August 25, 2014

Schools, Including Champaign Central And Danville High, Dismissing Early Due To Heat

A number of area schools have announced they're letting out early on Monday, August 25th, due to a forecasted heat index of 100 to 105.  They include Champaign Central High School, which will dismiss at 1:05 today as well as Tuesday.

Unit 4 spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart says buses at Central will be available directly following this dismissal for regular afternoon routes.  Lunch will be provided, and all afternoon athletic activities will be held as scheduled.

Danville High School will also dismiss early, at 1:55, both Monday and Tuesday.  The other District 118 buildings, which are air conditioned, will follow the regular schedule.

Decatur Public Schools are dismissing early after three hours of school. Both the morning and afternoon sessions at the Pershing Early Learning are cancelled.

Monticello, Catlin,Tuscola and Bement School Districts are also dismissing one hour early, at 2 p.m. 

July 29, 2014

Tentative Amount For Unit 4 Referendum: $150 Million

Taxpayers in the Champaign School District could be looking at a $150-million referendum to pay for building one high school and expanding another.  That’s the tentative figure announced by Unit 4 officials Monday night.

$98-million of that bond issue would be dedicated for a new Central High School on Interstate Drive, with $52-million reserved for expanding Centennial High School. 

A draft resolution was read at Monday night's meeting, and requires a final vote at the board’s August 11th meeting in order to appear on the November 4th ballot.

Meanwhile, the Unit 4 board reaffirmed what it revealed last week, that it’s again focused on placing the new Central High at Interstate and Neil Streets. 

Centrally located Spalding Park was rejected by the school district, while the Champaign Park District Board ruled against a school at Dodds Park in Northwest Champaign.

"The Interstate Drive site will provide adequate space for a comprehensive, 21st Century high school as well as rooom for future growth," said Supt. Judy Wiegand, in a press release.  "By placing the new high school in an area of the community slated for residential growth, I believe our District can provide a quality facility that supports student learning while being fiscally responsible to the community we serve."

The Spalding Park site was ruled out when Unit 4 officials determined there were limitations in site size, 'significant' addiditional costs related to land acquisition and construction, logistical challenges of site acquisition, impact on Franklin Middle School, parking, and the impact on residents on the Spalding Park Neighborhood.

July 15, 2014

Unit Four Video Project Seeks Alumni Memories

If you attended schools in the Champaign Unit Four school district, school officials want to record your memories.

Unit Four is holding video recording sessions Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, and inviting all its alumni to come by.

Unit Four spokesperson Stephanie Stuart says they’re looking for favorite school memories ---- including recollections of the teachers and staff members who had a real impact in people’s lives.

"So, what memories do they really carry with them from those great teachers, that secretary, that bus driver, that principal that really made a difference in their life?" said Stuard.

Stuart says the videos will be edited and shown to faculty and staff at the start of the school year … and also online on Unit Four’s channel on Vimeo.

Unit Four is holding video recording sessions on Tuesday, July 15th at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green Street, Champaign, from 1 to 4 PM …. and Wednesday, July 16th, at the Panera Bread Company restaurant on 1765 W. Kirby, Champaign, from 7 to 11:30 AM.

Questions about the project should be directed to Unit Four Community Relations Coordinator Stephanie Stuart at 2317-531-0252.

January 27, 2014

Bitter Cold Closes Hundreds Of Illinois Schools

Classes are canceled for tens of thousands of Illinois students thanks to bitterly cold weather that's blanketing much of the state.

Hundreds of schools across the state decided to close because of sub-zero weather and wind chills that expected to sink to 45 degrees below zero in some northern Illinois communities.

In central Illinois, the National Weather Service says wind chills are expected to reach 35 degrees below zero.
The latest cold weather prompted administrators at Chicago Public Schools along with those in Freeport, Rockford, Springfield, Peoria and elsewhere to cancel school.
Illinois State University in Bloomington and Bradley University in Peoria are also closed Monday.  An exception is the University of Illinois' campus in Urbana-Champaign.  Most K-12 schools in the immediate region are closed, including Champaign Unit 4, Urbana District 116, and Danville District 118.
The cold, gusting wind is also blamed for causing whiteout conditions in some areas.

November 14, 2013

Champaign Support Staff Reach Tenative Agreement With Unit 4

Champaign Unit 4 schools has reached a tentative agreement with its support staff, which includes more than 500 custodians, mechanics, secretaries, and bus drivers.

In a statement, district spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart said Champaign Educational Support Professionals will take their plan to membership for ratification. 

