where are all the people?

There are several big things floating around, a lot of great achievements and some things to watch out for on the horizon, occluded by various rumors. I am going to try to keep this positive but not in the warm-fuzzy-feelings kind of way, but rather in the look-at-what-we-can-accomplish-together kind of way.

First off, I have to give a big huge shout out to the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice (CUCPJ); they had a very significant victory over Champaign County’s plans to dump a ton of tax money into new jails. Instead, they have successfully argued for alternative approaches like new re-entry programs and services to keep folks out of jail in the first place. In my own personal experience, I have observed have fundamentally critical these two approaches are, and how severely they are lacking in our “modern” view of criminal justice. The folks at CUCPJ had an amazing uphill fight, but they carried the day. Perhaps what stands out to me is that CUCPJ operated within the confines of a hairy bureaucratic machine, which is no easy task in and of itself, but they did so with aplomb and perseverance.

On the topic of community citizens banding together for the good of the community, a reader forwarded the following story to me as an inspiration for what determined people can do:


What these two stories tell me is that when people unite together for a shared central belief, they can be powerful. Granted, in both cases you have passionate visionaries who do not waver at the sight at lawyers and persist through obstinate challenges.

With that in mind, Read the rest of this entry »

Trip out to Springfield

Just yesterday (March 19th, seems like a long time ago), I drove out to Springfield to meet with Shelly Heideman, Executive Director of Faith Coalition for the Common Good (FCCG). A couple weeks ago I mentioned an Education Summit out in Springfield; after a few phone calls, I got a hold of one of the key people behind this effort and took her up on her offer for a meeting on her turf.

There is a whole heck of a lot going on; I cannot possibly encapsulate everything, but I hope this gets at least one fire going.

The Education Summit was born out of many hours of preparation, training and gathering many different facets of community together on one page. Probably the first significant and public action was the decision by the FCCG to hold a “listening event”. About 100 folks from different walks of life attended a brainstorming session where they developed a comprehensive list of issues facing the community. Pattsi is not going to like the “un-ABCD” nature of focusing on needs instead of assets (*grin*), but I believe that assets were indeed eventually identified. Anyway – out of this brainstorm session and listing hundreds of issues, the organizers boiled it down to 4 main categories; things like light rail (transportation), City services, family services and Education. As you may have seen from the WCIA coverage, the Summit attracted parents, teachers, students, activists, community leaders and all kinds of media. I have a printed copy of some of the things that came out of the Summit. One is further brainstorm of issues with Education (ie, Springfield School District 186 – slick website, btw), with issues ranging from bullying and behavior problems to special education, lack of effective communication, desegratation, books and food. I am compelled to highlight one in particular:

Failure to treat our public schools as a keystone of our democracy

Wow! Talk about hitting the nail on the head.

Another print out Read the rest of this entry »

Education Summit: Springfield is getting their game on

re: http://illinoishomepage.net/fulltext?nxd_id=343822

This is exciting! “Communication can create change”. 4 big words. I saw this and started thinking, “Hmm…. Unit 4 should do this. Better yet, what about getting Unit 4 and Unit 116 (Urbana) to do this?”

I really like that the children (ie, the students) are a part of the process. They bring such an invaluable perspective to the table. I really like how they started with a very visible and very troubling topic (racism and violence). And the idea of putting everything on the table is just amazing. I sincerely want something like that to happen locally.

I tried to follow the links (http://www.springfield.k12.il.us/about/), but am not finding much about the Summit. I hate it when a news story goes out and the web stuff is not ready. 🙂 I found one “Education Summit” from November 2011 – maybe that is the one? But no further info on it, like who organized it, where that infamous FAQ is, etc. Google showed me a Springfield Journal article (http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x2112945713/Local-group-hosting-schools-summit-on-Feb-25) which takes FOREVER to load (try this one for a faster copy: https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/copy-of-sj-education-summit/). It appears to be a summit put on by a “local faith-based group”. Which harkens me back to Dry Grass and how social centers like churches get involved in big ways. The wheels in my head be turning….

“Our whole focus is, ‘How can people within the community — parents and community members and teachers — how can we work together to really change the way that some things are done so that all students can achieve academically?”

Yes. Indeed. Next stop – chatting with Pattsi Petrie and going to start walking this walk.


UPDATE: Going to be talking to the Faith Coalition for Common Good later this week as well.