June 10th Regular BOE Meeting agenda available

I wish I could deep-link the agenda, but for the next week or two, it should be at the top of the list:

http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/public

 

Aside from the pre-weekend flurry of news about Stig’s resignation, it looks like it will be a full meeting. I am sure Executive Session will continue to be interesting. *grin*

The public meeting kicks off with an Academic Spotlight of the Young Entrepreneur Program followed by a series of recognitions. I see that in the “Upcoming Events” the June Board Retreat is not listed, so perhaps the details have not yet been hashed out. I hope they still have one.

Under “New Business”, Dr. Wiegand kicks off with a presentation about CUSF (not online as of this writing). Next up Maria Alanis is posing an informational item that will become an action item at a future meeting; a new International Academy. It is not clear exactly how much this will cost as part of the funds are coming from a Title III grant. Apparently, the Board approved all the positions back in March. That seems really hard for me to follow – we approved the positions before the Academy was even approved? Maybe I am just confused. The next four items are all Policy changes being introduce by the school attorney Tom Lockman (movable soccer goal, education of homeless children, student abassador program, and using district networks/social media).

 

Nine items are listed under “Action Agenda” with quite a variety, most of which have attached documentation. One thing stuck out to me – we are hiring a consultant firm at a price of $60,000 to help with the Business Office. Since the word “transition” is used, this is to help the new Business Director Matt Foster dive in? That just seemed a bit odd to me. We are also leasing (to own?) two used busses for roughly $180,000 (to be paid over 5 years). And lastly, board appointments to various committees. I strongly advise the Board to consider transitioning this committees to Board Committees, as opposed to Superintendent Committees. Board Committees are a lot more formal and must report back to the board. Superintendent committees report to the Superintendent and there is a significant lack of public visibility on these committees as they exist today.

 

The “Consent Agenda” is packed with 18 items; a lot of change orders for the schools that are currently being renovated, a purchase order for more busses, HR changes, a “Rising Star Action Plan” (which I want to read more about), a Policy change and other sundry items.

 

Tons of stuff to read. Board members have their work cut out for weekend reading and preparing to meet on Monday. We the public have our own work cut out for us. This is our school district – it is our job to hold our school board members accountable. Ideally, this is a very good thing. *grin* But it takes the work of informing the public and taking the time to digest all this information.

Notes from the April 22nd BOE Special Meeting

I took the time to watch the BOE meeting a little while ago and typed up some notes. Unfortunately, they are not yet formatted very well. Instead of delaying, I finally decided to just dump them here, and hope that readers will forgive the horrid formatting.

 

{the times listed below are elapsed times from the beginning of the video}

start at 5:02

spotlight on middleschool to highschool transitions: 10 minutes (music stops at 15:36 after all the credits roll *roll eyes*)
jamar brown – found it entertaining, found the whole thing very good, transitions are important

public comment:
laurie bonnett – only quotes from one vendor, are we reaching out and seeking participating from other vendors?

CFT:
Cathy mannen – thanks to the board for support of the early childhood center.

PTA Council:
Sheri Williamson – summer reading program, 300 books from UofI. Parent Resource Group.

Communications from board members:
Kristine – shout out about the amazing musicals past two weeks. Big praise for the stage design, acting, music, etc.
Van Ness – College Career Center; great facility, great idea. Shout out for the CUSF. Need to support them better.
Ileana – Make the College Career Center grow bigger – good stuff.
Brown – PSUs (?) at Novak, like a graduation thing. Lots of praise/congrats for many other events at other schools.
Stig – congrats to those who run board elections. Interesting thoughts about “supporting” more folks on future candidates, getting more folks to run.
Board retreat follow-up: how to make the school district a family-centered organization. hmm… not child-centered? 🙂

Asia Fuller-Hamilton & Joe Williams start with Transitions. jwtobe.org?? jw2b.org??
Jamar and Kristine mention how awesome this is. Kristine reiterates the pain/confusion of the first day. Mentions how awesome it would be for every freshman to have a mentor/guide. Joe says they are working on it.
Stig asks the same about middle school. He says why can’t we divulge as much information as possible BEFORE they come to school, and then handle the unknowns as they arise. A bit of discussion (even Wiegand intercedes); can the kids have the data before the first day of school? 🙂 Lots of great things are happening in pockets, working towards making those things consistent in general.

