Next Choice Committee meeting: November 3rd

A “save the date” was recently sent out for the next Schools of Choice Committee meeting:

Please save the date for our next Schools of Choice Committee meeting on Tuesday, November 3rd from 10:0011:30 a.m. at the Family Information Center!

Additionally, here is a link for the meeting minutes from the last meeting (June 2nd):

I expect that an agenda will be sent out in the days before the meeting. I am quite pleased that the district is considering the possibility of posting historical data for the purposes of showing trends and informing parents; as such, this may be the last Choice meeting I go to. In my opinion, the next big hurdle is dealing with the frustrations that come out of being unassigned, and the inherrant confusion for parents trying to choose only one or two schools. I believe the district is very much aware of these issues, and it seems like they are going down a better path than previous years.

Schools of Choice will always be contentious; we will always have parents that move near a school and expect/hope to go to their nearby school (which makes a lot of sense, who wouldn’t?!?). But because our housing patterns are very much segregated, the current approach to promote and promise diversification of our schools is to assign and bus students hither and yon. On that note, the late Greg Novak had an idea to address these issues:

Personally, I really like the idea of community schools, and I would augment Mr. Novak’s plan by placing one or two “community schools” in traditionally low-income areas – if anything, those areas are more in need of community (I think, I could be wrong). The one big question is one of equity (as opposed to equality); how do we ensure that every child is receiving and has access to all the tools they need to succeed? Every. Single. Child.

Ultimately we must answer the question “What problem are we trying to fix?” My response to that question is that I see a problem of kids who drop out, commit crimes and end up in a punitive, misnamed “correctional facility”. It is our moral and societal obligation to do all we can to make sure each child is successful and supported, and we have to do that while working together.

Controlled Choice Community Forums


From Stephanie Stuart:

Champaign Schools will hold informational forums to discuss the Schools of Choice registration process, which will run from January 2-March 31, 2014. Children must be 5 on or before September 1, 2014 to register for kindergarten.

Forums will include a Showcase of Schools. This will provide an opportunity for parents and guardians to meet and talk with individual school staff members. Please see the attached flyer.

Community Forum Meetings

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 6:00 p.m. Stratton Elementary

902 N. Randolph Street – Champaign

(Parking is available on the north side of the building)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014 6:00 p.m. Barkstall Elementary

2201 Hallbeck Drive – Champaign

(Parking lot is located on the east side of the building)

Elementary School Tours

Thursday, January 23, 2014, Tuesday, February 11, 2014 and Thursday, February 27, 2014. All elementary schools will offer tours at 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. on these three days.


Elementary Schools Evening Open House

Evening Open House/School Tours are on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 from 6:00 p.m-8:00 p.m., at any of the twelve elementary schools. Families unable to attend a scheduled Open House should visit the Family Information Center for assistance with the Schools of Choice process.

Middle School Open House

Jefferson – Monday, April 7, 2014; Edison – Thursday, April 10, 2014 and

Franklin – Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

All Middle School open houses are scheduled from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

6th Grade Registration – April 7-11, 2014

Stratton & Washington 5th Grade Students

*5th graders attending their cluster school do not need to register at FIC.*

Elementary & Middle School Transfer Requests For 1st – 8th Grade – May 1-30, 2014


For more information, please contact the Family Information Center:

1103 N. Neil Street – Champaign IL 61820 – (217) 351-3701

Nov 18th BOE Meeting agenda is finally posted

Lots of interesting things in here. I’ll hit a few highlights that stand out to me, but you should read it for yourself:


  • Lot’s of Recognitions
  • Spotlight video on “building a high quality staff” – not yet on Vimeo so I can’t preview it
  • Newly hired high school site selection consultants Gorski/Reifsteck will give their schtick – no presentation available via boarddocs
  • District report card – only Bottenfield and South Side made AYP
  • Three high school students being recognized as Student Abassadors – interesting program, and I have a number of outstanding questions to Joe Williams about it
  • Local software company Codagami won the RFP bid for doing the Controlled Choice program to the tune of $98,500. No word on the actual contract, yet.
  • Other Misc items including a number of things about finances (change orders, Tax levy, grants, donations, etc).


Curious if anyone even cares about the Choice Policy anymore. 🙂 I mean, I do, but I have not heard much back from readers at all, yet. The final draft is going in the Consent Agenda (meaning, along with ten other items, it gets voted on in bulk). They threw in the fact that Choice program will also assign students for middle schools, and I take that to mean middle school students who are not matriculating from a fifth-grade Unit 4 school (otherwise they would follow the feeder program).


Lastly, I have asked for and am still waiting to see the RFP concerning the high school site selection consultant.


Requesting your help to update the Choice Policy

I am attempting another “crowdsourcing” effort to see if you readers want to take a stab at 1) reading and understanding the current policy on Choice (aka, School Assignment, Policy 705.09), and 2) suggest how it might be made better.

