Referendum Fact Sheets

Stephanie Stuart just released some fact sheets in regards to the Nov 8 facility referendum:

What projects are included in the referendum and how much do they cost? How do I calculate my tax impact if the referendum passes?

Find the answers to these questions and more by reviewing the attached fact sheets.

Find these fact sheets, the long-range facilities plan, and more at the District’s website: http://facilityplanning.champaignschools.org/


Referendum Fact Sheet

Tax Impact Fact Sheet

 

UPDATE:

Post at the U4BoardCorner – Kathy Richards explains a little more about where the district is at with presentation information and answers in regards to the referendum.

 

UPDATE 2:

The facilityplanning website has been updated with a lot of information (blog-style) – this is a good place to start reading:

http://facilityplanning.champaignschools.org

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#HourOfCode activities around Unit 4

Stephanie Stuart (Unit 4 Director of Communications & Community Relations) has sent out quite a comprehensive list of #HourOfCode activities around the school district.

 

In celebration of Computer Science Education Week (December 7-13), and as part of the District’s ongoing technology and computational thinking efforts, students around the Champaign Unit 4 School District will be participating in the Hour of Code this week.
https://hourofcode.com/us

The District’s Educational Technology Coaches have coordinated a number of opportunities around this week in addition to their ongoing efforts and support of teachers.

Leading up to #CSEdWeek, students at Westview, Barkstall, and Bottenfield participated in Coding Nights, which invited parents and students alike to code together using the Foos Computer Programming Game. Volunteers from Yahoo and Wolfram were on hand to assist and students. Foos and TCBY sponsored these events, and winners will be helping fellow students to code throughout #CSEdWeek at their campuses.

The Central High School Library will be hosting a week-long event during 6th hour, in which kids can drop in during lunch all week to participate in the Hour of Code.  A programmer from Wolfram will visit this Thursday as a special speaker. In addition to the 6th hour activities, the library will also be open after school every day for coding activities.

At Centennial High School, the library will also serve as an open house location for Hour of Code on Thursday and Friday during 6th hour lunch.

Carrie Busey

*   13 teachers have signed up to participate
*   1 class is going to be special guests to help code at Siebel center’s open house Tuesday night
*   5 classes are working with buddy classes – student leaders older students supporting younger in coding efforts
*   Enrichment classes all coding
*   Enrichment classes hung advertisements around the building to get the school excited about coding.

Dr. Howard

*   All 5th Grade classes in library 30 minutes with Wolfram special guest
*   Kindergarten – 5th grade Classroom teachers have hour of code times blocked off in their schedule this week

Garden Hills

*   Kindergarten – 5th grade Classroom teachers have hour of code times blocked off in their schedule this week

Kenwood

*   Regular Coding Times – Special Activity – Coding a Computer Game – Products of Coding Experience on display at the mall 12/12 for community members to try out the Kenwood Games- and learn about CS/CT.
*   Some neat Unplugged activities are planned in addition to their regularly scheduled coding times during the week.
*   All library classes will be coding this week.
*   Maa and Meyer are hosting Code with Kid events. Parents are invited to come in the afternoon to code with their children.
*   Coding/ Computational Thinking practices embedded especially in Language Arts this week as well.
*   A small group of students went to code with the Mayor of Champaign Monday morning.

Robeson

*   Allison Archer and Mary Anne Jusko will be working with 1st grade in the library working with all 1st grade students.
*   Enrichment is supporting 40 minutes of coding with kindergarten and grades 2-5, co-teaching with classroom teachers.
*   Wolfram special guest for 5 classes in grades 3-5.

South Side

*   All grade levels in Library for 30 minutes.
*   Kindergarten whole class Coding puzzles for Number Talks in math on the Smartboard.
*   Fourth grade has done Code.org in the math rotation.
*   Music is coding activities.

There are many more coding activities taking place around the District this week. Please contact the Educational Technology Director David Hohman (hohmanda@champaignschools.org) for more info.

Around the district

The Jan 26th special board meeting agenda has been posted, which reminded me to write a post about several items.

 

Stephanie Stuart has been sending out notices of some really excellent news this past week:

“Thirty-five Unit 4 students will be honored in the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. Creative Expressions Competition, including 12 winning entries and 23 honorable mention projects. Students will be honored at the Annual Celebration at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, January 24 from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. This year, 182 of the 207 entries to the contest were submitted by Unit 4 students.”

