Collaboration and compromise

Recently, Kathy Richards presented her petition to the Board (Nov 10 BOE meeting). I have been waiting for it to pop up on Vimeo, but I might just try to record it off CGTV 5 at some point. Maggie Hockenberry of WCIA caught up with Kathy and interviewed her yesterday:

http://www.illinoishomepage.net/story/d/story/support-for-district-if-location-changes/42339/8oXxaq0_E0S1BKl9TAWIgQ

 

I think one thing Ms. Hockenberry perhaps missed is that a vast majority of us support the school district regardless of the referendum, there are just details about the referendum that we disagree about. For some it is location, others it is Dr. Howard, and a whole bunch of other reasons are thrown in the cart.

 

A recent twitter thread evolved into a sort of a challenge, calling folks to get together and hammer this thing out; Park district, city council, MTD, CCRPC, the YES Committee, those who voted “no”, UIUC students urban planning, LA, ARCH, NRES…. I am sure we could pile on more. Obviously, we should have done this two years ago. But here we are.

 

I don’t know how else to say this, but perhaps we should in a sense just shut up about it and start “doing”. For those that support the referendum but are willing to look at other options, can we open up the box and think about sites that are smaller than 47 acres? For those that opposed the referendum, find a site that works and meets all the needs of the district (sans 47 acres). Pattsi has one idea that we need to flesh out a bit more. Others have re-suggested Spalding/Judah. It is not enough to say that Interstate Drive is bad for this and that reason; we need to go beyond that and come up with a real, practical solution. And we will have to compromise – it has been said a bajillion times “there is no perfect site.” So we need to prioritize and figure out what we really need. What are the non-negotiables? We have to be willing to give up some things, on both sides of the fence, to focus on what is really important.

 

From my point of view, the biggest driver is sheer capacity. If we reduce the number of children that are jammed-packed into the current buildings, we solve a lot of problems just with that alone. I agree, there are still other ramifications that need to be addressed. So let us stop talking and start addressing. Pattsi, when is our first charrette scheduled for? 🙂

Kathy Richards presenting her petition to the Board tonight

Kathy Richards, the author of the petition that I blogged about a few days ago, is bringing her petition to the Board tonight – here is what she has to say:

Greetings, and thanks to all of you for signing and sharing my petition about the future location of Central High School.

Consider joining me in person tomorrow (Monday, November 10) at 6:00pm when I deliver this petition to the Unit 4 School Board.

I plan to speak during the Public Comment portion of the meeting, which should occur soon after 6:00pm, and I would love to have some friendly faces in the audience. Your presence will help show the board that there is broad community support for changing the proposed site for a new Central high school.

If any of you would also like to speak, you can fill out a comment card before the meeting and you will get 3 minutes of time to say your piece.

Just remember: however different our opinions might be, we all share the same goal of providing a first-class education to Unit 4 students. Let’s work together to make it happen!

Champaign Unit 4 Board of Education Regular Meeting
Mellon Administrative Center
703 S. New St. (Champaign)
6:00pm (Executive Session at 5:30pm)

 

The Board Agenda can be found on BoardDocs, but you will have to manually drill down a little to find it:

  • Go here: http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/board.nsf/public
  • Click on “Nov 10” in the left column
  • Click on “View agenda” that appears on the right
  • The agenda itself will appear on the left; line item details will appear on the right as you click on them. Note that this time around most line items have documents attached for further reading.

 

Also, just a reminder that Kerris Lee plans to be at Cafe Kopi this morning starting at 10:30 am; he is making himself available to talk about the referendum for anyone that is interested.

 

And finally, there is possibly a grass-roots “board candidate” group starting up this week for the purpose of finding board candidates next April (2015) and to discuss board member qualities that are desired. Anyone interested can join us at Houlihans tentatively scheduled for Thursday October November 13th at 1:15 pm. We plan to have more chats/dialogs, perhaps even online for those that cannot be physically present. Feel free to ask questions – we won’t be hiding anything under a stone. More to follow.

Watching how democracy works

For those that watch/read the News-Gazette online, you will have seen that the Nov 4th Unit 4 referendum item is getting a lot of comments (1st, 2nd). It is interesting to witness how passionate some people are about their thoughts. Given all that energy, it is somewhat frustrating that these voices are not truly put to the test in a deliberative, public forum.

 

A little over an hour ago, Angelica Sanchez of Channel 15 emailed me; unfortunately, I had to decline an interview offer but was made aware of a petition that is making the rounds on facebook:

Find a more central site for a new Champaign Central High School

 

UPDATE: Those that wish to contact Angelica:

Angelica Sanchez

Multimedia reporter

WICD Newschannel 15

217-351-8538

 

UPDATE 2: Kathy Richards, who initiated the petition and one of many interviewed, will be on Channel 15 for tonight’s 10:00 pm news.

