Review of May 15th Open Forum

As stated previously about the May 15th Open Forum we held, the attendance was a bit sparse but the discussion was good. Chuck Jackson and I were joined by Andrew Wilk, Summer Curry, Chris Hamb, Karen Roese and Shandra Summerville.

After giving a brief intro and what we are doing and why, we gave Sir Ken Robinson the floor via a 12-minutes RSA video: With a bit of humor, Robinson tells the story of how the current educational model is good for some, not for others; how it can be really boring and has the tendency to squash any creative tendancies in a budding child. He associates “divergent thinking” as a measure of creativity, and asserts that the factory-model, assembly line style is counter-productive in this sense. “We need to wake them up!”

We started our dialog about the limitations placed upon reading. For instance, the timestamp method (as a kindergartner, one is stamped with an implicit date of “delivery” or graduation, ‘Class of ….’) makes it rather difficult for exception readers to advanced beyond their grade level. There is a perception (which I have heard from others as well) that parents of such students opt to patronize schools outside the public school district for this reason.

Likewise, Read the rest of this entry »

Open Forum is tomorrow (7:pm, Urbana Free Library, Lewis Auditorium)

Chambanamoms just put up a note about our forum:

I have committments from several community members including Chris Hamb (of Chrisp Media) and Carolyn Savage (wife of the late Reverend Lundy Savage). I also heard that an announcement was made at Canaan Baptist Church encouraging folks to attend.

I will have lots of pens and notepads so attendees can quickly jot down thoughts, questions and comments that we can sticky to the wall or dry-erase board. The idea being that we will organize these ideas along several themes, and then mesh them in with the ideas from the previous open forum. If attendees express a desire that we take certain topics to the School Board (either Unit 4 or Unit 116), we will do so. In either case, all ideas and topics will be posted here so folks can see how their voice was heard. And they are invited to continue giving us feedback. 🙂

Please join us, and come prepared to share your ideas.

May 15th Open Forum on Education – 7:pm Urbana Free Library

We are moving forward with our second Open Forum on Education. I am imploring all readers to tell their friends so we can reach a wider audience. 🙂 We will also be printing flyers and passing them out to representatives from local churches. We kinda goofed with the scheduling as it overlaps the last PTA meeting of the year – my apologies.


Here is the flyer (black and white):


If you have other ideas, please let me know.

The plan for Houlihans today

Aside from planning our future open forums, we are going to start looking at talking points we can consistently put in front of the Board at board meetings and make a part of the public record. I am going to fold in things we have gathered from our first open forum (ie, Discipline, Expectations, money/budget, etc) and subsequent forums.


I started to look at the budget and quickly got overwhelmed. Just looking through the check register raises a lot of eyebrows, but even more questions. I simply do not have the context to evaluate all this information. I am thinking a dedicated, money-wise and well-versed group of folks would be better suited. Ideas? What can the average joe hope to accomplish by looking over the budget and the many financial reports generated by Mr. Logas and his assistants? Perhaps that is the issue right there. 🙂


If you have a bee in your bonnet or a burning question, please bring them to Houlihans today. If you are a shadow reader of this blog and have always wanted to come to a Houlihans Wednesday, maybe today is the lucky day. 🙂

Tonight's Open Forum

For our debut Open Forum, we had two Board Members (one for each hour :)) 4 parents and 2 media folks. And a whole heck of a lot of discussion. I cannot possibly do justice to all that we covered, especially since I am tired. But I am going to convey the notes I took. In addition, I am hoping Meg Dickinson will write up an article, and we have a video (not sure about the quality). I am also hoping that those who were there (looking at you, readers!!) will fill in the blanks and continue this conversation.

