CHAMPAIGN – Since last spring, the Champaign school board has been asking parents and teachers to talk about their concerns for their buildings.
They're sure to get plenty of comments, and questions, from the parents at South Side Elementary School. The board meets at 7 p.m. Monday at the school, at 712 S. Pine St., C. There will be a tour of the building at 6:30 p.m. The PTA is providing child care.
The board began holding a second meeting each month last April to hear public comment about issues facing the district.
Those meetings are scheduled at a school, rather than the district's administration building.
In preparation for the meeting at South Side, the school's PTA has been compiling a list of questions and concerns from parents. Brenda Koenig, the PTA's vice president, forwarded more than a dozen questions to school board members this week.
Their concerns include plans for upgrading the school, preserving historic schools, the benefits of a smaller school, the focus on testing, the district's compliance with its consent decree, and a strategic plan to address discipline issues.
"It was clear people had already thought about these things and formulated a lot of questions in their minds," Koenig said.
She expects a good turnout Monday.
Although not all parents agree on the issues, "South Side is quite a socially engaged and politically engaged community," she said.
Koenig wants a positive and constructive conversation at the meeting, but she said parents want their questions answered and certain issues discussed.
Board President Margie Skirvin said school officials will address the questions they've received, but she said some issues have not yet been decided. She agreed the meeting is a good way for parents to learn more about the issues.
"I think it might be a good chance to tell parents about the (consent decree) hearing on Oct. 19. They need to know why we're having that and what the point is," she said. "There's things like that we haven't really talked about in public."
She said regular board meetings don't offer enough time to discuss all the questions residents have. But, she added, the special board meetings were begun to allow the board to hear from residents about what they want.
"I hope we get information shared both ways," she said. "This is a good opportunity for people to talk to us."
Koenig said Monday's meeting is a crucial one leading up to the spring election.
"Everybody is aware that five of the seven (school board) seats are going to be decided this year," Koenig said. "It could be a turning point in the way that Unit 4 is run. I think people understand how critical this coming election is. We want answers from the school board.
"We want to know their positions. What we want is open dialogue, because that's the only way we can turn the tide of negative public perception about the district."