Sunday, April 29, 2018

Meeting Highlights -- Not Facilities, Not Numbers

Are you interested in bringing about positive change in our community? Please consider attending or watching our Unit 4 Board of Education meetings to learn about current initiatives in the district. Like education itself, our most important work neither lends itself to easy sound bites nor provides instantly visible results. Our Board meetings can help communicate this work.

Here are three brief highlights from our most recent meeting, on 4/23/18.

1) Community Schools, an update presented by Ms. Katina Wilcher (Director of Student, Family & Community Engagement)

A "community school" is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. The integrated focus on academics, services, supports and opportunities leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. During the 2017-18 school year, Unit 4 has implemented partnerships at Garden Hills in response to needs expressed by our families. These partner organizations include Healthy Beginnings (with Carle), Parent CommUniversity (with Champaign-Urbana Area Project/CUAP), Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, Champaign Park District, and U of I Extension. During 2018-2019, Community Schools work will be expanded to Booker T. Washington and Stratton elementary campuses.

Parent outreach is already taking place at all three Community School campuses. On April 30, 2018, from 5:30pm to 8:00pm, the second meeting of Parent CommUniversity will take place. In addition to dinner and childcare, this session will feature workshops on parent-requested topics ranging from trauma to summer activities to tips for helping with homework.

2) Building Trauma-Informed Schools, a report from Dr. Elizabeth deGruy (Director of Special Education)

Did you know that 72% of children will experience at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) before the age of 18? As a society, we have only recently begun to understand childhood trauma as a public health issue. Educators across the country are learning about the impact of trauma on academic achievement and behavior.

A trauma-sensitive and trauma-informed school is one that provides increased access to behavioral and mental health services, effective community collaboration, an increased feeling of physical, social, and emotional safety among students, and positive and culturally responsive discipline policies and practices.

Since 2014, Unit 4 has engaged in an ambitious multi-year effort to promote mental health in our students and staff. Two trainings -- Youth Mental Health First Aid and Trauma 101 -- are a growing part of our professional development (funded first by grants and currently by federal IDEA funds). Intervention groups for students are now available at almost all of our campuses, and so far two campuses have completed intensive trauma-informed training. This work will be extended to parents through their participation in Community Schools events.

3) Student Code of Conduct 2018-2019, update from Mr. Orlando Thomas (Director of Achievement and Student Services)

Any organization as large as Unit 4 -- educating over 10,000 students and employing 2,000 staff members -- has to be governed by policies and procedures. Have you ever wondered what steps need to be followed in order to make changes in our Student Code of Conduct?
Each year in the spring semester, the Discipline Equity/Advisory Committee, comprised of CFT and CESP representatives, parents, Board members, and district-level administrators, reviews and revises the Student Code of Conduct for submission to the Board of Education for its approval. The proposed changes are also reviewed by District attorneys.
Come to Unit 4's Social Justice Seminar on May 1, 2018, 5:00pm-6:30pm in the Mellon Board Room, to hear a presentation from a group of Centennial students. They will speak about how they successfully navigated these procedures and worked to bring about changes in the District's sexual harassment/sexual assault policies. The Board will vote on the changes at a future meeting.

Many thanks to Ms. Wilcher, Dr. deGruy, and Mr. Thomas for all that they do for Unit 4.


Next meeting of the School Board: Wednesday, May 2, 2018

We meet in the Mellon Building, 703 S. New St. (next to South Side Elementary School) at 5:30pm. 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 on BoardDocs by navigating to the "Meetings" tab, clicking on the meeting date, and then clicking "View the Agenda." (Be sure to click on each agenda item to bring up additional information or description, including any attached documents.)

The schedule of Board meetings is available here; meeting minutes are posted here (once they are approved at a later meeting); and meeting videos can be viewed here.

For the latest news and announcements from Unit 4, visit the district website:

For the latest information on referendum facilities projects, check out