CHAMPAIGN - A 90-page plan now in the hands of Champaign schools' supporters outlines Superintendent Arthur Culver's strategy for making major changes quickly to address simmering issues.
Chief among those issues: how to improve equity and achievement in the district among all racial and ethnic groups.
Culver, in his introduction to the document, refers to the events that make the planning and the changes so critical.
He said that, ideally, revising a district's strategic plan is a fine-tuning process that takes about a year.
?Our district, however, is experiencing a unique sense of urgency because of our need to comply with the recommendations made to us in federal court in December 2002,? Culver said, referring to an equity lawsuit that led to an agreement between the district and the black community that's being monitored by Robert Peterkin, whose name appears regularly in the new plan.
?Without an immediate plan of action, we could fall behind another year in our responsibilities to the court and to our students,? Culver wrote. He said the action plan his district leadership team has designed sets ?high expectations for all students and provides the action steps necessary to meet those expectations.?
The district has distributed copies to community members who are active in school affairs, to members of organizations, to religious community leaders and others. Culver said it's ?a living document,? and he said he seeks feedback.
Culver said his goal is to accomplish ?high expectations for students, learning environments that support equity and excellence, continuous monitoring of students' performance and high levels of accountability (that) will ensure exemplary achievement by every student.?
One initiative directs district personnel to find 200 more seats for students on the north side of the city. Beth Shepperd, assistant superintendent for human resources and community relations, said that doesn't necessarily mean building new buildings. However, it could include new uses for Marquette School at 405 East Clark St., where early childhood programs are now housed, and other district-owned buildings.
The early childhood program will move at the end of the school year into new facilities adjacent to Stratton Elementary School.
Plans to increase the student population at Stratton also are outlined.
The document divides the task at hand into the following nine strategies:
- Aligned, rigorous curriculum.
- Equitable access.
- Supportive climate.
- Safe, orderly environment.
- High-quality staff.
- Long-range facility planning.
- Fiscal responsibility.
- Effective two-way communications.
- Technology planning.
Curriculum-related actions call for a lot of research and review. They call for developing specific strategies to address equity issues, strategies like identifying internal and external programs to help underrepresented students, and monitoring staff practices that might exclude some students.
And they call for ?quarterly diagnostic assessments aligned to standards-based curriculum and timeline? to begin in October, and for new tutorial programs to begin in July.
The document says student placement in special education programs, where black students are overrepresented, will be closely monitored, and extra support will be given to minority students in gifted and talented programs and advanced placement classes, where they're underrepresented.
The district will also recruit black staff members to participate in gifted training.
Concerns about attendance surface in the document, which calls for districtwide programs to improve attendance including developing a dropout reduction plan.
Administrators and board members have expressed concerns in the past about the quality of education in district alternative education classes, which try to keep youngsters with learning or behavior problems in school. Peterkin criticized those programs because so many students in them were black.
Culver wants to see the quality and level of alternative education classes increased.
Other planned actions include:
- Beginning a long-discussed middle school assignment plan, giving students and parents some choice about which one they attend. Elementary students are already on a controlled choice plan.
- Beginning student character education and other programs ?to create an environment in which everyone is treated with courtesy, dignity, respect and professionalism.
- Identifying students who don't participate in extracurricular activities and trying to get them involved.
- Stepping up video surveillance, lighting and supervision programs for students' safety and reward systems for good attendance and good behavior.
The document also calls for cooperative planning with area agencies, park districts, colleges, libraries and other groups, it outlines extensive plans to recruit more minority faculty and staff members and plans to help them advance with extra education, and it calls for discussions about a possible permanent location for the Family Information Center, which now occupies rented quarters on Springfield Avenue.
Culver has said his review will dig into all aspects of district education and operations, and he expects many of the actions that result to be controversial with students, staff members and the community.
But he has said the district will be the better for it, and he made a promise.
?(This) plan will guide our expectations, our actions and the allocation of our resources as we move toward becoming a model district for exemplary public education,? he said.