Champaign School District focus groups to begin


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Dr. Howard, Kenwood, Bottenfield and Robeson. Growing up, Ashley Hill bounced between these four Champaign elementary schools.

“I could never get that sense of security and stability in my life. I always had to make new friends. It was like having to start all over again,” Hill said.

Her family moved around the district often, and she vividly remembers the discomfort she felt each first day at a new school.

“I would never want that for my children. I don’t want that for any child,” Hill said.

Today, she is grateful to give her children the stability she never had. But, she also fears that it will be taken away from them. The Champaign School District wants a new process for assigning students and is considering proposals that could uproot many children from their current schools.

“It is the children who suffer. We don’t like change as adults, but kids seem to be fine with it consistently, no change,” Hill said.

The district says it needs to change. Decades of efforts to end socio-economic segregation have not borne fruit. They hired Cooperative Strategies to come up with solutions, and their ideas were met with a lot of criticism. Some parents feel that the district is already failing to represent everyone.

“We want a diversity of voices to be heard in this process, and there are many parents in the community who just don’t feel heard,” said Molly Niesen of 4 Families Unit for a Smarter Solution. .

The external company will organize focus groups to obtain feedback. But the group Unit 4 Families for a Smarter Solution fears that they are not accessible to those who do not have access to technology, or who speak another language, or who work during the focus group sessions.

“You almost have to apply and write a reason why you want to be a part of it, and that’s just not inclusive for our community,” said Cynthia Bruno of Unit 4 Families for a Smarter Solution.

Families also have the option of completing an online survey instead. But, they all have questions, and say they might miss the chance to ask them.

“How do they select who will be in which focus group? What is the criterion? And finally, how many voices will we hear? says Bruno.

The 4 Families Unit for a smarter solution wants to make sure every family feels heard.

“Let’s be part of this solution. Let’s help our community members have their say,” Bruno said.

Focus groups are scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Seven are planned, but Unit 4 Families for a Smarter Solution said they were only given a few days’ notice and said their access to all families was limited.

In an email to parents on Monday evening, Superintendent Dr Sheila Boozer said the board hoped other scenarios would emerge from the comments. We contacted the board on Tuesday and they declined to comment.

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