Answering questions about the Feb 25th Special Board Meeting

Over the weekend, I posted a series of questions about the Feb 25th BOE meeting (tonight). Dr. Wiegand was kind enough to respond (and with comprehensive answers at that) and has given me permission to post her reply. The following has only been formatted so it looks better on this blog (a la “the following movie has been formatted to fit your screen”).

q For Paul Fallon: how many of the 216 people who responded favorably to 19A make up the 170 people who said they were less likely to vote for it in question 19B? Similar question for question 20A and 20B.
a (from Paul Fallon) Judy, I will have to get that data file from my office, so I will try to send it to you tomorrow or Wednesday. Thanks, Paul
q How long as the Teacher Evaluation Committee been in place?
a The Committee was established at the end of last school year to address the need for a teacher evaluation system that would meet the requirements of PERA (Performance Evaluation Reform Act).  The committee began working this school year during first semester to collaboratively develop an evaluation document and process.  In previous years this was not done in a collaborative manner.  The Administration would develop a document and then present to the CFT for feedback. This is the first time a process was used that had both Administration and Teachers at the same starting point.
q Where are the meeting minutes?
a The work done during each session was documented by Pam Rosa from CEC.  Committee members were then charged with sharing this with the groups they represent to obtain feedback.  Since this work was ongoing and part of an internal committee, minutes were not posted publicly.
q Does the board agree with premises put forth by the Consortium for Educational Change? Read the rest of this entry »

“Everything You’ve Heard about Failing Schools is Wrong.”

The subject of today’s post is from a recursive series of quotes; Dr. Wiegand’s latest newsletter highlights an Atlanta Journal-Constitution (ajc) educational blog which is highlighting an essay by University of Georgia professor Peter Smagorinsky about the bane of how media often portrays the dire plight of the public education system and he manages to ring the bell of anti-Bill Gatian assessments. Dr. Smagorinsky refers back to “The Manufactured Crisis”, which sounds like myth-debunking work aiming to de-teeth the many klaxons of war-mongering politicians.

I have asked Dr. Wiegand what she thought of the piece, since, to be honest, most of it is very general for me. I do acknowledge that Dr. Smagorinksy paints a very salient point; “to show one example of the perils of making judgments about people based on media images and accounts.” Which makes me wonder, what does the media hope to gain by pointing a crooked, shaking finger at tax-payer funded public schools in the first place? Does it really help to round up all the riff-raff and get people complaining? We will see what Dr. Wiegand says.

Obviously, there is a time and a place to disclose, or even uncover, the chinks in the armor, the weakest link, as long as the intent is to patch it up and make it stronger. On the flip side, there is also a time and a place to acknowledge all the many awesome accomplishments and positive direction, as long as it is not used to whitewash a rotting interior. Having said that, let us take a look at a few things.

On the “Pro” side, Stephanie Stuart (Unit 4 Community Relations), and Lynn Peisker before her, has done an excellent job of highlighting many positives; if you watch the Unit 4 website, the Unit 4 Facebook page or the twitter feed, you will find a frequent stream of recognitions, awards, certificates and accomplishments. Just today Dr. Taylor was recognized for receiving the McKinley Foundation Social Justice Award. Stephanie always collects success stories that are going on each school, as evident at each board meeting during “Recognitions”. Stephanie also co-hosted a “twitter chat” last week; the transcript is a little challenging to follow, but you can see how she (and Dr. Wiegand) interacted with various “chatters”.

On the “Con” side, Read the rest of this entry »

School Board changing a bit

Last week the NG reported that Tom Lockman had stepped down from his seat on the board. Yesterday the NG reported that Sue Grey has done likewise.


Obviously this makes things interesting for the board. Due to the laws about filling and appointing seats, the board has to file papers with the Regional Office of Education (ROE – Jane Quinlan’s turf) with some lead time before appointing new members. Now the rest of the board has two vacancies to fill in January, to serve out the rest the remaining 4 months until the April elections. To date, I only know of four people who have publicly made noises about running for the elections in April, two of them are incumbent. So….. that means the other two could potentially express an interest in these vacancies. Will they?


Last week I wrote a letter to the editor urging citizens to make their voices known and get involved in (very) local governing bodies. The school board is one such place where you can speak up. What can your school board do for you? There is a ton of stuff going on in the school district right now; lots of positive things, but also lots of changes in progress. Not everyone likes change. What do you want to see happen?

Nov 26th Special Board Meeting

I got the meeting off TiVo again; unfortunately, my upload connection is crawling along at 23kps (*egads! is this 1996?*), but the video will be posted soon video is now posted. The good news is that the entire meeting was a super brief 37 minutes, and I was able to stop recording after 45 minutes.

A significant portion of the meeting was used for comments (from the public and school board members). It was quite interesting to see that the folks from the girl’s Central Soccer team showed up in numbers and had comments lined up from various folks including parents and students. Very impressive. It was also quite impressive to see how they acknowledged the work already begun by the board and the district administration; you could tell there was a sense of “hey, they heard us!”. 🙂 I thought it was also really cool to hear how student athletes have been very active in serving the community and take their grades very seriously. Board Members spoke very highly of the recently christened Novak Academy and Jamar shared how 9 students will be graduating, filling a void where those students probably would not have been able to graduate in the “normal” system (my words). Jamar also shared some good things going on at Kenwood, including a recent bonfire with weenies and s’mores as a community-building event. Sue Grey introduced a couple students who talked about community service projects and how they decided to raise funds for United Way, presenting a check to a representative of United Way (not Sue Grey).