Elizabeth DeGruy (no presentation, just reporting).
Stig asks a lot of questions and makes comments. Very engaged. 🙂 Again, can parents have as much information as soon as possible? All about transistions. Importance of setting a first impression by making the first day in school a very positive one.
I think a question from the audience was fielded about “child time”? Yes, Sheri Williamson from the audience is given the floor. Awesome! 🙂

Tony and Cheryl are up at 1:05:40. Tony walks through the overview of the goals and “ideal reality”. Cheryl talks about the specific multiple recommendations. Elizabeth chimes in with SpecEd recommendations.
Stig asks how parents who are in these situations can reach out to a person (*not* a helpline). Maybe a FAQ?
Action Items:
Kleber announces the promotion of 3 assistant principals.
1:23:40
TALP – Orlando Thomas
Kristine wants to verify this is not fun, and that students don’t really have a choice once suspended.
student discipline procedure – lockman
confirming adoption for administrative reasons … ?? That’s not vague. 🙂

Kleber on adding an administrative position for overseeing the food department; one year appointment for a proof-of-concept.
Van Ness asks where the person will be housed. Kleber doesn’t really answer the question, saying they will be “everywhere.” Interesting that the Board is asked to approve the position even before the job description is finalized. Doesn’t that seem backwards?
Item A from Consent Agenda moved up – Champaign Telephone contract. curious, was this moved up in Executive session? Meg Dickinson mentioned that Phil Van Ness moved on it, but I did not witness it.
Brown asks, we will *never* bid out these jobs? Joe Davis assures the board that if they need to, they will. Who bids it out? “talk it out” with architects and superintendent.
Van Ness comes out and says he pulled it out of the Consent Agenda. Wants to make sure the board is putting things before the public. Likes that we are keeping this local.
Kristine mentions that consistency is very important.
Ileana: not exactly sure what she said, something about good for the community and taxpayers knowing.
Kristine, we don’t want everyone to know what the budget is….. interesting. In the context of bidding… they want contractors to bid competitively, not to the budget.

1:44:40 remaining items of the consent agenda

April 22nd special board meeting

I have not had a chance to watch it – only spot-checked it to make sure it was recording:

http://www.cb-pta.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/board_meetings/2013-04-22-special-board-meeting.mp4

 

A couple interesting things on the agenda; Cheryl Camacho and Tony Howard presented on the Parent Advocacy recommendation(s) and Elizabeth DeGruy presented on special needs (aka, “Board Retreat Follow-up”),  Orlando spoke again on TALP, Lockman again on the changes to policy concerning discipline, three folks bumped up to Assistant Principals, and a couple other things.

 

Meg’s article focuses on the approval of the TALP program, and mentions a couple other things as well.

Special board meeting tonight, update on Schools of Choice RFP

Tonight is a special Special Board Meeting. Occasionally the Board is called in to deal with one of these issues:

  • 120/2(c)(1) Employee appointments, employment, compensation, dismissals, complaints
  • 120/2(c)(2) Negotiations
  • 120/2(c)(5) Property Acquisition/Lease/Purchase
  • 120/2(c)(8) Emergency Security Procedures
  • 120/2(c)(9) Student Discipline
  • 120/2(c)(11) Actual/Potential Litigation
  • 120/2(c)(16) Self-Evaluation, practices and procedures or professional ethics when meeting with a representative of a statewide association of which the public body is a member
  • 120/2(c)(21) Closed Meeting Minutes Discussion/Review

 

What I am torn about is that I think they are technically abiding by OMA, but they are not disclosing as much information as they possibly can. For instance, I have since learned that the meeting was specifically called for 120/2(c)(9) Student Discpipline. Why is that not mentioned on board docs? The only reason I have right now is that it is not required (not by OMA nor by Policy). I get it that it is the “easy” thing to do to announce all the possibilities for Executive Session “just in case”, but I sincerely wonder, is that the best way?

 

Here is the flip side. What if I just shut up about this? I have to question myself, is my pestering of the Board in this manner productive in any way? I really don’t know. I hear both sides; some of you like what I am doing, some of you think I am a hindrance and an obstruction. As always, I am glad there are differences of opinion – I highly value that! But what good is my question-asking really doing? That is what I am searching for right now.

 

On that note, I recently asked about the progress with the Schools of Choice (SoC) RFP. From the school attorney, Mr. Tom Lockman:

I have been working with District staff on the Choice RFP and am comfortable with where it stands at this point.  The District is planning to follow the same schedule as last year in terms of issuing the RFP.  This will allow us to have gone all the way through the selection, determination and notification processes to determine if there is anything the District feels needs to be added or changed to the existing language based on how things go.  If you do have additional thoughts beyond what was shared at our first meeting which you wish to share, please feel free to email me.  Thanks.

 

I told Mr. Lockman at “our first meeting” that I had at least two bottom lines (sometimes you just can’t have one *grin*):

  • make a system that is intuitive and garners a positive experience from all who interact with it
  • we don’t waste taxpayers dollars (which I fully believe we have been doing for many years)

 

So again, I wonder about my effectiveness. Is it worthwhile for me to raise my voice and become a “squeaky wheel”? Or what would happen if I just turned my attention elsewhere? I really really want to hunt this down. But at what cost?

 

For my part, I want to see the RFP; I want to make sure we stop sending money to Massachusetts; I would love to have the software solution be handled locally. But I personally do not need these things. My question then becomes, what is best for all of us? That I do not know.

 

Tom is no stranger to the Schools of Choice saga; just a couple years ago, he was instrumental in writing some enhancements like going from 3 to 5 choices (5 was a compromise, we wanted more), and I think helped to spur the video and other little things that have slightly improved this beast. One of my options is to just trust Tom and see where this goes.

