Wednesday, August 16, 2017

USD116 Statement about the recent events in Charlottesville, VA

Urbana School District #116 and the district's Racial Equity Leadership Team issue the following statement about the recent events in Charlottesville, VA:

In light of the recent events in Charlottesville, VA, we take this time to reaffirm our stance and commitment to racial equity in Urbana School District 116. On August 11, 2017, a group of Neo Nazis, Alt-Right, and White Supremacists organized a rally to “unite the right” promoting White nationalism. Unfortunately, such rallies and events are not surprising or new.  We need to remember that issues of racism and white supremacy are still a part of our collective conscience, intentional or not, and the issue of systemic racism does not rest solely on the shoulders of overt bigots, racists, and hate-mongers. This system of oppression and privilege continues to benefit those of us in privileged positions of power; therefore, we must be unequivocal in our racial equity stance that, as educators, we cannot be neutral, because neutrality maintains systems of inequality and oppression. We must recommit and actively engage in the work of dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism. This is why the district racial equity work in Urbana School District #116 is relevant, critical, and urgent. We must be willing to continuously reflect upon ways in which we are reproducing systems of inequality for students, families, and our community. Central to the district equity mission is building a system of education that is equitable and excellent for all children. This work is our collective responsibility as educators. Our students will be returning to us in just a few days and establishing meaningful relationships are paramount. We must continue to lead from the inside out and reflect our commitment to equity.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Disappointing State (of IL) of Public School Funding - August 2017 Edition

Article X of The Illinois State Constitution declares that, “The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”  Illinois holds the dubious distinction of having the most inequitable and regressive funding system in the United States. Unfortunately, the over-reliance on local property taxes has allowed the state to ignore its constitutional requirements to adequately fund public education.

As of August 10, 2017, the state of Illinois’ public school budget is in limbo.  There are 8 days until students arrive in our schools, and our district and our community is facing the reality that, without a state budget for public schools, we will not be able to remain open the entire school year without drastic measures.

For the past two years, Illinois has endured a budget impasse that has exacerbated the inequities in the state funding formula and caused many districts to spend down their reserves.  According to estimates from the Illinois State Board of Education, USD116 will be able to remain open through January of 2018.  Urbana School District #116 will open for all students next week, and we will remain open for as long as we can.  The administration and Board of Education will use every allowable tool to remain open, because it is what is in the best interest of our students and families.

The state budget that was passed through a legislative override of a gubernatorial veto requires that the K-12 funding formula have an equitable and evidenced based model, which is a huge step in the right direction.  Earlier this summer, the Illinois General Assembly passed, with bipartisan support, Senate Bill 1 (SB1), which is the best example of a thoughtful and reasonable approach to adequacy, equity, and evidence based funding that this state has seen.   Last week, Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto of SB1.

While the Governor’s amendatory veto does include provisions for an evidenced based funding formula, there are certain provisions of the amendatory veto actually hurt many school districts, including Urbana.  The amendatory veto includes language that includes the value of all Tax Increment Financed Property (TIF) in the calculations of the Equalized Assessed Evaluation (EAV).  This makes many school districts, like Urbana School District #116 and Champaign Unit 4 look wealthier than they really are.  These calculations would also prevent most school districts that have TIF districts within their boundaries unable to ever reach adequacy targets.  This would lead to even more in-equities in the funding of public education.

Unfortunately, the amendatory veto requires a ⅗ th majority in the Illinois General Assembly to EITHER approve OR override the Governor’s actions.  If the General Assembly can not reach a ⅗ super-majority on either side of this issue, public schools will not have a budget for the 2017-2018 school year.  To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.  This state was on the verge of making a historic change in the most inequitable funding formula ever developed, and the governor vetoed the legislation and altered it in ways that would actually increase inequities and harm communities like Urbana and Champaign.  If the state of Illinois is serious about turning around its floundering economy, maybe it should start by investing in the most powerful economic development engine imaginable - the students who attend public schools.

I am hosting a press conference about SB1 and the current state of school funding on Thursday, August 10 at 1PM at Urbana High School, 1002 South Race Street, Urbana Illinois. I would like to thank our local representatives, Rep. Carol Ammons and Sen. Scott Bennett as well as Advance Illinois and the Champaign County League of Women Voters for their support in organizing this press conference.

I encourage members of the USD116 community to attend to learn more about the current school funding standoff and what our local representatives are doing to support public education.

