Who to vote for on April 9th

In less than 7 days, we will be wrapping up the 2013 Consolidated Election. Unfortunately, most races are uncontested. There are a few that are in fact contested, including the Parkland Board of Trustees and the Unit 4 Board of Education. This post will focus on the latter, but the theme I wish to put forward is “embracing change.” To that end, there is only one candidate for the Parkland BOT that effectively meets that criteria.

You will be voting on April 9th, right?

For the Champaign School District, there are 5 candidates running for 3 seats (each are four-year terms). One of my desires in writing this post is to join in and aid the ongoing discussion about these candidates; it is exceptionally difficult (if not impossible) to be purely objective, so I am throwing in with my subjective thoughts as well. Some of you will disagree with me, maybe even strongly – that is good. I invite those who disagree to speak up. That’s the whole point. (NOTE: I already voted so I am not engaging in this conversation for the sake of figuring out who I want to vote for). Overall, I think each candidate has good intentions and brings something to the plate. The question is, do they bring what you want?

The candidates

Chuck Jackson: I have written before about Chuck, whose campaign I am very much involved with. He brings a desire for improved and enhanced bilateral communication, which of course I am hugely in favor of. 🙂 Chuck helped me out with pitching a proposed change to Board Policy to include Conversational Meetings last year. He has a bit of good experience and rapport with teachers and a true desire to see all kids excel, not just the ones for whom our current educational models work well.

Lynn Stuckey: Lynn is the only candidate who has been attending board meetings “forever”. She obviously has a passion to speak up as a community member, a quality I respect very much. As such, some people will consider her stance and approach as either very good and much needed, others will think she is hard to work with. To me, they are different sides of the same coin; personally, I think she could really shake things up, which I find a very interesting prospect. She is very good at doing her homework and researching the facts, and then telling people about it whether they like it or not.

Laurie Bonnett: Even when I was running for the board appointment last year, I respected that Laurie not only is concerned about her constituents (granted, she is not serving in a public capacity but is employed for an elected official)  but she has a bit of experience, in a number of different contexts, in listening to and interacting with her constituents. It is interesting that she has slowly evolved her platform closer to themes that I want to see in a board.

John Williams III: (EDIT: Updated with new website) In all my interactions with John, I have been pleasantly pleased with his congeniality and open nature. I respect that, like current board member Jamar Brown, John Williams is very concerned about discipline issues within Unit 4. Some may ask, is discipline really that big of an issue, big enough to invest in two African-American men on a board of seven people? Given all the racial issues that exist in our society, given the overwhelming disproportionate number of people of color in various forms of correctional systems, I have to say “yes!” Read the rest of this entry »

What do you want out of your school board?

datesThis is both an announcement/reminder post, but also an attempt to provoke your grey matter and maybe even generate discussion.

First, I am going to assume you do realize that you, as a tax-payer and vote-caster, do indeed have a voice that the school board members, as your publicly elected officials, are obligated to pay heed to. 🙂 This means that we voters have to hold them accountable, and the board members have to allow themselves to be held accountable. In an ideal and somewhat Utopian fashion, this relationship would be built on trust and mutual respect. Unfortunately, our State has done us a disservice in terms of being role models in this regard; none the less, let us remember our obligations.

Having said that, there are elections coming up on April 9th, 27 days from now. Within the next 27 days, do you know who you will vote for and why? Perhaps at this stage of the game you had not even planned to vote. Or maybe you had the election on the back burner of your brain and figured you would get around to contemplating the candidates “tomorrow”. Well, this is your lucky day! For in fact, tomorrow there is a candidate forum – an excellent opportunity to hear more about the candidates that are running:

PTA Council Candidate Forum tomorrow night (March 14th) @ 7 p.m. at the Mellon Administrative Center. The forum will also air on Champaign Government Television starting Friday.

In addition, Meg Dickinson will be running an article in the near future on the candidates, so keep your eyes peeled. And finally, Laura Bleill of chambanamoms.com talks about some of the qualities that she, as a parent, would like to see in a board member:

http://www.chambanamoms.com/2013/03/12/at-the-editors-desk-if-i-was-running-for-unit-4-school-board/

Just as a reminder, there are two sub-races for the board this time; three 4-year seats and two 2-year seats. The 2-year slots are uncontested and filled by incumbents. The three 4-year seats will be decided between five candidates (alphabetical by first name this time):

 

For the sake of disclosure, I Read the rest of this entry »

Review of Feb 11 regular board meeting

I was shocked that David Hohman posted the vimeo video right after the meeting! 🙂 Kudos to his team. I am syndicating his video from my archive as well.

