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.