Nov 18th BOE Meeting agenda is finally posted

Lots of interesting things in here. I’ll hit a few highlights that stand out to me, but you should read it for yourself:

http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/public

 

  • Lot’s of Recognitions
  • Spotlight video on “building a high quality staff” – not yet on Vimeo so I can’t preview it
  • Newly hired high school site selection consultants Gorski/Reifsteck will give their schtick – no presentation available via boarddocs
  • District report card – only Bottenfield and South Side made AYP
  • Three high school students being recognized as Student Abassadors – interesting program, and I have a number of outstanding questions to Joe Williams about it
  • Local software company Codagami won the RFP bid for doing the Controlled Choice program to the tune of $98,500. No word on the actual contract, yet.
  • Other Misc items including a number of things about finances (change orders, Tax levy, grants, donations, etc).

 

Curious if anyone even cares about the Choice Policy anymore. 🙂 I mean, I do, but I have not heard much back from readers at all, yet. The final draft is going in the Consent Agenda (meaning, along with ten other items, it gets voted on in bulk). They threw in the fact that Choice program will also assign students for middle schools, and I take that to mean middle school students who are not matriculating from a fifth-grade Unit 4 school (otherwise they would follow the feeder program).

 

Lastly, I have asked for and am still waiting to see the RFP concerning the high school site selection consultant.

 

Regular BOE meeting tonight

The agenda for tonight’s meeting was posted on boarddocs. Some excellent achievements highlighted in Recognitions (shout out to Sheldon Turner, Mi’Chelle Frazier, Cheryl Camacho and Elizabeth Slifer among many others!), four policies are being discussed in New Business, a number of Change Orders and other items to follow afterward. I am excited about Operation Hope being presented by Orlando Thomas and I hope that gets a bit of good discussion.

 

In addition, I have emailed the Board on two different topics:

  1. Email to the BOE about the draft Choice Policy 705.09
  2. Email to the BOE and CFT President about facts and figures surrounding teacher salaries

 

And finally, over the weekend I heard a ton of rumors (I call them rumors when I do not have any evidence I can point to) about drama that is going on. Personally, it seems to me like the drama is a bit distracting. So here is my challenge; yes, pack the Mellon Center tonight, bring your thoughts, your concerns, your passions! But keep in mind the bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things, we really need to work together as a community. We have too many experiences with those who wish to divide us. So I ask that you do indeed raise your voice and exercise the power of engagement, but please do so in a way that invites others to collaborate with you. Yes, there will be differences of opinion – different perspectives are valid, valuable and very much needed. Do not squash them; cherish them. Yes, you will probably get angry or overjoyed, but note what triggers your emotions. We have enough crap to deal with without pointing fingers at each other. Let us deal with the root issues.

 

So even the emails I sent to the Board on the 11th – in some ways I wish I could recall them, now that I fear I have just become “noise”. Maybe. In the end, I cannot change what has already happened, I can only change the future.

Requesting your help to update the Choice Policy

I am attempting another “crowdsourcing” effort to see if you readers want to take a stab at 1) reading and understanding the current policy on Choice (aka, School Assignment, Policy 705.09), and 2) suggest how it might be made better.

I am linking three documents that were attached to a meeting announcement for the Choice Committee coming up next week (wow, Monday is going to be super busy for some people!):

Controlled Choice Committee Agenda for 9 23 13 – self-explanatory

RevisedChoicePolicy clean copy  – what the modified Policy 705.09 would look like after the changes are made

RevisedChoicePolicy – the old version with inline comments and “corrections”

I will be reading these myself and will make further comments. I am a little concerned that it is a bit involved (and overly complicated), but I don’t have the procedural bandwidth to scrap the entire thing and suggest a new rewrite. If you do, please let us know! 🙂

Again, the more comments the better – my personal goal is to hear from 20 of you, either publicly here on this blog, or personally via email (or, like, in person or something *grin*).

Another thing that confuses me – the Choice Committee does not even have a website, and none of these documents (the agenda and the proposed changes) are to be found on the Unit 4 website. Why not? Why isn’t the Choice Committee seeking your input? Yes, I realize you cynics are going to say that’s the way Unit 4 does business, but in this case, being cynical isn’t very helpful to me. I am looking for productive responses, constructive criticisms, and at least a glimmer of hope. *smile*

Choice Committee meeting, Friday August 9th

Attendance:
Dr. Susan Zola
Doretha Simmons
Michele Brown
Becky Laws
Charles Schultz
Laurie Bonnett
Stephanie Stuart
Amy Aviram
Maria Alanis

The agenda was initially split up between 9 10-minute segments to cover various things (including the Wait List, RFP, Registration, Transfers, etc); we started off talking about Policy 705.09, which actually covered almost half the agenda items. And we covered that one policy for the entire 90 minutes. 🙂

We had some really great discussion; I wish it was recorded so that more folks could listen and chime in, even if after the fact. (In fact, I just sent an email to Stephanie Stuart and Laurie Bonnett asking this).