I had a brief chat with Scott Leopold prior to the meeting. He gave me an update on my request for the raw Fallon data, specifically to help answer the question of how many people surveyed changed their mind about wanting a $206 million “bond issue” once they heard their taxes would climb a bit. He mentioned that Mr. Fallon wants to delay in delivering that information until the February 25th special board meeting when he (Mr. Fallong) will be presenting and is able to deliver that information “in context.” Again, I don’t like that approach, but it is what it is.

Turns out it was a relatively short meeting – I think it clocked in at 53 minutes. The comments (both public and by the board) took up half that time. Since it is less than an hour, I highly recommend you watch it – the board members speak a bit and you can get a sense for where they are at and form your own opinion (as opposed to drinking my kool-aid *grin*).

The recognitions, as always, are a feel-good reminder of good things that are happening in our district. I wonder what it would be like if we also highlighted “challenge areas”. Right now, the folks that speak during public comment generally fulfill that role. But what if the district and/or the board had a running “leaderboard” of, say, the top 5 things they see as the issues of the month. Or year. They could even chart their progress against it; “Last month we identified and resolved these two issues, thus we are moving two more concerns onto the leaderboard for us to tackle this month.”

I gave the first public comment; I volunteered to deliver it since another representative was stuck at home with a sick child. I also sent this to the board and Kristine Chalifoux responded. So to qualify, I am not on the CB building council, and I do realize that the board has not made any official plans to expand CB – it’s all kinda up in the air at the moment.

Chuck Jackson spoke next about the need to be mindful and to intentionally “program” school for all kids. We have to pay attention (perhaps in different ways) especially to those who routinely are not well represented or spoken for.

The Board Read the rest of this entry »

April 2013 BOE candidate races are shaping up

Chuck Jackson, Pattsi Petrie and I met at Houlihans yesterday and talked about Chuck’s bid for one of the School Board seats. A quick call to Tammy Sowers (Administrative Assistant – she knows everything :)) confirmed the following (btw, I am listing all names alphabetically by last name in an attempt to remove bias):

4-year candidates (3 seats available)

  • Laurie Bonnett
  • Chuck Jackson
  • Scott MacAdam
  • Lynn Stuckey
  • John William III

 

2-year candidates (2 seats available)

  • Stig Lanesskog
  • Ileana Saveley

 

Meaning that the two incumbents will automatically win the 2-year seats (uncontested), and the 5 new candidates will have to battle it out for the three 4-year seats. Just to make it clear, Chuck has asked me to help with his campaign (we are working on websites, hand-outs, etc now). For the sake of reference and completeness, the remaining board members after April will be Jamar Brown and Kristine Chalifoux. Sue Grey and Tom Lockman have both stepped down, and the Board is accepting applications for a 4-month board appointment – I would not be surprised if all 5 incoming candidates submitted applications.

 

So think about this. After the April 9th election, the incumbents will be Jamar Brown, Kristine Chalifoux, Stig Lanesskog and Ileana Saveley. There will be three new faces at the table (two of which may be semi-incumbent if appointed). It is up to us to decide who those three new faces are. What do you want this board to do for the next 2 or 4 years? Keep in mind that we are probably looking at a big huge tax referendum in April 2014. Also, there is a ton of shuffling going on right now as Unit 4 figures out how to handle unexpected growth in numbers of students. Oh, not to mention Common Core will be more ubiquitous and we are gearing up for all-digital standardized testing (by 2015 at the latest).

 

So I ask you, what do you want this board to do?

Thoughts this week about the school board

Walking in reverse direction down the path of my thoughts of the school board this past week:

Who are we?

I subscribe to a feed of the Wake County School District blog, and just this morning is a post about the new school board chairman of the Wake County school district (which, by the way, is frickin’ HUGE!). What is fascinating about his “acceptance speech” is that he casts an identity for the school board that unites it with the community; he readily acknowledges the rocky road they have been through (you think Champaign has an issue with Schools of Choice? Ha!) and the challenges going forward.

