Welcome Back to 2019 – Superintendent Speech – #112Leads

“Notice every step forward and take advantage of each small success.”
– Deepak Chopra

Superintendent’s Welcome Back Message to All Staff:

The opening day of a school year is an exciting time for reuniting old friends, new friends, colleagues, thought partners, and more. All of our hopes and dreams are upbeat and positive on the first days of school — our challenge is to keep this positive vibe every day!

The superintendent of schools takes great pride in welcoming all staff in the back to school institute! I’m proud of our teachers, educational support staff, administrators, Board members, community, parents, and students. In my opening remarks today I shared our “why”, our “how”, and our “what”, please see slides linked here. (this link will open a new window and you’ll need to click to advance each slide if desired)

This school year we have many important initiatives on the horizon that present exciting opportunities and challenges. These big three areas of focus will represent our district’s “WHY” for the year ahead. Learn more about each at www.nssd112.org/BigThree.

The Big Three Focus areas for 2019-2020

Portrait of a Graduate – We “begin with the end in mind” and continue our The Modern Learning Committee’s work on a Portrait of a District 112 Graduate. The Vision for the Modern Learning Committee is to recommend actions for District 112 regarding the integration of technology, professional development, and the skills needed to ensure students are successful. The initiatives that result from the work of the committee are intended to serve as guideposts for all district operations. Developing the Profile of a District 112 Graduate was the major focus during the first four meetings of the committee. The profile characteristics for graduates in District 112 are – Mastery of Grade Level Performance Expectations, Self-directed Learner, Continuous Curiosity, Find and Evaluate Information, Learning and Innovation Skills, Open-minded to Other Perspectives, Positive and Active Citizens. See full descriptions of each of these characteristics.

Closing Achievement Gaps – Student Learning for ALL (special report to the Board on October 1). We are so proud of the impact and initial success of the teaching and learning reforms implemented over the past three years across the District. The department has also been very busy over the past summer working with teachers from across the District to develop curriculum and guides to prepare for the 2019-2020 school year. This included the development of vocabulary to accompany the units of study in middle school language arts; collaboration between Spanish and French teachers for implementation of the new world language resources; work to prioritize Illinois Learning Standards for implementation of the new social studies curriculum resources; Middle School math teachers worked on unit planning and attended the Math Learning Center Leadership Institute; teachers collaborated to develop Music curriculum for grades K-8 curriculum scope and sequence and pacing; and many other areas of professional development and curricular planning.

Facilities Upgrades & Modernization – Continuing the Northwood project and finalizing plans for the Edgewood Middle School modernization as well as ongoing upkeep of all school facilities. This also includes a transition of Northwood students and staff to Northwood Jr. High at Elm Place. Preliminary planning is also underway for a transition of Edgewood students in 2021. Visit www.nssd112.org/LRPConstruction for information regarding the Middle School Modernization Projects.

Insights from Students in a Bio Tech Program- #AASA_DigitalConsortium Summer 2019 visit – Nashville, TN

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
– Nelson Mandela


Listen to a recent episode of my podcast featuring question and answers from Tennessee high school students in Wilson County, just outside of Nashville — they are part of a multi-year pilot of Bio Tech programming. Their insights are outstanding; they highlight the impact of their teacher (and all teachers in general) and they offer ideas and insights for promoting and enhancing science and innovative learning!

One of the professional groups to which I belong and have a leadership role is the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). The AASA offers leadership support to superintendents and school district leaders around the USA and in Canada. One of the leadership development cohorts in which I have participated and for which I serve as the national co-director is the Digital Consortium. The July 2019 visit was to the Nashville, TN area of Wilson County. There we toured a brand new middle school (state of the art), we met with the leaders of the Chamber of Commerce, and we interacted with teachers and students. In this podcast, we’re meeting with high school seniors and we’re discussing their Bio-Tech coursework and pathways and the impact that this innovative programming has had on them and their futures.

The purpose of the AASA Digital Consortium is to support school district administrators as they scale successful models in support of engaging, effective learning experiences using digital media in order to be the leading national voice for digital innovation in our nation’s public schools.

Focus Areas:

Experience innovation in schools, technology, and industry partnerships Engage/observe best practice in digital leadership Reinforce purpose and outcomes for the Digital Consortium Advance AASA’s goal to reinforce equity for all students
Essential Questions:

How do your programs prepare students to be successful in their local and/or global economy? How can technology pair with the concept of personalized learning to change teaching and learning in our schools? How can opportunities to innovate for both children and adults strengthen the local economy?

