Next round of numbers

It looks like DLR prepared a document that Unit 4 has started to use in talking about the Nov. 4th referendum. My FOIA request specifically asked about the low-level, granular details – what I received is still very high-level. And I still have questions about it.


NOTE: All Costs below are estimates



  • What are “Indirect Costs”?
  • What are “Development Costs” such that they are listed separately?
  • Why is furniture, fixtures and equipment exactly the same for the old school and the new?
  • What is “Site Construction” over and above “Building Construction”?
  • Where do athletic fields figure into this?


The school attorney, Mr. Lockman, has indicated that these details will be released after the referendum passes and after the design process begins; my take-away is that the exact costs are not yet known until things are fully fleshed out. A few folks that I have chatted with (a school administrator, a “Friends of Unit 4” member, a parent) have asked me why I need to know the granular details.  While I understand these costs are purely estimates, my main concern continues to center on the high-priority items needed at other schools. We have built three new schools in the past 15 years while recently renovating several others, but leaving some behind. For me personally, I want to make sure my vote is towards the most fiscally responsible decision. I ask myself, is building a brand new high school and renovating the other worth $150 million, given all the benefits and costs?

Still missing the point

There have been a number of NG articles about Unit 4 lately; I am glad to see them and that Unit 4 is getting such coverage. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that roughly 80 community members attended the Board of Education meeting last night at Mellon Center, including prominent figures.


There are a number of things that caught my attention.


1. School Resource Officers (SROs, or the pejorative “cops in schools”)

Based on what Tim Mitchell reported in the NG, it seems like a bulk of the those attending last night’s BOE meeting were there for this topic; whether the board should keep the SRO program going or pursue an alternative (someone suggested some kind of security guard for example). There are good arguments on both sides of the fence, and obviously some very passionate folks who support either side of the argument.

But it seems we are being distracted from some of the root problems. Why is it that 19 out of 21 children arrested last year were black? This tells me that something in our society and even in our schools is utterly failing. I would even go so far to ask why is even one child being arrested? Where have we (collectively, you and I) screwed up? I have often quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dr. Edna Olive on their views of the purpose of education; it is our moral and societal obligation to do all we can to make sure each child is successful and supported.

So we want to spend $291k/year on two(*) well-meaning and well-trained officers. How much are we spending on prevention, and truly educating and providing for the success of these children?

* We pay for two, but we actually get 5 SROs, as the Champaign Police Department pays for the other three


When I talked to a barber at Rose & Taylor, he readily echoed what Jamar Brown has been telling us about the “north end”; they are much less concerned about the location of the high school, but rather they are very concerned about discipline equity issues. I feel we need to take a long, hard look at the “whole enchilada” and figure out how to dig at the root of this vexing issue.


2. High School capacity needs

DLR painted a pretty grim picture last night – we are led to believe that by 2022 (eight years from now) we will be short by 33 classrooms, 4 small classrooms, 15 science labs and 7 PE stations. I do not necessarily agree with the “need” for all that, but let us assume they are all legitimate for the time being. This is going to be one of the pivotal arguments in building a brand-new Central and remodeling Centennial. It is winding up to be a huge tax referendum, one that is complicated by many factors such as the fact that we are two months out from needing a firm number and language for the November ballot, but we have neither. A number of folks have expressed dismay about the north Neil site suggested to the BOE, which has caused the BOE to double-back and spend extra effort and attention (and surveys and open forums, etc) to tackle whether or not the Spalding area would help the referendum pass.

But again, it seems to me that their are some serious distractions going on. If capacity is such a huge issue (and I believe it will be somewhat soon), and a monstrous tax referendum has very little chance to pass, why don’t we address the capacity issue in a more simplistic and less expensive manner – what about a third high school? It can be smaller, and gives the district the necessary agility to better respond to future oscillations in enrollment. In my opinion, large high schools lock us into a certain size mindset and further set a precedent that I think is unhealthy.

From what I can tell, the surveys and all the hundreds of thousands of dollars we are pouring into “experts” and “consultants” are all narrowing our perspective instead of broadening the horizons. Hence all the strong passions, both for and against. There is a unfortunate lack of other alternatives.

Lastly, we must be careful about how much we tax the lower income brackets. I have slowly come to realize that the poor among us are desperately in need of understanding and compassion. Not pity. Not empty sentiments. The Urbana school board has taken the stance of not raising property taxes at all but rather to fund their capital expenditures as money becomes available via the 1% sales tax (“Renovation without taxation“, also 2). Hmm…. that seems to be what most Champaign residents were led to believe as well.


3. Yet another administrative position

After seeing 5 new appointments (as reported in the NG and broadcast by Stephanie Stuart), I was curious about this “Director of Elementary Teaching & Learning” position. So I have asked Stephanie Stuart a couple questions and am waiting to hear back. I am unable to find it in any of the org charts or responsibility matrices, which makes me think it is a new position.


UPDATE from Stephanie:

This was Trevor Nadrozny’s position. The title changed from curriculum to Teaching & Learning during this school year.