 

I believe this is a significant step up from the anonymous (or pseudo-anonymous) online comments for a newpaper website. Based on a number of those online comments, however, it is obvious that the stated new Central HS location is in fact a big deal to a number of people. Will we then have a petition for including Dr. Howard on the next referendum? What about reducing the size of the referendum? (all reasons stated in recent NG articles and online comments) Note, I think we should, and am tempted to start them myself.

 

This is but the start of a democratic process taking birth. Next, I would love to see a full-blown panel between those who strongly support the referendum and those who strongly oppose it. I would love to see open radio debates. (Eric Bussell, you reading this? *grin*) What I think we would find fascinating about such dialogs is that 1) a whole freaking ton of people agree that we need to do something about the buildings and we need to address capacity in some form, and 2) those who oppose are going to find it difficult to unite on an alternative resolution. If nothing else, I think the latter is one of the biggest challenges behind organizing the “opposition” group.

 

As I told Denise Martin and Dan Ditchfield (co-chairs of the Friends of Champaign Schools), rather than a mere 1700 “no” votes that the district administration and board wants to convert, what about a minimum goal of 5000? Why can’t we have a goal of finding a solution that a super-majority of our voters can agree upon?

 

To help us towards that goal, I am ready to get my hands dirty. I am willing to help organize open public forums, panels, discussions (or whatever you want to call them). I am willing to go looking for people who are willing to debate on radio and TV. Let us set up opportunities in various neighborhood community centers where people can hash out their ideas. But I ask for your help; I cannot do this alone. What good will it do? People, we need to work together A LOT more than we do now. We are too divided. I love how grass-root movements like the Champaign Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice unite people around a specific cause and organize their efforts with positive results. There are other small groups like that around town that “get things done”, and it is so exciting when I hear about them.

 

The school district and board has said that we have been talking about this problem for (at least) 8 years now. It has probably been a lot longer. To that end, I believe the consultants we have hired have failed us on that count. We had an excellent start of a democratic effort in 2008 called “Great Schools Together” that totally lacked follow-through and accountability. I think we may have lost the art of healthy disagreement and public deliberation; we voted on November 4th, but yet it is unknown what we said.

Really torn about the current petition push

This week has been a busy one. Kicking off with the Feb 27th Special Board Meeting, a snowball started its not so gentle way downhill. Since then, I have had an excellent talk with Board Members and community folks at Houlihans, graced with an impromptu chat with Judy Wiegand and Gene Logas at the Mellon Center, received the DVD for the Board Meeting, picked up a small stack of petitions, corresponded with Don Kermath a bit, talked with my local PTA and held a discussion with the PTA Council. Also during that time, a number of articles, letters and news pieces have hit the public news media.

Why I am against the petition

Read the rest of this entry »

Houlihans: property taxes, working cash bonds and petitions, oh my!

So Monday’s Special Board Meeting was rather interesting, and I know Don Kermath is getting a political machine fired up to block the Board from going forward with the issuance of working cash bonds.

In typical Houlihan style, I invite you all to come out and talk about this, 11:30 – 12:30. My hope is to get a larger after-hours forum set up for a broader discussion as well. I’ll have a sign-up sheet if you want to sign a petition, but more importantly I want to take notes and ask how people react to this. You are quite welcome even if you do not want to sign. 🙂

What we are NOT going to do: we are not going to call anyone tyrannts. I feel strongly that the Board members and Administration staff are hard-working individuals with good intent. I personally sent them a word of thanks and appreciation for how much time they invest into the District after the Feb 27th meeting because I truly feel that way. There is no place, in my opinion, for tossing around adjectives with heavy baggage.

We might disagree (and we do), but I am cool with that; I invite disagreement. I totally agree with Unit 4 that we need to fix, repair and upgrade our facilities. The state is utterly failing, so the burden is on our shoulders. What are we going to do if Pensions fall on our shoulders as well? We need to figure out how to handle this mess the state has so conveniently dropped into our lap. I see this as an opportunity to galvanize the public and get people talking, raise awareness and encourage participation. I do not want to see mud-slinging, pointed fingers and name calling. But I also want the public more involved in these kinds of decisions, and I believe the Board does a disservice to itself by feeding people’s distrust. I don’t think that particular effect is intentional – is it out of habit?

References

News-Gazette (Meg is also interacting with readers): http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-02-27/school-board-approves-145-million-bonds-petition-could-force-vote.html

WCIA: http://illinoishomepage.net/fulltext?nxd_id=344852

WICD: http://www.wicd15.com/newsroom/top_stories/videos/vid_4949.shtml?wap=0

Halfway Interesting (Greg Novak has a great response from the Board’s POV): http://www.halfwayinteresting.com/Pages/CityofChampaign/tabid/90/entryid/859/Updated-Unit-4-Tax-Hike-Working-Cash-Bonds.aspx

(still waiting for Don Kermath to get a website up and running – have not yet checked facebook, but I am sure there are pages out there for this)

 

UPDATE (8:22): Meg has a new article focusing on Don Kermath’s efforts:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2012-02-29/resident-organizing-challenge-champaign-districts-working-cash-bonds.html