Answering questions about the Feb 25th Special Board Meeting

Over the weekend, I posted a series of questions about the Feb 25th BOE meeting (tonight). Dr. Wiegand was kind enough to respond (and with comprehensive answers at that) and has given me permission to post her reply. The following has only been formatted so it looks better on this blog (a la “the following movie has been formatted to fit your screen”).

q For Paul Fallon: how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B? Similar question for question 20A and 20B.
a (from Paul Fallon) Judy, I will have to get that data file from my office, so I will try to send it to you tomorrow or Wednesday. Thanks, Paul
q How long as the Teacher Evaluation Committee been in place?
a The Committee was established at the end of last school year to address the need for a teacher evaluation system that would meet the requirements of PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act).  The committee began working this school year during first semester to collaboratively develop an evaluation document and process.  In previous years this was not done in a collaborative manner.  The Administration would develop a document and then present to the CFT for feedback. This is the first time a process was used that had both Administration and Teachers at the same starting point.
q Where are the meeting minutes?
a The work done during each session was documented by Pam Rosa from CEC.  Committee members were then charged with sharing this with the groups they represent to obtain feedback.  Since this work was ongoing and part of an internal committee, minutes were not posted publicly.
q Does the board agree with premises put forth by the Consortium for Educational Change? Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 25th Board Meeting

First, an announcement. Unit 4 is urging parents to take a survey from the ISBE that basically asks parents how welcome they feel at the school. I am curious if paper copies are being circulated. It’s a relatively painless and short survey:

And then the Board Meeting this coming Monday. It’s a Special Board meeting, which means there are more opportunities for comments. I am unable to go, but I encourage you to attend and ask some questions. Because questions need to be asked.

“Opinion Research”

First up is Paul Fallon (Fallon Research) in association with DeJong-Richter. In the BoardDocs agenda, the blurb only states that Mr. Fallon will be talking about the two 90-minute focus groups. However, I cannot see how he can completely skip the 400-person phone survey they did as well, which was the whole point of the focus group. I still very much dislike how the raw data is being held until it can be provided in all the glory of the “historical context”. I didn’t like how that went down the High School Siting options presented at the Community Discussions. The really major bad part of it is that folks will not have time to digest the data and formulate questions while the expert is standing right there. Yes, we can look at the summary reports we have now, and we can ask questions based on that, but the questions most pressing on my mind are answered by the raw data that I cannot see. For example:

how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B?

We cannot correlate 19A to 19B at all. We have to wait for the “big reveal”, and by that time I fear it will be too late to ask further questions. Hopefully Mr. Fallon will answer this question (and the related one for question 20) and any others the community has been asking. Lastly, I am still very concerned that the “research” really only touched some 430 people – that is less than 1% of the voting population. Not a good sample size, imo.

“Community Collaborations”

Marc Changnon has the pleasant task Read the rest of this entry »

$206 million bond issue

In Meg Dickinson’s Sunday NG article, the big number of $206 million is thrown out there for a possible bond issue referendum in April 2014. The subject of the article is about the “Community Dialogues” on February 12 at the I-Hotel, and then Meg goes into more detail about the work that DeJong-Richter and Fallon Research have been doing, quoting DeJong representative Scott Leopold, Unit 4 Community Relations director Stephanie Stuart and School Board member & Steering Committee co-chair Kristine Chalifoux.

The numbers come out of the Fallon phone survey, posted on the futurefacilities Champaign schools website (cross-tabulated results in PDF, result summary). Specifically, the $206 million comes from question 19A, the $80 million bond question is 20A (where 19B and 20B ask something like “if you knew it would bump your property taxes by x amount, would you still vote for it?”). I had someone call me and question even these numbers (how much our taxes would actually go up), so that is something I want to look deeper into as well. Would a $100,000 home only generate a $251/year tax bump? Keep in mind, a $250,000 home means $625/year, right? It just seems to me that a $206 million bond issue would require a higher tax bump than that.


It is interesting when you start looking at the cross-tabulated document to see how folks responded to that question. However, I am finding it frustrating the there is no way to ascertain the correlation of 19A to 19B – for instance, how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B? We don’t know. But Fallon does. And what does “less likely” really mean? Further more, I found it interesting that the vast majority of the “DK/NA” group (those who declined to self-identify themselves) voiced their antagonism towards any bond issue, yet that particular group is only about 1.5% of the 400 (about 6 people total). The older the respondent (with the oldest group having the most representation in the pool), the more likely they were to be sure of their opinion (as opposed to “unknown/undecided”).


To me, it is scary that only 400 people were sampled. That is less than 1% of the voting, tax paying population. Them’s not high numbers.


Scott Leopold challenged us (the shareholders) to fact-check them. So that is driving me. I have asked Scott for the raw data from Fallon and/or some way to correlate 19A with 19B; I have also asked for the data in a spreadsheet format because the PDF provided does lend itself to analysis very well at all. I have also followed-up with Meg about the article and I hope to learn more about these numbers and what they mean.


Finally, some might wonder why focus on money? It is my observation that when you hit people in the pocket book, they start taking notice. I have found it exceptionally difficult to get people talking about softer issues (especially when I throw in words like “social justice” *grin*). But when you drop dollar signs, people turn their heads and pay attention. On top of that, dollars are a very easy metric to conceptualize and measure. So let’s talk about whether or not you want to pay towards a $206 million 20-year loan, and what you want that money to do.


