Targeted community forum

From Stephanie Stuart:

Central High School will hold a Community Forum on April 4, 2013, at the Champaign Library from 6:00-9:00 p.m. Three communities are invited to join the event – Shadow Wood, Douglas, and Bradley & McKinley neighborhoods. Central representatives will discuss various topics with families, specifically attendance.  Transportation will be provided to the library and back to each neighborhood.  Food, babysitting and prizes during the event will be available. A number of community organizations have been invited, including MTD, Parenting with love and limits, Champaign Housing Authority and others to connect Central Families with community resources during the event.


Since I have been involved with other initiatives involving Shadow Wood, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about this one (in fact, I had deleted it and then undeleted it). As I search, I cannot find this announced anywhere else, which is a bit odd. I wonder if perhaps this event was intentionally not announced in the normal fashion because they (Unit 4) wants to focus on specific communities.


However I am announcing it because I think it is an awesome opportunity, and I fully support Unit 4 in this endeavor. IF (and this is a HUGE BIG IF) the intent is for Unit 4 to listen. The skeptical voice inside my head has a few mumblings about “what if Unit 4 administration wants to go in and preach attendance?” Hmm… well, if that is the case, that would be bad. So, I’ll just ask Stephanie and Dr. Wiegand what the expectation is. 🙂 I do find it a little odd that it is being held at the CPL, but I give kudos for the organizers for taking care of transportation, child care, food and even prizes. I like the idea of connecting families with community resources. A lot!


More to follow.

Building bridges with Shadow Wood

Unit 4 finally made good on their promise to return to Shadow Wood after their August 17th meeting (I think that was the last one); a group of residents and a bevy of Unit 4 reps crowded into the Shadow Wood Community Center. Superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand opened the evening with introductions, joined by Assistant Superintendents Dr. Susan Zola and Dr. Laura Taylor; Barbara Ramsay had two of her Transportation guys there to listen and take notes, ESL Director Maria Alanis was there to do the bulk of the translating,  Board Member Ileana Saveley also helped bridge the language obstacles and engage the residents, and Central Assistant Principal Bryan Yacko was there to represent the high school district in which Shadow Wood now resides. Champaign City Council Member Will Kyles also dropped by and addressed the group.

The first order of the night was Transportation and the ongoing issues with buses. It was amazing to witness the interaction; the residents spoke about inconsistent pickup/dropoff times and how some drivers are just rude, and the administrators actively listened, showed concern, and then stated what they are going to do about it. That was the best part; “Ok, I hear what you are saying, this is what we are going to do to fix it.” And so on Monday and Tuesday, the bus that serves Shadow Wood is going to have a tail, checking to see what is going on with the route. The residents suspected that the bus was going to Savoy to drop off one child first, and then coming all the way back north with a 99% full bus. Having just done that exact route myself, I know it takes a while, and I also know it makes absolutely no sense for a bus serving Garden Hills to go to Savoy first for dropoff (for pickup, yes, sure, it makes sense). The folks from the Transportation Department said that should not be happening. But they are going to check. They also mentioned that one of the buses broke recently (I had this picture of a bus literally breaking in half) which might have accounted for some disruption today. What was really good, also, is that Maria explicitly said that if after Tuesday things are still not good, they should call her or Ileana. It was clear that the residents felt very strongly about this – and so they should! The mothers talked about how they have to drop off their kids and get to work, and if the bus is not consistent, they are sometimes late to work. It was equally clear that the Unit 4 staff were very concerned and want to make sure things are right. And this is what I love about this kind of environment – the residents were being empowered. They were encouraged to use their voice (and they did!).

Next up, Read the rest of this entry »

Shadow Wood Forum formally announced: Nov 2 6:pm


I love how Unit 4 is taking this seriously; the residents said they were concerned about transportation and Unit 4 brought their game to Shadow Wood (in a good way), and when residents asked for a follow-up, Unit 4 is coming back to follow-up. Good stuff.


