stuff

I am highly unimaginative today. Here are a few things floating around my radar.

 

1. Bristol Place Forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters:

http://www.lwvchampaigncounty.org/

What’s happening to Bristol Place?
A forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters Champaign County

April 29, 2013
When: 6-8 p.m.
Location: Champaign Public Library: Robeson Meeting rooms

Come join us to hear about the origin of the current Bristol Place project, plans for the demolition of Bristol Place and the relocation of current residents. A panel composed of city staff and involved citizens will answer a moderator’s questions followed by an audience question and answer session.

Panel members:
Rev. Eugene Barnes, Founder/Executive Director of Metanoia Centers
Kevin Jackson, Neighborhood Services Director, City of Champaign
Rachel Phillips, Masters Candidate, Dept. of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois”

 

2. Chicago Students boycotting school for a day to send a message:

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/04/we_are_chicago_students_and_we.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LivingInDialogue+%28Teacher+Magazine+Blog%3A+Living+in+Dialogue%29&utm_content=Netvibes

Today many Chicago students will not be in their schools. One of them has written this, explaining the reasons why.

 

3. WICD ran a short clip about TALP (suspension alternative):

http://www.wicd15.com/news/top-stories/stories/champaign-unit-4s-alternative-suspensions-7048.shtml

 

4. April 17th video of Dr. Alan Kalmanoff on the county jail issue (1:53:40, youTube):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcBf1IWn0Po&feature=youtu.be

IMC: "Sign the Petition to the Champaign County Board to say: Stop the 20 million dollar jail expansion!"

From the IMC:

The Champaign County Board is considering a proposal to spend $20 million on new jail cells. They claim the current downtown jail, built in 1980, is beyond repair. The Board plans to pay for the new jail cells from the public safety sales tax which brings in about $4 million per year.

We say the Board, rather than spending $20 million on jail construction, should focus on investing in preventative services that will keep people out of jail and prison, things like youth job training, mental health centers, substance abuse treatment and re-entry programs for people returning home from prison. Click the title to add your name to the growing list of people who support investing in prevention instead of detention.

“To: The Champaign County Board We the undersigned oppose the Champaign County Board’s proposal to spend $20 million on new jail cells. We believe the Board should spend this money funding preventative programs that will keep people out of jail and prison.”

SIGN THE PETITION NOW: http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6220/c/1340/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12271

 

For those not following this, the Champaign Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice have been well organized and fighting hard against the idea of a new county jail.

 

PS – I noticed that some petition signers are using the opportunity to make a counter-statement instead of voice support. It is interesting to hear from folks who think that the current laws (and their enforcement) are perfectly just. I ask, if the way we are doing things now is good and right, then why do we have so much crime? Why is there such a huge disparity among the population in jail vs those not in jail? What else explains that?

syndicated: Apr. 1: Public Meeting with ILPP-Needs Assessment Consultant on Jail Issue

From the IMC:

Dr. Alan Kalmanoff of the Institute for Law and Public Policy (ILPP), the consultancy hired to do a needs assessment for the county on the jail and criminal justice system issue, will hold a public meeting at the Urbana Civic Center, 101 E. Water St., on April 1 at 6 p.m. Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice encourages all people from the community to attend and make your voices heard on whether you think the county should spend more money on jail cells or suggest other projects you think would better promote public safety.

 

For those who might be new, you are probably wondering “why is he posting about the jail on a school blog?” A very good question to ask, and I’ll pause to let you think about how they might possibly be connected.

 

….

 

On the one hand, there is the pocketbook connection; I quote “make your voices heard on whether you think the county should spend more money on jail cells.” The other hand is a little more subtle, but is summed up nicely in the second half of that sentence,  “… or suggest other projects you think would better promote public safety.”

 

It is my opinion that public schools are at the perfect juxtaposition within the community to “promote public safety” and implement projects (not to mention curriculum) that do everything they can to not only help kids stay out of trouble, but even better, to train and equip kids with the tools they need to succeed in life!

 

What does that mean? It means finding and building up the strengths and beauty in each child. It is the “rose that grew from concrete“. It goes a lot deeper, but I have this nagging sense that some of your are already tuning out. 🙂

 

What will it take for the greater community to wake up and realize they play a role in these huge issues?

The big push: Unit 4 hosts Community Dialogs on Tuesday, Feb 12th

There is a deluge of email, Facebook updates, tweets, radio spots (tv spots?), flyers and word of mouth about the Community Dialog this coming Tuesday at the I-Hotel. If you are one of the few folks who has not heard about it, I would be very curious how they missed you. 🙂 They have arranged bus rides from several schools, translators for three different languages, and even a literacy activity to keep the youngun’s occupied.

In every message I am seeing/hearing, the school district is emphasizing the importance of feedback and input from the community. There are two sides to this coin.

On the one side, I think this is totally awesome! For too long, the school district has given the impression of operating under the guise of its own expertise. That landed us with a costly Consent Decree, and now we have too many kids and not enough seats, not to mention buildings that are horribly behind on maintenance. Oh, and a selection of schools that, for the most part, has not tracked with the shift in demographics. So, kudos to the district for seeking the voice of the community. I have really appreciated how DeJong (via Scott Leopold) has been quite open about the data they have collected and has kept us generally up to date on what is happening in the Steering Team meetings (which are also open to the public). Scott has been really great about talking to people, even to the point of carving away some time to meet us at Houlihans (hard to knock that, eh?).

