“That’s a School Board Thing”

April 2nd is right around the corner; for those that have not yet taken advantage of the many early vote options, I strongly encourage you to consider the current races and get your vote in before 7:00 pm next Tuesday. Feeling lost about which candidates to choose, or just plain curious? I highly recommend a new local resource:

Champaign County Voter Alliance (CCVA)


Have you seen any of these “That’s a School Board Thing” billboards around town? It took me a few days, but I finally started to google what this was all about. So far, I have not run into anyone in Champaign who knows anything about “XQAmerica” or the signs themselves (I even asked Tom Kacich, still waiting to hear back from him).

I have mixed feelings about what I find on the XQ SuperSchools website. However, what I really do love is the section about school boards – they have a whole section that explains what school boards do, and even provide pointers on how to engage, get involved and ask questions:


Know what else is a school board thing? Making sure that the school policies and objectives reflect the community’s desires. “The public schools belong to the people” says Section 105 of the Champaign Unit 4 School Board Policies. As I look to what is going on our neighboring  school district of Urbana 116, I find a lot of narratives unfolding as people spin stories one way or another. Most relevant to the topic of the April 2nd elections, I was given the opportunity to read an article by Allison O’Dwyer; yes, it is an endorsement piece for two School Board candidates who are challenging the incumbents, but the thrust behind the story is very relevant for Champaign schools as well. I encourage you to read this all the way through:


The following quote is a good cardinal rule for us to follow:

It is when we address and work to tackle the embedded, systemic problems of poverty, racism, and mental health that all of students rise–when we focus on the best for our community as a whole, instead of just the best for our own kids. — Allison O’Dwyer


To have your signature added to the article, I can provide Allison O’Dwyer’s email address for you; or you can find her on facebook/twitter.

Allison also highlighted a piece written by Urbana student Michael Tessene, which is an excellent read all by itself:

“Editorial: Racism at root of recent Urbana High School coverage”


microphone_icon-lead-2As XQ encourages us:

  • Read Up
  • Show Up
  • Speak Up
  • Lead



Make sure you vote before or on April 2nd! This is your chance to choose people who represent your ideas, your ideologies, your passions.



New Board members

For the April 4th Consolidated Election, there are three open slots on the school board; and for those three spots, three candidates filed the necessary paperwork prior to the deadline in December of 2016, and thus each are running uncontested. From the Champaign County Clerk’s website:

  • Gianina Baker – Member of the Board of Education – 4 Year Term
  • Bruce Brown – Member of the Board of Education – 4 Year Term
  • Heather Vazquez – Member of the Board of Education – 4 Year Term


All three interviewed for the open position in January of 2016 (a board appointment, not an election). For those that are interested, here is some more information from the Jan 2016 interviews (including applications):



Gianina has already served for one year. Mr. Brown and Ms. Vazquez are replacing Lynn Stuckey and Jonathan Westfield. I believe all three will be sworn in at the April 10th Regular BOE meeting.


Congrats to all three!


Board agenda tonight and Coffee with the Superintendent (not tonight)

For the Coffee with the Superintendent – from the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce:


Date: 9/30/2014
Time: 8:00 AM TO 9:00 AM

Champaign County Chamber of Commerce
303 W. Kirby Ave.
Champaign, IL 61820

Event Description:
The Champaign Unit 4 School Board recently voted to ask voters for $149 million to remodel Centennial High School and build a new Central High School. As part of our efforts to provide the most up-to-date information to our members about issues in the community, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a coffee with Unit 4 School Superintendent Judy Wiegand. This is your chance to have your questions about building a new Central High School and remodeling Centennial High School answered.

This event is complimentary to all Chamber members.

Please contact Caryn Isenhower at caryni@champaigncounty.org or call 217.359.1791 to register.


I mention this because I had a great (but brief) email chat with President & CEO Laura Weis; I was very impressed with the approach the Chamber is taking towards collecting data/information about the upcoming November referendum and their strident desire to listen to the concerns of Chamber members. If you are a Chamber member, I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.


Slightly interesting round up of topics for tonight’s board meeting – under New Topics:
A. Enterprise Zone Recertification: Tom Lockman
B. Presentation of Tentative FY15 Budget: Matt Foster
C. Administrator & Teacher Salaries Reporting: Ken Kleber
D. April 2015 School Board Election – Calendar of Events: Tom Lockman
E. Master Facility Plan: Matt Foster


Only item #C has an attachment, and about 15 pages to flip through. I recompiled the attachment into a one-sheet spreadsheet which is much more friendly. I’ll post that tomorrow.


This morning I seent a note to the board and administration about item #A – from what I have read and researched of Enterprise Zones and Tax Increment Financining, there is an absurd lack of accountability in these programs. Even the US Government’s own Office of Accountability is unable to conclude if these programs are truly effective at spurring growth (http://www.gao.gov/assets/100/96577.pdf). My email urged the board and administration to be very careful and if they decide to move forward with this partnership, to do so with the insistence on proof of economic growth, and with a long (20-year) view in mind.


I have looked over the budget (item #B) from previous board meetings, and I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Mr. Foster suggested I read “Essentials of School Finance“, which I am trying to work my way through. In the back of my mind, I still wonder how we are going to work in the CFT-negotiated salaries from last year, not to mention the “in kind” administrator raises. I am also trying to understand our Debt obligation – the most recent FAQ mentions the Debt Service and how the district can sustain a bit more debt with no worries. But…. is that wise? I just do not yet grasp the bigger picture in this context.


I don’t have my spreadsheet in front of me (#C), but I believe the average teacher salary was about $47k and the average administrator salary was about $85k. Plus, I was surprised to see that we have over 20 “Assistant Principals”, but only 18 schools (counting IP and Novak).


Who is running for the board in April? (#D) 🙂


For #E, I am looking to see if the Master Facility Plan has changed much from the last time they presented it (July 28th). Strange that they did not put it (the new one) up on boarddocs by now.


In the Consent Agenda, one and only one item. 🙂 David Hohman has attached a zip file with an Application for Recognition – for all elementary schools. Two apparently do not have paraprofessionals, but that was the only difference I could find. Not sure what that means, either.


UPDATE: Here is the spreadsheet of salaries:

2014 EIS Salary Benefits Report 09-16-14