School board workshop, Oct. 29, 2020

What, you ask, is a board “workshop”?  It appears merely to be an opportunity for staff to give presentations.  In this case, there were three agenda items:

  1. Technology update
  2. Teaching & learning update
  3. Return to in-person update

Tech:  they purchased unlimited-data hotspots, provided to all students who need them. Secure device charging stations added to buildings with hands-free handover.  Using Amazon Web Services for applications used by manufacturing, PLTW, etc. (Autocad, Illustrator, etc.).  Created remote parking-lot help desks.  Apprenticeship program (that is, students working with the district tech department).

Note that the questions section had a tech error – the livestream had the live Q&A simultaneous with a recording, so it wasn’t possible to make sense of this.

Teaching and Learning – Dr. Lopez and team: dual credit and parent portal.   Increase from 11% of graduating class in 2013-2014 to 74.1% in 2020-2021.  705 to 10,959 enrollments.  8300 to 9 -10K enrollments in AP at the same time.  All racial/ethnic groups and both low- and high income had enrollment in the 60%s (Asians exceeded at 72.4%).

Top classes:  College Speech, 1,092; College Comp, 919; College Spanish – 905 & 904 (two different classes and I couldn’t tell the difference from the label).

92% of 2020 grades completed “some college level coursework” – but this includes “algebra II” (???) which really called into question the whole presentation, and I’ll have to look this up later.

39% of students are graduating with 15 or more credits (AP or Dual Credit); 60% with at least 8 credits.

Q&A:  Generally not so much questions as affirmations.   What’s a criteria to get a college partner?  Depends on pathway:  Lewis for Aviation, Triton for Automotive (Harper doesn’t have).  EIU:  affordable & attainable.  Requested letter from P & VP to EIU with thanks.

Student Readiness Profile:  provides info for students & parents to identify “redefining ready” progress.  Interactive tool, with lots of pop-ups.  (52 minute-mark).  Showing checkmarks for college/career readiness indicators.  It looks very data heavy but it’s hard to visualize this for actual family use.

Q:  did we build this our buy prepackaged?  This is from Tableau.  Q:  Are there plans to use this from an equity perspective?  A: we look at this data to see where we’re at from an equity lens.  [Note:  “equity perspective” and “equity lens” are the latest ways of expressing how racial/ethnic minority groups are doing relative to the rest.] Q: parent education? A: still working on that; focus groups, before go-live.

Return-to-school update; this was the topic I was waiting for but there was shockingly little time devoted to it.

Schuler spoke and said, paraphrased, that the last 24 hours had been crazy with cancellation, approval, moving of basketball.  Continue to collaborate with colleagues to navigate public health guidance, etc.

From here on out I directly transcribed Schuler’s comments.

“Our mitigation efforts and mitigation protocols are working.  We have had zero cases to-date of in-building spread, which is awesome, because that means that once we get in our building, people and staff are staying safe.   And we continue to encourage all of our staff and our students and their families to not come to school when they’re sick, make sure they continue to wash their hands as often as possible.  We’re reviewing right now the numbers of students that are choosing to come in-person and the social distancing spaces we have in each classroom, and we’ll be reviewing those options and seeing if there needs to be an alteration in the next few days.  Our parents have been great, our students have been great, our staff has been great.  What we said to everybody is, ‘just make sure you follow the mitigation protocols and we’ll be good.’  We’ll be sending out a communication  regarding people that are looking to travel over the holidays, and whether or not they have to quarantine when they come back, or not quarantine when they come back.  Marnie has been awesome at working with Cook County, along with Chris.  We’ve got protocols in place, we’ve got questions that have to be asked, our students are self-certifying and having their temperatures checked on a daily basis.  I’m really happy we started small so we could learn together, similar to the last point we made, we’re figuring things out.  It’s been going super-great, and so now we’ll sit back and see if we can make some alterations to the plan, knowing that numbers of cases in the community obviously are skyrocketing everywhere.  And so, you know, there is obviously major concern that at some point that comes into the buildings.  I would just say to date, that has not happened, and we pray to God it doesn’t, but we continue to monitor, continue to work together with all our associations have been awesome to work with, and I continue to talk to parents about concerns they have, insights they have, and perspectives.  And so, I hope to share some more information publically in the next several days as we continue to monitor cases.  Cases jumped again by like over 6,000 today.  So just balancing all of that, losing a lot of sleep, and trying to do what’s best by our kids and our community.   I’d be happy to answer any questions that the board may have.

Younger:  Can you talk a little bit about the numbers that we’re seeing in each individual building and what your plans are to maybe potentially increase that if we’re having difficulty, or at least giving kids the opportunity to go more days, if they’re only 2 – 7 kids per class or something like that?

Schuler:  Yeah, great question, so we have right now approximately, depending on the school, anywhere from 85 kids coming in on a daily basis up to I think 356 was the high in one of the buildings.  And so one of the challenges that I’m trying to work through with the team is depending on which school you’re in, you might be able to have different levels and numbers of students come in or come in on a more frequent basis.  And so trying to just work through equal vs. equitable and what that looks like for the different schools in our communities.  Some I’m hopeful that if the numbers continue for this cycle it will allow us to engage our association in possibly revisiting some of these numbers, but again, it’s at the same point these cases are now over I think it’s over 10% positivity rate today in Cook overall.  So we’re working on all those details, and so I’m hoping we’ll have a plan in the next couple days providing more opportunities.

Q (unknown female):  I know we’ve spoken about the fact that there are so many community members that are asking for us to bring more kids in and expand, and the need to be slow and careful, but at the same time the need to make sure our kids are getting what they need.  I know it’s really difficult especially as you look at increased rates in the communities.  I hope that we are able to bring more kids into the building as soon as possible, as safely as possible.   It’s just a comment. And I know that’s in your heart as well, based on our conversations.

Schuler: I agree completely.

So what do I make of this?

On the one hand, it’s positive to hear that there have been no cases traced to the school, and that they are working on a plan to bring more students in (even though it’s a secret plan, which is disappointing).

But on the other hand, it was extremely discouraging that there was not any acknowledgement of the struggles students are experiencing, nor of the poor student experience within the schools, as students report being the only one attending in-person because the other eligible students had been deterred from doing so by the experience.  And for all the affirmation of the achievements of their dual-enrollment program, Schuler did a disservice to the board members by failing to update them on the academic struggles of students, as evidenced by the climbing rates of Ds and Fs.

Plus, the comment about wanting to “engage our association in possibly revisiting some of these numbers” is in reference to teacher’s unions and suggested that they will need to get union sign-off.  And the “equal vs. equitable” was not particularly clear but it’s my guess it could refer to some schools having more students choose to come than others, and a feeling that they have to be “fair” overall rather than allow more students from the lower-attendance schools to come, particularly if it’s schools where the home environment is particularly unsuitable for remote learning, where there are more students choosing to come in, being less deterred by the poor in-person experience.

So that’s that.  Up next:  finally drafting a letter to Schuler, asking him to address these points.

August board meeting (own photo)





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