New blog on equity and race

A good friend has started her own blog, hitting it hard with equity and race:

https://cherylnnekacamacho.wordpress.com/

 

Her first post is a heartfelt message and a strong challenge: “How are you pushing for racial equity in your corner of the community?” I wonder what would happen if our sole justification for what we do is “(b)ecause it’s the right thing to do.”

Things keep hopping

There are a few things boiling internally at the Mellon Center. I’ll share the ones that have already become public, the others I have specifically been asked not to blog about. Which is really hard for me. 🙂 Isn’t that like giving a child some candy and telling him not to eat it? Not just any candy, but his favorite.

One of the rumors that finally got certified was that the former Garden Hills principal, Cheryl O’Leary has taken a position as the new Director of Special Programs while Cheryl Camacho has taken the position of Interim Principal at Garden Hills. Both effective July 1, 2013. In regards to this transition, I have spoken to parents, teachers (not at Garden Hills), administration and board members, and basically nobody wants to be quoted. So I am going to grossly summarize; some parents feel very agitated, some teachers feel like they can’t say anything, and the administration seem to have well-thought out reasons. But none of the folks I have talked with are talking with each other, which is very frustrating to me. I don’t believe one side is all wrong and the other side all right – I believe each has a story, a perspective, a slice of the pie. I am asking and hoping that some of these folks are willing to share their story.

I also spoke with two representatives from the College of Education yesterday, Jane E. Schingel and David Requa.  I was initially wondering what kind of research the College of Ed has done regarding Unit 4 and Unit 116. Both Jane and David were extremely helpful and our conversation was very enlightening. I learned that most research asks the question “how does this work”, whereas very little research goes to the next step of addressing how to make it work better. The fundamental roadblock is funding. But there is also the issue that most research asks very narrow and specific questions – nothing like a global “how to effectively run a school district” or “how to engage your community”. We also talked about the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities, and in addition to some thoughts shared by Dr. Wiegand, it sounds like the Center is currently undergoing some changes and there is a high hope and expectation that there will be an even higher level of collaboration between community interests (ie, local schools) and the Center when the dust settles. I hope to share more about that when information becomes available.

 

In regards to the FOIAs I heard about earlier, I am still trying to ferret out the truth and not depend solely on rumors. I have heard that some things are still bubbling, but nothing that is verified, yet. I fully intend to keep on them and share what I learn; again, it is not my desire to propagate rumors but to find facts and truth.

 

Lastly, pay attention to the board meeting on Monday. Or at least the announcements leading up to it.

Notes from the April 22nd BOE Special Meeting

I took the time to watch the BOE meeting a little while ago and typed up some notes. Unfortunately, they are not yet formatted very well. Instead of delaying, I finally decided to just dump them here, and hope that readers will forgive the horrid formatting.

 

{the times listed below are elapsed times from the beginning of the video}

start at 5:02

spotlight on middleschool to highschool transitions: 10 minutes (music stops at 15:36 after all the credits roll *roll eyes*)
jamar brown – found it entertaining, found the whole thing very good, transitions are important

public comment:
laurie bonnett – only quotes from one vendor, are we reaching out and seeking participating from other vendors?

CFT:
Cathy mannen – thanks to the board for support of the early childhood center.

PTA Council:
Sheri Williamson – summer reading program, 300 books from UofI. Parent Resource Group.

Communications from board members:
Kristine – shout out about the amazing musicals past two weeks. Big praise for the stage design, acting, music, etc.
Van Ness – College Career Center; great facility, great idea. Shout out for the CUSF. Need to support them better.
Ileana – Make the College Career Center grow bigger – good stuff.
Brown – PSUs (?) at Novak, like a graduation thing. Lots of praise/congrats for many other events at other schools.
Stig – congrats to those who run board elections. Interesting thoughts about “supporting” more folks on future candidates, getting more folks to run.
Board retreat follow-up: how to make the school district a family-centered organization. hmm… not child-centered? 🙂

Asia Fuller-Hamilton & Joe Williams start with Transitions. jwtobe.org?? jw2b.org??
Jamar and Kristine mention how awesome this is. Kristine reiterates the pain/confusion of the first day. Mentions how awesome it would be for every freshman to have a mentor/guide. Joe says they are working on it.
Stig asks the same about middle school. He says why can’t we divulge as much information as possible BEFORE they come to school, and then handle the unknowns as they arise. A bit of discussion (even Wiegand intercedes); can the kids have the data before the first day of school? 🙂 Lots of great things are happening in pockets, working towards making those things consistent in general.

