An informal review of Dr. Wiegand's dissertation

re:  Factors that Affect Implementation and Sustainability of a High School Reform Effort: A Case Study

I do not recall exactly what put the bee in my bonnet, but I got the idea that since Dr. Wiegand has her Ed.D from the University of Illinois, she probably has a thesis paper dissertation and the UofI probably has it in hardcopy somewhere. So I went looking. And I found it. (I have not found a full electronic copy, yet) Why? Why would I want to read it? Partially because she is the superintendent, and the superintendent makes a lot of important decisions concerning the school district. In a way, I want to get inside her head. Additionally, I find Dr. Wiegand to be an intriguing person and find myself aligning with some of her ideas.

Keep in mind that I did not know Dr. Wiegand prior to her time at the Mellon Center; even then, I found myself largely focused on other players. As her résumé states, she was a Special Ed Teacher, Dean of Students, Assistant Principal and Principal all before becoming the Director of Secondary Education. She conducted her research and wrote her thesis dissertation from 2001-2003 while a Principal at Centennial.

“High School Reform” sounds like juicy bait. Flamebait, perhaps. 🙂 But the specific reform she focuses on is Read the rest of this entry »

Heading to the Board Meeting tonight

I don’t really want to go to a Board Meeting, but I am hoping to make a comment during the Public section. Here is what I intend to say:

“In early November, Board President Mrs. Grey and then Interim Superintendent Dr. Malito cosigned a letter to Unit 4 parents that gave a synopsis of what the Administration and Board were doing. I am unaware of such a letter being sent in previous Administrations; since this letter was an excellent first step in communicating what is on your mind, I would implore both the Board and the Superintendent to sent similar letters on a regular basis (perhaps bi-monthly). The letters should continue to update parents on the top priorities that Unit 4 is addressing.
Likewise at the same time, many Board Members were present at the PTA Council President’s Dinner, at which attendants were given the opportunity to interact with Board Members as a panel. Please create such opportunities several times a year, and please open them to the public at large.
Lastly, on January 2nd Dr. Wiegand participated in an interview with Sean Powers of WILL in which she acknowledged a lack of trust in the context of the community and expressed a desire to build bridges and open two-way communication. I realize the Public Comment time is not meant to ask questions, so allow me to say that I will be watching to see what steps the Board and the Administration take in the direction of building trust from scratch.
Thank you for your time.”

I wanted to say more, but I could not figure out how to say it in such a way that it would be easily heard and fit within 3 minutes. I think this is a good start, though.

UPDATE: My summary is in the comments below.

UPDATE: Reading Recovery video added: http://www.champaignschools.org/academic_spotlight/2012-01-09_academic_spotlight_Reading_Recovery.mov

Superintendent Candidates: overall impression so far

After reading, thinking and writing about the 4 candidates, I am left with the following.

 

  1. Disappointment that we do not have a stronger pool to choose from. I tamper that with the fact that we may yet find a gem, a diamond in the rough. I have to hope that we will. I have to hope that what little I know about the candidates (all 4 of them) is only a sign that there is more depth to them. I am told this was the case with Dr. Malito when he was hired.
  2. Not one of the candidates even mentioned the Board of Education. Did it slip past my eyes? It’s great that the candidates all see a Superintendent position as being involved in and with the community. But the fact of the matter is that the Board hires (and fires) the Superintendent, and for all practical purposes, the BOE is the middle-man between the Superintendent and the public.
  3. The late addition of Dr. Wiegand is certainly interesting. I am torn how I think about this. Is she being groomed? Was she holding back for fear of finding stronger candidates in the pool? Does it even matter what I think? (Probably not, but… this is my blog….).

 

If we look at the profile that the BOE came up with, I would venture to say that perhaps Dr. Darryl Taylor best matches the profile, with Dr. Wiegand coming in at a close second. If I look at what I want (my own profile), I am scratching my head – none meet the high standards that Dr. Malito has set. I am sorry, but I can’t get that out of my head.

 

Mr. Jamar Brown has been making it clear he wants to know about any questions that we the community have. My brain is too fried right now to further think about questions. But perhaps by sleeping on this, I’ll come up with something. 🙂

Now is a great time to tell Unit 4 what you think

I had a most excellent opportunity to meet with folks associated with Unit 4 over the weekend, and it was impressed upon me that the Board and the Administration strongly desires to hear what the community thinks about the high school options. Personally, it is my observation that the way this desire is expressed now is pleasantly different than how it was expressed in the past (for the most part, it was not). And not only about Facilities and building, but in general.

 

So I urge you, if you have an opinion, call/email Dr. Bob Malito. Call and email the Board Members. They may not (yet) respond quite the way you expect them to – if you find that happening, may I suggest you explicitly state your expectations. If you have been burned in the past, I encourage you to not give up. If they do not agree, that is ok. 🙂

 

I am tempted to put all the contact information for the folks I have mentioned here. If I can find all that information available publicly, I will put it in a comment.

Superintendent Search

I continue to be supremely impressed by Dr. Bob Malito. When I talk to Board Members, Committee members and commutity members, I always hear good things about this man. So now I am hunting for anything negative – I am looking for that “different opinion”.