Dr. Zola walked us through the policy. The first part is about parents choosing their top five schools and capacity (aiming for 23/classroom at the K-1 level, 24 if they have to really push it, 25 is almost unthinkable). I questioned the “top five schools” – why not open it up and let parents choose as many as they want. While the FIC staff currently allows this, the policies and the software (previously) did not. We did not come to a conclusion. Some did mention that some parents already struggle to fill in three choices (which is saying something in itself – if I really like one school, why do I have to “choose” 4 others?). My point is, just remove the restriction on the number of schools. When I thought about it, if you want to totally remove “unassigned” cases, one of the best ways to guarantee it is to either have everyone rank order all schools or simply just flat out assigned a parent if they don’t make their top n choices. The point is, there are ways to technically deal with “unassigned”, but what is the root problem? I pose that part of the problem is the sheer complexity of the system; another issue is the desire for “fairness”, for which nobody agrees on a universal definition.

We than got into a long chat about SES (the next section in the Policy). We all agreed that the language used in the policy has to be clarified significantly. Some of us also expressed the desire that SES be defined unilaterally across the district – no more where SES means one thing in one context and another thing in another context. We also talke about the need to clarify the precedence of priorities; Sibling has highest priority, but what about SES and Proximity? It’s a sliding scale, which further leads to complexity and confusion. We talked about the need to be as up-front as possible, even to the point of broadcasting the SES ranges (ie, +/- 15% of what?).

We next moved on to Sibling priorities. One thought that came up was allowing parents of siblings to register in February, or really any time. Which lead to the thought – if a parent knows where they want to go to school, why not just allow them to submit their choice anytime, instead of just a one-month period? Even if you still “run” a school selection month, you can pre-process a significant number of sibling applications thus allowing more accurate numbers for capacity.

Next in the policy is Proximity. Dr. Zola had previously submitted to the Board of the time a revision that was hammered out by the Choice Specialists; we revisited that revision this morning and liked it a lot more than the previous wording. Essentially, it removes Proximity B and simplifies the language. We also talked about removing the April 1st cutoff, since those with extenuating circumstances should be able to contact the FIC any time.

Last, we dove into Unassigned Students. A parent in attendance was able to share a specific case whereby the placement of unassigned students on the waiting list was done in a controversial manner. Via discussion, we strove to hammer that out a bit more, shedding light and sharing information on several different levels. For example, about 5 years ago an Assistant Superintendent had proclaimed that all unassigned students would bump up to the top of the wait lists, ahead of any students that were also assigned to any other school. We spent a bit of time talking about this, trying to figure out what is “fair”; in the end, I think it comes down to having integrity and being open about all the practices, instead of providing a kind of Gnostic special knowledge for only certain folks.

During our conversations, we talked about how some folks in the public have developed a negative perception of the school district in general, and maybe even more specificially various staff, because of the School Assignment system. While many of these perceptions may be formed regardless of reality, they in effect become a type of reality for that parent. I feel that this was an important made by certain members of our group this morning.

Personally, I felt it was an excellent way to hash out various perspectives – I only wish more folks could have benefitted from it. We agreed to follow-up in the near future, perhaps at the end of September after registration and school assignment dies down a little.

Controlled Choice Committee tomorrow (Friday, August 9th)

Tomorrow I plan to attend the Choice Committee; I have not yet seen an agenda. I have expressed a desire to discuss Policy 705.09 (blog posts 1 and 2) as well as the Choice RFP *(blog post). Anything else from you readers?

 

* note that there is a special informational meeting for interested vendors of the Choice program:

The School District will host a mandatory meeting for all interested vendors on August 12, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. in the Board Room of the Mellon Administrative Center to describe the Choice Plan in further detail and answer further questions.

Request for modification to Policy 705.09 "Schools of Controlled Choice Seat Assignment"

email sent to the U4 Board Members and Dr. Zola:

Good morning, Board Members and Dr. Zola,

I know that there are many ongoing discussions about “Controlled Choice”, and I realize there is already a lot of work in progress with the intent of improving the system even further. To avoid getting lost in the “noise”, allow me to make this short and brief.

Please alter Policy 705.09 “Schools of Controlled Choice Seat Assignment” to include the following two pieces of information:
1. Any and all previously undocumented verbal directives used by the Family Information Center to determine school and waitlist placement. There never should be an instance where the FIC is following one set of rules that is not made public to the community. I recently learned of one such verbal directive in practice during the most recent school assignment process.
2. The clear and explicit details of how SES is calculated. This should not be a secret. It should also be consistent across the district, where “SES” in one context means the same in another context.
Thank you for your time and attention.