Friday, October 23, 2015

Preview of Board Meeting 10/26/15

Looking ahead to next Monday's meeting (find the agenda here):

It's another field trip for the board, the administration, and any members of the public who would like to join us. This meeting will take place at Garden Hills Elementary School (2001 Garden Hills) at 5:30pm, with the open session scheduled to begin as usual at 6:00pm. These off-site meetings are made possible by the extra efforts of our Mellon staff as well as the staff at the alternative site -- we thank them for helping us conduct the district's business all over the district.

The agenda item likely to spark the most discussion is a presentation from Dr. Judy Wiegand (along with other district and building administrators, as well as faculty/staff from all levels) on "Programming and Capacity," and how these two primary areas of concern relate to the development of a facilities plan for Unit 4.

The presentation team will examine and update our enrollment projections, which continue to show overcrowding at the middle and high school levels. They will highlight some aspects of delivering education that are challenging due to the current state of our facilities; just one example is meeting the needs of our special education students. In addition they will examine the lack of accessibility at South Side and Dr. Howard.

Then to see what other districts in our region are doing to meet their 21st-century facility needs, the team will present a variety of solutions. These will include new schools on greenfield sites, renovated/expanded existing facilities, historic modernization of facilities, and brand-new urban campuses.

This presentation has the potential to set the tone for all of our conversations about facilities moving forward; it will be the first major post-referendum statement from our district's professional educators about how best to proceed. We on the board will then do our best to extend this discussion to the public -- won't you join us?


Don't want to miss a single Board Corner post? Please feel free to subscribe to new posts by clicking the "Subscribe" link (either on the upper right of your desktop display, or at the bottom of your mobile display).

You can engage with several individual board members on Facebook -- search for Kathy Richards Unit 4 School Board, Kathy Shannon Unit 4 School Board, Amy Armstrong 4 Unit 4 Board of Education, Laurie BonnettUnit 4 School Board, and Chris Kloeppel Unit 4 Board of Education.

I gather other board members might be tweeting, or Instagramming, or whatever it is the cool kids are doing -- I hope my board colleagues will chime in here on the comments to add any other social media contacts that I have inadvertently overlooked.


Only 15 days left until the Epic Spell-down of 2015. CUSF Adult Spelling Bee, November 7, 6:00pm.
Bee there...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fly on the Wall

"So... what's happening on the school board?"

That's a common greeting I get when I run into a local friend. Sometimes the answer to that question is as easy as pointing to the agenda of our most recent meeting (previewed here). But a meeting recap answers a slightly different question, that of what the Board (with a capital B) has been doing, in public, in its official capacity. My friends are more likely to be wondering what on earth a school board member might actually *do* during a typical week.

A fly on the wall at Cafe Kopi last Thursday would have some insights to offer. Fellow board member Kathy Shannon and I met for lunch, as we try to do most weeks, to catch up with each other's school-board-related activities.

We know that at some point during the week leading up to a regular meeting, we will receive the agenda along with any supporting materials to study, in preparation for questions or discussions at the meeting.

Here's a quick sketch of what else we two did -- individually or in some cases together -- during that previous week:

  • Attended a forum at Urbana's Wesley Foundation, "Black and White in America: A Look at Racial Relations and Violence," which included talks by Champaign's Police Chief Anthony Cobb and Mayor Deb Feinen
  • Met with a planning professional to learn more about the economics of infill development
  • Sat in on a class offered by Professor Ken Salo (Lecturer in Urban and Regional Planning at the U of I) as professional development for Unit 4 teachers, "Teaching Ferguson"
  • Participated in the monthly CFT Areas of Consultation committee meeting with district administrators and union officials
  • Met with a Unit 4 administrator to discuss various aspects of discipline in Unit 4... and received homework: Positive Behavior Facilitation: Understanding and Intervening in the Behavior of Youth, by Edna Olive (2nd edition, 2015)
  • Attended meeting of PTA Council; received input from PTA officers about changes to the district's elementary enrichment program and building rental policies for clubs
  • Met with two different Unit 4 administrators about how best to update our building rental policies to reflect the kind of extra-curricular partnerships we wish to encourage
  • Attended the dedication of the renovated Kenwood building
  • Met with a community activist concerned about discipline disparities between black and white students in Unit 4
  • Spoke with a facilitator of our district's 2008 Great Schools, Together plan about ideas for community engagement
  • Passed along various concerns to the appropriate district staff (about soccer lights, game admission, lunch periods, and more)
That's the long version of an answer you might get from our friendly fly on the wall. The short answer?