Aside from all the media attention on the Central Highschool site, there has been little else abuzz.


The first 40 minutes of the May 12 BOE meeting was devoted to “Recognitions”; much of that time was spent honoring art work from children of most the schools. Art teachers introduced the students who then shook everyone’s hand. After that, service awards were handed out for teachers, wrapping up with National Board Certified teachers (one newly certified, one recertified).


For public comment, the owner of Domino’s Pizza stood up to thank the district for their patronage.


About the next 40 minutes were given to a presentation about ALICE crisis response procedures and to pitch ALICE response training. Total cost will be about $2000 for two people, I believe.


Some policy changes were then discussed, and then Mr. David Hohman gave a short update on PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career). He stressed the thought that we are going more computer centric and how we are working towards a 4:1 device/student ratio to support PBA (Performance Based Assessments).


The DLR Group presented next. Not seeing the presentation online at all, I asked for the URL and Unit 4 posted it here:


I am hoping the presentations from the April 28th BOE meeting will be made available soon.


Additionally, Stephanie Stuart has posted a few items out for the community:


During Board Comment, Jamar Brown talked about and showed a teaser for Javae Wright’s “Purposed Lives“. There is an awesome event coming up this weekend:

WHAT:  Javae’ Wright’s Purposed Life!  Motivational Concert

WHEN:  Saturday, May 17, 2014  ~  6:00pm

WHERE:  First Christian Church at the Oasis, 3601 Staley Road, Champaign






For more information, please click:

Please RSVP your attendance so there is enough food and seats:


Another event coming up is the Garden Hills Resource Day:

  • Community Resource & Spring Fling Fair at Garden Hills Park & Garden Hills Elementary School on Monday, May 19 from 5-7 p.m.
  • Featuring free pizza, live entertainment, games & face painting!
  • The event is free and open to the public.

Master Facility Plan slides

Since the original slides have not been provided, I have copied them out of the public April 28th BOE meeting Vimeo video. Hence the most horrible resolution. 🙂 There are two PDF documents linked below, one for the DLR Group’s presentation and one for Matt Foster’s presentation. I have a feeling that there text notes that were read during the meeting as well, but there isn’t much I can do about that – watch the video.


dlr_milestone_calednar_thumb master_facility_plan_thumb



Some notes


During Mr. Foster’s presentation, it seems like the district has decided to cherry-pick their favorite things from each of the three scenarios originally presented by Gorski Reifsteck over the past couple of months, thus forming a fourth hybrid scenario. Slide 5 has a summary of the things they like, including the plan to convert Dr. Howard into a 4-strand K-8 (900 students). Heather Owen spoke during public comment and concerns with existing discipline issues at Dr. Howard. Slide 6 goes into a little more detail.


Slide 2 of the DLR presentation shows a rough timeline from April 15th to May 21st, and Slide 3 has a couple more entries for July and August. A lot of “Co-Labs” in May. Also slide 5 has a little blurb about how DLR visited the high schools for a day and observed what a student’s life looks like for the purpose of “Context Building”. I thought that was a very interesting exercise – not a bad idea at all. 🙂 Maybe more of us should do that.

Next steps in Facility Planning

From Stephanie Stuart:

master_facility_plan_oneAt Monday’s meeting, the Champaign Board of Education heard an update from Gorski Reifsteck/DLR Group about the high school programming work that will be taking place in the coming weeks and months, and discussed a draft Master Facilities Plan for the District as a whole.


Champaign-based Gorski Reifsteck and the nationally-renowned DLR Group were hired at the April 13 Board meeting for professional architectural services that will assist the District to program and plan for a new Central High School and a renovated Centennial High School.


The two firms have developed a close-knit relationship through working on multiple school projects together over the past several years.


DLR Group is ranked number one among architecture firms in the United States in the education market for last five years in a row by BD World Architecture. It also plans and designs more high schools than any other architecture firm in the U.S. DLR Group’s national presence and expert staff, combined with its industry leadership, provide the team with a broad perspective on the latest educational facility opportunities, while Gorski Reifsteck brings a deep knowledge of the Champaign community.


Gorski Reifsteck/DLR Group will work with the District to determine academic programs housed at each school and ensure adequate space is allocated for the growing student population. The culmination of this work will be a recommendation to the Board of Education for the educational programming of a new Central High School and renovated Centennial High School.


Highlights of the programming process will include:

  • Examining available data
  • Visiting classrooms to observe teaching and learning today
  • Building programmatic data models to quantify space needs
  • Developing program diagrams to show how the high schools will work together
  • Working closely with faculty, administration, and Board members


Executive Director of Business Services/CSBO Matthew Foster also presented a Master Facility Plan based on recommendations from the Facility Committee and District administration (please see the attached draft plan). Based on Board feedback regarding the draft plan, this item will appear again for discussion at an upcoming meeting prior to any formal Board adoption.



Stephanie Stuart

Community Relations Coordinator

Champaign Unit #4 School District