The next part of the meeting was a presentation about the 3rd-party audit, with Dr. Joe Davis beaming because of the “highest rating” they got. Does anyone else think that the “highest” rating should be something a little more spectacular than “unqualified opinion”? I mean, what if the teachers had “unqualified opinion” stickers they slapped on your homework? Anyway, I Read the rest of this entry »

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!!



    July 9th Board Meeting: review

    To be honest, I was kinda surprised by how few “role-less” community people showed up for the Board Meeting tonight; I think I was one of two when the meeting started, and one other joined us later. The other 15 or 20 people seemed to have an official role, whether it be building staff, District official/administrator, CFT, Channel 15, architects or legal types.


    To start things off, a list of Recognitions was read by each board member. And there were quite a few – most are the “good news” that have been showcased on the U4 website and Facebook page, with a few extra that I had not yet heard. Strange how the entire list is not online (not even on BoardDocs).


    For Public Comment, I was the only one to say anything and I again urged the Board to consider ways to do community engagement, using the recent news paper articles about Urbana as a negative example and what Wheaton is doing as a positive example (based off a previous post). I sure wish I was eloquent. *grin* But at least I got the message across – I had also emailed the information to the Board so they can always look back on that if I communicated poorly.


    During “Communications from Board Members”, Board Member Chalifoux (and somebody else?) Read the rest of this entry »

    Summary of June 11th Board Meeting

    Here is my summary of the June 11th Board Meeting. Note I do not intend to rehash what I wrote previously in preparation for the meeting.

    I arrived right around 5:30 because I wanted to witness what usually happens having never seen it before (and this part of the meeting is never recorded on the DVD I receive). It was pretty much as I expected; Sue Grey called the meeting and then there was a motion and a second to go into “Executive Session” (which is closed) following the OMA rules for a closed session but citing every single possible reason for a closed session. This seems to be the very standard practice, and the basic list of exceptions is read (summarizing 5 ILCS 120/2c) before every single closed session that I know of. For the most part, this section is as dry as a doornail.


    Close to 6:pm, all the Board Members filed back in and Board President Sue Grey initiated a moment of silence in respect for Gene Logas. We then kicked into high gear going into Public Comment. Karen Roese shared on discipline, behavior and bullying issues (I’ll let her spell that out a bit more if she desires – she could even provide her document *grin*). I got up and thanked the Board and the Administration for all their hard work, work made that much more difficult and weighty with the passing of Gene Logas. I also asked the Board to consider improvements to the way RFPs and Bids are reported on the website, perhaps allowing them to remain online for a much longer duration, and for supporting documentation to be supplied as well. I capped it off by saying that we taxpayers would like to see the fruit of Gene’s hard work; he was very meticulous and passionate about finances, which the public has very little exposure to. And that is more of a systemic issue, not a personal issue, I think. Finally, Doretha Simmons gave a very nice tribute to Gene Logas and shared several anecdotal stories. Very well done.


    Next up Read the rest of this entry »

    Talks with Dr. Wiegand and Sue Grey

    Wednesday I had the privilege of chatting with Superintendent Dr. Wiegand and Board President Sue Grey, in two different venues. On both occasions my goal was simply to learn; now my challenge is clearly communicating what I learned.

    I met with Dr. Wiegand at the Mellon Center. Aside from the construction and relatively unmarked temporary entrance, the mood inside the building was obviously somber. I had set up an appointment with Dr. Wiegand prior to the events on Tuesday, and told her that if she was not in a mood to talk about her thesis, I totally understood. But we decided to move forward with our plans.

    In regards to her research and findings, she confirmed that, in a oversimplified nutshell kind of way, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. I asked her about what provided the impetus for the topic in the first place, and Dr. Wiegand relayed a bit of what was on her mind at the time, that she was concerned about the academic performance of certain groups and how she had observed that academic teams seemed to have a positive effect. On top of that, she also noticed how hard it is to push change through at times. So she wanted to study the process of “reform” and try to find specific obstacles.

    Much of our conversation Read the rest of this entry »

    No Houlihans today, but Sue Grey will be joining us next week (June 6th)

    I am out of town today so will not be at Houlihans. But put June 6th on your calendar if you wish to talk with Sue Grey. I will be asking her what are the top priorities of the Board over the summer. I’ll also bring up the topic of doing some kind of a panel and/or kitchen cabinet with the Board.

    Houlihans: Board President Sue Grey to join us March 21, and a recap from previous Houlihans

    First, just a reminder that Sue Grey has agreed to meet with us tomorrow (March 21st). I have asked her to give me an update once a month what is on the Board’s plate. The last time we met, Sue mentioned that the Board is rather concerned about “pension funding, transportation funding and the early childhood  programs funding”.

    I realize it is Spring Break; but if you are around and want to chat, please drop by.


    And finally, I want to wrap up some thought from previous Houlihans gatherings, which I have not yet properly documented. And unfortunately, I didn’t take notes so I am going strictly from memory and using my announcements to jog them.

    In attendance at the February 29th Houlihans, we had Greg Novak, Pattsi Petri, Chuck Jackson and myself. Greg made a joke about now being a tyrant (in light of the Feb 27th Special Board Meeting). Also, Tom Lockman dropped by to say ‘hi’ (woot! Two Board Members – a new record), but he was really meeting someone else. He did clarify a couple points for us, but I do not recall them off the top of my head. Greg reiterated points he had been making about the need to address deferred maintenance. We had some back and forth discussion about communication (and the lack thereof), about perceptions and how the Board and the community are not on the same page. We talked about how we thought the pricetag associated with the wireless technology was rather high, and we questioned why one of the schools (BTW? I forget now) had, on average, 3 computers per child.

    In a follow-up email on March 6th, Read the rest of this entry »