Community members hold the ‘feet to the fire’ of Unit 4 demographic consultants during Tuesday’s meeting | Education


CHAMPAIGN — As he stood before about 60 community members Tuesday evening in the gymnasium of Garden Hills Academy, David Sturtz was not surprised by the tenor of the response he and his demographics consulting firm , Cooperative Strategies, received after making two proposals to the Unit 4 School District to dramatically change its elementary school placement process.

“In this line of work, you deal with layers of challenges, complications, lives of people who have been affected by decades, if not centuries, of decisions they didn’t make that impact generational,” Sturtz said after the second of two community open houses in as many nights.

“It’s real, it’s raw, it’s tough… and I expect nothing less. Flat meetings on a subject of this nature would be a problem. Expect heated conversation with a healthy dose of skepticism towards the consultant standing in front of you. We should be responsible.

The questions and comments that Sturtz and his colleague Scott Leopold answered at Tuesday’s open house were general in nature, but nearly everyone was highly skeptical of their company’s two proposed plans to replace the district’s Schools of Choice model. .

This week’s forums, including one the night before at Carrie Busey Elementary, came after the company met with hundreds of community members in focus groups to discuss proposed plans.

One of these plans would create four demarcated clusters of schools. Families would choose schools based on the groups they are placed in.

The other option would be a completely delineated model outside of two sets of “sister schools,” meaning that students from Barkstall and Carrie Busey would attend schools with students from Stratton and Booker T. Washington, respectively. The latter shot received significant pushback, Sturtz told the crowd.

The changes would theoretically come into effect next school year. The company can recommend that the district allow some students to stay at the school they currently attend, Sturtz said, allowing considerations for older students, siblings and possibly others.

“There’s a lot of energy around this, so let’s have these deeper conversations about identifying and scaling up what’s working well in our schools,” Sturtz said. “I love this conversation. We’ve been tasked with something narrow, but I want to open up the conversation because that’s where the magic happens.

After the focus groups, which included a meeting with about 70 multilingual families, the firm plans to come back with its final recommendations for the school board to vote on in December.

While the scope of Cooperative Strategies’ mission was narrow — to level out the number of low socioeconomic status students in each school — Sturtz said he hopes a broader conversation will contribute to district decisions at the ‘coming.

“Keep your feet on the fire, even if it’s on subjects that are not entrusted to us, talk about what goes through your throat, what excites you, what you find important (important) so that we can at least be aware of that as we begin to write our narrow scope for our particular contract,” Sturtz said.

“And hopefully that will be funneled into meaningful, deeper conversations about these other issues for some time to come.”


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