Friday, January 22, 2016

Preview of Board Meeting 1/25/16

Looking ahead to Monday's 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 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 meeting agenda here. (Be sure to click on each agenda item to bring up additional information or description, including any attached documents.)

We are scheduled to vote on an agreement with Educational Collaborators to carry out a Strategic Plan for Technology Development in the district (as initially approved on 11/16/15), to be paid for from our Educational Technology fund. We continue to believe that Unit 4 should implement and develop new technologies in a deliberate and informed manner, and this agreement should put some expert guidance in place.

I point this agreement out here because it is likely to be overshadowed by several significant developments in our ongoing comprehensive review and planning process for long-term facility needs:
  • Update on Phase 1 of the district's new Transportation Facility, by Matt Foster (with drawings from the DLR Group and schematic design estimates from O'Shea Builders)
  • Vote to create the Special Board Committee to Develop Facility Plans (final proposal, incorporating feedback from 1/11/16)
  • Resolutions to hire Perkins+Will and IGW Architecture (architectural services) and O'Shea Builders (construction management services) to assist the district during the pre-referendum stage of facility planning (based on two rounds of interviews/presentations in December and January with committees composed of administrators, staff, and two Board members)
Last but not least, the Board will hear from attorney Pat Fitzgerald (Meyer Capel), who will discuss agreements being brought to the board regarding properties bordering Unit 4 campuses and facilities. On the agenda: the purchase of one property (bordering Franklin Middle School), and the purchase of options on several properties in the vicinity of Central High School. Under the proposed agreements, Unit 4 would be granted the sole and exclusive option to purchase the properties in question during the next 18 months.

District administration believes that acquiring these options will help put the expansion of the existing Central High School site on the table as a viable choice. Acquiring options enables public conversation to move forward with a clearer understanding of the costs and benefits associated with the plans under discussion, before the Board makes final purchases.

Remember that by clicking on each item on the agenda, you can view more specific details about any or all of these proposals. Please join us on Monday!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Staff Spotlight

I'd like to call your attention to this recent announcement from Stephanie Stuart, Unit 4's Director of Communications & Community Relations:

"We are pleased to announce the Unit 4 Staff Spotlight recognition program! We want to recognize members of our Unit 4 team who go above and beyond in serving our students, families, and community. All community members, families, students, and staff are invited to submit nominations. On the 20th of each month, our team will review the nominations and select a winner for the following month. Nominations will be reviewed by a panel including representatives from District Administration, the Champaign Federation of Teachers (CFT), Champaign Educational Support Professionals (CESP), and the Board of Education.
 If your nominee is selected, you will be asked to attend an upcoming Board of Education meeting to join us in celebrating his or her work. Regular Board of Education meetings are held on the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Mellon Administrative Center.
Nominate an outstanding Unit 4 staff member today! Forms and directions on how to submit are available at the following page on the Unit 4 website:
http://www.champaignschools.org/staff-spotlight."

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Don't forget! Applications to fill the vacant seat on the Board of Education are due one week from today, on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Please take advantage of this opportunity to join us in working on behalf of public education in our community. For more information and for the application form, click here.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Preview of Board Meeting 1/11/16

Happy 2016!

Looking ahead to 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 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 meeting agenda here. (Be sure to click on each agenda item to bring up additional information or description, including any attached documents.)

For those of you following Unit 4's ongoing facilities discussions, you will want to take note of an item of New Business: the formation of a Special Board Committee (as proposed before the December holiday break) that will assist us in developing our facility plan. The Administration will be bringing forward a draft of a proposed committee structure and agenda for the Board's comment and feedback at the meeting.

Perhaps the most revealing feature of the proposal as currently written is that the Committee will be tasked to make its final report at the May 9, 2016 Board Meeting. In other words -- fasten your seat belts, it's "go" time!

A draft of the Special Board Committee proposal is available with the agenda here. A few aspects I'd like to highlight:

WHAT -- The proposal encompasses facilities at the elementary and high school level. Specific buildings in the proposal include both Central and Centennial High Schools along with South Side and Dr. Howard Elementaries and the International Prep Academy. Middle school facility needs will be addressed with Champaign County Sales Tax revenue, when this funding stream can be accessed around 2025.

WHO -- The committee will have two tiers. Tier 1 will consist mostly of Unit 4 faculty/staff/students and will be charged with identifying capacity and programming needs and reporting that information to Tier 2. Tier 2 will consist of representatives from elected bodies of local government, the business community, and at-large community members. Their charge will be to discuss site options to best support capacity and programming needs, potential partnerships for shared facilities, financing, and referendum timeline.

HOW -- Tier 2 meetings will begin in March, with possible meeting topics and participants outlined in the proposal. As a Special Board Committee, their meetings will be subject to the Open Meetings Act. Meeting agendas, minutes and other documents discussed will be posted on the Champaign Unit School District’s website. A public comment section will be built into each meeting to allow for feedback from interested community members.

This proposal appears on Monday's agenda as New Business, so no official action will be taken. It will return on our Action Agenda at the January 25th meeting for a vote. We welcome your constructive feedback after Monday's discussion to help with the final draft; you may comment on this post or email the Board.

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Other topics of interest on Monday's agenda include the following:

-- A video tour of Unit 4 from the air!

-- A presentation of Unit 4's 2015 Illinois District Report Card. These recent statistics are publicly available and contain a wealth of information; this presentation will provide some helpful context for interpreting them. (For you data geeks, another useful state website with Unit 4 statistics is here.)

-- A presentation from Chief Financial & Legal Officer Tom Lockman about applying for Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs), which will allow Unit 4 to issue bonds and borrow funds through the Illinois State Board of Education to complete Health Life Safety projects with little to no interest cost.

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See you on Monday, and thank you for your continued interest in our schools.