accessories like Monopoly® hotels, scissors, notepads, stickies, etc. The idea is to have fun brainstorming while using our hands to physically manipulate the possibilities.

1:00—4:00 pm, Sunday, April 7th
Foundation Room (Room 222) Champaign Public Library (upper level)

Two more will be planned, one later in April and one in May

UPDATE: you don’t have to stay for the entire 3 hours – come when you can, stay for as long as you want.

UPDATE: Facebook Event:

UPDATE: Meg Dicksinson wrote a brief for the NG:; she also gave us a nice tinyurl for this post:

houlihans: high school siting pseudo workshop

Tomorrow at 11:30 at Houlihans, we will have a bare-bones mock up of a high school siting workshop (ie, charrette). It’ll be rough – the idea is what we are looking for your input on how to do a real charrette.


To help, I am bringing a 3′ by 3′ color (barely) printout of the school district, all streets (major arteries labelled), and schools (private and public). I will also bring a bunch of pens (and pencils if I can find some around the house).


What you can bring: colored pencils/markers, monopoly hotels/houses (I don’t have any *sad face*) and a wealth of ideas. Also someone willing to take notes and pictures would be helpful.


What I will not have ready: demographic overlays for income levels, population density, etc. I will bring the Dejong Richter packet as a separate document for reference.


The objective: we will figure out 1) what the process of figuring out Central looks like, and maybe even 2) come up with some creative ideas. Just today I ran across someone who had an idea I had never heard before, and I’ll share that at the meeting tomorrow.


This is a trial run to see how it goes. When we get ready for Prime Time(r), we will advertise in the News-Gazette and elsewhere.

What do you want out of your school board?

datesThis is both an announcement/reminder post, but also an attempt to provoke your grey matter and maybe even generate discussion.

First, I am going to assume you do realize that you, as a tax-payer and vote-caster, do indeed have a voice that the school board members, as your publicly elected officials, are obligated to pay heed to. 🙂 This means that we voters have to hold them accountable, and the board members have to allow themselves to be held accountable. In an ideal and somewhat Utopian fashion, this relationship would be built on trust and mutual respect. Unfortunately, our State has done us a disservice in terms of being role models in this regard; none the less, let us remember our obligations.

Having said that, there are elections coming up on April 9th, 27 days from now. Within the next 27 days, do you know who you will vote for and why? Perhaps at this stage of the game you had not even planned to vote. Or maybe you had the election on the back burner of your brain and figured you would get around to contemplating the candidates “tomorrow”. Well, this is your lucky day! For in fact, tomorrow there is a candidate forum – an excellent opportunity to hear more about the candidates that are running:

PTA Council Candidate Forum tomorrow night (March 14th) @ 7 p.m. at the Mellon Administrative Center. The forum will also air on Champaign Government Television starting Friday.

In addition, Meg Dickinson will be running an article in the near future on the candidates, so keep your eyes peeled. And finally, Laura Bleill of talks about some of the qualities that she, as a parent, would like to see in a board member:

Just as a reminder, there are two sub-races for the board this time; three 4-year seats and two 2-year seats. The 2-year slots are uncontested and filled by incumbents. The three 4-year seats will be decided between five candidates (alphabetical by first name this time):


For the sake of disclosure, I Read the rest of this entry »

Houlihans today @ 11:30

I am hoping to be at Houlihans at 11:30 today, but with a new baby I might be a couple minutes late.


Anyway, I am hoping to start some serious planning for a charrette (workshop) on the high school siting thing-a-ma-bob. Chuck Jackson has some questions and thoughts he wants to throw around about pre-school.


Hope to see you there!

“Everything You’ve Heard about Failing Schools is Wrong.”

The subject of today’s post is from a recursive series of quotes; Dr. Wiegand’s latest newsletter highlights an Atlanta Journal-Constitution (ajc) educational blog which is highlighting an essay by University of Georgia professor Peter Smagorinsky about the bane of how media often portrays the dire plight of the public education system and he manages to ring the bell of anti-Bill Gatian assessments. Dr. Smagorinsky refers back to “The Manufactured Crisis”, which sounds like myth-debunking work aiming to de-teeth the many klaxons of war-mongering politicians.

I have asked Dr. Wiegand what she thought of the piece, since, to be honest, most of it is very general for me. I do acknowledge that Dr. Smagorinksy paints a very salient point; “to show one example of the perils of making judgments about people based on media images and accounts.” Which makes me wonder, what does the media hope to gain by pointing a crooked, shaking finger at tax-payer funded public schools in the first place? Does it really help to round up all the riff-raff and get people complaining? We will see what Dr. Wiegand says.

Obviously, there is a time and a place to disclose, or even uncover, the chinks in the armor, the weakest link, as long as the intent is to patch it up and make it stronger. On the flip side, there is also a time and a place to acknowledge all the many awesome accomplishments and positive direction, as long as it is not used to whitewash a rotting interior. Having said that, let us take a look at a few things.

On the “Pro” side, Stephanie Stuart (Unit 4 Community Relations), and Lynn Peisker before her, has done an excellent job of highlighting many positives; if you watch the Unit 4 website, the Unit 4 Facebook page or the twitter feed, you will find a frequent stream of recognitions, awards, certificates and accomplishments. Just today Dr. Taylor was recognized for receiving the McKinley Foundation Social Justice Award. Stephanie always collects success stories that are going on each school, as evident at each board meeting during “Recognitions”. Stephanie also co-hosted a “twitter chat” last week; the transcript is a little challenging to follow, but you can see how she (and Dr. Wiegand) interacted with various “chatters”.

On the “Con” side, Read the rest of this entry »