“We the Wake County Board of Education will provide the kind of exemplary leadership that is expected of us by this community, and I intend to lead us in that direction. I ask my colleagues around this table to join me in this commitment and this effort for we are Wake County.”

2013 Board Candidate John Williams, III

I am going to be reaching out to candidates as I find out who they are. Last night I had a great facebook dialog (be sure to click the tiny “See More”) with Mr. Williams. I am impressed by his convictions and desire to tackle some big issues. Better yet, not just desires but ideas on how to make them come to fruition. I asked him further about two points (getting the community to show up at meetings and pedagogy); he responded to the first by admitting there is a lack of community participation that is not solved by free food, the need to build relationships and the need for more open communication; to the second he agreed there is no “one size fits all” and very much wants to move away from lecture-laden approaches to engaging the students more thoroughly. What’s cool is that I see a number of excellent teachers already doing this. Hearkens me back to the Sir Ken Robinson video shown at the Futures Conference. Having said all this, don’t take my word for it – go read about John Williams yourself, or better yet, ask him some questions of your own.

As I find out who other board candidates are, I am going to make it a point to drop by and get to know them. Laurie, I have some questions for you next. *grin*

Transparency

I already shared how I attempted to address the board at Monday’s board meeting. Dr. Joe Davis was kind enough to follow-up with me (and CC: Dr. Judy Wiegand). He mentioned Gene Logas’ previous efforts to spell out “Where does all the money go?” I agree that this is a good first step in breaking down the complex tongue of finances, but it only goes so far (it is, after all, a first step). I responded with an example of Jess Bachman’s now famous “Death and Taxes” poster which gives an awesome overview of the Federal Budget. On top of this, I followed up with a member of the Promises Made Promises Kept (PMPK) committee; here is an excellent example where the district communicates a ton of information to a group of people that is open to the public, but the public has next to no clue what is going on because 1) very few community members attend the PMPK meetings, 2) the “transparent” reports take a REALLY long time to make it up on the website. In fact, the last one I can find is from December of 2011. So, first hurdle is to get this information in the public sphere, second hurdle is to get these reports so that we the common people can understand them. 🙂

Transparency is not about pointing fingers. It is about collaborating towards a common goal. As John Williams implied, accountability is a good thing, when done right. It helps all of us.

[PS – I hope that a letter-to-the-editor I submitted on this topic is printed soon]

More about 2013 Board Candidates

Meg Dickinson wrote an article on Tuesday in the aftermath of Tom Lockman stepping down from his position on the board. One particular quote of Mr. Lockman that I really like is:

I truly believe that public education is the most critical aspect of a community’s ability to succeed and develop…

Most. Critical. Those are big words, ones that should challenge our community. But back to Meg’s article about the candidates. She relates the Stig Lanneskog intends to run for the 2-year slot. She also says that seven people to date have checked out petitions from the Mellon Center. Note that the petitions actually come from the County Clerk’s office and that the Mellon Center merely provides the forms as a courtesy; since the forms are downloadable from the internet, there is no telling the maximum number of people that have expressed an interest. On top of that, just because someone picks up a packet does not mean they will get all the signatures and actually submit it by December 26th. What is most curious to me is, of the people that have picked up a packet, we only know about three (Ileana Saveley, Laurie Bonnett, John Williams and Stig Lanesskog). Personally, I really want to find out who the others are because I want to meet these people who are so interested in the school district that they want to serve on the board, which is not all fun and games. 🙂 Very worthy, no doubt, but a sacrifice none the less.

Two more candidates for the school board

I am going to mention facebook pages for two candidates to the school board (election on April 9th, 2013). I am not saying whether I am for or against, my goal is merely to create a post I can link to for further discussion. I sincerely want to get to know these folks because:

  1. They obviously care about Unit 4 and want to be involved/engaged
  2. There is a good chance (so far, 4 out of 4 that I know of) they will be board members

Laurie Bonnett, a fellow candidate back in the March 2012 appointment:

https://www.facebook.com/LB4UNIT4

John Williams III:

https://www.facebook.com/JW3ChampaignSchoolBoard

As mentioned early on, Ileana Saveley is also running and I am pretty sure she will have a website up soon. *grin*

And if you are asking about the 4th, the person has chosen to remain anonymous for the time being – I am just going off the number of packets being reported as picked up. For all I know there are a dozen anonymous folks out there who picked up packets directly from the County Clerk’s office. 🙂