I also hear that Dr. Taylor will have a slice of time for her Social Justice engagement.


I am not sure if I will be able to make it or for how long (have a conflict at 7:pm). So if you can go and are willing to report back here, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Review of the Oct 8th Board Retreat: the conundrum of public education

Tonight’s post is partially inspired by an Old Spice commercial featuring Bruce Campbell and an intriguing statement by Henry Ford. You can google the commercial if you like – I am not going to link youTube because that can lead to all sorts of unknown troubles, but it starts of “If you have it you don’t need it. If you need it, you don’t have it.” The quote from Henry Ford I am going to steal is “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, then you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.”

First off, a couple of announcements came out of the retreat:

  • The state of Illinois is going to mandate a state-wide climate survey. This year! (I presume this school year, not this calendar year) Upon asking Dr. Wiegand for more details, she indicated that she is going to pass the buck to the Executive Director of LUDA and hopefully get back to me.
  • The Board and the Administration will hold another retreat in the Spring (TBA)
  • Unit 4 is forming two ad hoc teams/committees, one for Parent Advocacy and another for Transitions (ie, entry into Kindergarten, 5th to 6th, 8th to 9th). I ask for and received assurances that each committee would have its own dedicated webpage on the school website and that the chairs would be asked to keep the web spaces well maintained.

Dr. Laura Taylor got us started off with her “Social Justice Wheel“. This is the same wheel that was used for the Social Justice Committee (Sept 27th); in fact, Dr. Taylor even divided the room between those who already started that conversation so they could jump to the next application – what keeps parents and children out (in the context of the night’s focus on “Services for Parents and Students”)? We discussed this at each table – I ended up at a table with administrators since there were like…. zero other “parents” there (and by “parents” I mean someone who was not either a Unit 4 employee, Board Member or Media). In fact, I highlighted this point, sweeping the room and saying “look who is not here  – why are they not here?” For truly Read the rest of this entry »

Reflection of the Sept 27th Social Justice Committee meeting

I think we barely scratched the surface. But we did scratch.

Dr. Taylor, who says she was called Laura or ‘LT’ while at Urbana, followed her publicized agenda very thoroughly. I totally failed on naming the musical selections – I might have recognized one of them. One of the ladies at our table couldn’t stop dancing to most of them. 🙂

On “The Purpose of the Committee”, I am pretty sure Laura said that this will NOT be a committee. I had to grin at that. She talked briefly about some of her visions for this group, about how we are going to try engaging in “Courageous Conversations” (hat tip to Karen) and how we have to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. I very much appreciate her passion and vision for this.

We were divided into about 8 tables averaging about 4 or 5 each and Laura did not take long to give us our first group task; discuss the ground rules. For instance, our table talked about things like respecting each other, employing active listening, don’t take things personally, don’t dominate the conversation, have a thick skin and just be honest. Each table had an opportunity to relate to the whole some of these ground rules, which were complied by Angi Franklin (the designated notetaker). I am anxious to see that list posted on the website.

Although Laura never really attempted to define “Social Justice”, she did have us collaboratively come up with thoughts about the term “Ideology”. Several folks shared common ideas about belief systems; I wrote down “A framework for belief or world views”. She used this as a springboard to launch into the Big QuestionⓇ – Who defines what is ‘normal’? She passed out her “Circle of Ideology” (will link when I find it) and we spent a bit of time Read the rest of this entry »

Another Shadow Wood forum tonight, 7:pm

Ileana is heading back to Shadow Wood tonight (7:pm I believe). A team of volunteers canvassed Shadow Wood on Wednesday inviting residents to attend. They will be addressing issues raised in the first forum. I believe Dr. Wiegand will be attending as a guest, as well as Charles Larenas from Parkland and possibly a couple other folks from Unit 4 (I don’t recall the names off the top of my head). It sounds like they have some really cool things lined up in terms of bringing back solutions and getting staff (ie, Unit 4 staff) tasked with action items.