"The Board commends the CESP leadership team for their commitment to the process and to reaching a fair agreement that honors the work of our support professionals," she said.

The union had reached out to a federal mediator following last week’s 7-hour negotiating session.

The two met again late Wednesday afternoon, and the agreement was announced at 6 p.m.  Union Spokesman Steve Pease said the request for the mediator was done as a precaution, in case talks broke down last night. 

The union represents more than 500 bus drivers, custodians, mechanics, secretaries, and others.  The two sides have been working without a contract since July 1st.

October 24, 2013

Support Staff Hold 'Productive' Meeting With Unit 4

More than 500 support staff at Champaign Unit 4 schools have yet to agree on a contract.  The head of the union calls Wednesday's negotiations long, but productive. 

Champaign Educational Support Professionals President Steve Pease says the two sides talked for more than five hours, from 5 to about 10:30 p.m. 

He said some Unit 4 teachers, who just agreed on a new 3-year contract, joined the union for an informational picket prior to the meeting.  About 80 employees took part in the picket.

Pease said it’s important that support staff provide a sense of identity to Champaign families.

“We’re the ones that greet those kids when they come in in the morning, and we’re the last ones to see them when they go home," he said.  "And we’re there to protect the buildings that they’re going to go back to.  So we feed them, we transport them, we’re probably the closest people to that.  I think it’s important to see the people who are right with their children – most of the day.”

Unit 4’s bus drivers, custodial workers, secretaries, mechanics and other support personnel have been working without a contract since July 1st.

Pease said the two sides made some progress on salary last night.   

Champaign School Board President Laurie Bonnett couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. 

 Illinois Education Association Champaign Field Representative Allen Majors agreed the communication was good, and the two sides are making progress.

The next session between support staff and the district is set for November 6th, another meeting is slated for two weeks later, if necessary.

September 18, 2013

Unit 4 Teachers Vote To Authorize Strike

Most of more than 500 teachers in the Champaign School District voted on Wednesday to give their union the authority to go on strike.

The Champaign Federation of Teachers and the Unit 4 school district have been in contract talks since last May. While several issues have been ironed out during that time, Union President Cathy Mannen said there are still some sticking points.

"The teachers have been at work without a contract since school started," Mannen said. “It’s frustrating for teachers because some of the working conditions, things that we’re trying to resolve are impacting them in their day-to-day work."

Mannen added there are also some financial demands that are being discussed tied to salaries. She said the union would not ask for anything that it did not believe the school district could not afford. According to the union, teachers have made financial sacrifices in the last two contracts, and agreed to a salary schedule freeze in 2011, and a minimal 1.4 percent increase to the salary schedule last year.

School Board President Laurie Bonnett said the union’s current proposed pay raise would put programs, staffing, and opportunities for students at risk.

“One of the things that I can say is what they are asking for as it relates to salary, if I were to agree to that or if our board and our administration were to agree to that, I think resignations would be called for,” Bonnett said.

The vote to authorize a strike does not mean teachers are going on strike, just that they can. Officials with the union and the school district meet again next week with a federal mediator.

August 13, 2013

Champaign School District, Teachers, Request Federal Mediator

The Champaign Unit 4 School District and the union that represents teachers have requested a federal mediator as the two sides negotiate a new contract.

The previous contract expired June 30.

A press release Tuesday morning noted the request, stating, "State law provides that if the parties have not agreed on a new contract 45 days prior to the start of the upcoming school year, mediation can be initiated.  The Board believes that using a mediator can support the process.”

“These negotiations are still ongoing and we are confident we will reach an agreement,” according to the release.

Champaign Federation of Teachers President Cathy Mannen wouldn't discuss specific sticking points in negotiations, but said the mediator is important to have a mutual third party to help facilitate the conversation. 

"I would say that there's been a lot conservation back and forth about some issues that are really important to teachers right now," she said.  "It's a matter of coming to a place that is acceptable to both sides."

The Unit 4 school year begins next week.

May 06, 2013

New Unit 4 Board Member Elected as President

The Champaign Unit 4 School Board has elected new member Laurie Bonnett as Board President.

At its special meeting Monday night, Bonnett, Lynn Stuckey, and Scott McAdam were sworn in to four-year terms.

Returning members include Ileana Saveley and Stig Lanesskog, who were sworn in for two-year terms.

The board also elected returning board member Jamar Brown as Vice President, Saveley as Secretary, and Stuckey as Parliamentarian.

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