Introduction & Overview
Parents: Nancy Coleman, Andy Graham, Monica Carico, Rose Benton, Becky Jones, Heather Benz, Mike Tome
Staff: Sarah Abner, Carissa Culbertson, Jenny Hall, Diana Mendoza, Mike Springer, Ryan Green, Barb Moore, Michelle Ramage, Scott Amerio
Community Members: Regina Crider, Wednesday Medlin, Tawanna Nickens, Rev Otis Evans, Saundra Uhlott, Bill Sweat Sr., Abbey Good
Thirty-seven community members representing parents, teachers, administrators, students and community members met in two planning sessions (morning and evening) to discuss the future of Rantoul schools. The role of Education Ambassador was outlined as follows;
· Co-create a long term (5-6 years) strategic plan for thriving students K-12; act as advisory to school superintendents and school boards,
· Become informed regarding what is currently taking place in RCS and RTHS and participate in designing a preferred future based on personalized, mastery learning,
· Build enthusiasm and advocate for this effort; communicate with other community groups, businesses and individuals regarding the process,
· Listen to and work with student and teacher leaders in creating a new vision,
· Offer your best ideas for strengthening community and parent involvement in Rantoul schools
· Have fun and revitalize Rantoul as a ‘learning community’.
Superintendent Michelle Ramage of Rantoul City Schools and Superintendent Scott Amerio of Rantoul Township High School opened the sessions with an overview of how the school strategic planning effort is one of several ambitious initiatives that fit within a broad Rantoul Tomorrow agenda. The Rantoul Tomorrow website, www.rantoultomorrow.com provides an outline all the various components.
The group of Education Ambassadors has been asked to commit to four planning sessions to guide the development of a long-term K-12 strategic plan that will guide priorities and investments over the next several years, with a desired outcome of distinguishing Rantoul schools as focused on personalized, mastery learning in the context of ‘community schools’. Presentation slides outlining what this means can be viewed on the website.
Building on the Positive
All efforts of Rantoul Tomorrow are being guided by building on the positive, not focusing on the negative. Rather than use a medical model of looking at what is ill in the community, we focus on what is healthy in the community and how can we build on that energy. The approach is guided in part by what is called Appreciative Inquiry (AI). (hyperlink)
Developing a common understanding of why change is needed
Major challenges and opportunities were identified in a broad assessment of Rantoul schools, conducted in January 2015. These were reviewed and then participants were asked to provide input and guidance on the following questions. Note - the questions from morning and evening are combined and notes in italics were added by the facilitator to clarify the questions.
What do you see in the Rantoul Tomorrow vision (mind map) that gives you hope?
Good to see RCS and RTHS working together as districts
Building up the reputation of the schools
Providing needed transportation
The community working together, hand in hand with the schools and Village
Being positive about the community
Creating a nexus between the schools and the development community
Generate a stronger tax base that benefits everyone
Better representation of community voices
The Village and Schools working together
Eliminate silos in the community
Open access in the schools to the community
If you could change anything about your own K-12 school experience what would it be?
Equality among the grade schools
More hands on learning
Better transition to Jr. High
More checkpoint tests
Less emphasis on rote memorization
Take me out of the ‘rows’
Raise awareness and develop a plan w/student & family when a student is falling behind
I wish teachers had been more understanding about how kids learn at different levels.
More authentic tasks/ learning opportunities
Internship opportunity during high school to help inform career
Detect a learning disability before college
My own attitude toward learning
What kinds of learning experiences do we need to provide to ensure student success?
Students being challenged
Community experiences (learning outside the classroom)
Define the purpose of homework as it pertains to mastery learning
More creativity (outside of tradition)
Opportunities (to succeed)
Diversity (honor and value this)
Equity of opportunity and high expectations for each and every student
Student directed learning
Teach parents how to help their children
Reach out to help all students
Consistent, high expectations
Identify reading skills (early diagnosis)
Personalize – relationships
Hands-on learning experiences
A more customizable learning experience
Parent priorities or responsibilities when it comes to your child’s education
Establish equal standards of success for every student
How can we build bridges between schools and the community?
Host more community events at our schools
How can we get the word out more?
Celebrate more successes
Transportation (collaboration between systems)
Have a destination (a career plan for the future)
Get our Latino/Hispanic community more involved outside of bilingual meetings
Consistency through school and life
Market and showcase positive activities
Open the school doors to community activities
Parents need help with relationships & navigating the system to advocate for their child
Questions, Concerns & Observations
Education Ambassadors had many questions and requests for information. Some of these were answered by administrators during the evening but many will require further investigation. This process is essential in developing a ‘learning community’, a group of individuals that have a deeper understanding of school change efforts and can communicate clearly with others. These questions will be organized by themes and addressed at the next meeting.
What do the schools do to connect parents with educational resources that they might need? (ex: literacy, instruction, English language instruction, career and employment resources
(What is the level of) Overall cultural competency and application of skills (want staff, students and community to develop understanding and skills)
How can we get more diversity among staff and boards?
Diversity of students and staff? (How can we value this and increase staff diversity?)
(Can we learn more about) Explanation of classes offered (expectations, etc.)
(What can you tell us about) Teacher performance?
How can we get more positive testing news to the community? Successes?
(What is level of?) Parent satisfaction w/ direct service and support staff
How many students take advantage of after school tutoring opportunities and how successful is this program in improving grades/deficits?
What measures are in place to determine a student’s financial knowledge?
What qualifications to attend alternative schools and the success rates of those students?
What has been mastered? (an example or model)
How are teachers being trained in the ‘open’ philosophy?
When will Mastery Learning and community schools begin to be implemented?
Define mastery learning in more detail
Can you or would you (the districts) be willing to consider pulling together a cultural competency committee?
Access to reports/information on what currently takes place in RCS & RTHS to use as a resource to educate those of us with no children in the system.
How do we make sure this just isn’t all “talk and information” and it will be put in to practice?
How are the feeder schools other than RCS being brought in?
What specifically can I tell community members that they can do now and later on?
How will it be communicated?
Are we focusing on all major challenges at once or prioritizing a few to start and working on first?
What are the logistics of creating community schools – where do we house these resources?
Why can’t we ask for community help in building upkeep? (landscape maintenance)
Can we do an ‘adopt-a-school’ program?
Will the discipline system be changing along with everything else? Get rid of ISS? (in school suspension)
How do we get people into the building to attend functions that the school hosts?
What do you do in place of ISS at RCS and is it working?
What is our average ACT score?
Why can’t we advertise our own data?
What data should be reported and how?
Can PTO’s be combined for RCS to accomplish equity?
What additional outreach can happen at registration?
· The assimilation process (for kids and parents) into the school system is not clear.
· Families don’t always understand school culture and don’t know how to navigate the system (could we create Community Navigators?)
· Define ‘parent involvement’ so parents know what that means
· Provide better information about RTHS advisory board/ feeder districts
The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for September 29th in the evening for all Education Ambassadors. The date and place will be confirmed by the end of August.
Meanwhile, the school districts and each Rantoul Tomorrow investment task force and will be proceeding with their independent work. There are overarching questions about values, community characteristics and activities that will need to be considered as a community.
Remember the assignment to read the assessment report and talk to at least one other person about the work of the Education Ambassador group.
Stay in touch … visit the Rantoul Tomorrow website www.rantoultomorrow.com . All of your work in education will be available to the entire community and all are encouraged to provide their voice to help shape Rantoul Tomorrow.
PS – if you have questions or changes you want made to this summary, please contact Vickie Fleming @ firstname.lastname@example.org