Finding the good: board meetings

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As with all posts in this “Finding the good” series, it is quite easy to find things that are bad, need improvement, or candidates for complaint. But the point is that there are also good things if one is willing to look a little harder.

 

finding_good_1Take Unit 4 school board meetings for instance. The current board has taken significant steps to listen to stakeholders, constrain their discussion of public matters to public meetings, and reflect openly on their progress. On top of that, there are often times many excellent informational items that broadcast the priorities of the district. Let’s look at a few examples.

Back in early February, the Administration kicked off a series of “Goals and Indicators” for High School, Middle School and Elementary School. Each document spells out the relationship between Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, fortified with details of the the players involved (and how they work together) as well as specific programs used to reach these goals. For indicators, the presentations focus on how tests are used, how often, what is being measured, etc. Over and above the documents by themselves, the “live” presentation (as one can watch via the Vimeo recordings) were much more charismatic, lively and the presenter often went into much more detail. My point in raising this as an example is that the district is throwing open the doors – there is nothing hidden here. If you want to know how education happens in Unit 4, you can dig into these resources.

Another example are the times when various programs are featured; lots of amazing awesomeness being shared with Operation Hope (and Operation Hope Jr), PBF (Positive Behavior Facilitation), social justice clubs (RISE, “Real Talks”), and recently at the July 11th meeting, Marc Changnon spoke about ‘Education to Career and Professions’ (ECP) and the Summer Youth Employment Program/Summer Trades Apprenticeship. This is just a very small sample of really cool opportunities that our students have. There are also the other partnerships and afterschool programs that we learn about; United Way, Champaign Urbana School Foundation, Tap In Academy, Freedom Schools, etc.

Train-your-mind-to-see-the-good-in-every-situationI will wrap up with the approach this current board has taken to governance. There have been changes, some small, some more noticeable; a new BOE blog maintained by board member Kathy Richards; the Board President now reads through and sometimes asks for details in the Consent Agenda; there is a metacognitive exercise in the form of the question “Whom did we affect and whom did we tell?” at the end of most meetings; communications to the board, in the context of the referendum and facility planning, have all been published on the district website, as well as any responses. In fact, did you know that a majority of the board members were always in attendance at every Tier Two committee meeting? I found that to be quite impressive. Last week, at the July 11th BOE meeting, the board took some extra time to talk in open session about their thoughts and opinions on the work and recommendation of the Tier Two committee. As Dee Shonkwiler was spotlighted as the only member in the audience, the rest of us can watch the video. I point out that the board took time to discuss in open session because, in my experience, this kind of lengthy dialog between board members while in open session is somewhat rare. Why should you care? Because you elected these people to make decisions, and here they are reflecting on all the feedback they have received and telling you what they think about it. We need to do our part and urge others to make their voice known as well – without your participation, there is no democracy. This board is listening to you.

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Helping our children

At the August 10th BOE meeting (vimeo link, agenda items 9.F. and 9.G), we heard about the good work going on at Operation Hope, Operation Hope Junior and Lead 4 Life. One board member pointed out that given the positive impacts of these programs, why not have an Operation Hope Junior Junior (ie, pre-K).

There are many programs that are aimed at helping our children, and I love it! While caring for all our kids, we also build community and camaraderie. In addition to those already mentioned, several other programs I have learned about include Tap-In Academy (which had an amazing summer with field trips and impactful lessons), Freedom Schools (which I wrote about earlier), Tech-Time at Kenwood, the after-school homework programs at Garden Hills and Stratton, and the food program at Dr. Howard. I am sure there are many more. I am amazed that so many volunteers are doing good work to benefit our children. Thanks to all of you.

Freedom Schools is facing a very uncertain future for funding. As such, I have decided to help kick of a fund-raising campaign to raise $10,000 by September of 2016. I set up a donation page that gives a bit more information, and I will be seeking advice on how to do this fund-raising thing properly. I invite you to join me in donating monthly to build up this reserve SOS pool.

Fundraising page: https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/freedom-school-fundraising/

You will also see this donate button on the right-hand bar:

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