 

My challenge to the Board of Education is “If you cannot find any candidates for the position of Superintendent that impress you as much as Dr. Malito, reject them outright!“. We do not want a second-rate school Chief. We do not want someone who is “good enough”. Dr. Malito is working hard to set the standard high, why would we want someone who falls below that standard?

 

The obvious paradox, the conundrum, is what if we cannot find anyone that good? I only hope we never find ourselves in that kind of a situation. Our charge to the School Exec Connect folks must be to find us someone we want, not someone we can live with.

High School options

Meg Dickinson covered the High School options from the Unit 4 Special Board Meeting last night:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2011-11-28/champaign-board-again-considers-high-school-options.html

 

Unit 4 has made available a draft report of Dr. Bob Malito’s brainstorming session on what to do with our High Schools. In the introduction, he says:

This draft report is to develop ideas and open up public discussion on this important topic:

  1. Some possible options are offered for input. We are seeking corrections, additions, and/or ideas on the pros and cons lists.
  2. Allow the Board, staff, parents, and local taxpayers an opportunity to offer reactions/input.
  3. This is an evolving document for the purpose of: discussion and obtaining input

 

As part of that “public discussion” and seeking input/reactions, they also have a Survey available. The survey has 3 questions for each of the 5 Options, basically, likes, concerns and comments. There is no section to comment on the report overall.

 

I like that the Unit 4 Board and Administration have put up a survey and are making their draft report publicly available. I still desire a more interactive forum (ie, bulletin-board style forum), or perhaps an encouragement to do the discussion on facebook (ylech, I can only imagine how that would look). I applaud the effort to gather feedback, I just wish it was more palatable. Even the Study Session last night, how much interaction was there? How many people stood up to voice their concerns? I was not able to attend so I have no idea, and the NG does not really tell that side of the story. Were there even community members at the meeting? 🙂

 

I’ll not offer too much commentary on the report itself until more people have read it. Go form your own opinions first. We can chat more later.

 

 

Champaign PTA Council President's Dinner

Last night, the PTA Council hosted a PTA President’s Dinner honoring PTA Presidents for all the hard work. I was quite impressed by the representation of school principals and members of the BOE. I had an opportunity to finally meet Angela Smith (Franklin Principal who has been in the news lately).

 

What was really awesome about this time was the Panel discussion held right after dinner with members of the Board; in attendance were (right to left) Greg Novak, Sue Grey, Tom Lockman, Kristine Chalifoux and Jamar Brown. Dr. Bob Malito was also sitting on the panel and spoke a few times.

 

A question was asked about the two newly soon-to-be-empty positions (Beth Shepperd and Dorland Norris), and both Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Wiegand (probably) stepping up as the next interim super

re: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2011-10-28/wiegand-will-be-champaign-schools-next-interim-superintendent.html

 

Kinda saw this coming, with much of the higher up Admins leaving and Dr. Malito’s 100 days coming to a close. The cynical side of me wonders exactly what is needed to run a school district – we are losing a lot of high-paying jobs, so I cannot help but wonder how they will be filled or if they even need to be filled. The NG article says that they will be interim positions.

 

Dr. Malito has some big shoes to fill. I know that Dr. Wiegand already wears several hats; my best wishes to her as she takes on this juggling act. Same thing for Logas who is stepping up as COO. I am looking forward to find out how we are going to make this work. 🙂 And I really want to hear the Board’s take on this. Guess I’ll be making a couple phone calls this weekend.

 

 

Ideas on restructuring Unit 4

When I talked with Dr. Bob Malito back in September, one of things I did not mention in my summary was one of the big ideas he has about possibly restructuring how we do 7-12th grade. During our last Wednesdays at Houlihans, this idea came up again, so I figured it is past time for me to give it some space here. I can swear I read this elsewhere, but right not Google is not helping me out. NG? WILL? I am sure I’ll find it some time…..

So here is where we are at. Not too long ago, a bunch of folks wanted to create a brand-new 3rd highschool up near Olympian Drive. I am not exactly sure who the biggest pushers were, but once the public got involved in the discussions, the BOE was forced to take a step back from their aggressive planning. Which is probably a good thing. Granted, we need to do something about our aging buildings. But what? Read the rest of this entry »

STEM and Technology in Education

I have been following EdTech, and a recent article caught my attention. When I dug deeper into the infographic, I started to wonder. Than to question. And finally I had to type up my thoughts. I’ll not repeat here what I wrote there. But basically, “Why the focus on STEM?” Is that really what we want?

I hear Dr. Bob Malito talk about the lack of competitiveness in our school district, and the “need” to introduce more rigor into our curriculum. I hear our BOE members saying the same thing (“Hi, Greg”). So now I want to toss this out for discussion. When folks like Bob and Greg talk like this, I start nodding my head in agreement – what they are saying sure sounds like it makes a lot of sense. But then I think about what is going on around me. I think about how folks have been trying to reform, reshape, remold and redo education for a lot longer than I have been alive. And if our goal is to produce money-making automatons for the corporate empire known as the USA, then yes, I totally agree, let’s bring on the STEM, let’s bring on the rigor.

Am I off my rocker? Am I being too dramatic? I am relatively knew to this sphere – I can spout my opinions left and right. But what do those who have been around the block a few times have to say?