Are y’all ready for some Community Dialogues on Feb 12th? *smile*

Fallon has posted the results of their quantitative phone surveys

From the FutureFacilities website:


Quantitative Research Phone Survey Results 

Fallon Research conducted a quantitative phone survey between December 7th and 12th, 2012. This survey was diagnostic in nature and the focus group results were used in developing the surey instrument.  The sample size was 400 registered voters, and the overall margin of sampling error was +/- 4.9%.  The results of this survey can be downloaded below. The summary file shows the aggregrated results for each question, and the cross-tabulated file breaks down the results for each question by age group, race, parental status, political party registration, voter propensity, zip code, and gender.

Fallon Research will be presenting these findings to the Board on February 25th.

Click here to download the Results Summary
Click here to download the Cross-tabulated Results

Transcripts of Fallon Focus Groups

From Scott Leopold:


“These transcripts reflect the opinion of 18 individual Unit 4 residents, and do not represent the sentiment of the community at large. These findings are not quantifiable.   Recruiting of the participants was blind (meaning that the participants did not have knowledge of the subject of discussion prior to the session).  The purpose of this process was gather opinions to better formulate the quantitative phone survey. The phone survey results will be available after January 1st.”


Champaign Unit 4 School District Non-Parent Focus Group Transcript -11-8-12

Champaign Unit 4 School District Parent Focus Group Transcript -11-8-12

Future Facilities Survey results posted

Scott Leopold has informed me that the survey results for the Future Facilities are out there for all of you to view:


Also, the results of the Fallon focus groups will be presented along with the background report at tomorrow’s Steering Team meeting. I am told the meeting is open for the public as observers; if you would be so kind as to let Stephanie Stuart (217-531-0252, know you are coming, she will make sure there are enough chairs set out for all of us. And yes, I plan to go and blog about it.

Steering Committee Meeting #3: Monday, December 17th 6:00pm @ Dr. Howard Elementary


Please look over the data so far and let any of us (me, Stephanie, Scott) know your thoughts. Of course, I am just a tad biased and hope you post your thoughts here. *grin*


PS – I am quite aware that there are those of you who are not so happy with the money we are spending on this Public Engagement firm. As I have stated previously, I very much welcome different opinions and in fact, I openly invite those who disagree. My own excitement stems mostly from the fact that some real data has been released and we now get a chance to look it over through our own lens.

Fallon reports key findings

Stephanie Stuart sent out an email stating that the futurefacilities website has been updated with the findings from Fallon’s two focus groups:


I have not yet had an opportunity to read it, but glancing through it it seems interesting. I’ll provide more comments later.

Houlihans plans for the next few weeks

So after the last couple of Houlihans meetings, we want to be a little more intentional about our gatherings in December (and January, and February, you get the picture). So even though we are more intentional, the format is still open and welcome new & old faces alike. 🙂 Take special note (Laura B) that the third gathering is on a TUESDAY.


Wednesday, December 5th: Letter-to-the-editor day – if you show up, you are helping to write a letter-to-the-editor (due December 5th) or you have already done so this week. (this is a throw-down challenge issued by Pattsi)


Wednesday, December 12th: I am inviting a board member or two to join us and talk about the last official board meeting of the year (December 10th), what next year holds, answer questions (or even ask questions).


Tuesday, December 18th: Scott Leopold will be joining us to report on DeJong-Richter and Fallon. He has seen Pattsi’s questions and will respond to them at this meeting. They have a Steering Team meeting the day before (Monday, December 17th) and will talk about that. I am really hoping they have the “living document” (aka, Background Report) ready to see the light of day, or at least an early version of it.


No official gathering for December 26th. Not sure about January 2nd, but I am thinking no gathering since it is still kind of the holidays. 🙂

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 ( 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 »


So 11 of us showed up at the Tech Plaza for Fallon’s Focus Group, and they only chose 9 of us. The two of us that were rejected still received the “Honorium” (I haven’t opened the check yet, but I assume it is $75).


We had some light discussion as we were crowded into a narrow hallway waiting for our names to be called like jurors or something. Not everyone was clear that this was about Unit 4, much less anything tied to the Futures Conference (one lady did make a connection after reading an article in last week’s News-Gazette – thanks Meg! :)). It sounds like every one of us is a Unit 4 parent with children at all levels of school (and at least one parent that also had a child at Judah). Demographically, it was not very diverse at all – probably only two were not white, and one of them was with me on the short list. The “Chosen” were 4 males, 5 females. Fortunately I am good friends with one of the guys so I am bugging him to tell me about it. *grin* I am hoping they did not have to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement).


I chatted a little with the african-american lady as we walked out the building. She was really concerned about the attempted child abductions (a very valid concern!), but she was also very appreciative of how quick the school district responded (including a police sketch of the suspects). She also wanted to participate in the discussion to hear what others were thinking. And that’s pretty much what I wanted to do. I am wondering if perhaps that is something buried in our DNA, to be curious what others are thinking and what they will say. That and the innate desire to speak our own thoughts. 🙂


It will be interesting to watch what Fallon does with these focus groups. There was a group leaving before us (I was told by one of the others who got there before me) and I saw a bunch of names on a signup sheet (didn’t recognize any of them); impossible to know if they were also a Fallon focus group, but it’s possible.