I am linking three documents that were attached to a meeting announcement for the Choice Committee coming up next week (wow, Monday is going to be super busy for some people!):

Controlled Choice Committee Agenda for 9 23 13 – self-explanatory

RevisedChoicePolicy clean copy  – what the modified Policy 705.09 would look like after the changes are made

RevisedChoicePolicy – the old version with inline comments and “corrections”

I will be reading these myself and will make further comments. I am a little concerned that it is a bit involved (and overly complicated), but I don’t have the procedural bandwidth to scrap the entire thing and suggest a new rewrite. If you do, please let us know! 🙂

Again, the more comments the better – my personal goal is to hear from 20 of you, either publicly here on this blog, or personally via email (or, like, in person or something *grin*).

Another thing that confuses me – the Choice Committee does not even have a website, and none of these documents (the agenda and the proposed changes) are to be found on the Unit 4 website. Why not? Why isn’t the Choice Committee seeking your input? Yes, I realize you cynics are going to say that’s the way Unit 4 does business, but in this case, being cynical isn’t very helpful to me. I am looking for productive responses, constructive criticisms, and at least a glimmer of hope. *smile*

Regular board meeting tonight

Agenda for tonight:

  1. Call to Order
    1. Roll Call
  2. Agenda
    1. Approval of Agenda (Items may not be considered in the same order as the agenda)
  3. Executive Session – 5:30 p.m.
  4. Recognitions
    1. Recognitions
  5. Public Comments
    1. Public Comment on Agenda & Non-Agenda Items
  6. Communications
    1. Communications from CFT
    2. Communications from CESP
    3. Communications from PTA Council
    4. Communications from Board Members
  7. Informational Items
    1. Upcoming Events
  8. Reports: New Business
    1. Middle School After School Programming/40North Grant: Angela Smith This item has files attached
    2. Engaging Solutions Presentation: Matt Foster This item has files attached
    3. Preliminary FY14 Budget Presentation: Matt Foster This item has files attached
  9. Action Agenda: New Business
    1. Administrative Appointment: Ken Kleber
    2. Bills and Treasurer’s Report – August: Matt Foster This item has files attached
    3. Promises Made, Promises Kept Committee: Dr. Judy Wiegand
    4. Approval of Robeson Change Order No. 3: Matt Foster This item has files attached
    5. Approval of Robeson Change Order No. 4: Matt Foster This item has files attached
    6. Approval of Carrie Busey Change Order No. 20: Matt Foster This item has files attached
    7. Approval of the Contract for Sale of Real Estate – 801 Pioneer St./806 Dennison St.: Tom Lockman
  10. Consent Agenda – New/Unfinished Business
    1. Motion to approve the Consent Agenda – New Business
    2. Human Resource Changes: Ken Kleber This item has files attached
    3. Minutes of August 5, 2013 and August 12, 2013
    4. Policy 415.07/R Minority and Female Business Enterprise Goals: Tom Lockman This item has files attached
    5. Policy 720.11R Exemption From Physical Activity: Tom Lockman This item has files attached
    6. Policy 415.06 – Vendor Relations: Tom Lockman This item has files attached
    7. FY14 Consolidated Grant Application to Serve Limited English Proficient (LEP) Students: Maria Alanis This item has files attached
  11. Executive Session
    1. Motion to move to Executive Session
  12. Open Session
    1. Reconvene in open session for possible action on items discussed in closed session.
  13. Adjournment
    1. Motion to adjourn the meeting.
  14. Future Meetings
    1. Special Meeting: September 23, 2013, Regular Meeting: October 14, 2013, Special Meeting: October 28, 2013, Regular Meeting: December 9, 2013


Based on what transpired last week in terms of Kenwood, the discouragement of parents paying for PTA activities and the PTA Council, I expect there to be some comments during Public Comment and the timeslot for the PTA Council.


There are a number of line items dealing with a focus on minorities and women in the workplace (ie, 8.2, 10.4).


Sheri Williamson (PTA Council) and R. Scott Davis (CFT) being added to the PMPK committee (9.3).


9.7, the District is seeking approval to buy two properties for the Bus Garage. The Satellite view of google maps gives a good idea of what the area looks like, including the busses parked across the street. This was previously discussed in Executive (Closed) session.


In 10.7, we get to see a preliminary FY 2014 budget. I encourage you to read it and try to wrap your head around it; it is important that we start to ask questions. Now. I say that as a way to entice stakeholders to understand what all the numbers mean – I know I don’t.


There are a number of other things. I don’t fully understand or follow all the various change orders. There is a part of me scratching my head on why we need so many change orders. Also, I just happened to browse the online check register and noticed that we sent another %5750 to Dr. Alves last month even though his contract expired in May or June. The discussion of the Choice RFP is not on the agenda at all.


What catches your attention?


Bids and RFPs

The Unit 4 webmaster has kindly added an RSS feed for Bids and RFPs (woot!):

Two current bids are up:


I skimmed through the Student Assignment Plan RFP and was not satisfied; I am indeed glad that they removed much of the language about “educational law”, but still the RFP does nothing to outline the project (what does the software actually do??). I am not even sure if I should hope that Unit 4 has reached out to local companies.


