Sunday, August 30, 2015

#SkipTheClip Fundraiser for the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship was a huge success!

National Bow Tie Day 2015 was a lot of fun for a great cause.  The #SkipTheClip Fun-draiser for the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship at Urbana High School combined bow ties, pies, and a lot of selfies (Scroll all the way down for a slideshow).

We raised over $1500 for the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship!

I have dozens of people to thank, but the person who gets top billing is Molly Delaney, Executive Director of the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation, which manages the Chew Scholarship.  Molly decided to see my bow tie fundraising as a challenge, and raise the stakes!  She created Pies and Ties as a friendly parallel to #SkipTheClip.  She auctioned off 13 of her famously delicious Dutch Apple pies and donated all proceeds to the Chew Scholarship.  Thank you Molly!

This idea would not have been an idea without the encouragement and support of Steve Beckett (UHS Distinguished Alumnus) and Tom Costello, who convinced me to offer a "How to Tie a Bow Tie" class, which became #SkipTheClip 2014.  This year, the two of them bought me the tiger print bow tie from Beau Ties Ltd, which I wore for #SkipTheClip 2015.

Next, I would like to thank my sponsors and donors:

(helped me publicize the event)
 (donated 4 amazing bow ties that will be given away to a few lucky participants)
Steve Beckett
Tom Costello
Amy Owen
Steven Peterson
Christine Cox
Kurt Magoon
Stephanie Cockrell
Stephanie Alvez
Matt Stark
Molly Delaney
(and there are probably others who I have yet to hear about!)

I would also like to thank Steve Holstein and Andy Roberts of WIXY 100.3 and Anna Carrera of WICA for covering and promoting the story on local media.  Link to the WCIA Story: Honoring teacher with Bow Tie Day - Story | ILLINOISHOMEPAGE

Last, and definitely not least, I would like to thank all of the people who participated in #SkipTheClip 2015.  I have made a donation in your name to the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship.  (I also threw in a little extra, because there were dozens of people wearing bow ties across Urbana who I did not find or did not want to send in a picture.)  Keep scrolling down for a slide show from #SkipTheClip.  Here are as many participants as I can name (in no particular order):

Matt Stark
Kevin Kennedy
Dave Dutton
Stephanie Cockrell
Stephanie Alves
Sarah Tavis
Cara Maurizi
Vashaun Wilson
Spencer Landsman
Crystal Vowels
Tom Costello
Steve Schoemaker
Lucia Maldonado
Terry Napper
Alex Valencic
Jill Quizenberry
Tanissa Tutwiler
Katie Snyder
Shontelle Mapson
Steve Pavlakis
Sarah Loftus
Christopher Fuller
Kurt Magoon
Gene Rebeck
Chuck Geigner
Mr. Murphy
Lawon Exum
Harold Miller
John Dimit
Tom Moone
Ben Barth
Kyle Thompson
Paul Hoffman
Lance Landeck
Alisa Rocha
Neil DeLand

And Students:
Warrensburg Latham Football Team
Mrs. Feller's class at UMS

Click here for a collection of most of the #SkipTheClip Photos from 2015!  Thank you again to everyone who made this event such a huge success!

If I missed your name or your picture, and you would like me to include you in the the credits, please let me know!

Thank you all!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

#SkipTheClip #ChewFundraiser Update - National Bow Tie Day 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015 is National Bow Tie Day!  That means the 2nd Annual #SkipTheClip fundraiser for the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship is on Friday!

I would like to thank the following people who have already contributed or who have pledged to sponsor my #SkipTheClip fundraiser:

Steve Beckett, Urbana
John Dimit, Urbana
Amy Owen, MN
Debbie Chew, Champaign

Molly Delaney, Executive Director of the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation, who is auctioning 10 of her famous home made pies (Pies and Ties) on Friday!  She is donating the proceeds to the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship!

The Bow Tie Aficionado has been kind enough to grant me space on his site and spread the word about this important fund raiser!  Thank you!  I would also like to thank for offering to send me prizes that I get to give away during the fundraiser.

Thank you also to Steve and Andy at WIXY for a fun plug on Monday morning!

Remember: All you need to do to participate is to Tweet a picture of yourself wearing a bow tie to me (@dowendo) and use the hashtags #SkipTheClip or #ChewScholarship and I will donate to the Chew Scholarship in your name!  You can also make a donation to the Chew Theatre Scholarship to help support the cause!

Looking forward to Friday!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

#BowTieDay Fundraiser: Skip the Clip Version 2.0

Last year, (2014) a few friends twisted my arm and convinced me to hold a class to teach people how to tie bow ties.  They offered to find a few friends and suggested I charge $50/person that I could donate to the charity of my choice.  The event was a lot of fun and I ended up raising a substantial sum for the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship, which is named after a dear friend and colleague who taught English and Drama at Urbana High School for 35 years.  I held the event on National Bow Tie Day, and the publicity helped draw in additional dollars.

I was asked to write a post for The Bow Tie Aficionado (@bowtieaficio).  The support from fellow bow tie wearers brought additional publicity, which turned into more funds into the scholarship.

This year the Bow Tie Aficionado asked what I was going to do for an encore.  This year (2015), to celebrate #NationalBowTieDay, I decided that instead of teaching people how to tie bow ties, I would celebrate people wearing them.  I laid out a plan and wrote another post for the Bow Tie Aficionado.

The rules are simple: I will make a donation in honor of every person who sends me a photo of themselves wearing a bow tie on #NationalBowTieDay, August 28, 2015, to the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship.  If I meet someone in person on August 28 wearing a bow tie, I will increase the donation if they allow me to take a picture with them that I post to Twitter (@dowendo).  The donation will be larger if the bow tie is self-tied.

