Board meeting at Central HS tonight, with a special presentation on the Consent Decree

The Champaign School Board is going to start shaking things up a little tonight when they conduct their “Special Session” at Central tonight. Keep your eyes open for more changes to special sessions in the near future. Among the items on the agenda (available on the district’s boarddocs website) are an obligatory public hearing on the budget and formal acceptance of said budget, a presentation from Molly Delaney of the CU Schools Foundation who will be covering the CUSF strategic plan and summarizing CUSF initiatives (good stuff!), and a Consent Decree presentation from Sally Scott, an attorney from Franczek Radlet who represented the district during the Consent Decree; the presentation will set historical context for how we still have equity issues to address especially in regards to where a potential new high school is built. There are many documents on boarddocs that are related to all these presentations.

Also keep your eyes on the board’s nascent blog, u4boardcorner.blogspot.com. In fact, the latest post (“The trouble with transparency“) starts to address issues of transparency, which is kind of a hot button topic because it is a buzzword used very loosely in all sorts of circles – what does it really mean? Just this past weekend, I was talking with parents at an un-conference (kudos to EdCampCU!) about the current board, and there are a wide variety of opinions about how many steps backwards we might be taking or whether they are truly trustworthy. This is purely my opinion, but I think the current board has been making a number of steps that align to the IASB’s “Foundational Principles” vision, and I believe this will pay huge dividends in the long run, especially in generating and building trust, transparency and establishing healthy communication habits, not to mention a strong, public and shared idea of what the board does.

Update: Nicole Lafond writes about the Consent Decree in this morning’s NG:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-09-28/champaign-school-board-review-rules-building-locations.html

A totally new school board

Tonight’s short meeting resulted in four new board officers, and personally, I am glad that the President and VP votes were unanimous:

  • Chris Kloeppel (President)
  • Amy Armstrong (Vice President)
  • Kathy Shannon (Secretary)
  • Jonathan Westfield (Parliamentarian)

There were a number of tweets, and Nicole followed up with an NG article. It is exciting to witness and hear about the synergy that has already been building between various board members (new and old), not to mention some of the things they want to tackle. For instance, how to take advantage of social media? How to engage the community and make board meetings more “friendly”? How to work together as a board but still have individual passions? And with Mr. Kloeppel being the youngest board president in a very very long time (ever?), their path as a team will be both challenging and exciting.

My number one priority for the board is that they continue to more fully embrace the model espoused by the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), called “The Foundational Principles of Governance.” The IASB model does several things that I like, taking a lot of cues from John Carver’s Policy Governance; one of the most exciting things, in my opinion, is “Effective Community Engagement”. The model also establishes clear relationships between the board and the Superintendent, the administration and the community. And finally, it guides the school board in focusing on policy and school-wide direction, not falling into the trap of micromanagement, which I think has been a sand trap for quite a while now. All these facets will be even more critical as this school board contemplates the process to select a new superintendent in two years time.

The new board will have a Board Retreat later this month, where I believe they will meet with IASB representative Patrick Rice, Dr. Wiegand and other members of the administration to lay the ground work for their collective goals and ambitions for the coming year. In the meantime, I am going to go out on a limb and put forth the idea that board members (all of them) really want to hear from the public, so I encourage you to contact them at:

u4boe@champaignschools.org

Exam Cram: 2015 school board candidates

I know many of you are suffering withdrawal because Early voting is closed today; have no fear, you can get your fix here and learn all about the school board candidates. Recently I added Nicole Lafond’s News-Gazette interviews of each school board candidate:

https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/misc/2015-board-candidates/#lafond

There are eight folks vying for four 4-year seats, and Jonathan Westfield is the sole runner for the 2-year seat. How to decide? Who are you going to vote for? With the two current board members in the middle of their own 4-year terms (Laurie Bonnett and Lynn Stuckey), plus Jonathan, there are 70 total unique combinations:

potential_school_board_combinations (excel spreadsheet)

Will you vote based on a single (big) issue like the $144 million referendum? Will you vote based on how well you know each candidate? How many yard signs you have seen?

I suggest you to think about what kind of board you want as a whole; what qualities and characteristics of a school board do you value the most? For myself, I am pushing for a board that adheres strongly and visibly to the Illinois Association of School Board’s “Foundational Principles of Effective Governance“.

After talking to many candidates and reflecting on the marathon of forums and other encounters with the public, I am very encouraged to hear that most candidates have already formed a strong rapport with each other; that even though they definitely do not agree on everything, they have already started to exercise respectful deliberation. One of the “Big Ideas” I am hoping shakes out of the new board are more informal “gatherings” where folks can simply hang out with board members and have agenda-less conversations, maybe even to the point of doing so with more than two board members. We shall see.

April 7th quickly approaches. While I encourage you to vote, I think it may be more important to be an informed voter. If you have questions, please ask.