Jan 5 Special Board meeting

Even though it is two hours long, I encourage you to at least check out the beginning of the video of last night’s BOE meeting:

http://vimeo.com/116062752

UPDATE: Public comment starts at 23:10

 

Nicole Lafond also did an article:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-01-05/school-proposal-april-ballot-coming-monday.html

 

In talking with Kerris, it sounds like the plan that several board members had been working on was, for one reason or another, not highlighted. Chalifoux asked a question about it, but that is about all we hear. Kerris has told me he is going to do a little digging to see what the story is.

A chance to speak about the Unit 4 Facilities (k-8, new high school, middle school configuration, etc)

From the PTA Council:

Our next meeting will be held on April 3rdnext Thursday, at Southside Elementary School.

We will be hearing from Laurie Bonnet, Kristine Chalifoux and Dr. Wiegand to discuss facilities and answer any questions you may have. Please let your school PTA’s know that everyone is welcome.

 

Typically these start at 6:pm 7:pm. For more information:

 

UPDATE: Correction! Meeting starts at 7:pm

Cliff notes from the June 10th regular board meeting

As with my other cliff notes:

  • all errors are my own; keep in mind these are not authoritative minutes, just my own notes
  • all times are offsets from the video I link
  • if you spot any problems or inaccurate statements, please let me know
  • feel free to fill in areas I did not cover

 

Video link

{note: the video is from TiVo and starts at 5:30; the board meeting starts at 6:00pm so be prepared to fast forward. Also, there is quite a lot of dead space at the end of the video that I have not truncated}

 

Read Meg Dickinson’s NG article for another take on the meeting, and her twitter feed (you have to scroll back to June 10th, I don’t know how to deep link all her tweets as a group for the night).

 

Cliff Notes

00:00 – 09:35
Press conference about gun violence by several prominent members of the African-American community.
33:42 board meeting starts with recognitions and academic spotlight
40:15 Laurie Bonnett asks what credit/remunerance kids get for the summer entrepreneurship program. Marc Changnon says they get nothing, 100% volunteer. Except personal satisfaction. 🙂
41:55 Jamar Brown gives kudos to Marc, thanks Marc for thinking outside the box. Also notes how the adults in the program are growing as well.
45:16 Kristine Chalifoux asks for list of companies that are involved in the program so we can thank them.
45:41 Recognitions
49:23 public comment
Dan Goines (sp??): site director, expressing a concern about why MTD avoids Carrie Busey.

Cliff notes from the May 13 board meeting

As with my previous cliff notes, I apologize for the raw nature, and again, all times listed are elapsed video times.

boe May 13, 2013

Art Recognitions: 00:00 – 15:36
Service Awards: 15:37 – 27:53

public comment – 28:30
Chuck Jackson
Spoke about the DeJong-Richter Recommendations report. “What do we need and why do we need it?” There is a lot of information we do not have. Need more feedback on exactly what the weakness of each site are and why they are weaknesses. Be creative.
Recognitions: 32:19 – 38:29

38:28: Cheryl Camacho, Asia Fuller-Hamilton and Janelle Weinzierl going to Harvard for the summer:
http://www.gse.harvard.edu/ppe/programs/prek-12/portfolio/stl.html
Communcations 38:45
CFT (Cathy Mannen): welcome to new board members. Common goal to teach students.

Board members:
Stig: 40:20: important things going on. Facilities – very critical. Gotta move, waiting detracts from educational opportunities. Focus on best interests of school district, teachers and especially students.
Scott MacAdam: 42:07: mandatory board training. Enjoyed it
Kristine: 43:02: first year all the middle schools doing track and field, all three schools sending kids to state. Big kudos.
Ileana: 44:46: recognition from one of her schools, PBIS assembly, top scorers in Mathematics. Shout out to Robeson.
Jamar: 46:28: Marc Changnon taking all (45) students through a career program; graduation ceremony at the CPL, 30 grads. Shout out to Central. Shout out to 1-to-1 mentoring programs. Summarized involvement at Kenwood, including his adopted 5th grade class.
Laurie: 51:19: lots of diversity, learning the ropes.

