Stig steps down from the Board

News-Gazette article about the Board

re: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-05-31/board-officers-vote-may-have-had-outside-influence.html

Also, the results of the FOIA: http://www.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/pdf/2013/05/30/FOIA_request.pdf

Text searchable version (has errors due to conversion): https://thecitizen4blog.wordpress.com/misc/may-31st-ng-foia-request-pdf-converted-to-text/

This is one of the rumors I hinted at earlier. I have a number of issues with this, but I fear I have not fully gelled my thoughts coherently, yet. So, in a sense, right now I am merely hopping on the news bandwagon since a number of readers already alerted me to the article – figure I might as well at least say something about it.

From my own personal conversations with those involved, I know there is more going on than what is being said publicly. What I struggle with is “what is really important here?” I mean, I can see folks getting all worked up about “he said she said” kinda thing. But what do we want to fall out from this? Of course, everyone is going to always be wondering who this mystery 3rd party is, what their motives are, etc etc. Does it really matter? Does it really have to be a big bad secret? What about all this talk of transparency? Or is transparency only to be applied when conveinent?

I don’t know all the answers. I am still chewing on this myself.

Read the emails. Form your own opinion.

PS – I am going to convert the FOIA pdf to searchable text. (now done)

Quick review of the Feb 25th board meeting

Here is the video; I had to splice it in two because TiVo gave me a larger than 4gb file to work with. 😦

http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/board_meetings/2013-02-25-special-board-meeting-1-of-2.mp4

http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/board_meetings/2013-02-25-special-board-meeting-2-of-2.mp4

I have not made my way through all of them, yet. Board Member Phil Van Ness had some very direct words to share about how the board needs to work hard to earn the trust of the community, and how he is worried about that particular pursuit. I find it very interesting that no other board members echo this concern. I happen to very much agree with this line of thought; but what good does it do to agree?

 

Several questions and comments were directed towards the “research” done by Fallon Research and DeJong-Richter; even though I know some of the answers, I still want to find out how the board responded. Paul Fallon had a long segment and Stig was pretty adamant (at first) about Mr. Fallon’s presentation not being a “death by powerpoint”. Ironically, I thought that is exactly what we got, but Stig seemed pretty happy with it. I guess my powerpoint tolerance is rather low. I also have the correlations between questions 19A and 19B, and 20A and 20B – I tried to put this into a picture, but Excel is giving me fits and I just don’t have time to make a pretty picture right now (I’ll add it later). Here is the cross-tabulated data:

Q. 19A. Supposing for a moment that a 20-year bond issue for $206 million dollars was on the ballot to pay for construction to replace Central High School, build new schools for lower grades to accommodate growing enrollment, and make repairs…

Table Total

For

Against

DK/NA

Count

Count

Count

Count

Q. 19B. Does knowing that it will cost homeowners $251 per year for each one hundred thousand dollars of property, make you more or less likely to vote for it, or does it make no difference in your decision? More likely

17

1

1

18

Less likely

70

74

27

171

No difference

127

44

21

193

DK/NA

3

3

13

19

Table Total

216

121

63

400

Q. 20A. Supposing for a moment that a 20-year bond issue for $80 million dollars was on the ballot to pay for construction to replace Central High School and make some basic repairs or renovations to other schools that are in poor condition…

Table Total

For

Against

DK/NA

Count

Count

Count

Count

Q. 20B. Does knowing that it will cost homeowners $96 per year for each one hundred thousand dollars of property, make you more or less likely to vote for it, or does it make no difference in your decision? More likely

44

6

8

58

Less likely

31

38

11

81

No difference

170

49

25

245

DK/NA

9

1

7

16

Table Total

255

94

51

400

So in general, out of 400 phone surveys, most people want to dump more money into taxes for the schools. We have a lot of education (of the public) to be doing.

 

There were some other gems buried in the board meeting. Marc Changnon had a large number of folks up to talk about eToys and other cool things (lots of demos). Cathy Mannen got up a second time to talk about teacher evaluations, which I am very interested in hearing more about.

 

More later, as time allows.

Review of Feb 11 regular board meeting

I was shocked that David Hohman posted the vimeo video right after the meeting! 🙂 Kudos to his team. I am syndicating his video from my archive as well.

I had a brief chat with Scott Leopold prior to the meeting. He gave me an update on my request for the raw Fallon data, specifically to help answer the question of how many people surveyed changed their mind about wanting a $206 million “bond issue” once they heard their taxes would climb a bit. He mentioned that Mr. Fallon wants to delay in delivering that information until the February 25th special board meeting when he (Mr. Fallong) will be presenting and is able to deliver that information “in context.” Again, I don’t like that approach, but it is what it is.

