Preview of Jan 28th board meeting

The Jan 28th board meeting agenda is up. [I still do not know how to deep-link it, but here is the URL for BoardDocs:]

Looks like the new board members (former board members Arlene Blank and Phil Van Ness) will be sworn in right at 5:30 before executive session. Back in open session, one of the first items is:

Dr. Patrick Rice, Director of Field Services from the Illinois Association of School Boards will describe services and training options available to the Board.

That means almost absolutely nothing to me. I know that Board members are required by law to take various training (like OMA) and “How to be a Board Member”. Greg Novak has shared a humorous take on that in the past which I cannot repeat. 🙂

Dr. Wiegand will be introducing three somewhat new committees that formed as a result of the board retreats last year. The one I am part of, the Advocacy Committee, has a website (woohoo!!) and even a public-to-read email discussion list via google groups. I do not know much about the other two at all (Transitions?). What is very interesting to me is that the PDF they have on BoardDocs is a scanned copy of printed documents. Why? Why oh why oh why?!? You have to turn your computer left, right and upside down to read it. 🙂 I don’t get it. Plus, the document for the Advocacy Committee is posted on our website in a true pptx form, which means it is searchable.

Next is the very wordy “audit and reporting system for Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity” (AAEEO). There is a monstrous 162 page report you can look at if you so desire. About half the document is charts and graphs, the latter half being some kind of analysis I think. Wow. I kinda feel bad for whomever had to put that together (Ken?).

And Educational Updates. I actually enjoyed this section. 🙂 Back in October 2012 I spotted a brand-new Drupal website that Unit 4 was working on (and quickly locked down), so during David Hohman’s presentation, he is going to take some of the wrappers off. Exciting stuff. He stuffed it full of colorful pictures and a playful take so as to chip away at the boredom factor. 🙂 Also, he has a “wireless proposal” – I am wondering if we can get some local folks to look at that, and maybe even urge the administration to seriously considering local vendors over distant ones. What do you think? Would you spend 2% more on a local vendor just because they are local? 5%?

Next up Dr. Joe Davis has a couple slides about bids for the proposed renovation projects (Robeson $2.7mil and Bottenfield $7.1mill). I am going to give Dr. Davis a break this time around and pick on the architects just a little. One thing that concerns me is that it seems Canon (and others) are putting a ton of resources into procuring new work, but they are not following-up much on old work. For example, I have to go back to Carrie Busey (but I am sure other schools have issues as well); brand new school with a really cool pod design. The new construction (right now) costs $1.3mil and breaks the pod design, and the proposed addition (some $3.5mil?) further breaks the pod design. No talks about how to fix it. And not to mention the punch list of outstanding issues – however, I am pretty sure that onus is on the construction crew, right?


Last of the major stuff, Dr. Wiegand will be sharing “Committee appointments”, a subset listing of committees and which board members are serving on them.



Unit 4 having DNS problems again

You can still get to the main webpage via their IP address, but some links will not work.

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Community Engagement: what does it look like?

This is a two-for-one post. I want to make a quick announcement that Majora Carter will be at the NCSA on Thursday. Just awesome stuff! More on this at the bottom of the post. Be there!

I have already talked about the fine work going on in the Springfield School District. I have decided to integrate that into my “platform” for tonight’s Candidate Forum (you will see that this is posted while I am being interviewed, and I have no electronic devices with me).

I spoke with a Springfield BOE Member, Scott McFarland, this afternoon. It is just so exciting to hear about what they are doing. The Faith Coalition for the Common Good continues to push forward; one of the many things to come out of the Education Summit is a Education Task Force Committee (cannot find a URL link, yet). One of the things that was really important to the SSD 186 was improving their website. As I mentioned previously, I was quite impressed with the website. I have recently learned that one of their employees, Dave Heinzel, is the man behind the curtains and largely responsible for the entire thing. He is an accomplished graphic artist and the website really shows off his skills quite well.

During our conversation, Mr. McFarland mentioned how FAITH working with SSD 186 procured a high school improvement grant which they used to build a special room dedicated to community collaboration, including holding classes for community members. It is a part of the initiative to use the building even after school is out, in the efforts of creating a community center. I love this idea!! Awesome stuff.

I was asking Mr. McFarland about his opinion of FACE (Family and Community Engagement), and a quote I am going to steal from him is “You have to have community buy-in before the Board pitches an idea.” How true, so very true. And this is a Board Member, keep in mind.

I also called the Springfield Administration Building and asked further questions. One more thing I learned is that FACE is essentially one coordinator (Peggy Cormeny) and her assistant. They have a “FACE team” at each school that either replaces or works along side PTOs (like our PTAs, kinda sorta). I am so envious. 🙂


And finally, back to Majora Carter. You have to go watch some of her videos (1,2). Here is someone with a passion for improving the lives of people around her, who is so overflowing that her sincerity and genuine concern drives her to push and push and push to get injustice eradicated. Her outlet is “environmental justice”, but that phrase means so much more than hugging trees.

The Unit 4 website is temporarily down

Not even the IP numbers will work this time (at least, not the ones I have). They might be upgrading, or maybe this is “unscheduled downtime”, tech talk for big problems. I imagine email delivery will be an issue as well.

IP Address for

If you are having problems going to the Unit 4 website and you know it is a DNS issue, you can use the IP numbers directly:  [I just tested it]

How do you know if it is DNS? In Chrome, you will see a message like:

Error 105 (net::ERR_NAME_NOT_RESOLVED): Unable to resolve the server's DNS address.


UPDATE: 1:04 pm – Apparently, ICN (“the outside resolver”) had a problem this morning. As of now, the problems have been fixed.

Posted in Community. Tags: . 2 Comments »

Recap: Wednesday @ Houlihans, Jan 25th, PTA Tech meeting

Today we were honored to have G David Frye with us (Beth Van, Chuck Jackson and myself). We were not able to move to the point of actually having “Create websites” for action steps because we took a significant diversion.

So here is a question to let your subconscious chew on while you read the rest of this. How do people share ideas and information with each other? You and I probably represent somewhat of a niche in that regards in that I am writing a blog post and several of you are reading it, either via an email subscription, rss feed, google hit or syndication. There are many other forms of communication that we use today.

G David has been involved with Unit 4 on the PTA and tech side for quite some time (going to hit a decade in a couple short years 🙂 ). He gave us Read the rest of this entry »

New website for Magnet schools

Fresh from Unit 4’s Facebook:


Not too shabby; decent layout, nice javascript buttons, 6 nav buttons, each with one or two pages behind it. Simple, gets the job done. Kinda strange that it does not link to any other external pages – not even Unit 4’s own pages.


And just in time for tonight’s forum.