"There's always something more to learn."

Friday, October 9, 2015

Preview of Board Meeting 10/12/15

Looking ahead to next Monday's regular meeting of the Board:

We meet in the Mellon Building, 703 S. New St. (next to South Side Elementary School) at 5:30pm, with the bulk of the Open Session beginning closer to 6:00pm. Members of the public are welcome to observe, and to address the Board (for up to 3 minutes) during the designated public comment period. You can find the complete meeting agenda here.

I'm especially looking forward to two presentations -- from Orlando Thomas and Elizabeth deGruy -- about ACTIONS and AWARE. Those of you who attend the meeting (or watch it later) will come away with a greater understanding of not just what these nifty acronyms stand for, but how these initiatives are working to address the needs of suspended students (ACTIONS) and students encountering mental health difficulties (AWARE). Both initiatives are recent, launched during the 2014-15 school year. Their common goal: to direct targeted interventions to troubled students, to help them get back in the classroom and ready to learn.

All this plus a new appointment at IPA, new appointments to the EEE committee, an update from Matt Foster on Operations/Maintenance and Transportation, and more! See you Monday.


A brief summary of the two initiatives mentioned above:

ACTIONS (Alternative Center for Targeted Instruction and On-Going Support)

During the spring of 2014, the Discipline Equity Advisory Committee brought to the Board a proposal that would offer students who have been suspended additional support in an effort to change, rather than manage, behavior upon return to their home schools following suspension. The Board approved the proposal as a three-year pilot, and receives regular updates (this update will cover the period through second semester of the 2014-15 school year).

The ACTIONS program includes the following components: counseling, social work services, social skills instruction, access to community services, and academic support. Prior to returning to their home campus, in conjunction with administrators, parents, and representatives from the home campus, students create an action plan which includes learned replacement behaviors, strategies to address problematic behaviors, and an identified staff member to serve as a mentor responsible for monitoring the student’s progress.

Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness And Resilience in Education)

AWARE is a grant which partners Champaign Unit #4 with Urbana #116 Schools along with Community Elements and the ACCESS Initiative. It provides nearly $100K over two years (2014-15 and 2015-16) to provide First Aid Training in Youth Mental Health to adults who regularly interact with youth.

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens (who regularly interact with young people) how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or crisis. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including ADHD), and eating disorders. During the first year of AWARE, 89 Unit 4 staff members received training, and 274 youth (from Champaign and Urbana schools) participated in a treatment program at Community Elements.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Unit 4 Needs You: Future Ready Council 10/8/15

We need YOU to shape the future of Unit 4 as we know it!

Join the Future Ready Council -- a new committee that will guide decision making around technology in Unit 4. Your involvement will help shape the way our students and faculty engage with technology on a daily basis, building 21st-century skills and furthering our goal for high academic achievement for all students.

The goals of the Champaign Unit 4 Future Ready Council are:
  • Use collective insight and expertise to serve as a technology steering committee for the district.
  • Serve as a communication vehicle for U4 digital learning.
  • Provide final input decisions about district technology policy and implementation.

Our kickoff meeting is October 8th, 4:00-6:00pm, at the Centennial High School Library. Subsequent meetings will be held on the second Thursday of every month. Light refreshments will be provided.

Please fill out this RSVP form to let us know you are coming.