New school board president to take gavel
CHAMPAIGN – School board members' action-packed Monday night agenda includes a change in officers and approval of a site to be purchased for a new elementary school.
At the 7 p.m. meeting at district headquarters, 703 South New St., board President Scott Anderson is expected to hand over the gavel to one of two contenders for the president's job, Margie Skirvin or Dave Tomlinson. Members will vote on Anderson's successor at the meeting.
Anderson, who won't run for re-election, has said he's stepping aside because he wants another board member to get leadership experience before the next board election in 2007, when five seats will be open, including his.
Skirvin served a term on the board from 1997 to 2001, was defeated in her bid for re-election but was elected again in 2003. Her term also expires in 2007. Tomlinson, a Champaign firefighter, has been on the board for a year. Both have campaigned behind the scenes for Anderson's job.
After the election, which is at the end of the action agenda, Superintendent Arthur Culver will disclose the location of the land to be purchased for a new school north of University Avenue if voters approve a $66 million proposal on March 21 to build two new schools, rebuild Dr. Howard and make major repairs to eight elementary schools.
Board members might discuss the deal in a closed session before they vote.
In other business Monday, the board will review numbers of minority students enrolled in gifted and talented classes, numbers the district tracks closely because its consent decree promises to equalize education opportunities for black and white students.
Dedrick Martin, director of equity, said it will be a positive report.
"The numbers are up," Martin said. "Exactly what's supposed to be happening is happening. We've made steady progress since 1997 when the consent decree ball got rolling."
He said 16.7 percent of the black children in district elementary schools now participate in gifted and talented activities, up from 3 percent in 1997 and up 2.1 percent from last year. About 34 percent of all black elementary children take enrichment classes designed to improve critical-thinking skills and to move them to the next level.
About 22.8 percent of black middle school students take honors classes, up from 4 percent in 1997.
"It's very positive that more African-American students are being exposed to higher level and more rigorous work," Martin said.
Earlier identification is part of the picture.
"We test all students at the end of first grade – everyone," Martin said. "We also do a lot of communicating to parents in the media, meetings and letters to explain the program to people whose children may qualify but aren't in it."
Teachers get special training to use gifted strategies, especially at the middle school level, so they can prepare students to tackle advanced placement classes in high school.