How can you help?

  1. Pledge to sponsor me: You can pledge to make a donation to the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship - either a flat amount (safer) or a per bow tie amount (risky) - all pledges should be made publicly on Twitter (@dowendo) - but you will be on your honor to donate, which can be done online at The Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation Greg Chew Page.
  2. Join in the fun: Tweet me a photo of you wearing your best bow tie on August 28, 2015 (yes, you have to be wearing it on August 28!) to @dowendo with #ChewScholarship or #SkipTheClip.  Even better, try to track me down for a selfie of us both wearing bow ties. 
  3. Make a donation: Just make a donation.  The Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation is doing an amazing job of managing the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship Fund.  
Thank you!

After it is all over, I will post a list of everyone who helped contribute, and I will post my favorite photos.  

Many thanks to The Bow Tie Aficionado, The Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation, and many others for their support of me and the Greg Chew Theatre Scholarship for Urbana High School!


Change of Pace

I just want to let everyone who sees this blog know that I am shifting most educational content onto my other blog, Urbana Tiger Pride, which you can find here. From now on, this blog will focus less on matters of school leadership, and more on my hobbies, interests, and random thoughts. DDO

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tips for staying safe when it's COLD outside!

Here is my first video entry.  My goal is to remind people how to dress warmly during the "Polar Vortex."  My disclaimer is that I am not a meteorologist, medical doctor, or winter survival expert.  I am a winter outdoor enthusiast, who is concerned about students traveling to and from school.

Muchas gracĂ­as a Lucia Maldonado para la tradducion.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Is a "Snow Day" an "Act of God?"

"Act of God Days (Calendar Code AOG) may only be applied for after the district has exhausted all of the Proposed Emergency Days built into the Proposed Calendar. Act of God Days may only be used for a condition beyond the control of the district that poses a hazardous threat to the health and safety of the students. These days must be approved by the Regional Superintendent and the State Superintendent of Education. Act of God Days reduce the required number of student attendance days in the Public School Calendar, but do not negatively impact General State Aid. (Citation 105 ILCS 5/18-12)" - Key Checkpoints to Review Before Approval of the Public School Calendar, Illinois State Board of Education 
Despite the title of this post, I am not going to explain where snow comes from, enter into a theological debate about God, or even discuss the interesting legal issues regarding Illinois School Code referring to “Act of God Days.” 
One of the most common questions that I am asked after a weather related closing of school is, “Do we have to make this day up in May or June?”  The short answer is always, “Yes!”  The Illinois School Code and Illinois State Board of Education Guidance regarding public school calendars requires all public schools to build in five (5) extra days for weather-related closings.  That means that the first five closings of any given school year are already in the calendar and will be made up.  Beyond five closings, the “Act of God” provision kicks in. 
If a school district has more than five weather-related or emergency closings in one school year, the district must submit a request to the Regional Office of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education for a waiver to avoid having to make up these additional days.  Not all of these waivers are approved.
I completely understand why people are so curious about “make-up days.”  Summer travel plans for students and families, scheduling summer school, and planning professional development activities all require advanced planning.  Unfortunately, one cannot reason with winter weather.  We just all have to dress warmly, drive slowly, and enjoy winter.

Many Illinois districts have already passed five days.  Right now, the district I work for is at five (5) [UPDATED January 29, 2014].  While I love winter, I am hoping that we don’t see another Polar Vortex or heavy snowfall for the next five months. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Why are you closing school?!

When I took the post of Superintendent in a small-urban, Central Illinois school district, people joked about the fact that we would never see another winter weather closing.  I grew up in Minneapolis, MN.  I love winter. In fact, the colder the better - as long as there is plenty of snow. 

Today, I am facing down my fourth, yes, FOURTH winter weather closing of the 2013-2014 winter.  Closing school is never an easy decision, mainly because it is not an exact science.  My primary consideration is the safety of students.  The majority of students in our district live within 1.5 miles from their school, and therefore do not receive transportation from the district.  In extreme temperatures, I watch young children walk to school without hats, gloves, and, sometimes, proper jackets.  Many students walk 10, 15, 20, and even 30 minutes or more. 

Closing a school due to snow or extreme cold is not something I take lightly.  I always prefer to keep students in school, however, if the weather is so extreme that a student is at risk of frost-bite or worse, we have to balance the desire to hold school with student safety.  When it is clear that weather might be an issue, we spend a great deal of time consulting experts, glued to apps and websites - the National Weather Service is my favorite:  We also talk to public works, grounds crews, transportation experts, and other superintendents.  The decision to close schools is not an exact science.  There is a lot of room for error, especially when there is pressure to make a decision early enough for families to make childcare arrangements. 

I have learned that there are a lot of misconceptions about frost-bite.  The National Weather Service Wind Chill Chart ( helps me explain the dangers of cold temperatures and wind chill to parents, students, and colleagues.  However, I always stress that this chart is not "the" answer for when to close school; it just provides one more piece of the puzzle.  

Either way, I am not sure any winter weather school closing decision is 100% obvious.  I know I will hear when people disagree, and I honestly do appreciate the dialogue, because it provides additional opportunities for education and reflection.  

As a Minnesotan, I also feel the need to advocate for outdoor winter activities.  I run, ski, sled, walk, and play outside in extreme temperatures.  During the recent “Polar Vortex” I spent several hours outside shoveling snow and walking to and from schools.  However, I was dressed appropriately:  multiple layers, all skin covered, and exposed areas (around eyes and nose) covered with Dermatone.  Unfortunately, not all of our families have the means to dress for the Polar Vortex. Which means we have to wrestle with the decision to close schools to protect children from frostbite and hypothermia. 

Stay safe and warm.