Press Conference on Unit 4 Referendum: March 12, 8:30 am, Local Union 149 building in Savoy

[ NOTE: The below was copied from an email sent from Mr. Bambenek to me  ]

Contact: John Bambenek / john@johnbambenek.com / 217-493-0760

SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER JOHN BAMBENEK TO HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE WITH TRADE UNIONS ON UNIT 4 REFERENDUM ON MARCH 12 AT 8:30 AM

Bambenek and Union Leaders to Discuss Educational Programming Changes to Help Children be More Competitive in Today’s Job Market

Champaign, Il – Champaign Unit 4 school board member John Bambenek will hold a press conference with trade union leaders on March 12 at 8:30am to discuss to upcoming Unit 4 referendum and what it will mean for educational programming to help high school graduates be ready for the 21st century job market.

“This referendum is not just about 4 walls and a building.  It’s about changing the direction of public education in Champaign and making sure our graduates have access to 21st century educational programs like career technology so they can graduate our schools and go on to good paying jobs that we can’t fill today.  What a yes vote on the referendum means is new educational programs that end with good paying jobs going to our children raised her in Champaign instead of having to look to other communities to fill our skills gap,” said Bambenek.

John recently met with the local Building Trades council to share thoughts on better preparing Champaign students for adult lift.  The event will be held at the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local Union 149 building at 1005 N Dunlap in Savoy in their shop training area.  The press conference will begin at 8:30 am.

Note: John Bambenek will be speaking in his political/non-governmental capacity and his views are his own and do not represent those of the Board of Education as a whole or of the Unit 4 administration.

Referendum discussions; candidate endorsements

The Young Dems North End Breakfast Club and NAACP have called a Town Hall Meeting this coming Sunday (March 15); the first item on the agenda is about an hour of moderated discussions on the Unit 4 $144 bond issue referendum item (2:30 – 3:45, moderated by Imani Bazzell and Patricia Avery). The meeting will take place at the Douglas Community Center.

 

There is a fair amount of confusion surrounding another potential forum on the referendum; board member John Bambenek tells me that Unit 4 actually did respond to the initial email from the League of Women’s Voters, but only to say that they had a conflict on the suggested night. I expect that within the next day or two, we will have more information that will clear this up, and perhaps another (third?) forum.

 

UPDATE: Nicole Lafond has a late-night response to the KCC invitation:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-03-09/champaign-school-board-will-respond-deadline-forum-request.html

 

Lastly, I have compiled endorsements for school board candidates into a table for easy cross-reference; I hope to add a couple more soon.

Another email discussion thread about HS siting and the #unit4ref

I sent an initial email to the “Friends of Champaign Schools” and “Keep Central Central” committees, asking that they set up a panel/debate/forum between their two groups. The thread kind of took on a life of its own, and I feel that enough of it is relevant and contains important considerations for the wider audience to chew on, if you feel so inclined to read a little bit. I wish these email tennis matches were in a completely different medium, since email tends to be very tediuous to piece together and make into a nice page.

 

https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/misc/emails-to-askchallenge-yes-vs-no-committees-on-unit-4-referendum/

 

I also hope that the folks engaged in this email exchange take it to the next level and actually have a public forum of some sort.

Who is this John Bambenek guy?

I had a great chat with the new Board member, John Bambenek, on Friday. My interaction with Mr. Bambenek on Friday reinforced my previous interactions with him, and I had two take-aways; 1) he is very open to talking, just drop him a note and work out a good time, 2) he is passionate about bringing a deeper level of transparency and financial accountability to the school board.

As an alumni of the University’s Computer Science department, I was somewhat compelled to start our conversation on the topic of computers, a topic that came up frequently. John teaches a 400-level course at the University dealing with operating system and network security. If I recall correctly, their latest task is to reverse-engineer a computer virus. I asked about special projects, and he mentioned one I was fascinated with, a quadracopter carrying a raspberry pi to accomplish specific tasks. Computers bled into other aspects of our dialog as well.