Elizabeth DeGruy (no presentation, just reporting).
Stig asks a lot of questions and makes comments. Very engaged. 🙂 Again, can parents have as much information as soon as possible? All about transistions. Importance of setting a first impression by making the first day in school a very positive one.
I think a question from the audience was fielded about “child time”? Yes, Sheri Williamson from the audience is given the floor. Awesome! 🙂

Tony and Cheryl are up at 1:05:40. Tony walks through the overview of the goals and “ideal reality”. Cheryl talks about the specific multiple recommendations. Elizabeth chimes in with SpecEd recommendations.
Stig asks how parents who are in these situations can reach out to a person (*not* a helpline). Maybe a FAQ?
Action Items:
Kleber announces the promotion of 3 assistant principals.
1:23:40
TALP – Orlando Thomas
Kristine wants to verify this is not fun, and that students don’t really have a choice once suspended.
student discipline procedure – lockman
confirming adoption for administrative reasons … ?? That’s not vague. 🙂

Kleber on adding an administrative position for overseeing the food department; one year appointment for a proof-of-concept.
Van Ness asks where the person will be housed. Kleber doesn’t really answer the question, saying they will be “everywhere.” Interesting that the Board is asked to approve the position even before the job description is finalized. Doesn’t that seem backwards?
Item A from Consent Agenda moved up – Champaign Telephone contract. curious, was this moved up in Executive session? Meg Dickinson mentioned that Phil Van Ness moved on it, but I did not witness it.
Brown asks, we will *never* bid out these jobs? Joe Davis assures the board that if they need to, they will. Who bids it out? “talk it out” with architects and superintendent.
Van Ness comes out and says he pulled it out of the Consent Agenda. Wants to make sure the board is putting things before the public. Likes that we are keeping this local.
Kristine mentions that consistency is very important.
Ileana: not exactly sure what she said, something about good for the community and taxpayers knowing.
Kristine, we don’t want everyone to know what the budget is….. interesting. In the context of bidding… they want contractors to bid competitively, not to the budget.

1:44:40 remaining items of the consent agenda

April 22nd special board meeting

I have not had a chance to watch it – only spot-checked it to make sure it was recording:

http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/board_meetings/2013-04-22-special-board-meeting.mp4

 

A couple interesting things on the agenda; Cheryl Camacho and Tony Howard presented on the Parent Advocacy recommendation(s) and Elizabeth DeGruy presented on special needs (aka, “Board Retreat Follow-up”),  Orlando spoke again on TALP, Lockman again on the changes to policy concerning discipline, three folks bumped up to Assistant Principals, and a couple other things.

 

Meg’s article focuses on the approval of the TALP program, and mentions a couple other things as well.

Jan 28th board meeting

Video posted: http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=53

 

This was a monster meeting – about 3 hours. The video has about an hour of black afterwards because I recorded on Tivo and I didn’t get it shut off soon enough. Also, you might want to fast-forward the first 10 minutes or so, as it looks like the Board came back from Exec session a little later. David Hohman is working on making the Jan 7th and Jan 28th videos on Vimeo (soon).

 

I don’t have the mental stamina to comment much (watching that thing really taxes me). I’ll be brief. The preview I did also covers a bit of stuff.

[PS – Houlihans tomorrow]

 

 

Cathy Mannen gave a statement on behalf of the CFT. The CFT typically does not say anything at Board Meetings, so my ears perked up when she got up. Ms. Mannen shared about the need to focus on appropriate assessments as opposed to standardized tests. I felt myself very much agreeing with her statements. I have asked Ms. Mannen if she is willing to share the short survey they did.

 

I didn’t really get the talk by Dr. Rice; it was obviously just for the board’s ears, about how to be board members. I was a bit surprised when Stig segued into giving public acknowledgement to the board member candidates that were currently in the room; he had them stand up and he even introduced them (Stuckey, Williams, Bonnett).

 

The committee presentations (Parent Advocacy, Transitions and 504 plans) were pretty much straight from the documents saved on BoardDocs; I was tickled that Tony Howard highlighted the weebly website. The irony is that Joe Williams pointed out how much overlap there is between the committees, but the committees don’t even know what the others are doing (at least, as a committee member, I didn’t have a clue). I mean, there is lots of sincere and good intentions, but it seems to me that a ton of work and research is silo’ed. How many people will even become aware of these Committees? (you blog readers have a slight advantage, I like to think *grin*) Much less what they even do. If nothing else, this is why I jumped on the opportunity to create a public website and a public google group for the Advocacy Committee – I want people to learn more about it.

 

Ken Kleber tried hard to make his AEEOO report interesting. It’s just hard. Or maybe I have horrible attention span. It’s good stuff to talk about it, but the meeting is already long.

 

Having said that, Read the rest of this entry »

Parent Advocacy Committee (review of Dec 7th meeting)

Last Friday’s Advocacy meeting went well, although a few of you will point out “done” much. We did have some excellent conversations, and aside from exploring and brainstorming our purpose, we don’t have much to show for what we did. That is a sword that cuts both ways.