52:47 Orlando – speaking about the Student Code of conduct.

54:06 Laura Taylor – High school graduation dates; can’t use Assembly Hall next year.

57:30 Future Facilities
Dr. Wiegand invokes a quote from “Great Schools Together”. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from the April 8th BOE Meeting

Stig opened the meeting to give special mention of Dave Tomlinson’s last day on the Board, and to open the floor for Board comments praising Dave for all his work over the past few years. Stig honored Dave with a plaque, after which Dave shared how he feels best about advocating for teachers.

No public comments.

Board member comments
Tomlinson: talked highly of the early childhood center, good news about not RIFfing anyone. (note: RIF = Reduction in Force, a practice of letting staff go with the hopeful promise of being hired again)
Jamar: good stuff at college and career center, good “state of the district” address at Carrie Busey, good feelings all around at address; talked about how Dr. Wiegand met all her goals and is changing the perception.
Chalifoux: go vote tomorrow
Van Ness: one positive and one negative. positive = “Gold card” thing, college and career center. Negative = some schools still have no Proximity A – 1) either get rid of Proximity or 2) give every child Proximity A, the 1.5 mile thingy is IRRELEVANT (his emphasis).
Chalifoux: “Gold card” thing is good; asked about doing a REALTORS brunch. Wiegand responds that we are doing them, and in fact one is scheduled for May (if I heard correctly).
Stig: acknowledges present candidates again.
Upcoming events (among the many events, I focused on one)
May 6th, special board meeting to swear in new board members

Item D moved up to the front.

Future facilities presentation:
Steering Team Co-Chair Bruce Knight started; lots of background provided; enrollment projections need to be looked at annually.  I ask (and have asked previously) “who is going to do that?” More on this in just a little bit. Most dense population around Garden Hills. Population shift moving north and east.

In discussing the “opinion polling” by Fallon, Bruce Knight says a majority of they “yes” votes came from low-propensity voters. So his solution is to get more people to vote. I wonder about that; to me, it essential to make sure folks are first educated properly about the issues (and candidates where relevant). In addition to the above, the majority of “yes” votes came from the younger generation, while the majority of “no” votes came from those who are older. Are the older folks just stodgy? Are the younger folks just naive? We cannot really assume anything – we just don’t know.

Given all the 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 »

$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*

Houlihans report

I am finally get caught up on what we have been talking about at Houlihans. Two weeks ago, Tommy Lockman dropped by to chat with Chuck and I, and then last week Kristine Chalifoux took a lunch with us. This week I was flying solo so had time to reflect a little and think about where things are at.

Obviously the negotiations with the CFT is a big topic, but there really isn’t much to say about it. Both board members had some interesting things to share from their own points of view and we all toss around our opinions. However when we get down to it, these are closed negotiations – we can speculate all we want. But what’s the point? There is still something that bugs me about that, but it is really difficult for me to put my finger on it.

I think it was Tom that first mentioned the then upcoming retreat (this past Monday, October 8th). If I recall correctly, there were still a few unknowns – while the doors were open to the public, there wasn’t much of an emphasis on bringing people in. Which become obvious on Monday evening. *grin* And last week, I believe Chuck asked Kristine rather point-blank what they are doing to increase engagement. We chatted a little about how board members are being asked to adopt schools and develop a stronger relationship and go to more events. Actually, I have to confess it is rather fascinating sitting at the same table with Chuck and Kristine – sometimes the gloves come off (in a good way), and I think we have some real conversations. I think it is good to practice being totally honest while at the same time exercising a respectful manner and not being overly abrasive.