[in no particular order at all]


  • Achievement expectations are low
  • Behavior expectations are low
  • Does not support a lot of learning
  • Teachers should dig into the backgrounds of their students
  • Don’t compare students to each other
  • Turn org chart upside down
  • It is time to truly focus on kids, not adults (and not merely give lip service)
  • More diversity
  • High Mobility correlates to low Performance; schools of choice correlates with high mobility at some schools


Reminder: Open Forum tonight, 7-9pm, Champaign Library Room 222

Just a last minute reminder, come out of if you want to join us for an open forum on Education (both Champaign and Urbana are welcome). We will be setting up in room 222 of the Champaign Public Library. I believe the room is reserved for “Education Reform Forum”. It is going to be interactive and maybe even fun! 🙂

NG article about Tuesday's Open Forum

Meg Dickinson has published a great article about our forum on Tuesday:


Also, I have been busy making personal invitations to folks – the irony is if everyone that I have invited actually arrives, we will not have enough room. 🙂 But I think that is a good think. Keep inviting folks. We can always adapt if we have too many people. And I can guarantee there will be some measure of fun. 🙂


I am stoked!

telling a story

Meg Dickinson with the News Gazette is going to be running two stories in the next few days; one about the Open Forum that Chuck Jackson and I are planning, the other a kind of “getting to know the Unit 4 Board candidates“. After chatting with her, we agreed it might be good if I put the full version of my response here since she is going to have to edit some of  my responses and will not be able to include the whole thing.

So first, here are the brief interview questions for the Open Forum: Read the rest of this entry »

Filling in details for the April 17th Open Forum

At our Houlihans meeting this afternoon, we covered a lot of ground. Much of it was discussing ideas for the April 17th Open Forum, although we did briefly talk about a certain candidate forum as well.

While I cannot say we have finalized anything, our Houlihans session was really good at uncovering some very nice ideas. For instance, next week we are planning on having “wondercards” (as Chuck calls them) at the open discussion on Tuesday; if you wonder about something, have an idea, a question or a comment, fill out a card. Our intention is to have a display board or three that we can group the cards on and at the end of the evening have a full board that we take pictures of and post online. These will be our proof that many people had a hand in developing ideas – far be it from us to be the sole voice. The whole point of these forums is to open up communication channels. We are also talking about using a 12-minute Ken Robinson video as a way to break the ice and jumpstart conversations.

An overall list of goals we think we want to address would be:

  • Communications: The current system of communication has a couple holes. We don’t necessarily have all the answers, but the major reason we are having these forums in the first place is to kick the tires, uncork our brains and see what happens.
  • Teacher/staff isolation: After talking with some teachers, we learned that some teachers would appreciate a little more support, and a little more connection with other teachers, not to mention with Administration and community members.
  • Student Climate: This one we intend to address bullying and lack of respect; not merely from students to teachers, but also the other way as well.

Again, this is just a working prototype, something to Read the rest of this entry »

Plan for Houlihans today

Again, anyone is welcome to drop by and join us in conversation about Unit 4.


If nobody shows up, I would like to turn this into a time to plan for the future of Unit 4. I want to nail down three things we can be working on (I think we have two; communication/trust/bridge building with the community, and lack of safe environment/support for teachers and school level staff that leads to isolation). I want to work on action steps and not just talk. 🙂


Last week we talked about holding open forums. We picked two dates, one in April and one in May. As you know, we moved the April date to April 17th; Chuck has grabbed a room at the library and we have started to advertise it. We tentatively planned May 14th for the next meeting, but if Tuesday works out better we might switch it. We want to see how this first one goes and learn from it.


We also talked about meeting families at the Dodds Soccer Complex; an opportunity to invite a diverse array of parents to open meetings. And maybe even hold impromptu meetings. When talking with Brian Minsker yesterday, I learned that Barkstall used to (still does?) hold quick micro-meetings around already in-place events (school show, rally, sports, etc) to conduct PTA business. I thought that was an awesome idea.


Lastly, we discussed the idea of doing a Ken Robinson video at the open meeting just as a way to instigate conversation. Still thinking about that. One of my action items was to review the video; I think it raises a lot of great questions and it engages critical thinking, which is so necessary, I just don’t know how to weave it into our current context without coming from left field. My other action item was to talk to Chris Span about cross-pollinating with the Rose & Taylor forums. I have contacted him, and he mentioned something about including me in the next meeting. Nothing else, yet.