Renewed focus on Student Learning #112Leads

“Success is not a result of what we do occasionally. Success is a result of the little things we do EVERY SINGLE DAY. Habits are a choice!”
– Alan Stein

This blog post is a reflection post as well as a foreshadowing of my personal professional focus for the coming year. Many of these notes have been jotted down over a period of time and I’m putting them all together while in the air on the way home from San Juan, Puerto Rico where my son accompanied me on a service trip organized by a fellow superintendent Jim McKay. Jim organized a similar trip last year, and based upon momentum and growth, he’ll be organizing more trips in the future. The service is powerful – the lasting legacy of service and respect for fellow educators and fellow students makes a deep mark in my heart and mind. The fact that I had the opportunity to share this with my son makes this year’s journey that much more powerful. In addition to service, my son and I had the good fortune to explore one of the United States’ oldest and longest lasting territories and people. The history of Puerto Rico is inexorably linked to the history of the United States.

So July 1st marks my 10th year as a public school superintendent, my 27th year as a public school educator, and my 2nd year at the helm in North Shore School District 112. As mentioned, I’ve recently returned from a service trip to a high school outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico with Relief Through Leadership; this was a follow-up to service that started last year in an elementary school outside of San Juan. I often write about “my why” or that which keeps me called to service, leadership, and community. In this blog post, I’ll share some reflections as well as some foreshadowing for the year ahead in my personal, professional, and District leadership roles! My “why” is to facilitate opportunities for leaders to support student voice and engagement.

Mission and service work is not only altruistic and ‘feel good ‘ work, it’s a humbling way to physically give and do for others so that I can show respect and goodwill through actions beyond words. That I can share this passion for service with my son is beyond humbling and honoring as well.

To watch my son sweep, scrape, clean, paint, help, serve, respect, and give simply for the purpose of giving and serving, not for any extrinsic reward, makes me beyond proud as a father and as an educator. Sharing this part of my world with him and further allowing me to explore my inner workings and my “why” and my purpose make me a better father and leader (I hope).


My personal educational philosophy statement is and has been:

Our society is complex enough to present many challenges to people as they pass from childhood to adulthood. It is my firm belief that a strong foundation in educational preparation will support a person’s quest for success and prosperity. My philosophical foundation holds that young people are our windows to the future; working with them has given me a unique vantage point to assess their goals, needs and abilities. I have been, and I remain committed to preparing our young citizens, and those who teach and support them, for their futures – and ours.

This year, like so many of my School Year New Years, will be focused on enhancing student learning and education in general. Since the mid 1990s when I first started teaching middle school social studies at Blackhawk Middle School in Bensenville (IL) Elementary School District #2, the foundation for my view of learning and teaching has been centered around student input, voice, choice, and engagement. In another blog post I have written about my why, what a superintendent actually does, and multiple metrics and measures for success. I firmly believe public schools owe a report on ROI (return on investment) to the public. I also firmly believe that taxes and other public monies that support public schools should be looked at as investments and not as costs.

Back to my “why” … in 1997 the Illinois Council for Social Studies published an article about an instructional model/unit planning guide I wrote for 8th grade U.S. history. In it, I shared the overall student outcomes (listed below):

Student Outcomes

The main outcomes include the following:

Actively engage the students in history.

Allow the students to work on teams and be accountable both individually and collectively.

Teach the students to view social studies critically and maturely (as more than just names and dates).

Permit the students to express themselves and communicate, according to their unique gifts and talents, up to their capabilities.

Apply higher order thinking skills.

Use research skills in a meaningful context.

Leave the unit with intrinsic motivation for the students to continue their inquire into their past.

This U.S. History workshop and those student outcomes (applied to various situations) would find its and their way into my career and various leadership posts over and over again, not just for the purposes for which it was designed (teaching students U.S. history) but for leading other educators and systems of educators to focus on outcomes for students (with students) at every juncture in their education.

In 2018, with fellow authors and superintendents Nick Polyak & PJ Capsey, we wrote Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable (2018 Roman & Littlefield) and this year that book will be published in Mandarin Chinese and sold throughout the Chinese speaking world thanks to a partnership between Rodman & Littlefield and Hohai University in Nanjing. My commitment to student voice is deeply embedded into my why as a leader.

The point here, though, is not to reminisce so much as to forecast and telegraph this year’s focus and energy. Student engagement. My leadership focus on student engagement is not a fad (that’s the main point I aim to share with the detailed background and description of 1990s-2018 examples). This year one of my aims is to facilitate leadership that elevates student voice and amplifies student engagement.