Chuck and I had a moment to chat before Kristine showed up. One of the things we Read the rest of this entry »

we missed you at houlihans (Sept 12)

Board Members Kristine Chalifoux and Tom Lockman were kind enough to join Chuck Jackson and I today at Houlihans. Kristine says the weather is utterly irrestible; I would tend to agree. 🙂

 

So you other three that were there will have to help me with the details. We spent a bit of time (on and off) exploring the idea of a shared vision, or a common inspiration, in our schools and our community. In retrospect, it is possible we succumbed to scope-creep from time to time; Kristine mentioned many times that some of the short-comings we have with community engagement is the entire reason we are hiring a public engagement firm. We reflected on Great Schools, Together a few times, in light of the obvious similarities and glaring differences. One thing I think we all agree on is that we cannot simply hand DeJong-Richter a grocery list and tell them to come back with full bags; we all have to walk and work side-by-side with DeJong-Richter to maximize the “investment” of their contributions (or contrawise, the money from our wallets).

 

We seemed to have some difficulty in identifying what was not working previously, in order to improve and/or mix things up and try a different angle of attack. What will it take to get our community engaged in the school district? Tom mentioned that the district and the board is putting a ton of information “out there” (ie, via board meetings, boardDocs, press releases, etc); I responded that while that was true, people are not able to access the deliberative aspects – the present forms of communication are essentially one-directional or siloed in the sense that some really great conversations are happening and nobody knows about them. I am convinced that people will engage more when they feel (keyword, “feel”) they are a part of the invisible clique, where they can join in the ongoing conversation by which their own thoughts and opinions are constantly in flux and being added to the general soup.

 

Kristine reminded us that there is a flip side, a side which she seems to very much regret gets overlooked – there are a lot of positive and good things happening. I would agree it is important to take a step back and look at how things have changed over the past 10, or even 2, years. Under Dr. Wiegand’s leadership, many things are starting to slowly change for the better. Personally, I know of how David Hohman is making changes to not only the website, but the underlying technology. Dr. Wiegand has initiated “safe environments” and given more freedom and more space for teachers and staff to lay out their honest thoughts. Others like Sheri Williamson are organizing some very beneficial events for students, parents and service providers. Tom is making stronger points that the board needs to get out in the community, while Ileana is paving the path on doing exactly that. Schools are doing awesome things, teachers are winning awards (or at least “running up”), some students are absolutely thriving in the current system. Yes, there are good and awesome things going on. No doubt.

 

We did not come up with any action steps like I had hoped. Unfortunately. But it was a good discussion. There were several points of irony that I will highlight because they are relevant. And even somewhat humorus. 🙂

1. Chuck Jackson and I have been meeting at Houlihans for close to two years, inviting any one who wants to join us. We who are trying to push engagement and involvement so much, have held several open forums, we only get a small handful of folks to join us at Houlihans. And even with that, we haven’t seen a new face in a long time.

2. The topic of Holly Nelson’s efforts to start a conversation came up. It came out that Chuck didn’t participate in her blog. Kristine had a hoot digging into that! 🙂 But I wish to say it here because it probably reflects a large part of our community; he felt that whatever he might want to say would probably already have been said. How many other folks feel exactly the same way, on any issue?

Houlihans July 25: tackling the bigger issues

So Chuck and I plan to be at Houlihans tomorrow (right, Chuck?). We will probably be talking about our efforts to exert a change in Board Policy, but we always welcome fresh ideas from old friends and new. Over the past couple of days, I have had the opportunity to float this idea pass several Board Members and the reactions have been mixed (which is a good thing – I would be worried if I received a homogeneous, standard response). Some repeated themes so far are that the Board has tried several attempts to further engage the public over the years, all of which kinda sputtered out. So while all members I have talked to so far have expressed a desire and interest to connect with the public, they are not exactly certain how to do that.

As stated earlier and echoed in the undertones of what I hear the board members saying, what we really need is a change in society. That is a much larger and more complex issue to deal with. The quintessential question seems to be “How do we entice more engagement?” Many things have been tried and none have been sustainable. Why is that?

Allow me to tangent a little and talk about the Board Meeting last night. I still don’t like the wording of the Champaign Telephone Company contract, but putting that aside, Meg Dickinson wrote an article about the need for nine new hall monitors at the high schools. This got me to thinking about Read the rest of this entry »