Turns out it was a relatively short meeting – I think it clocked in at 53 minutes. The comments (both public and by the board) took up half that time. Since it is less than an hour, I highly recommend you watch it – the board members speak a bit and you can get a sense for where they are at and form your own opinion (as opposed to drinking my kool-aid *grin*).

The recognitions, as always, are a feel-good reminder of good things that are happening in our district. I wonder what it would be like if we also highlighted “challenge areas”. Right now, the folks that speak during public comment generally fulfill that role. But what if the district and/or the board had a running “leaderboard” of, say, the top 5 things they see as the issues of the month. Or year. They could even chart their progress against it; “Last month we identified and resolved these two issues, thus we are moving two more concerns onto the leaderboard for us to tackle this month.”

I gave the first public comment; I volunteered to deliver it since another representative was stuck at home with a sick child. I also sent this to the board and Kristine Chalifoux responded. So to qualify, I am not on the CB building council, and I do realize that the board has not made any official plans to expand CB – it’s all kinda up in the air at the moment.

Chuck Jackson spoke next about the need to be mindful and to intentionally “program” school for all kids. We have to pay attention (perhaps in different ways) especially to those who routinely are not well represented or spoken for.

The Board Read the rest of this entry »

April 2013 BOE candidate races are shaping up

Chuck Jackson, Pattsi Petrie and I met at Houlihans yesterday and talked about Chuck’s bid for one of the School Board seats. A quick call to Tammy Sowers (Administrative Assistant – she knows everything :)) confirmed the following (btw, I am listing all names alphabetically by last name in an attempt to remove bias):

4-year candidates (3 seats available)

  • Laurie Bonnett
  • Chuck Jackson
  • Scott MacAdam
  • Lynn Stuckey
  • John William III

 

2-year candidates (2 seats available)

  • Stig Lanesskog
  • Ileana Saveley

 

Meaning that the two incumbents will automatically win the 2-year seats (uncontested), and the 5 new candidates will have to battle it out for the three 4-year seats. Just to make it clear, Chuck has asked me to help with his campaign (we are working on websites, hand-outs, etc now). For the sake of reference and completeness, the remaining board members after April will be Jamar Brown and Kristine Chalifoux. Sue Grey and Tom Lockman have both stepped down, and the Board is accepting applications for a 4-month board appointment – I would not be surprised if all 5 incoming candidates submitted applications.

 

So think about this. After the April 9th election, the incumbents will be Jamar Brown, Kristine Chalifoux, Stig Lanesskog and Ileana Saveley. There will be three new faces at the table (two of which may be semi-incumbent if appointed). It is up to us to decide who those three new faces are. What do you want this board to do for the next 2 or 4 years? Keep in mind that we are probably looking at a big huge tax referendum in April 2014. Also, there is a ton of shuffling going on right now as Unit 4 figures out how to handle unexpected growth in numbers of students. Oh, not to mention Common Core will be more ubiquitous and we are gearing up for all-digital standardized testing (by 2015 at the latest).

 

So I ask you, what do you want this board to do?

Thoughts this week about the school board

Walking in reverse direction down the path of my thoughts of the school board this past week:

Who are we?

I subscribe to a feed of the Wake County School District blog, and just this morning is a post about the new school board chairman of the Wake County school district (which, by the way, is frickin’ HUGE!). What is fascinating about his “acceptance speech” is that he casts an identity for the school board that unites it with the community; he readily acknowledges the rocky road they have been through (you think Champaign has an issue with Schools of Choice? Ha!) and the challenges going forward.

“We the Wake County Board of Education will provide the kind of exemplary leadership that is expected of us by this community, and I intend to lead us in that direction. I ask my colleagues around this table to join me in this commitment and this effort for we are Wake County.”

2013 Board Candidate John Williams, III

I am going to be reaching out to candidates as I find out who they are. Last night I had a great facebook dialog (be sure to click the tiny “See More”) with Mr. Williams. I am impressed by his convictions and desire to tackle some big issues. Better yet, not just desires but ideas on how to make them come to fruition. I asked him further about two points (getting the community to show up at meetings and pedagogy); he responded to the first by admitting there is a lack of community participation that is not solved by free food, the need to build relationships and the need for more open communication; to the second he agreed there is no “one size fits all” and very much wants to move away from lecture-laden approaches to engaging the students more thoroughly. What’s cool is that I see a number of excellent teachers already doing this. Hearkens me back to the Sir Ken Robinson video shown at the Futures Conference. Having said all this, don’t take my word for it – go read about John Williams yourself, or better yet, ask him some questions of your own.