For instance, Bambenek has a tie into Adam Andrzejewski’s Open the Books project (I believe he said he either sat on one of the boards or consulted for them). For those not familiar with Open the Books, I encourage you check out the website and/or go read Jim Dey’s Editorial on it (11/02/2013). The basic idea is to track where and how all the money flows, or as their motto says “Every Dime. Online. In Real Time.” For me personally, I find this to be a fundamental part of modern democracy, giving normal taxpayers the tools and authority to see what their tax dollars are accomplishing. I believe it has the potential to bring the voice back to the voter, so that we can ask intelligent questions, but more importantly, give critical feedback to our elected officials so that they have concrete guidance on how to perform their duties. “Transparency” is something that becomes a bit of a buzzword when folks are campaigning, but it makes me wonder how many people really “get it.” I believe Mr. Andrzejewski gets it – and if Bambenek is following in the same path, I am happy with that. To bring the conversation to Unit 4 in particular, there are several things going on. First, we recognize and acknowledge that Unit 4 has gotten better about transparency. For instance, they have been posting check registers online for quite a while now, and even better, Read the rest of this entry »

The changing face of the school board (but what changes on the inside?)

There was quite a splash, for those that follow news about the school district and/or politics, when the school board appointed John Bambenek to be the next school board member, serving until the April 2015 elections. Just from reading several pages of commentary on BigDebbiesHouse, and even the online reel via the News-Gazette, it is obvious to me that some folks are entirely upset, flabbergasted and just a tad pissed off. But what does it all mean? At the end of the day, who really cares? Or rather, what are the real ramifications and consequences? So many times I have heard “time will tell”, but that is not good enough for me.

First, I am obligated to disclose my own perspective, to help you understand the framework from which I write this post. I have corresponded with Mr. John Bambenek (infrequently) since 2006; at the time, I was just coming up to speed on Unit 4 and the Consent Decree, and I had asked John what he thought some of the issues were surrounding the district and the board. In a January 2007 email, he pointed out the issue of a lack of trust:

“The biggest problem, and I think everything feeds into this, is that the current Board and Superintendent have lost the trust of the community. That’s ultimately why there is a consent decree and the problems that are there now.  I don’t want to come right out and say Culver has to go, but he certainly would have to come up with a real plan to win back that trust.” (quoted with Bambenek’s permission)

His second comment was about how much the district spends per child; not so much in the dollar amount, but the “bang” of each dollar – what are we getting out of the investment? At the time, he was worried that Unit 4 was spending way over the state average (per child), yet our results were not anything to write home about.

“The next budget is projected to spend about $10,700 per student.  I have heard both the statewide average being $7,000 and $8,500.  I need to review more, but if that holds, I’d be going over the finacials with a fine tooth comb.  Spending that money is fine, but we ought to be getting more results for our dollar.”

That was seven years ago. On a more recent occasion, Read the rest of this entry »

New Board member: John Bambenek

John Bambenek has been chosen to fill Scott MacAdam’s seat on the board.

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-02-13/bambenek-appointed-champaign-school-board.html

http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/6517

I’ll be adding another post about my own thoughts in the near future. I have emailed John a few questions and hopefully will hear back soon. 🙂

 

UPDATE:

The interview is now posted on Vimeo:

http://vimeo.com/86716407

Board Candidate interviews tonight WILL NOT be on CGTV 5 live

Apparently, CGTV 5 has a conflict for live streaming tonight, and the Unit 4 Board Candidate interviews did not come out on top. To catch the interviews, you can wait anxiously as David Hohman rushes to get it on Vimeo, or catch it on CGTV some other day.

Also, I am sure the NG, Twitter, Facebook and other “outlets” will be broadcasting their versions. So no worries there. 🙂

Candidates:

•             John Bambenek

•             Azark Cobbs

•             G. David Frye

•             Chuck Jackson

•             Mike Somers

•             Jonathan Westfield

References:

http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/6511

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-02-11/school-board-candidates-announced.html

http://ci.champaign.il.us/departments/information/cgtv/