More information about the school attorney position

I sent some questions off to Stephanie Stuart in regards to new school attorney position that was created and subsequently filled by former board member Tom Lockman. The basis of the questions came from responses to Meg Dickinson’s Jan 15th News-Gazette article, both from the NG online comments and also what taxpayers are saying to me more privately. Plus I was just quite curious for my own sake. 🙂 Stephanie responded with (what I thought were) pretty good answers.

 

 

qIn addition to my other questions, I am also very curious about the new school attorney position that has been created. When Ken Kleber read the position description on Monday (Jan 14th Board Meeting), I noticed that the description he read was not on BoardDocs nor was it on the open job listing on Unit 4’s website (I checked on Sunday before the meeting). Could you forward the job description to me, please? Or if it is currently posted somewhere on the Unit 4 website, a link will suffice.

 

aYou can find the job description at the link below:

http://www.champaignschools.org/humanresources/School%20Attorney%202012-11-20.pdf

 

At the recent Board of Education meeting Ken Kleber read the candidate qualifications aloud as we do for other candidates brought forward to the Board. These descriptions are not made available on BoardDocs due to the sensitive nature of personnel issues, and it has not been our practice to read aloud job descriptions during the meeting. The description itself was posted on our website at the time of posting. From there, it gets picked up by a variety of sources (Indeed.com, K12JobSpot, Illinois Job Link, etc.).  The Illinois State Bar Association also picked it up.  Ken Kleber also reached out to the U of I Law School to make them aware of the posting and to other Districts that had recently hired in-house counsel to see if they could offer any leads, but didn’t have much success.  Finally, the District let all the firms with which we have an existing relationship know of the posting.  Because this is a specialized position, we did more outreach than we’d do for a typical position.

 

qMeg’s Jan 15th article suggests that Dr. Wiegand talked to the Board about this position. When exactly? I did not notice it in the agendas for December or November, but maybe I missed it or maybe it was covered in closed session. I am curious about the justifications for the position. Certainly, what Meg has highlighted in her article makes sense (wanting to reduce costs to 3rd-party attorneys), but I am a little concerned that this position has a relatively high salary. The justification of it being equal to Barb Ramsay’s salary does not seem appropriate to me.

 

aBringing on someone with a legal background was part of the conversation between Superintendent Wiegand and the Board starting in January 2012 when she started as Superintendent. At that time, the hope was that the new Executive Director of Human Resources would have a legal background, but that was not feasible at the time and Ken Kleber was hired to fill the position. The discussion continued regarding bringing on an attorney in September 2012 in a one-on-one meeting between Superintendent Wiegand and then-Board President Sue Grey. Ken Kleber began researching similar positions in other districts. At the November 5, 2012 Board Meeting, the Superintendent brought forward a job description drafted by Ken Kleber to the board for feedback during executive session under personnel, as is standard practice when reviewing potential new positions. Dr. Wiegand was aware that Barbara Ramsay was looking to leave the District, and so it was an appropriate time to look for an attorney to replace her position in the administration with someone with a legal and business background to assume some of her responsibilities and reduce the legal fees for the District.

 

In regard to your question on salary, Mr. Lockman’s salary is competitive for the area and slightly below the national median for attorneys. For example, the salary for this position in Normal, Il pays $102,000.

 

Final thoughts

Personally, I am very glad the district is looking for ways to save money – that is good thing in my book. 🙂 I don’t know the “best” way to handle these kinds of things (ie, personnel issues), but I do find it interesting that this particular situation raised a little bit of a ruckus. I must also say that I am personally glad we found someone local to fill this position.

 

I thank Stephanie for providing these little nuggets of insight in an effort to explain what happened.

 

Your own thoughts and comments are welcome.

Jan 14th Reg Board Meeting: new school board members, new school attorney, lots of data

re: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2013-01-14/champaign-school-board-chooses-blank-and-van-ness-new-members.html

It was an interesting board meeting tonight, although I fear “interesting” does not do the meeting justice. I don’t have the energy to write about it all now, so here are some highlights:

  • Another bevy of recognitions, including plaques and commendations for Greg Novak and Gene Logas, presented to Donna Novak and Nina Logas respectively.
  • Scott Leopold presented a veritable plethora of data and information about the targeted phone surveys (I hate using the word “quantitative”) and the latest update about the research efforts of Dejong. Overwhelming in fact.
  • Agenda line-item 10.a was removed from the agenda and then put back on the agenda at 9:50 pm after basically everyone had already left (and the tv cameras had stopped rolling I am sure); Tom Lockman will be the new school district attorney. Vote was 4-1 – oh how I wish I could write more about that.
  • As reported by Meg, a new (permanent) program for emotional disabilities/mental health was approved – board members asked some good questions
  • Oh, also as Meg reported (*grin*), two new board members; Arlene Blank and Phil van Ness. A few other candidates were also in attendance and stuck around to the bitter end.

UPDATE: Meg wrote another article about Lockman:

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/education/2013-01-14/champaign-school-board-hires-former-board-member-school-attorney.html

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?