NG “letter to the editor” request by Central Principal Joe Williams

In today’s NG:

“Central’s mission needs public input”

http://www.news-gazette.com/opinion/letters-editor/2014-06-30/centrals-mission-needs-public-input.html

 

Should have done this a long time ago. 🙂 I keep thinking this would be an awesome topic for kids at the CU4TECH conference.

 

Panelists for the Sept 30th Town Hall meeting announced

From Stephanie Stuart:

Champaign Community Unit School District #4 Board of Education and Administration will host a Town Hall Meeting to discuss the possible sites for a new Central High School on Monday, September 30 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Mellon Administrative Center.

The Town Hall Meeting will feature a panel of volunteer community members who will help to foster meaningful discussion around this topic. Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand will give a brief introduction and overview of the work done so far in the Future Facilities process, as well as an overview of the current conditions of Central High School. Board of Education members will be present, but will not run the meeting in order to encourage organic discussion amongst the panelists.

Attendees at the Town Hall will be able to submit written questions to moderator Amanda Porterfield of WCIA 3 News. Participants will also be able to submit questions to the panel via the District’s Facebook and Twitter accounts or submit questions via email to Community Relations Coordinator Stephanie Stuart at stuartst@champaignschools.org. Questions will be selected based on relevancy to the discussion and the panel will discuss as many community questions as possible during the allotted time.

Volunteer Community Member Panelists will include:

  • Alejandra Aguero – Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions, University of Illinois College of Business

  • Patricia Avery – President, NAACP Champaign County

  • Imani Bazzell – Director of At Promise…of Success

  • Byron Clark – Sales Manager, Human Kinetics

  • Bruce Knight – Planning & Development Director, City of Champaign

  • Dan McCall – President, Bricklayers Local #8 of Illinois

  • Angie Patton – Marketing Coordinator at the University of Illinois, Edison Middle School PTSA President, and Central High School Parent

  • Bob Porter – Architect

  • Phil Van Ness – Attorney, former Champaign Board of Education member

  • Joe Williams – Principal, Central High School

Much less of an open format than I initially expected. It seems like the panelists will be doing a majority of the talking, after Dr. Wiegand gives an introduction and background. A very interesting cast of characters to say the least. Nobody from Neighborhood Services, nobody representing Garden Hills or any of the neighborhoods north of Bradley….  Also interesting that Ms. Porterfield (WCIA) will be moderating.

I hope you all get involved.

these hot days…

Yesterday and today, Unit 4 sent Central High School students home early citing the high heat index. I have been encouraged by previous board members and administrators to see for myself what it is like to be in a classroom when the conditions outside start to resemble a sauna, and so that is exactly what I did over my lunch time.

At first I asked about coming in after the students had left. The principal, Mr. Joe Williams, suggested that if I had the time, perhaps I would benefit from seeing the kids (and teachers) in action. Which sounded like a great idea and I took him up on the offer. I opened the windows on my car during the drive over to get a little more “acclimated” if that is possible.  I was warmly greeted (no pun) by the principal in the air-conditioned entry foyer (I don’t know if that is what they call it, but that is what I’ll call it), and given two classrooms to go check out, one of the first floor and one on the third (top) floor. I was told that the thermostats were registering slightly higher readings on the first floor. I also found out that Channel 3 was right behind me (and here is their story). Lastly, I learned that having Central close up shop a little early totally (and negatively) affects the coordinated schedules with Centennial, in particular those students that are shuttled to and fro.

Once past the foyer, Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from the April 22nd BOE Special Meeting

I took the time to watch the BOE meeting a little while ago and typed up some notes. Unfortunately, they are not yet formatted very well. Instead of delaying, I finally decided to just dump them here, and hope that readers will forgive the horrid formatting.

 

{the times listed below are elapsed times from the beginning of the video}

start at 5:02

spotlight on middleschool to highschool transitions: 10 minutes (music stops at 15:36 after all the credits roll *roll eyes*)
jamar brown – found it entertaining, found the whole thing very good, transitions are important

public comment:
laurie bonnett – only quotes from one vendor, are we reaching out and seeking participating from other vendors?

CFT:
Cathy mannen – thanks to the board for support of the early childhood center.

PTA Council:
Sheri Williamson – summer reading program, 300 books from UofI. Parent Resource Group.

Communications from board members:
Kristine – shout out about the amazing musicals past two weeks. Big praise for the stage design, acting, music, etc.
Van Ness – College Career Center; great facility, great idea. Shout out for the CUSF. Need to support them better.
Ileana – Make the College Career Center grow bigger – good stuff.
Brown – PSUs (?) at Novak, like a graduation thing. Lots of praise/congrats for many other events at other schools.
Stig – congrats to those who run board elections. Interesting thoughts about “supporting” more folks on future candidates, getting more folks to run.
Board retreat follow-up: how to make the school district a family-centered organization. hmm… not child-centered? 🙂

Asia Fuller-Hamilton & Joe Williams start with Transitions. jwtobe.org?? jw2b.org??
Jamar and Kristine mention how awesome this is. Kristine reiterates the pain/confusion of the first day. Mentions how awesome it would be for every freshman to have a mentor/guide. Joe says they are working on it.
Stig asks the same about middle school. He says why can’t we divulge as much information as possible BEFORE they come to school, and then handle the unknowns as they arise. A bit of discussion (even Wiegand intercedes); can the kids have the data before the first day of school? 🙂 Lots of great things are happening in pockets, working towards making those things consistent in general.

