“draft” agenda for the Oct 12th BOE meeting is up

For those that like to read ahead:

http://www.champaignschools.org/sites/default/files/meetings/agendas/10.12.15%20DRAFT%20Agenda_10615.pdf

I bet we will see something soon on the U4 Board Corner as well. *grin*

Observations about this draft:

  • Why is the document typed up on a computer, then printed, then scanned in, then posted online?
  • Report from Angela Smith about EEE; the EEE website has not been updated in a while (since 2014).
  • Semester update from Orlando Thomas about ACTIONS; I had a fantastic chat with Mr. Thomas and Ms. Katie Ahsell a week ago on this topic – I hope they talk about the Edna Olive PBF book. Good stuff! I also chatted with both individuals about getting more information online.
  • 10-Year Capital Improvement Plan: Once this is actually online, I encourage folks to look through it (now online). The last time I saw it, it seemed to represent a very small percentage of the maintenance items the district has to work on. Like, A/C at Central was rated as a low-priority. 🙂 This will apparently be approved in the Consent Agenda.
  • Special Board meeting on October 26th at Garden Hills – I hope they have a huge turnout.

Educating the Community

In just two more days, five brave volunteers will be sworn in as new board members. I for one am very excited, for I feel that this incoming group is set to make some very positive changes in how the school board acts as the agent of the community that elected them.

As you might guess, the agenda for the May 4th special board meeting is rather small. The old board will meet in executive session on last time at 5:30, they will go through the normal routine (public comment, communications, upcoming events, action agenda where new board members are sworn in) and then back to executive session with the new board members. Although it is a short agenda and a very specialized meeting, there is one item that I would like to highlight in today’s post. That of “Appointments – Board Committees/Representatives”.

First, it is my understanding that these are actually Superintendent committees; I believe they are commissioned by the superintendent and they report to the superintendent. Sure, they may make a report to the board from time to time, but legally speaking, they are not Board Committees as spelled out. Furthermore, I believe as Superintendent appointed committees, they are not subject to the Open Meetings Act. It is tricky enough to even find out the name of all the committees that have been created, let alone when they meet or find the agendas. (While researching the OMA, I found out that Evanston/Skokie School District 65 neatly spells out the function of board committees for their school district: http://www.district65.net/domain/66)

Here’s the rub. Based on my own experience, and hearing from others that have attended various committee meetings, there is a depth of excellent information reported at some of these meetings. For example, The Education Equity Excellence (EEE) Committee shares a ton of information about the achievement gap, and often has overlap with the Discipline Equity/Advisory Task Force in terms of inequities in suspensions and expulsions. Both the Finance Committee and the Promises Made/Promises Kept (PMPK) Committee share a wealth of information about the finances, and I know from personal experience that Gene Logas in the past, and Matt Foster currently, were more than happy to share their knowledge about finances. Some committees have become, over the years, much better about posting relevant documents (in addition to agendas and minutes) on a committee webpage, but there are still quite a few for which it is exceptionally difficult to learn about.

And now we come to the topic of this post – Educating the Community. The school district is all about education, right? The core of the Unit 4 mission statement says the school district “… is to guide all students in gaining knowledge …”. Are we to consider that only those aged 5-18 and enrolled qualify as “students”? *grin* Are we not all supposed to be “life-long learners”? So try this suggestion on and see how it fits with the so-called “Board Committees”. Given that committees are tasked with a project or responsibility, what if all committees were structured to address an audience that is not physically present? Maybe perhaps podcasts, prezi presentations, online documentation – basically, an online class. The face-to-face meetings can (and should) still happen as a way to have an organic discussion about the “lessons”, but the “lessons” should be able to reach a much broader audience. This means they are not only available, but also accessible and delivered in such a way that the average Joe can understand it. I have challenged the board in the past to make it so a Unit 4 5th grader can understand the content. The challenge still holds.

Let me close with one more example. The Facility Committee has had an interesting history, recently resurrected/reborn at the time DeJong-Ricther was hired. The Facility Committee was “ground zero” were members had an opportunity to chew on all the various high school location options. All those questions you see being asked in the News-Gazette online comment section were already asked and pondered 3 years ago by the committee. The number one problem is all that great discussion, debate and deliberation were all locked up in the four walls of the meeting. Worse, even though the public was invited to attend, the public was not allowed to particpate (based on first-hand experience). Yes, granted, some if trickled out via board meetings or the occasional News-Gazette column, but by and large, the community was not educated. The fact that the April referendum failed by such a large margin is a testament, in my opinion, to the lack of the community’s engagement in the process. This is why it was so easy for the Keep Central Central crowd and the tax-defeating interests of the Koch Bros. to sway votes.