As I find out who other board candidates are, I am going to make it a point to drop by and get to know them. Laurie, I have some questions for you next. *grin*

Transparency

I already shared how I attempted to address the board at Monday’s board meeting. Dr. Joe Davis was kind enough to follow-up with me (and CC: Dr. Judy Wiegand). He mentioned Gene Logas’ previous efforts to spell out “Where does all the money go?” I agree that this is a good first step in breaking down the complex tongue of finances, but it only goes so far (it is, after all, a first step). I responded with an example of Jess Bachman’s now famous “Death and Taxes” poster which gives an awesome overview of the Federal Budget. On top of this, I followed up with a member of the Promises Made Promises Kept (PMPK) committee; here is an excellent example where the district communicates a ton of information to a group of people that is open to the public, but the public has next to no clue what is going on because 1) very few community members attend the PMPK meetings, 2) the “transparent” reports take a REALLY long time to make it up on the website. In fact, the last one I can find is from December of 2011. So, first hurdle is to get this information in the public sphere, second hurdle is to get these reports so that we the common people can understand them. 🙂

Transparency is not about pointing fingers. It is about collaborating towards a common goal. As John Williams implied, accountability is a good thing, when done right. It helps all of us.

[PS – I hope that a letter-to-the-editor I submitted on this topic is printed soon]

More about 2013 Board Candidates

Meg Dickinson wrote an article on Tuesday in the aftermath of Tom Lockman stepping down from his position on the board. One particular quote of Mr. Lockman that I really like is:

I truly believe that public education is the most critical aspect of a community’s ability to succeed and develop…

Most. Critical. Those are big words, ones that should challenge our community. But back to Meg’s article about the candidates. She relates the Stig Lanneskog intends to run for the 2-year slot. She also says that seven people to date have checked out petitions from the Mellon Center. Note that the petitions actually come from the County Clerk’s office and that the Mellon Center merely provides the forms as a courtesy; since the forms are downloadable from the internet, there is no telling the maximum number of people that have expressed an interest. On top of that, just because someone picks up a packet does not mean they will get all the signatures and actually submit it by December 26th. What is most curious to me is, of the people that have picked up a packet, we only know about three (Ileana Saveley, Laurie Bonnett, John Williams and Stig Lanesskog). Personally, I really want to find out who the others are because I want to meet these people who are so interested in the school district that they want to serve on the board, which is not all fun and games. 🙂 Very worthy, no doubt, but a sacrifice none the less.

Heads up – Nov 5 Regular Board Meeting

Just looking through the Nov 5 Regular Board Meeting agenda posted on BoardDocs and spotted a few things; it is my intention to chew on these and respond later, but I at least wanted to mention these so others could be thinking and commenting as well. The “Controlled Choice” is what prompted me to make this post.

 

  • What is School Board Member Day (Nov 15)? 🙂
  • Schools of Controlled Choice Seat Assignment – lots of modifications to the written Policy, including the global replacement of the word ‘Lottery’ with ‘assignment’
  • Eliminate Proximity A and B.  With the addition of a new school in Savoy, there is no longer a need to have both a Proximity A and B. All households have a Proximity school.
  • Magnet Registration will be concurrent with March Kindergarten registration.
  • Wait list for both elementary and middle school will expire at the end of the first semester.
  • School report card – 30 pages of data, wow. I still don’t get why they print it out, and then scan in the printout to be displayed on the webpage. Why not just post the original?
  • Abating property taxes (x3) – I wish they would provide a “common language” translation of this financial mumbo jumbo. How about something that a 5th grader can read? My understanding is that abatement is a good thing for us because we tax-payers no longer pay property tax on outstanding bond debt from 1997, 2006 and 2010. I think. But I am pretty sure we still pay the same amount of property tax, it just goes towards something else.
  • Having said that, the next items is a Tax Levy. I appreciate that Dr. Joe Davis is explaining this one a little more, but it is still confusing. Remember the big bally-hoo about Working Cash Bonds this summer? Part of the new Tax Levy will cover the first two payments. I think the bulk of the Tax Levy is being used to offset the expected decrease in revenues due to a lower “valuation”. AKA, Black Magic. 🙂
  • A number of other HR changes followed (new staff needed for Early Childhood Center, ESL, a summary report of how many resignations, terminations, etc).
  •  

    On top of all that, current Board President Sue Grey has been promoted to CEO of the local United Way (NG article) and according to the News-Gazette will step down as BOE President; the NG reports a finding in the School Board Policy that the VP usually takes over, that being Stig Lanesskog. Congrats to Sue Grey!!