CHAMPAIGN — Want to have a say in how Unit 4 goes about assigning students to elementary schools — other than filling out a seven-question online survey?
In a Monday letter to families in the district, Superintendent Shelia Boozer shared details on how to register for seven days of community focus group meetings, which will be hosted by Unit 4’s project consultant, Cooperative Strategies.
Sixteen of the 22 hour-long meetings — spread over two weeks, starting Wednesday — will be held virtually, according to the online registration page, linked to Boozer’s letter. Meetings “may be limited in number of attendees to ensure that feedback from all attendees is captured,” the registration page notes without stating a number limit.
Families have the option to check multiple boxes of all the meetings they can attend.
Scheduled start times:
— Wednesday (virtual): 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 7 p.m.
— Thursday (virtual): 9 a.m., 1 p.m., 7 p.m.
– Tuesday, October 11 (virtual): 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m.
— Wednesday, October 12 (virtual): 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m.
– Thursday, October 13 (virtual): 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m.
— Monday, October 17 (in person): 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m.
— Tuesday, October 18 (in person): 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m.
After selecting times and dates of availability, families are invited to “tell us why you want to be part of a focus group” in 50 words or less.
The mostly virtual format of the meetings drew a stern response from the group Unit 4 Families for a Smarter Solution, which called the problem at hand “too big to cut corners and weed out family members.” community”.
In a statement on Monday, the group said it was “outraged and offended” by the limitations on meetings, adding, “Newsgroup sessions should be open to all members of the community, have no barriers to entry and be inclusive. Instead, Cooperative Strategies, the consultancy firm hired by Unit 4, will screen the individuals and ultimately the voices allowed to participate in this important conversation. An accurate public record requires that all voices are heard.
Offering only two in-person opportunities, the group said, “Cooperative strategies leave out families without access to technology. Only two evening sessions are available, both virtual, and the community only received 2-3 days notice to attend. That’s not enough time to rearrange work or extracurricular schedules, or to arrange childcare while parents attend. or in person. There is also no indication that the sessions will be offered in languages other than English.
“Additionally, applicants are asked to provide a reason why they want to participate in the focus group. This creates more barriers for our most vulnerable families.”
In Boozer’s letter, the superintendent noted that feedback that emerges from focus group meetings “will not be weighted differently than feedback received through our online survey.
“…Your input is extremely valuable to us and we hope you will consider participating in this important process. All feedback will be analyzed and used to help formulate final recommendations to our school board. We hope other scenarios will emerge from all the thoughtful feedback and feedback from our stakeholders. »
In an effort to bridge the growing socioeconomic status gap among its 12 elementary schools, Unit 4 hired Cooperative Strategies, at a cost of no more than $159,000, to study the district’s demographics, gather feedback from the community and make recommendations on alternatives to its current schools. model of choice for elementary homework from the 2023-2024 school year.
The company presented two preliminary options to the school board at last week’s meeting, noting that adopting either plan could result in the majority of students attending a different school than the one they are in. are currently attending. In the model that draws the district map into three clusters of four schools, that number could be as high as 90%, consultants said.