The bells may ring at 8:00 am and 2:30 pm for most schools, but the School of the Body Public is going 24/7. We are students also – teach us.

PS: I gave the KCC a hard time about the billboard they put up near Judah. It has come to my attention that the flyers Unit 4 sent out cost significantly more than the billboard. I believe those full-color flyers were propaganda paid for with public tax dollars – I am still trying to determine the facts whether they were actually paid for with public money or private donations.

documents from various EEE/PMPK meetings

After requesting that Unit 4 post relevant documents for committees and having my patience dwindle, I decided to post a few documents I had in my possession.

 

October 25th 2012 EEE Committee Meeting:

 

PMPK Meeting March 8 2012 (not even on the PMPK site at all):

 

EEE Suspension Data (March 9, 2011):

 

EEE Supplemental reports (Feb 3, 2011):

 

PMPK Meeting June 2010:

 

PMPK Meeting June 3, 2010:

 

 

Updates from Stephanie Stuart in regards to Unit 4 and the PE firm

Stephanie Stuart, the Unit 4 Community Relations Coordinator, delivered a bunch of answers and responses to various questions I had. She has given me permission to post the responses “as is” and also to pass along an invitation to contact her with any further questions (stuartst@champaignschools.org or 217-531-0252). As such, I will forward questions from this blog as warranted, but feel free to contact her directly.

 

High School Retentions

First up, I asked about High School retention rates (ie, reclassification) as a follow-up to Meg’s article earlier this month. I asked why there is a special push in the first place when this should be bread & butter for any high school (right?). I pondered how social promotion played into this and what other ramifications are at play. Stephanie responded with:

“I have attached a document that will give you some statistics on the percentage of students who did not advance to the next grade over the past few school years. Admittedly, this is a topic that is quite involved and Dr. Wiegand let me know she’s happy for you to come in and speak with her, and perhaps the executive team, if you would like. I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions!”

I am glad the numbers decrease significantly for 10th and 11th grade. I am however extremely concerned about the obvious over-representation of A.A. (African Americans). Something isn’t working out well. What exactly is the issue, and more importantly, how can we Read the rest of this entry »

quick update: October 15th board meeting agenda posted

Making this quick – will add more info later. Board members are adopting schools (woot!). Dr. Wiegand also provides a bit of context as to why they are going down this route and suggestions as to how to connect.

School Board Member
Barkstall Stig Lanesskog
Bottenfield Tom Lockman
BTW Sue Grey
Carrie Busey Tom Lockman
Centennial Ileana Saveley
Central Jamar Brown
Dr Howard Sue Grey
ECC Dave Tomlinson
Edison Sue Grey
Franklin Stig Lanesskog
Garden Hills Ileana Saveley
Kenwood Jamar Brown
Jefferson Kristine Chalifoux
Novak Academy Jamar Brown
Robeson Ileana Saveley
South Side Tom Lockman
Stratton Kristine Chalifoux
Westview Dave Tomlinson

Possible ways to connect with the school:

  •  Copied on school email regarding good news and upcoming events
  •  Visit classrooms
  •  Faculty/staff meetings (on agenda to listen to concerns, etc)
  •  Board Communications: Report on adopted school and highlight positive item

In my super brief glance at the agenda, the only other thing that stood out was the three candidates being appointed to the EEE committee (the EEE webpage is still really out of date, but at least a little better than over the summer).

BoardDocs

Adopt a school

Percolating thoughts

The Board believes the District will be most successful when the community is aware of and understands the District’s efforts and goals.

Source: December 01, 2011 EEE Committee Meeting minutes

I would take this further; the word picture I use is like a marriage – the general health and excellence of the relationship is (I believe) optimal when all parties share the same goals within the context of each individual’s whole self. Yes, the District will be better off when the community is aware of and understands the District’s efforts and goals, but I wish to clarify that and hope that the goals are shaped and the efforts are guided by a strong community collaborative partnership. I say that very deliberately – I do not think the goals and efforts should be determined by the state, nor the government (as it exists now). Unfortunately, it is my observation that our schools are currently, largely, a reflection of  legislation.

Allow me to take you a short tour of stories that have impressed me this past week (or so).

  • Vandana Shiva (hat tip to Pattsi Petri): Ms. Shiva is not stupid – she has studied nuclear physics and has researched Quantum mechanics. As one commentor said “I would have hoped that studying physics and quantum theory would lead most students to similar conclusions of social and environmental equality but it cannot be. It must require a love of people first.” Her ideas of interconnectedness are fascinating, to say the least, but it totally makes sense. I could not help but see this report through the lens of education, especially Read the rest of this entry »