 

Before I go on, I did want to point out that I created a couple online resources to aid the online community:

 

 

I grew impatient waiting for others to do this. 🙂 On a more serious note, why is it that the Unit 4 web presence does not empower its own employees to be co-creators? Or to zoom out, why is the web so hard? In our day and age, I expect much more of user interfaces. But now I digress.

 

So for last Friday. The majority of our time was spent trying to figure out what we were doing. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, a lot of great ideas came up – when Cheryl posts the notes and minutes, you can read over them to see how the committee is shaping up. It is obvious that there are is no single working definition of “advocacy”, thus to find a “mission statement” or a succinct “purpose” was all but impossible. So we came up with a series of core beliefs about what we thought advocacy should do. As mentioned previously, there is a lot of overlap with Laura Taylor’s Social Justice Committee. In fact Sean Morrison (principal at Westview) was sitting right next to me and mentioned this very thing at the meeting.

The last part of the meeting was exploring the idea of a “Needs Assessment”. I had emailed the group earlier (as mentioned in a blog post) about other resources that are already doing this sort of thing – I have no idea if my email got any traction or not. The 13 or so of us that were present all ended the meeting with an action item to somehow access needs in our local circles. I think the point is that we will report back to the group in January and somehow address those needs. I think.

Afterwards I had a most excellent chat with one of the members who is a kindergarten teacher. She has done several home visits with the parents and has shared what an amazing impact that has had. I talked to her with the purpose of trying to figure out how to get other teachers to do the same. It turned out to be a very satisfying and exciting conversation, and I think we are going to try to cross school boundaries and first introduce this idea (and the impact it has had) to various parents first. It is my hope to get a groundswell of parents who see the value of home visits and actively desire it, hoping to build momentum to get the parent voice to demand this of the district. Of course, if we are misguided and most parents do not want this, there will be no strong voice. 🙂 I think this experiment to see if our ideas are in the right place or not.

 

Cheryl also suggested that I read Dan and Chip Heath’s “Switch: How to change things when change is hard” (found a free ebook for those interested). Having made my way about 2/3 through it, I have realized it shares a significant parallel to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” and Jonah Lehrer’s “How we decide”; very similar styles of writing and format, with extremely similar concepts just using different words. I read these kinds of books and I find them simultaneously invigorating and frustrating. Invigorating because there is a lot that strikes a chord with me and helps me understand the world around me. Frustrating because too often I see the big changes I would like to happen and loose track of the small “next steps” that are much more practical. The big picture often overwhelms me – I find myself wanting someone else to tell me what to do. I don’t want to make the decisions. Some times I don’t even want to talk. I just want to do.

Update about the Parent Advisory Committee

From Cheryl Camacho:

 

Please find attached the agenda for our next meeting which is scheduled for this Friday, December 7 from 3:30-5:00pm.  Please come prepared to follow up on our single action item which was to engage people to find out what they envision/think when they are asked what is parent advocacy? ; please feel free to speak strictly from your context.  One of our goals for the meeting on Friday is to come away with a shared working definition for “Parent Advocacy” that will drive our committee’s work.

 

Parent Advocacy Committee Agenda 12.7.12

 

[from me *grin*]

I briefly glanced at the Agenda – I am concerned about the Needs Assessment piece, partially because it seems like everyone is doing some kind of “Needs Assessment” but they are, more often than not, siloed efforts. How do we tap into all those other efforts? For instance, ACCESS Initiative recently (Nov 8) held a Think Tank (and here) where they did this kind of thing, but I cannot find where they report out what they found.

 

Another problem I have is trying to reach a broader audience with a question. I asked on this blog about Advocacy and I received zero comments. 🙂 I am not blaming you, just demonstrating how social media like blogs are not good for asking these kinds of questions. At least in my case. Maybe I need to be more provocative. I have asked several parents and friends in my own circles and have received a variety of ideas. For instance, one said it is an organization that speaks up for social justice and equity issues. Another said it was a way to represent another in legal matters. I am still asking folks.

 

Lastly, between this and the Social Justice Committee I am seeing a metric ton of overlap. There is a LOT of positive energy, but for me personally, the structure and format of these meetings drains my energy away. Maybe I crave more action steps. Maybe I crave more community participation. It is hard for me to put my finger on it; how do I get to the point of where I am satisfied with my own involvement in these efforts?

 

Cheryl ended her email with this:

Last, we are working with Dave Hohman, Champaign Unit 4’s Director of Instructional Technology, on creating an online space to upload information related to this committee.  We are excited about the level of transparency that will showcase and highlight this important work.  Just wanted to keep you in the loop.