I heard from several folks that Board President Laurie Bonnett mentioned Controlled Choice at the July 15th board candidate interviews, and that Unit 4 may try to do something in-house. The audio of the July 15th meeting is not yet available, so I cannot confirm this (yet), but I will follow-up with Stephanie Stuart and Ms. Bonnett.

July 9th Regular board meeting posted



Go read it. Don’t forget to look at the documents that are linked from various line-items.


Several items in the “Reports: New Business” are of particular interest to me – NOTE, these are NOT action items, but merely reports. I do not have time to read or comment on them, but I plan to soon. And I hope to get some thoughts/comments/questions out to board members this weekend still.


Reports: New Business
A. Comparative Studies of K-8 Versus K-5 and 6-8 Grade Configurations: Dr. Susan Zola
B. Request for Qualifications for Professional Services: Tom Lockman
C. Policy 720.11R Exemption From Physical Activity: Tom Lockman
D. Request For Proposal – Controlled Choice Student Assignment Plan: Tom Lockman


I am having a hard time figuring out which piques my curiosity the most. 🙂 Item B is about hiring someone to assist in finding land/space for a new high school. If these topics do not generate a boiling pot of discussion, I am just going to take a 40-year nap.


more later…….

Request for modification to Policy 705.09 "Schools of Controlled Choice Seat Assignment"

email sent to the U4 Board Members and Dr. Zola:

Good morning, Board Members and Dr. Zola,

I know that there are many ongoing discussions about “Controlled Choice”, and I realize there is already a lot of work in progress with the intent of improving the system even further. To avoid getting lost in the “noise”, allow me to make this short and brief.

Please alter Policy 705.09 “Schools of Controlled Choice Seat Assignment” to include the following two pieces of information:
1. Any and all previously undocumented verbal directives used by the Family Information Center to determine school and waitlist placement. There never should be an instance where the FIC is following one set of rules that is not made public to the community. I recently learned of one such verbal directive in practice during the most recent school assignment process.
2. The clear and explicit details of how SES is calculated. This should not be a secret. It should also be consistent across the district, where “SES” in one context means the same in another context.
Thank you for your time and attention.

Wrapping up the March Registration

As of 8:20 am, the Unit registration “dashboard” showed that 534 parents had submitted applications and that the required paperwork had been processed – I suspect there are still a large number of parents who still need to file paperwork and/or wait for it to be processed. But still, with only one day left, it seems like a long way to go ’till we get to the expected 800 ballpark.


A reader has made the following comment:

“[The FIC]  said that they had contacted about 100 people who had registered at least partially online but have not been in to the FIC.  Some were not aware of the need to come in, others just hadn’t made it in yet, and others were purposefully waiting and watching the numbers to make their decision (I don’t know why when you can change your selections through the 28th).”


According to the dashboard this morning, only two slots are at or over capacity; the Garden Hills Bilingual program (20 out of 20) and Westview (56 out of 54). Which is a bit interesting, considering the history of Choice in the past (2012, 2011). Still, we have a few hundred more the district is expecting, which will dramatically change the existing picture. But …. only one day left*.


We will check back tomorrow to see what things look like.


* “one day left” is essentially only for “priority” selections; parents can still register and choose schools after March 28th, but they will effectively be placed on an ad hoc waiting list. Obviously, if the school is underchosen, the waiting list is empty. 🙂 My guess is that, if we assume the dashboard to be an accurate, real-time count (a HUGE assumption), then a ton of parents will be registering after March 28th and causing all kinds of fun for the FIC.

"What is Controlled Choice?"

It is interesting to watch the school district attempt to answer this question. Perhaps the biggest issue is attempting to communicate a concept that is for all intents and purposes totally foreign to most people, using loaded words like “choice” and “proximity” and “priority”. Another interesting thing is that there are SO MANY different attempts to explain choice, it’s quite crazy. For instance, the title of this blog post is taken from one of the hand-outs at the Community Forum tonight. However, I cannot find that hand-out on the Unit 4 website. Instead, I found 6 others of varying degrees of aesthetic appeal:


And you wonder why parents are confused. *grin*


I have blogged about these Choice Community Forums several times in past years (2010,  Jan 10 2012, Jan 26 2012). I am glad to see some small improvements like the FAQ (“What is Controlled Choice?”) – they capture some of the key questions, most of which were also asked tonight during Q&A. As I mentioned last year, the video is much better than the previous incarnations, but I still think we need another spokesperson to emcee. Dr. Zola got up at the end of the presentation time and did a great job of engaging the audience and basically putting on a show. I suggested to a few folks that Dr. Zola should kick off the entire thing. Even with these improvements, it is obvious to me that parents still struggle mightily with the concept of “Choice”, “proximity” and “priority”. The pro tip on the FAQ is killing me: “Let your priorities work for you!” What in the world does that mean? Don’t get me wrong, I know what it means; but a new parent?


So Read the rest of this entry »