It takes a village, part 2


In Kijita (Wajita) there is a proverb which says ‘Omwana ni wa bhone,’ meaning regardless of a child’s biological parent(s) its upbringing belongs to the community.

Previously, I mentioned I talked with Angela Smith and Orlando Thomas on the topic of discipline, a conversation which ranged into the topic of community partnerships and collaborations. Specifically, Ms. Smith and Mr. Thomas both suggested I talk to Ms. Karen Simms. It was great advice. 🙂
Ms. Simms presented at the Feb 13th BOE meeting – I encourage you to look through the documents posted on BoardDocs:
I recently had the privilege to speak with Karen Simms. I first gave a little background about why I had visited Ms. Smith and Mr. Thomas, namely Mr. Terry Townsend’s letter of complaint to the OCR. Ms. Simms indicated she was quite familiar with the Consent Decree and the Plaintiff class. She went on to say that one of goals of the Promise Zone initiative is to “build on the work of the consent decree”, specifically by changing policies and practices. This is important as district leadership and boards change over time.
When I mentioned that the information she presented on the Promise Zone looks like Imani Bazzell’s work with “Great Campus” and “At Promise of Success”, she said that Promise Zone “gives teeth to Imani’s ideas.”
I have a lot of respect for what Imani has done in regards to “Great Campus” and “At Promise of Success”. Here are two earlier blog posts on that topic:
I love it that certain entities have been working hard to create tailored environments for some of our most “at risk” children. I want to be careful about using a label like “at risk”; perhaps another way to say it is that Promise Zone creates a village for students that do not otherwise have a village. In Ms. Simms’ Feb 13th BOE presentation, on slide 5 she references the work of the Community Schools initiative (also shared at the Feb 13th BOE meeting) and that of Cradle to Career. At the bottom of the slide, she has a quote that is most apropos:

Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort.
— Thomas Sergiovanni

A few years ago I suggested that perhaps we are asking the wrong question when we ask about money – we should be asking about how we can provide optimal learning environments. It seems to me that Promise Zone tackles this question for minority students that are currently not served well by the status quo.
In time, I truly hope this idea catches on and is able to scale up. I firmly believe we need more overlap and intersection between what we call “community” and “school”.
PS – for those that wish to watch the Feb 13th BOE meeting, it is up on Vimeo:

Feb 13th BOE meeting: more on community involvement

The agenda posted for the Feb 13th BOE meeting has a couple community engagement pieces you might want to learn more about: “My Family’s Promise Plan Pilot” and a draft of a new policy to support Community Schools “Policy 831 – Community Schools“.


I had an excellent chat with Orlando Thomas and Angela Smith last week. I had asked a few questions about discipline, and came away from the meeting being very much encouraged about the work going on in Unit 4. One of my take-aways is that the school district yearns for more collaboration with the community. And it seems that the two agenda items listed above is very much in line with the need for more partnerships.


Another take-away was that our public schools could really use more mentors (eg the one-to-one mentoring program and also TALKS mentoring). So much so that when I asked Orlando how the community can help right now, that was his number one request. In fact, Orlando has been asking for more mentors for many years now. As a one-to-one mentor myself, I would be happy to talk to anyone else if you are interested.

Learning from others: "Crossing the Streams"

I apologize for subjecting you to yet another bout of news from Springfield; I had some excellent conversations today and am compelled to share them. This is a long post;  the top 2/3rds deals with Peggy Cormeny, the bottom 1/3rd with Pete Sherman. The overall theme is of bringing parents and teachers together. I am reminded of Ghostbusters and the power of crossing the “streams”. What you read below is very much like that.

[note: any factual errors are bound to be my own – if you know of any discrepancies, please let me know]

The first one was with Peggy Cormeny, the Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) at SSD 186. I have been trying to get a hold of her for a little while and our schedules finally overlapped. My first question to Peggy was about the history and genesis of FACE. To provide a full context, she had to rewind all the way back to the early 90’s.

Roughly 20 years ago the Ball Foundation contacted the Springfield School District and started a partnership that is just now winding down. The Foundation provided grant monies to fund teacher home visits and teacher collaboration initiatives, opportunities that allowed teachers the incentives to visit with children and their families. Peggy related a story of one elementary school in which the 5th grade teachers were able to meet and visit with all the 5th grade families before school began. Wow. Around the same time, the “Parents as Partners” program was kicked off, a vital bridge between home and school.

When Peggy joined the team, Read the rest of this entry »

A look at an alternative to the Kindergarten Lottery

Here is some insight to how Urbana does School Assignment:


I was keen to read about the ideas they had concerning “community schools” and “sister schools”. In fact, the latter almost sounded similar to the Academy Prep idea in Unit 4.


PS – the problem described by the author seems endemic to most community meetings I have witnessed.