by Erin Tarr
Review. Rank. Request. This is the advice offered by the Unit 4 Registration website. So, being the law-abiding and rule-following mother that I am – I have been REVIEWING my schools for the last two weeks. I did two things that helped profusely with my review process.
1) I called The Family Information Center(351.3701) and spoke with a Choice Specialist. She was extremely knowledgeable, personable and helpful with all of the questions my husband and I had outlined prior to my call (I always forget something when on the phone, so we wrote out the major questions that morning. And, lest you think I am super on-top-of-it, the questions were written with crayon on the back of an envelope as I was herding kids in the car who were still eating breakfast, headed to a dentist appointment where said call was made in their parking lot.)
2) I attended a Community Forum with Showcase of Schools (there is still one more on Feb 19 if you haven’t had the chance to attend).
From the phone call I garnered the following information:
a) If I choose a magnet school (Stratton, Booker T. Washington or Garden Hills) and don’t get in – my second choice DOES become my first choice, so I don’t “waste” my Proximity A. (Proximity A normally only provides preference if it is your first choice.) And, as astute chambanamom Betsy Crocker pointed out on my last post – 100% of families who requested a magnet school last year received their choice (WOOT!)
b) Dr. Howard (recommended by a friend) is also a historically under-chosen school, so if we were interested in this, our chances of getting in are likely to be quite high.
c) PE, music, art and other electives…I wanted to know how they are handled at each school. How many times a week, how long, etc. I was told that IN GENERAL (dangerous terms, I know) these are handled in much the same way from school to school, but that the best method would be to narrow down my schools and then ask specific questions at those schools about how often and when these classes are offered. I was fine with that answer.
d) My last question was about safety of my child. The Choice Specialist let me know that ANY time a dispute or issue arises within the neighborhood surrounding a school – the school is notified by the authorities immediately, and goes on soft lock-down, meaning no one goes outside. Good to know.
Armed with this information, I marched on to the Community Forum with Showcase of Schools (Yes, I feel a little like I am at war, mostly with myself, the end goal being to conquer the fear that I may choose the “wrong” school for my children.) Extreme side note warning: Community Forum WITH Showcase of Schools? Why not “Showcase of Schools” or “Unit 4 Community Forum” … but I digress.
At the forum, there were (evidentially) introductions of various people whose names were listed in the printed program… I admit I took a wrong turn getting to Carrie Busey and showed up a few minutes late. We were then shown a propaganda type film (~15 minutes in length) for the Controlled Choice System. It was slightly informative and slightly interesting to see people I knew or knew of talking about their experience with Controlled Choice, but I was ready to get on with the evaluation of the individual schools. After the video, several parents in the crowd had questions regarding the system – things that were still unclear to them. Props to everyone there for not being redundant and wasting time – being one who values efficiency, I truly appreciate your contributions to the evening.
After about 15 minutes of Q & A we were set loose to grill, I mean, peruse and make small talk with, the schools of our choosing. Each school had a trifold set up on a table with 2 to 3 faculty members present to answer questions about the schools.
Based on the information I received from the Family Information Center, I had narrowed down the schools that I wanted to evaluate further (based on our likelihood of getting into them). Stay tuned tomorrow to find out what schools I am further investigating and the specific pros and cons as they relate to my family!
Erin (Trent) Tarr made the three-hour drive from Southern Illinois to Champaign in 1997 to attend the University of Illinois and never left. Mother of two beautiful girls (2 & 4 years old), she is currently working at the University of Illinois and enjoys reading non-fiction, listening to leadership podcasts, singing, taking pictures of her kids, and blogging at www.erintarr.com. The epitome of an extrovert, she is an active participant at Quest UMC and loves getting together with strong women for book clubs, writing clubs, and wine tastings. You can often find her (with two kids in tow) at Champaign Centennial sporting events where her beloved husband of nine years, Adam, works as an Athletic Trainer.