Elizabeth DeGruy (no presentation, just reporting).
Stig asks a lot of questions and makes comments. Very engaged. 🙂 Again, can parents have as much information as soon as possible? All about transistions. Importance of setting a first impression by making the first day in school a very positive one.
I think a question from the audience was fielded about “child time”? Yes, Sheri Williamson from the audience is given the floor. Awesome! 🙂

Tony and Cheryl are up at 1:05:40. Tony walks through the overview of the goals and “ideal reality”. Cheryl talks about the specific multiple recommendations. Elizabeth chimes in with SpecEd recommendations.
Stig asks how parents who are in these situations can reach out to a person (*not* a helpline). Maybe a FAQ?
Action Items:
Kleber announces the promotion of 3 assistant principals.
1:23:40
TALP – Orlando Thomas
Kristine wants to verify this is not fun, and that students don’t really have a choice once suspended.
student discipline procedure – lockman
confirming adoption for administrative reasons … ?? That’s not vague. 🙂

Kleber on adding an administrative position for overseeing the food department; one year appointment for a proof-of-concept.
Van Ness asks where the person will be housed. Kleber doesn’t really answer the question, saying they will be “everywhere.” Interesting that the Board is asked to approve the position even before the job description is finalized. Doesn’t that seem backwards?
Item A from Consent Agenda moved up – Champaign Telephone contract. curious, was this moved up in Executive session? Meg Dickinson mentioned that Phil Van Ness moved on it, but I did not witness it.
Brown asks, we will *never* bid out these jobs? Joe Davis assures the board that if they need to, they will. Who bids it out? “talk it out” with architects and superintendent.
Van Ness comes out and says he pulled it out of the Consent Agenda. Wants to make sure the board is putting things before the public. Likes that we are keeping this local.
Kristine mentions that consistency is very important.
Ileana: not exactly sure what she said, something about good for the community and taxpayers knowing.
Kristine, we don’t want everyone to know what the budget is….. interesting. In the context of bidding… they want contractors to bid competitively, not to the budget.

1:44:40 remaining items of the consent agenda

May 14th Regular Board Meeting

I was late, but the “Recognition” portion of the meeting was rolling and rolling and rolling – lots of people to give credit to. 🙂 You could tell folks were getting a tad tired of the obligatory clapping.

Update: Video Recording is now available

During Public Comment, one lady got up and started to share about an issue her son had in school, but was shut down because she started talking about how an administrator got involved. I felt bad for her, because she was getting rather emotional and when she was shut down, she left in a huff. The Board President invited the parent to bring the issue up in private, but from the look on the departing woman’s face, I doubt that will happen. I wish there were a better way to handle those kinds of situations. [Edit: She starts to talk at 37:23, and I think her name is Esmeralda Hernandez – I tried to call but did not get past several ring tones]

Gaby spoke for the PTA Council and introduced the new Council President, Anna Simon. Welcome to the Council, Mrs. Simon. 🙂

The 1st reading of some new policies was quickly glanced over. Seemed like most of dealt with student well-being and health and tied into community relations. Apparently in the past the district has had issues with parents taunting other parents/students near school grounds (hence “safe school zones”). Jamar asked some pointed questions about any policies concerning staff on student harassment and it was indicated that those policies are covered elsewhere (not a part of the current changes). I am thinking that some feathers were ruffled by his questions. It was conveyed that administrators were trained about 3 weeks ago in these procedures with the expectation that they would go and train building level staff. It sounded to me like there was little to no follow-up.

The bulk of the Board Meeting was consumed by the “Standards Based Grading” (SBG) high school presentation by the two principals, Mr. Greg Johnson and Mr. Joe Williamson. I am glad it was only about 5 slides. I was a bit confused about SBG; what they talk about sounds like a great idea (ability to track and measure each student individually), but I kinda thought that was already happening. I heard that it was already in the elementary schools. So if we already have this tracking going on, then how come students still fall behind? It is not clear to me how whatever was pitched is actually going to be such a huge boon to us.

In fact, Ileana Saveley asked how progress is measured. It sounds like teachers are supposed to evaluate each child via various different methods, basically judging how they “rehearse” the information as a measure of how it has “sunken in” (the principals words, not mine). And then some really clutch statements came up. 🙂 Like, “kids who know how to do school are not necessarily learning anything.” “Parents are helped by thorough communication”.  A couple times, Mr. Joe Williamson told the Board that they “should have high schools that are leading the pack in the District, even in the State.” After all these statements, my head was spinning.

As a huge critic of how education was “done” at the University of Illinois, and as a part-time teacher trying to one-up everyone else at Parkland and mostly failing, I often wonder how education is “done”. And then it gets me to thinking, education is not so much different than life in general. As Joe said, we are always learning (funny how Miles Horton said the exact same thing).

So what is all the big fuss about? Really. Is all this extra measuring, quantifying and note-taking actually helping our children learn better? From the two teachers I have talked to and a couple others, it sounds like the paperwork and extra meetings are killing them (the teachers). If the teachers are being deflated like balloons, you can only imagine the effect that has on their abilities to teach. In that light, all this concentration on analyzing performance seems very adult-centered – I have a feeling the kids don’t give two squats about the data. And I know about analyzing performance; I get paid to do that on high-end database systems.

I’ll have to leave off with that. If you were there or saw the video, please feel free to correct me where I am wrong.

PS – there were a number of other items on the agenda  – Basically every item in the “Consent Agendas”  (Sections 9 and 10) have attachments but were not covered during Open Meeting. Which struck me as a bit odd. But right now I am too tired to think it through all the way.