In our School District we are embarking on a much needed and long awaited facilities project to modernize both of the District’s middle schools. The design, the input from staff, community, parents, professional experts, and students is being built with the student in mind first and foremost. The social emotional learning needs and the social engagement and interaction needs drive the design process and decision making as we get closer and closer to construction.

Over the past few years, in my District some on the outside, and perhaps, on the inside too, have offered criticism at the administration’s focus on “bricks and mortar”. On the surface my administration’s focus on the bricks and mortar might seem to imply that the bricks and mortar are the focus. Nothing could be further from the truth. The bricks and mortar exemplify the student focused learning environments that react to modern learning environments designed to support modern learning. It’s an exciting time indeed in North Shore School District 112. I’m leading a modernization effort in concert with community input, the Board’s vision, and the needs of the students and staff in the communities we serve.

This year will be off the charts (in terms of success metrics) in our school district – please stay tuned in to our various modes of communication as I continue to share my why as a leader and where we continue to support learning and teaching as the #1 priority for our work on behalf of students, staff, community, and one another.

#112Leads is our hashtag and leading is what we all do regardless of title or role or position.

District Updates and Information – #112Leads

“You’ve only got 3 choices in life: Give up, Give in, or Give it all you’ve got!”– Anonymous

Through this blog, I share information about leadership, the superintendent position, education, policy, general trends in society, the future, and news and information about North Shore School District 112. In this blog post, I’m recapping some Long-Range Planning information driving success and change in the District! #112Leads is our Twitter Hashtag (click the link and see what’s happening at any time in all of our schools).

North Shore School District 112’s Long-Range Planning Actions

Our Long-Range Plan, Phase I is in full force! As we’ve shared in the past, the Phase I Long Range Plan was approved by the Board of Education at its meeting on Nov. 27.

The measures approved are as follows:

  • Investments in Northwood and Edgewood schools with costs not to exceed $75 Million
  • The use of up to $20 Million from the district’s fund balance
  • The issuance of $55 Million of Alternate Revenue Bonds
  • The formation of a citizen advisory committee  

Visit www.nssd112.org/Long-RangePlanning for more information and links to presentations, video archives of meetings, and more!

Facility Planning and Execution – In order to achieve fiscal responsibility and educational excellence, we must have a strong and responsible long-range facility plan that is flexible and yet fiscally responsible. Members of the Superintendent’s Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC)  have reviewed the work of previous groups and input from many — past and present — show as our current realities in the current recommendations. The point of the facility plan is the improvement of education for our students and for our communities. The use of alternate revenue bonds, to be paid for out of operating funds does not trigger or cause an automatic tax increase from the bond & interest fund which is a benefit to the community; and the use of reserves from the fund balances also do not increase the tax burden to the community. The plans are fiscally responsible and within the means of the School District. The Superintendent and Board will select five citizens for the Superintendent’s Citizen Advisory Committee for Construction Projects to provide advice and insights into the upcoming construction projects.

The chart below shows the major milestones and activities involved in this phase of the plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our “WHY” – Equity/Equality – During our work and our recent study, we’ve talked a great deal about equity and equality. What is equity? Why is equity preferred to equality? Our aim is equitable educational opportunities for every child — equitable, not necessarily equal — equity is fair, equality is the same. Individuals need what is best for them. Our dream includes personalized learning opportunities for all children; it’s a lofty dream yet systematically and with fidelity to guaranteed & viable curriculum opportunities and expectations, with improvement, gains, and growth, it is possible. Our “WHY” is equitable educational opportunities and access for all students in all schools — every day! The eyes on the prize call for us to remember the prize is student success and educational excellence. The point of the facility upgrades is to improve educational input and output and working and learning conditions for our employees and students.

Last year the District operated 12 schools, this year and next year, the District will operate 10 schools. We’ll operate two middle schools: Northwood (students to attend at Elm Place), and Edgewood. Seven K-5 schools: Braeside, Indian Trail, Oak Terrace, Ravinia, Red Oak, Sherwood, & Wayne Thomas. And we’ll operate one preschool at the Green Bay Early Childhood Center (location of District Offices as well). Lincoln School remains closed.

District 112 Artwork – At the September 24, 2018, meeting of the Superintendent’s Long-Range Planning Committee, the land assets and historical artwork assets of the District were reviewed.  