Countdown to the 2017 Solar Eclipse!

Countdown to the 2017 Solar Eclipse!

We are less than 12 days away from a total solar eclipse!  Yes, that is August 21, 2017!  Yes, that is the first Monday of school for school for students, and the second day of school for most students in USD116!  Yes, August 21 is a regular attendance day for students!  :^)

Urbana, Illinois falls within the 90-95% coverage area of the total eclipse!  It will be an amazing experience for people living in East Central Illinois.  Every USD116 student and staff member will be provided with safety glasses for viewing the eclipse safely.  Individual buildings are working on special schedules in order to afford students and teachers the experience of viewing the eclipse.

We would like to thank Dr. Dave Leake at the Parkland College Staerkel Planetarium and Dr. Leslie Looney from the University of Illinois Department of Astronomy who have both been amazing partners in providing educational opportunities and professional development to our students and teachers over the past year!  We are excited about experiencing this amazing event with our students!

I would encourage all educators, students, family members, and community members to visit the following websites to learn more about the eclipse:

Friday, June 23, 2017

Jettie Rhodes Neighborhood Day in King Park

I hope everyone is enjoying the first few weeks of summer.  I want to invite you to an amazing community event in King Park (just North of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Elementary School).  Jettie Rhodes Neighborhood Day is named after a woman who saw a lack of community programing and activities as a problem.  She created her own block party in King Park almost 20 years ago.  Despite the fact that Mrs. Rhodes passed away shortly after the first event, her children and grandchildren have created a day of music, food, and community in the park that celebrates the strength of community.  

The 18th Annual Jettie Rhodes Neighborhood Day is tomorrow, Saturday, June 24 from Noon to 4PM.  It is a great family friendly event, and there is entertainment, informational tables, and activities for everyone.  

Urbana School District #116 and Urbana Adult Education will have a table set up and there will be a variety of building and district administrators present throughout the day.  If you make it out, please stop by the table and say hi or hang out for bit.

We look forward to seeing you!

DDO

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Napleton's Teacher of the Year - USD116


Tonight marked the "First Annual" Napleton's Teacher of the Year Celebration.  Napleton's Auto Park of Urbana sponsored the award and the reception.  Three teachers (one elementary; one middle school; one high school) from USD116 and CUSD4 were chosen based on nominations submitted by students.

The three teachers from Urbana School District #116 who received the award for this inaugural year are:

Lorna Mesri, Yankee Ridge (pictured on the right)
Ashley Gentner, Urbana Middle School (left)
Becky Parks, Urbana High School (center)



Please join me in congratulating them! #ProudofU

DDO

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week - Please Thank a Teacher!



Teachers are amazing, and the teachers in Urbana School District #116 are the most amazing teachers I know.

This weekend I spoke do dozens of parents, former and current students, and members of the community, who were at events like the UMS and UHS musical productions (which were both amazing!). Each of the people I spoke to talked about how blessed they feel to live, work, or attend school in a district where the teachers do so much to support the students. As educators in this community, your contributions are noticed by more people than you realize. The work that each of you do as educators and support professionals has lasting impacts that shape students lives.

Thank you for all that you do help each student achieve his or her personal greatness. Your dedication, compassion, and perseverance are motivating and inspiring to me. I am honored and humbled to work with such dedicated educators.

Please take some time to make sure a teacher that has meant something to you or your child gets some extra appreciation!

Thank you,
Don

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Report to the Board of Education - April 17, 2017

Superintendent’s Report to
Urbana School District #116
Board of Education
April 17, 2017

39th Annual Young Authors' Celebration
Today, over 60 students representing all six elementary schools and Urbana Middle School attended the 39th Annual Young Authors Celebration.  Many thanks to the teachers and parents who supported the students as they wrote and submitted entries.  The day was lively with a bilingual story teller from Chicago, Ms. Edie A. Armstrong.  Teachers from across the district lead writing workshops and activities, and the UHS Drama Club stopped by and performed some of the Young Authors' stories on stage.  One student from each building was chosen as the building winner and will represent his/her school in Springfield at the Illinois Young Authors' Celebration on May 20, 2017.  

UHS Drama Club Presents Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street 
April 26-29 at 7PM and April 30 at 2:30PM, UHS drama students will present their production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  This is one the most musically challenging productions that UHS has performed, and the students and Mr. Broeker are excited for the opening next week.  It should be noted that due to the content of this musical, this production is not suitable for young children.




Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Report to the Board of Education - April 4, 2017

Superintendent’s Report to
Urbana School District #116
Board of Education
April 4, 2017


Festival Multicultural 2017
On Friday, April 7, 2017 from 6-7:30PM at Urbana Middle School, the Bilingual and Dual Language programs will be hosting a Multicultural Festival highlighting student art, cultural tables, and student performances.  

Kindergarten Connections 2017
On Tuesday, April 11, 2017 from 11AM-5:30PM at Lincoln Square Mall, any family who has an incoming Kindergartener is encouraged to pre-register their student at Kindergarten Connections.  Any child who lives in Urbana School District boundaries and will be 5 years old prior to September 1, 2017 should register for Kindergarten.  Each of the six elementary schools will be represented as well as individuals who can help with translation and completing registration.  A complete list of what to bring can be found at: http://www.usd116.org/parents/registration-information/incoming-kindergartners/

Kudos - UMS Geography Bee Winners:

For the second year in a row, an Urbana Middle School student paced in the top three at the state level in the Illinois State National Geographic Bee. This year, 8th grader, Theo Johnson placed third overall among 104 qualifiers from across the state.  Last year, Ved Shewale placed second at the state competition as a seventh grader. Ved was the UMS runner-up this year.  Congratulations to Theo and Ved!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Report to the Board of Education - March 14, 2017

Superintendent’s Report to
Urbana School District #116
Board of Education
March 14, 2017

Arrangements for Mr. Summerville


Wednesday, March 15th 4:30pm
Public Viewing 4:30pm to 7:30pm at the Urbana High School Gymnasium
1002 S Race St, Urbana, IL 61801


Thursday, March 16th 7:30 pm
Musical Concert at 7:30pm at the Mt. Olive Baptist Church
808 E Bradley Ave, Champaign, IL 61820


Friday, March 17th 11:00 am
Homegoing Service at The Vineyard Church
1500 N Lincoln Ave, Urbana, IL 61801


At the request of Mr. Summerville’s children, the district is creating a scholarship to honor three (3) Urbana High School Seniors.  The details of the scholarships are still being finalized with the Summerville family, and if anyone would like to donate to the scholarship, donations are accepted online at: https://urbana.revtrak.net/USD116-Donations-Options and select “Willie T. Summerville Scholarship” under the Program tab.  

City of Urbana Social Service Grant Programs


Urbana School District #116 will write for the City of Urbana Social Service grant which is due on April 7, 2017. The grant will be written to support SPLASH programming at Dr. Preston L. Williams Jr. and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary Schools during the 2017-2018 school-year.

Dr. Preston L. Williams Jr. and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary Schools are sites for the after-school program referred to as SPLASH (Students Playing and Learning After School Hours).  The program at these two schools began in 2013 with funds awarded from the federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant. The SPLASH program partners with the Urbana Park District and several other community groups to carry out after-school enrichment, recreation, and academic support for students. The grant is now in its fifth and final year of funding. A new round of 21st Century Community Learning Center grants are expected out during the summer of 2017 with awards made in early winter of 2017. The hope is for the City of Urbana Social Service Grant to help maintain the SPLASH program until new 21st CCLC funds are secured.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thoughts about Transgender Info from US Department of Education

In light of the recent announcement by the U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Secretary of Education regarding removing previous guidance related to transgender students, I wanted to emphasize that Urbana School District #116’s policies and procedures are not changing. All students are welcome here. 

Secretary Education, Betsy DeVos stated, "This is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students."  Urbana School District #116 has a strong Board Policy (7:10 Equal Educational Opportunities) that prohibits any form of discrimination based on a variety of issues including gender identity. We work with individual students and families to apply that policy in a way that supports the needs of all students including transgender students. 

I am proud of our teachers, students, and families, who respect the dignity and rights of transgender students. We are going to continue doing what we have been doing, which is protecting the privacy of our students and ensuring that all of our students feel welcome and safe at school.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Report to the Board of Education - February 21, 2017

Superintendent’s Report to
Urbana School District #116
Board of Education
February 21, 2017

Luke Luffman and A. J. Fox place at IHSA State Wrestling Meet
UHS Junior A. J. Fox placed sixth in his weight class in the IHSA 2a State Wrestling Tournament last weekend, and Sophomore Luke Luffman won his final match of the season, and is IHSA 2a State Wrestling Champion for his weight class! Congratulations to both athletes and to Coach Trabaris for another outstanding season - 10 consecutive years of UHS wrestlers in the IL State Meet!

