The Examiner U-46 News Feed
ACE seeking to do U-46 mobile preschool
By Seth Hancock
What does the Alignment Collaboration for Education (ACE) do in School District U-46, and how much does it cost the taxpayers?
The Board of Education was given an update on ACE at its meeting on Monday, Jan. 23. The district formed an exploratory team in 2012 under then Superintendent Jose Torres, and currently ACE is seeking to do a mobile preschool in the district.
Although U-46 is made up of 11 communities with varying demographics and needs, the goal of ACE appears to be to create one mind set in the district.
“The chief reasons that communities seek to have alignment work with them is to have community resources come along, beside and behind the strategic purposes of a school district so that the return on your investments are enhanced,” said Laurie Preece, U-46’s consultant from Alignment USA.
“Here, we have 11 different communities trying to align our community resources, the businesses and the people who live within it, in one specific direction is a bit more difficult,” said U-46 CEO Tony Sanders.
Preece said ACE “builds a system, not a program” that tracks several systems such as health, juvenile justice, recreation, arts and culture.
“Alignment’s not a program, but a system around how the community traditionally supports the public schools,” Preece said who added: “All of these systems contribute collectively to the outcomes that a community gets, and it looks at this broader level of ‘what do we want?’ Well, we want a community that organizations choose to employ people in and that families want to live, work and play in.”
ACE is made up of government officials from the various villages and municipalities in the district as well as college and university officials, and representatives of businesses and organizations, including non-profits.
The presentation claims ACE provides a return on investment, quality services, district capacity, collaborative community funding leverage and sustainability. In the short-term A-teams have been developed to create tactical plans aligned to the district’s strategic plan, in the mid-term they want to see progress on community outcome indicators and in the long-term they want to make U-46 a “community of choice.”
Sanders said it “has been an exciting time” and said the district sought to bring this to U-46 partly due to success in Rockford which started its alignment system in 2010.
Although Rockford may be seeing success in gaining more funds from its community, alignment doesn’t appear to be helping in the classroom as the most recent Illinois State Board of Education school report card showed only 19 percent of Rockford students meeting or exceeding expectations. U-46 was at 29 percent this year which is below the state average of 34 percent.
Despite the self congratulatory statements from the ACE members and Sanders, it appears there is little transparency and little input from the general public as the district spends taxpayer dollars without debate or approval from the public’s representatives on the board.
Preece said ACE’s board of directors determine what “particular principles are important to them” and said the mission is to determine how to get more resources from the community outside what is already taken via taxes as she said ACE determines “how do you reach out to the community and figure out what resources they have” for the district to utilize.
There is a public collaboration portal online, but how much transparency from that portal is unknown as presenters said the portal is ultimately used for “private discussions” among ACE members.
There appears to be little accountability, which was apparent after a discussion on how much taxpayers have put into ACE.
The district has made it appear that the funding is through private donations and Sanders said “this is all paid for through fundraising,” but he then went on to say “there was a portion to kick it off from U-46, from Elgin, from some of our municipalities and others.”
Board member Jeanette Ward probed further and asked: “I was under the impression until just now, it was wholly from fundraising, but did it start from funds provided by U-46?”
Those funds appear to not only be initial but ongoing as Sanders said that “initially there was some commitment up front when it was started under Dr. Torres, a commitment up front of I think $15,000 a year” and other taxing bodies, such as Elgin Community College and village and municipal governments provided funds.
Ward then asked: “And that continues year on year?”
Sanders responded: “We did through I think this year. I’m not sure. I’m not sure about this year. I’ll have to check.”
Ward asked: “The mobile preschool classroom, are there teachers also working in that?”
Preece said: “That tactical plan proposes that the community create a mobile preschool classroom that would then be staffed by [an] U-46 early learning teacher.”
The “$15,000 a year” cost would also not include the costs the district spends on administrative salaries who have been working on ACE as well as salaries of any employees working on initiatives such as the mobile preschool, and there was a lack of clear answers on how much the mobile preschool would cost taxpayers.
Ward later asked: “How many staff are we looking at putting in this mobile classroom?”
Sanders said he’d not seen the report wasn’t “sure if this is existing staff, so I’ll have to follow up on that.” He later said the nation’s taxpayers would likely fund this as he said “I’m sure it fits in one of our preschool expansion grants.”
Ward voted against Full Day Kindergarten going district wide partly due to its further encroachment by the government on parental time with their children at earlier and earlier ages, and although the mobile preschool would represent the same Preece said there would be no need for public debate.
“Peggy Ondera, who is responsible for the early learning program, has been sort of shepherding this because she chairs that committee …. It would not be something that the community would stew up and then foist on the school district,” Preece said.
Board member Sue Kerr asked if ACE is working with local businesses to set up “internships or job shadowing” for students. Preece said ACE is looking at “what are the more simple, entry level activities around experiential learning” before looking at internships.