The District has a unique collection of artwork and historic material throughout the schools. The Board and administration are committed to preserving the rich and unique history as it makes changes in facilities, land usage, and planning. Some of the historic artwork is in the form of historic Works Progress Administration (WPA), an example is “Flora and Fauna” on display at the Green Bay Road Early Childhood Center and Administrative Offices.

Looking Back/Moving Forward
The bullets below recap our community engagement and public meeting timeline as part of the District 112 Long Range Planning Phase I – Middle School Reconstruction & Modernization process. All of our meetings and presentations are posted and most meetings are videotaped and broadcast live. Our effort is for transparent, regular, public, relevant communication.

  • New Superintendent started on July 1, 2018
  • Thought Exchange I (online community engagement) – July 3-July 15, 2018
  • Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) Meetings July 28, Sept 12 & 24, & Oct 4, 2018
  • Thought Exchange II (online community engagement) – August 8-August 22, 2018
  • FAKO Telephone Polling – August 7 – 11, 2018
  • Board meetings with informational updates: ○ Regular Meetings July 17, August 21, September 25, October 2, October 23, November 27 ○ Finance Committee October 2, 2018 ○ Facilities Committee October 9, 2018, ○ Joint Facilities & Finance Committee October 30, 2018

In addition to the construction projects and land usage, the District is also planning for the implementation of before and after school programming options at all seven K-5 schools starting in the 2019-20 school year. This would mark the first time that all elementary school buildings would have before and after care options for families.

Phase II, the modernization of the elementary schools and the dissolution of land assets will be considered, contemplated, and planned in the next few years. The chart below highlights the timeframe for the next phase. Meantime, the District will focus on teaching, learning, student success, and continuous improvement!

In the next few months, the District will also share success metrics and the data in support of the positive return on the investment from the focus of a guaranteed & viable curriculum. The data supports that our teachers are teaching and our students are learning and we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring…Innovating…Engaging all students every day!

If you would like to be informed about District events, please visit www.nssd112.org/News

You can also find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nssd112/ and on Twitter @NSSD112 and at #112Leads, the District Hashtag

Check out our newest form of communication the Lighthouse 112 Podcast https://anchor.fm/michael-lubelfeld

Spring 2019 Video Update – English audio Spanish Subtitles – #112Leads

“Greatness is not primarily a matter of circumstance; greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”
– Jim Collins, Great by Choice

We are very proud of the past year’s worth of work in North Shore School District 112! Daily, for all, we Inspire…Innovate…Engage; with this post, I’m sharing a 5-minute video message about the state of the District – Spring 2019 – as always, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged.

Here is the LINK in case the player does not open in full screen: https://youtu.be/NvztRKNIjzs

What does a superintendent do? What’s my mission?

“There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
– Nelson Mandela

In my adventures in leadership, and in my travels to other school districts, regions, states, and nations, I’m reminded of my “why”. My purpose as a leader is to advocate for school children.

Beyond the articles I publish, books I write, presentations I make, meetings I lead or attend, the bottom line and the “why” for it all is to advocate for and to support students. Many years ago I formed my educational philosophy — over the many years in public education I have refined, reflected, reinforced and remembered my philosophy and my “why”.

The opportunities I have are incredible and I am humbled by the support and guidance from so many mentors, coaches and friends who help me become a more impactful leadership each and every day. My mission and drives and values govern my work. Who I am, from where I come, and why I’m here all meld together to impact and imprint upon those I am called to serve and those I have the privilege to serve.

My school district has a mission, our schools have missions, the partner companies with whom we work have missions. Often I ponder my mission. I work with leaders all over the state, nation, and world to help them form and reform their missions. Mission/Vision/Values/Goals – these are blueprints and components of excellence. School Boards work with superintendents on District and community mission, vision, values and goals as a normal course of governance and leadership. At the end of this blog post I offer an idea of my mission as a leader.

As a public school superintendent I have an unusual job, out of the 300 million Americans, I am one of less than 15,000 public school superintendents of schools, so there are not too many other people who actually do what I do for a living. Many of us in education are called to serve and are called to teach and are called to lead. Like my colleagues and peers, I enjoy my job, work harder to be better every day, and I often find the work/life balance to be an elusive goal. Often people ask what, in fact, do I do every day. Am I a teacher? Am I a principal? Am I a counselor? Am I a mediator? Am I a transportation director? To a certain extent … yes to all of the above. I would like to believe that my role is more like an orchestra or band leader than as a “boss”. When I visit with youngsters they often suggest that I’m the “boss of the principals”; I respond that while I do get to tell the principals what to do, I’m more of their friend and partner in making sure we take care of the teachers, staff, and students every day. My hope, aim, and mission is to support and nurture and sustain environments of excellence. As I have written in other blog posts and publications, I measure excellence with multiple metrics and benchmarks of success. To me, like many others who have led before me, and as Peter Drucker is credited with: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  We leaders will get to implement strategies and tactics and plans and goals but with positive culture we get to lead — with positive culture we get to see success — with positive culture we can accomplish anything we set out to accomplish.