And now the other side. Scott and I have agreed to disagree on how to present the options to the community. For me, I think it would be best to put the current options up on the futurefacilities website now (actually, last week would have been better…), since the Steering Team has already discussed and pretty much voted on what we are going to see. Scott has argued that he wants unbiased and virgin thoughts during the big reveal at the I-Hotel on Tuesday, so that the options may be presented objectively and in context. Obviously, there are pros and cons both ways. Sine this is my blog (cue evil laughter), I am going to expand a little on some issues with this approach.

We as a community Read the rest of this entry »

Yes you can

I had a really good talk with a very involved Unit 4 parent today and we spent a bit of time dancing around the topic of advocacy. One of the things we discovered during our conversation is that the only reason why we have this need for advocacy in the first place is because the system and society that we live in right now has power structures that are oppressive (and history tells us that this has been going on for a long long time); by “oppressive” I mean that the voice of dissent is consistently and systematically squashed. What confuses me is why the masses continue to abide by this twisted reality, why we accommodate it and thus permit it. I know, you are thinking that the nature of oppression in the first place is to basically make sure the status quo is maintained, enslaving the will of those oppressed and thereby to force accommodation. To rape one’s sense of being and worth.

 

But we don’t have to accommodate at all. We can speak out against it. And in fact, I think we have a moral obligation to do so.

 

You think I am being melodramatic – I can tell by the way you are itching to move on to the next thing. Bear with me a moment more. I heard a story of a child who was uncomfortable with the “inappropriate” play of another child. The first child told the attending teacher and nothing happened. The child then went to the next level (someone higher) and things started happening (good for the first child, not so good for the second). The child has learned an important lesson of advocating for self; a pretty rare trait in one so young, but a very crucial one to learn none-the-less. I heard another story of a young girl who witnessed a friend being bullied. Filled with indignation, she told the bullies to stop and walked her friend away from the situation. This was a powerful story of advocating for someone else; she saw something was wrong and could not abide by it, but was compelled to make the situation right.

 

Frequently I hear of parents who struggle to successfully and satisfactorily engage the system of our public schools. Please note, I do hear many success stories as well – the change in Unit 4 since the beginning of 2012 has been significant, even if subtle. Yet there are still those cases where parents, or even other stakeholders, attempt to assail the walls of bureaucracy only to be rebuffed and thrown back. In such cases I want to implore you not to give up. I want to shout “Yes you can!”. You say you are but one person. Yes, I know, so am I.

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something.”

— attributed to Mother Teresa

 

If something is not right, if something is objectionable or just plain wrong, say something about it. And don’t stop until Read the rest of this entry »

Happenings II: whitewashed walls

I have included two links below that talk about the City’s efforts to wipe out troubled areas. Perhaps what is most interesting about this topic is the overwhelming silence of apathy, punctuated by the strong voices of the few who know and care about what is going on.

 

How is this related to Education? Why am I including it on a blog supposedly about Unit 4?

 

In a nutshell, because we are all connected. Whether or not you agree with Brian Dollinar’s scathing analysis, it is extremely hard to dispute the facts; this is just the latest in a trend of sweeping the troubles under a rug. It looks like some of the problems “just go away”, but that is hardly further from the truth. Here is the meat of the matter for me. There are kids in these communities that we have “erased”. These kids are in our classrooms, they might even sit right next to your little one. How are they being helped by these massive community-wide displacements? What kind of lesson are we teaching them? There is a whole other connected issue of our community’s plans to build a frickin’ $20 million jail. Really? So instead of trying to make better citizens out of our troubled youth, we prefer to shuffle them out of sight? Ouch.

 

Here is something else that is bothering me that I have not fully formulated into an actionable plan. First, here is what the Illinois School Code says:

    (b) School districts shall not promote students to the next higher grade level based upon age or any other social reasons not related to the academic performance of the students. On or before September 1, 1998, school boards shall adopt and enforce a policy on promotion as they deem necessary to ensure that students meet local goals and objectives and can perform at the expected grade level prior to promotion. Decisions to promote or retain students in any classes shall be based on successful completion of the curriculum, attendance, performance based on Illinois Goals and Assessment Program tests, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, or other testing or any other criteria established by the school board. Students determined by the local district to not qualify for promotion to the next higher grade shall be provided remedial assistance, which may include, but shall not be limited to, a summer bridge program of no less than 90 hours, tutorial sessions, increased or concentrated instructional time, modifications to instructional materials, and retention in grade.

re: http://law.onecle.com/illinois/105ilcs5/10-20.9a.html

 

I am confused how we have children percolating through our school district that cannot read at grade level. I may be somewhat blind (I do wear contacts, after all), but it seems to me that a large majority of our children advance through the grades with all their peers regardless. Yet, I have often heard at Board Meetings and PTA Council meetings about how Parkland has to do a bit of remedial training just to get graduates up to speed. I have heard about how we need to focus on literacy and get kids reading at grade level by third grade. Why? I am not trying to poke holes or discredit anyone. I am expressing confusion and a lack of understanding. Why even have a state School Code?

 

And believe you me, I have become a big support of the need for literacy. I really like the push for literacy by third grade, and the reports that say third-grade reading levels are a good early indicator of whether a child will lean towards the criminal “correctional” system are pretty convincing.

 

Like I said, these things are connected. Demolishing a troubled neighborhood does no more good to increase the literacy level of struggling students than does slamming the door in their face.

 

I do want to acknowledge the many good things about Unit 4 as well. I am saving that for the next post, Happenings III.