Today, I'm featuring a guest blog post from Lynn Peisker, the spokeswoman for the Champaign schools. Today is her last day in that position, and so she's writing a guest post about what she's learned during her work with the school district.
Hi, my name is Lynn Peisker, and I have had the pleasure as serving as the spokesperson for the Champaign School District for the last two years.
I am taking a new position with a family business, but my interest in the future of the school District will remain.
I have gotten to know Meg over the last year or so as she reports on education in our community and I asked her if I could share a couple of things I have learned:
The last two years have been extraordinary for this school district. We settled a consent decree. We lost a superintendent. We lost a whole team of administrators. We gained an interim superintendent. We had a team of retired administrators return. We gained a permanent superintendent. We suffered the loss of board member, Greg Novak, and then only months later, our Chief Operating Officer, Gene Logas passed away. This school district has had to be resilient.
The unknowns of state and federal funding are a giant dark cloud that never goes away.
The people who work here at Unit 4 work really, really hard. I am amazed at what it takes to ensure the education of children. This ensures a high level of accountability (good) and a high level of exhaustion (bad). By the way, this includes board of education members who are unpaid volunteers. They give several hours of their time during a typical week; during a Superintendent search or other extraordinary circumstance they give much more.
Our community is very interested in education. I receive very complex and intelligent questions every week from parents and community members. They want to be informed, and I have found it is almost impossible to deliver too much information.
Some days bad things happen. Often we can’t talk about them because we are required by law to protect the identity of students and staff members. Because of this, there are times the public only gets to hear one side of a situation.
Last year, 54 percent of the students in our school district qualified for free or reduced lunch. That means that more than half of our families are dealing with significant financial challenges related to basic needs. Families are overcoming these challenges every day and our kids are succeeding. Just this year, 2012 graduates earned close to $5 million in scholarships and are attending an impressive list of colleges and universities.
Our future is bright. I have been fortunate to sit with the newly established leadership team here at Unit 4 and I am impressed. They are highly intelligent, educated and accomplished. But they are also warm and funny. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish together. Superintendent Judy Wiegand insists that their primary job is to support what’s most important, and that is the learning that takes place between teacher and student in the classroom.
As a parent in this school district, I am glad to hear that. My family will continue to reside in this community and to be committed to public education. I encourage you to join me and watch closely, ask questions and lend your support to our schools since now we both know a little bit more than we did before.