So to the question of what do I do for a living, I guess I would be proud to say that I orchestrate positive cultures in and around schools and communities.

As a public school superintendent in Illinois, I am one of 850 leaders who work every day in a state with a history of supporting public schools since the 1820s and a mindset at times and a structure set at times that appears to be stuck in the 19th Century.

As I contemplate and write about my “why” and as I work with the Board of Education that selected me for hire to lead their school system of 4000 students, 500 employees, 10 schools and a legacy of excellence, I’m reminded of my calling to serve and my passion to support educational access for ALL students with supporting ALL staff in their quest to make positive impacts on students. Back to what does a superintendent do … she or he is the communications person, curriculum person, financial person, civic engagement person, chief advocate for children person … the list goes on and on. Ideally the superintendent has a team or staff of outstanding leaders (like I do) who can handle the day to day responsibilities, but, at the end of the day, like Harry Truman is credited with saying “The Buck Stops Here”. It’s the responsibility of the superintendent to maintain and sustain a productive and professional relationship with the Board of Education.

A cornerstone in American democratic tradition is the local government. In Illinois school board members are unpaid elected volunteers who selflessly serve their communities as the stewards of the public schools (assets, liabilities, decisions, taxes, etc.). Their job responsibilities are awesome – the rewards are many yet the time and challenges are many too. In Illinois most Boards have seven members and the Board is supported by the Illinois School Board Association. In addition to the seven member Board that employs the superintendent, other elected officials have major influence on the operations of the school district and the community education. The superintendent, therefore, works with the mayor (and staff), the other local governments (health department, county, park district, police, fire, etc.). The superintendent also works with the state Board of Education and the local senators and representatives.

As I review lists of proposed bills in the Illinois General Assembly I ask the internal question about the impact — will this proposed bill advance the cause for all children? Will this proposed bill advance the ability for school leaders to support education for all children? Will this proposed bill cause happiness and new structures for the students we serve. Sadly, to those questions, lately, most of my internal dialogue reveals that, no, the proposed legislation will not advance productive education … so in my role as “advocate in chief” for the school District, I dutifully reach out to our state representative and state senator in an effort to share the superintendent’s view on proposed bills. All from the lens of my mission – for ALL children to have equitable access to excellent educational opportunities.

Every few years Illinois has municipal elections. This month there were school board and other municipal elections. In my School District, two long time Board members retired from Board service and one of the incumbent members ran for re-election. The incumbent Board member and two of the three non-elected candidates were elected (the results are unofficial until the end of the month, but this is the prediction based upon preliminary results). So with just about one year into my five year employment contract with the Board of Education, it’s likely I will start year two with two new members of the Board.

Board of Education/Superintendent relations are essential for the positive, productive, and professional implementation and sustainment of culture, mission, vision, values, beliefs, and goals for all students and all staff. I’m proud that the Board I serve is committed to professional growth and learning. I’m fortunate that the Board I serve is dedicated to student and staff learning and community engagement and success. I’m happy that I get to serve for and with a Board of dedicated, selfless volunteers who are drawn to serve for the betterment of their community and the children we have the opportunity to teach in our classrooms every day!

Since October 2014 with my good friend and professional leadership partner Nick Polyak, we have been moderating a chat on Twitter called #suptchat. This once a month professional development opportunity addresses topics of interests and concern for superintendents, educators, educational leaders, policymakers, and anyone with an interest in the topic. Twitter is free and public and open to all. This month we focused on Board/Superintendent relations. Part of my mission is to connect leaders with and to one another so that we can enhance and strengthen the work we do on behalf of students, teachers, and community. The archive of the most recent chat is linked:

So, in closing this blog post, I’ll end with a response to the question: “What’s my mission?”

My mission is to create leadership opportunities for others so that our society may be enriched through learning, personal and professional growth, and support and improvement for our free way of life and to support the advancement of a globally connected and mutually respectful world community.


Archive of #suptchat on Board/Superintendent relations: