“That’s a School Board Thing”

April 2nd is right around the corner; for those that have not yet taken advantage of the many early vote options, I strongly encourage you to consider the current races and get your vote in before 7:00 pm next Tuesday. Feeling lost about which candidates to choose, or just plain curious? I highly recommend a new local resource:

Champaign County Voter Alliance (CCVA)


Have you seen any of these “That’s a School Board Thing” billboards around town? It took me a few days, but I finally started to google what this was all about. So far, I have not run into anyone in Champaign who knows anything about “XQAmerica” or the signs themselves (I even asked Tom Kacich, still waiting to hear back from him).

I have mixed feelings about what I find on the XQ SuperSchools website. However, what I really do love is the section about school boards – they have a whole section that explains what school boards do, and even provide pointers on how to engage, get involved and ask questions:


Know what else is a school board thing? Making sure that the school policies and objectives reflect the community’s desires. “The public schools belong to the people” says Section 105 of the Champaign Unit 4 School Board Policies. As I look to what is going on our neighboring  school district of Urbana 116, I find a lot of narratives unfolding as people spin stories one way or another. Most relevant to the topic of the April 2nd elections, I was given the opportunity to read an article by Allison O’Dwyer; yes, it is an endorsement piece for two School Board candidates who are challenging the incumbents, but the thrust behind the story is very relevant for Champaign schools as well. I encourage you to read this all the way through:


The following quote is a good cardinal rule for us to follow:

It is when we address and work to tackle the embedded, systemic problems of poverty, racism, and mental health that all of students rise–when we focus on the best for our community as a whole, instead of just the best for our own kids. — Allison O’Dwyer


To have your signature added to the article, I can provide Allison O’Dwyer’s email address for you; or you can find her on facebook/twitter.

Allison also highlighted a piece written by Urbana student Michael Tessene, which is an excellent read all by itself:

“Editorial: Racism at root of recent Urbana High School coverage”


microphone_icon-lead-2As XQ encourages us:

  • Read Up
  • Show Up
  • Speak Up
  • Lead



Make sure you vote before or on April 2nd! This is your chance to choose people who represent your ideas, your ideologies, your passions.



The Purpose of the School Board

This post started out as a deeper review and research of the recent Urbana School Board Policy 2:82 that got Jim Dey’s and Jim Turpin’s attention. But as I dug, I started asking bigger questions. Questions about the purpose of the school board and political engagement. But let me start from the beginning…

A few days ago, NG Editor Jim Dey wrote an editorial that stung the Urbana School District Board of Education and I started exploring his article in a post. Over lunch today, I took some time to dive into this whole thing with both feet.

First I contacted USD 116; I emailed the Board, Superintended Dr. Preston Williams and Assistant Superintendent Don Owen (and various administrative aides), asking where Policy 2:82 was published on the USD website. I must have missed it the first time looking through the Board Agenda, but the policy is indeed on the Board’s Agenda website:


As I was reading through it, I tried to ignore Dey’s perspective and form my own (which is rather difficult, actually). In reading through it, I can definitely see a sense of control being exerted. Control, in and of itself, is not inherently bad; I say that explicitly because even though it is obvious, we seem to want to escalate any desire for control into the realms of “bad” and “evil”. Certainly it can be used for bad. Is it? Also, I had to remember that these are expectations – when I read this, I did not see any ramifications stated if expectations are not met. Some call that kind of thinking devious, others call it thinking outside the box. (*evil grin*)

I also Read the rest of this entry »

Urbana School District Board puts themselves under an "interesting" PR policy

Jim Dey of the News-Gazette takes a very interesting (and somewhat harsh) spin on new policies adopted in Unit 116:



Jim Turpin talks with Jim Dey on “Penny for your thoughts”: http://assets.news-gazette.com/sites/all/files/audio/2012/07/02/penny_7-2-12.mp3


The general stance from both Mr. Dey and Mr. Turpin seems to be that this is really bad news, and a bad precedent for School Boards to be taking. Both gentlemen seem surprised that the Urbana School Board had the guts to put it in black-and-white – there is speculation that a lot of Boards seek this kind of “controlling the message” in an effort to unite the voice of the body.


More later.

For myself, I would want to read the said policies for myself before I form my own opinion. I have often wondered how best for a body to fulfill their purpose as a middle-man between the body of registered taxpayers that votes them into the position and the administration for whom they are ultimately responsible. Having one, unified voice (I hear “Lord of the Rings” in the background) certainly makes sense in one direction; but how does it help engage the public and “do discussion”? Obviously, in practice we have a hard time finding a balance.

A look at an alternative to the Kindergarten Lottery

Here is some insight to how Urbana does School Assignment:



I was keen to read about the ideas they had concerning “community schools” and “sister schools”. In fact, the latter almost sounded similar to the Academy Prep idea in Unit 4.


PS – the problem described by the author seems endemic to most community meetings I have witnessed.