UHS Debate Club continues to shine
The debate team competed at the Carl Sandburg high school debate tournament in Orland Park in January: Michael Larenas-Leach and Finn Dallas competed at the higher division and finished 1st place overall team debate. The debate team of Dylan Patel and Andrehyu Allen completed at one of the largest tournaments in Missouri this past weekend, and made it to the finals and after a 2-1 split decision, finishing second overall. Great way to finish the regular season as they begin preparing to compete at the two debate State finals next month.

Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center recognized by Lt. Governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti
The Illinois Lt. Governor presented Urbana School District #116 and Urbana Park District a certificate of recognition for being named a 2016 Shared Service Best Practice by the Journal of Local Government. The recognition is for the intergovernmental cooperation to provide services to the community.

Dr. Jennifer Ivory-Tatum
As I have said several times, it is our policy not to comment on personnel decisions and I understand that adds to the confusion and frustration. I would like everyone to know that I am, and will continue to work, with Dr. Ivory-Tatum on a position that will allow the district and community to benefit from Dr. Ivory-Tatum’s knowledge and skills. We are committed to work together to reach an outcome that will best serve the district and community and allow us to focus on our educational mission.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Report to the Board of Education - January 10, 2017

Superintendent’s Report to
Urbana School District #116
Board of Education
January 10, 2017


January is Mentoring Month in Urbana-Champaign
The CU One to One Mentoring Program is spending time this month thanking mentors for the time they spend with our students.  The CU One to One Mentoring Program pairs adults with students who spend an hour a week during school hours with a student.  Thursday is “I am a Mentor” day on social media, and mentors are encouraged to use the #IAmAMentor to help tell the story of why mentoring is important to them.  


Mentoringworks.jpgIf you would like more information about being a mentor in Urbana School District #116, you can contact Tom Howley, Director of Mentoring and Community Engagement at thowley@usd116.org or at 217-337-0853.  I have also asked Mr. Howley to give a short report to the Board at the January Business Meeting.  


If you are a CU One to One Mentor, thank you!  If you are not a CU One to One Mentor, please consider becoming one.  



Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Countywide Celebration  - http://www.diversity.illinois.edu/mlk/calendar.html


MLK2011_transparent.pngFriday, January 13, 2017 at 4PM-6PM at Parkland College - This event kicks off the week-long celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King.  Lucia Maldonado, Latino Family Liaison for USD116 will be receiving the James R. Burgess Jr. - Susan Freiburg Humanitarian Award.  This award, “Honors the humanitarian efforts of individuals and organizations improving the human condition by alleviating suffering and contributing to the basic dignity of those in need.


Sunday, January 15, 2017 at 5PM-7PM (music starts at 4:30PM) at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is the 32nd Annual Dr. MLK Jr Service of Celebration - At this event the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Advocacy for Justice Committee will be awarding scholarships to local high school students.  Urbana High School has 5 of the 12 scholarship winners this year:  Yasir Badillo Acosta, Shelbert Nance, Nikita Pack, Kennedy Kindle Reynolds, and Maritza Rodriguez.


Monday, January 16, 2017; 10:30AM-3PM (music starts at 10:15AM) at Urbana High School Commons is the Dr. MLK Jr Youth Commemoration and Afternoon of Service - The UHS Interact students planned a day of learning, celebration and service, sponsored by Urbana Rotary.  The morning will consist of music and speakers (Urbana City Councilperson, Aaron Ammons, and University of Illinois Professor, Dr. Rebecca Ginsburg).  Pizza lunch is provided.  After lunch the Illini Fighting Hunger will lead a rice packaging activity for a local food bank.  


Kudos
Arlene Anderson, Director of Student Services, Urbana Adult Education, was nominated for the 2016-2017 National LifeChanger of the Year Award.


Ms. Shalonda Carr, 4/5 ESL Teacher, King Elementary School, was selected as one of five Illinois science finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Ms. Lori Johnson, Administrative Assistant and Board Recording Secretary, is being awarded both the “Excellence Award” and the Employee Campaign Coordinator of the Year Award from the United Way of Champaign County for her coordination of the Champaign County Combined Charitable Campaign for USD116.