Additionally, “nine Unit 4 high school seniors have received scholarships from the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Living the Dream” Scholarship Fund.” (Unit 4 news article)

Earlier today, Habeeb Habeeb dropped by Centennial to honor Aliyah Maldonado (Unit 4 news); I hear it was inspiration and emotional.

 

One of the items on the Jan 24th agenda is a presentation about Vision 20/20, which you can read more about on the IASB website; Dr. Wiegand serves on the Vision 20/20 Committee. There is also a short article in today’s NG about Tolono supporting Vision 20/20. I had an opportunity to chat with Unit 7 Superintendent Andrew Larson to better understand his purpose, and I was very encouraged to hear that others are getting sick and tired of the “same old same old politics” in Illinois, and want to take a stand against it, and stand for high-quality, truly accessible education for all children.

 

Nicole Lafond, Education writer for the News-Gazette, advertised the “first of many weekly school reports“. Among other things, we learn that Jefferson won a $5000 grant from Lowes to renovate the courtyard and improve the library, and mentions the “First Lego League Central State Tournament”, which sounds really cool to me. If you happen to attend, I would love to hear what you think.

 

Kenwood has been awarded $3500 to document the Kenwood brand of awesomeness; look for videos, tweets, demos and flyers that share not only what the Kenwood Stars are doing, but why they are doing it and what they are accomplishing. Along that line, CTRL-Shift will be at the first of two Schools of Choice Information Sessions showing support for Kenwood. I am sure the other schools will be showing off as well. 🙂 More info:

http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/10381

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 6 p.m. at Stratton Elementary School.

The Info Session will provide families with an overview of the Schools of Choice process, showcase each of the District’s 12 elementary schools, and provide the opportunity to ask questions of Choice staff members.

 

The DLR architects will be meeting with the folks at Centennial next Monday (Jan 26th) to discuss the recent changes to the proposed referendum and how that affects the expansion plans. You can imagine that there will be a lot of heated discussion. 🙂

 

Lastly, I have to give a final shout-out for the #edCampCU happening tomorrow (Saturday, Jan 24rd), 8:00 to 2:00 at the College of Education (1310 South Sixth Street).

 

Unit 4 on the radio

Dr. Wiegand was featured on both WIXY (with Steve Holstein “HoCo”) and WDWS (Jim Turpin “Penny for your thoughts”). Sounds like they had a ton of fun on HoCo, and Steve asked some really good questions – I highly recommend you check it out. Many of the same things are repeated on the Penny show, but Dr. Wiegand had Marc Changnon and Stephanie Stuart with her, to help answer a range of questions/comments from callers (some obviously opposed to the referendum, some clearly in favor).

 

Along with Jess’s comment last night, I feel these are great conversations to be having, if only a year ago. 🙂 There was a comment on one of the shows about how Dr. Wiegand’s campaign is doing really well. It is not quite her campaign, but I do give big kudos to the “Friends of Champaign Schools” for running such a well-organized and well-done effort.

 

On the radio show, Dr. Wiegand highlight two of the main priorities they are addressing via the referendum; capacity and programming. When I heard the explanation, I could not help but boil it down purely to capacity issues; it seems to me that the current problems with programming (as mentioned on the show) could be vastly alleviated if capacity were not an issue at all. Marc Changnon also spoke at lenght during the Penny show about the Trades. I found it interesting that one caller submitted that the Agricultural Trades are actually exeperiencing a drastic decline in employment because of the rise of mega- and corporate forms, which comes with large farming vehicles and significant amounts of automation. Another discussion point was that of how much is being spent per square foot and per student. Dr. Wiegand says that we would be right in the middle for schools in the area (Unit 4 has had several slides to this effect). One caller made the comparison to Texas, which (if I recall correctly) ranged from $76 to $180 per student, quite a bit less than what we are planning on.

 

I encourage you to listen to both as you have time.

2014 Annual Report

Unit 4 has posted their 2014 Annual Report, as well as sending it home via “snail mail”. I would assume all student households received a copy of this full-color, 12-page spread.

 

There are always two sides to a coin. The Annual Report does a fantastic job highlighting the progress and many successes of Unit 4; it delivers a bevy of facts, accomplishments and progress reports with a flair of enthusiasm and unabashed pride. And with good reason – there are many awesome things happening inside Unit 4! There is a even a nice full-page layout that gives a broad overview of the 2014 budget (tip of the iceberg, I know Pattsi).

