CUSD 200 has been holding community Engagement meetings . The stated purpose is to gather community input. However, it appears to be a well oiled machine to get the community to call for a new building for our early childhood center.
Community Engagement notes from Jan Shaw
The March 26, 2014 Engage200 meeting was billed as “Programs and Services,” but once the presentation began it was obviously all about Special Needs pre-K with a little bit on English Language Learners (ELL), and “Co-curriculum” (a new word for extra-curricular) in an attempt to make it less obvious.
The audience appeared to be stacked with district staff and Jefferson parents.
They split us into tables by handing out number (to separate friends/family) Mary Ann and I sat together anyway. At our table we had the Wheaton North’s principle, a Jefferson parent and three other ladies.
The assignment was to take five minutes for your own thoughts, then come to a “consensus.” They wanted us to list “challenges” and “Why?” I Wanted to start with introductions and asked if people had been at previous meetings and why they came to this one. Yes, we said names, but it was quickly shut down with the reminder that our assignment was to start with five minutes of quiet. Most were flipping through the power point notes as if trying to find the right answers. I’m sure I got things off on the wrong foot when I said “Unfunded Mandates” are a challenge. I thought the district should make budget numbers easier to understand so that we could determine how much unfunded mandates costs, how much good they actually do, and push back on those that are unaffordable.
One mom wanted to make sure we understood that the district NEEDS a new Early Childhood Center. One mom plugged B-sports. That lead to us mentioning the idea of more volunteers and fewer stipends for some of the extra-curricular activities. The principle tried to shut us down by saying Mary Ann was giving out false/misleading information… But, we know too much and shut her down. I am not sure what was written down on our sheet that was turned in as our table’s “consensus” – Jefferson Mom did the writing and she also spoke for us.
General impressions from the table readout:
Three tables mentioned that we are not meeting the mandate for the number of typically developing peers in the pre-school so that special needs children can be in a least restrictive environment. One actually suggested that they lower the tuition to motivate more parents to use Jefferson. I had mentioned to our table that I had found the actual data in last year’s budget. CUSD 200’s tuition for pre-K covers about 55% of the cost associated with those children. This is an example of the district planting the thought without giving complete information, thus driving conclusions.
A couple table suggested that we ask our local businesses to donate more to the schools. One suggested that churches start paying property tax. Most tables seemed to focus on “we need more revenue.”
Community Engagement thoughts from Mary Ann:
At every community engagement meeting we have attended – the team leader emphasizes the importance of spouses, neighbors or friends to sit at separate tables for “Diversity” sake – yet EVERY table has at least 1 but usually more: School Principal, Assistant Superintendents, Teachers, school secretaries, other District employees, relatives of teachers, Contractors that are looking to do business with the District, employees of Legat Architects, etc.
We are then told – that at the Discussion session – INDIVIDUAL thoughts are not to be written down – but we are to come to a “COLLECTIVE” agreement at every table – hence the hypocrisy comes in – They tell us they are separating us under the guise of DIVERSITY – but are stacking the deck at each table to ensure that the “COLLECTIVE CONSENSUS” is the agenda they are trying to push through.
They know that if they have 2 or more like minded individuals sitting at a table together – they lose their power and control to steer the consensus to their agenda – and they are aware that it also makes it more likely that we go off topic and discuss viewpoints and issues that they do not want discussed in the open to a group of individuals. That is why it is important to have a few more of us show up and make sure that 2 or more sit at a table together – that way they CANNOT MANIPULATE the CONSENSUS at EVERY TABLE.
We are not attending these meetings because we believe that the District and School Board cares or will listen to others viewpoints –
We are attending to:
1. Reach out to any taxpayers that might be attending that we can share our viewpoints and give them some factual information that the District is not sharing with them at these meetings.
2. To change the dynamics of these meetings – but having 1 or 2 tables come up with a different take or solution than the other tables – basically challenge the agenda they are trying to push through.
This is nothing more than a manipulative money grab – it is about a referendum – it is about Jefferson and it is about them taking more of our money without any of the accountability or responsibility that goes along with it.