 

What I did not find were answers to many questions I have been asking of late. In Tom’s Mailbag, here on this blog, and in personal email to Stephanie Stuart, I have asked about the 57 “outcome measures” put forth by the Great Schools, Together (GST) initiative. As the Annual Report boldly proclaims, “[o]ur District continues to use the Great Schools, Together strategic plan to guide our annual goals and initiatives.” Yet it is hard for an observer like me to see how the Strategic Plan is accomplishing this “guidance”. Yes, I agree that the GST Strategic Plan lends some buzzwords and gives us a vague notion of goals that we are loosely following, but it hard to get more concrete than at. At least, from my point of view.

 

Another thing, which I have pointed out before, is the graduation rate. Yes, it is fantastic that we are making progress. However, having said that, we have already missed our goals set forth by the very same GST Strategic Plan we are following. Even as recent as the 2012 update to the board, we missed last year’s goal for African-American graduation rates. While I understand nobody wants to put that on the front page, what are we doing about it?

This is how you “open” data

u4_cash_expenditures_top_10

I am halfway through a project of making all Unit 4 check regsiters truly accessible online. First, let me briefly provide an overview of what curretly exists, why it is not enough, and what I am doing about it.

 

Since about 2010, the Unit 4 Finance team has been posting check registers online via the district’s BoardDocs portal. If you have ever looked at the portal, you know that it is obscenely difficult to find documents unless you have some idea of where to look. For instance, Check Registers are always posted during the Regular Meeting under the Action agenda item “Bills and Treasurer’s Report”. It will always be for the prior month; so for the June Board Meeting, they posted the check registers from May. So, to give credit where credit is due, kudos to Unit 4 for posting check registers online – not many school districts do that.

But here is the problem – who looks at them? Among the small handful of people that actually take the time to hunt them down and scan through several pages of checks, who actually can make any use of it? If you want to hunt down all the transactions for a given “vendor”, you have to manually find and open each month’s check register yourself. I tried it once – it was quite painful. 🙂

 

In May of 2013 I asked Unit 4 to provide an index or some type of archive for all check registers. Stephanie Stuart and Matt Foster quickly responded and now we have a very tidy Check Register Archive. It isn’t perfect (some months are missing), but it is yet another step in a good direction, so for that I give Unit 4 another kudo. There is still an issue of tracking vendors and payments across months, which is a very manual process. Several times in the past year I have asked for read-only access to the data in one form or another, but I am always hitting legal obstructions along the way.

 

So here is my solution. Given that Unit 4 is providing a very nice central repository for check registers, and given that the PDF documents are true exports from a reporting tool (as opposed to those notorious PDF images of data that are so prevelant), without asking Unit 4 to lift a finger I can now provide the entirety of those check registers via a mildly reverse-engineered database. This is the first half of my project. The next half is to provide a handy dandy php-driven web page to allow dynamic access to those who have no idea how to connect to a database and write queries.

 

Sounds exciting, right? You are anxious to go look at the data, right? Unfortunately, the pretty stuff isn’t my forte. I can provide excel spreadsheets of the data for you, which is probably “good enough” for most everyone:

 

Why two different files? About the time I asked for the check register archive, it appears that Unit 4 changed the format of the output. The PDF files are in what’s called “fixed-width fields”, and the number and size of those fields changed near May of 2013. So another nice thing about having a database is that I can combine all these lines into one resource and make the formats a moot point.

 

More fun stuff to come later this week. I have been inspired by Adam Andrzejewski and his “Open the Books” campaign.

 

Technical details

connection string = jdbc:mysql://onyx.csit.parkland.edu:35002/u4finance

user = u4reader/redaer#4

Number of records: 50,868

data loaded with perl using CAM::PDF modules; dynamically reads all PDF’s available on Unit 4 website, parses, cleans and loads the data.

 

 

Wiegand will be on Penny for your thoughts tomorrow

From Stephanie Stuart:

Tune into tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. as Superintendent Wiegand talks w/ Jim Turpin on A Penny For Your Thoughts!

 

Also, Stephanie was recently on with Brian Moline:

http://www.wdws.com/audio/2014-05-13/stephanie-stuart-unit-4-schools-5-13-14.html