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Generative AI in NSSD112 – #112Leads

AI Generated Image after running my blog post through Chat GPT 4o

In our school district, since November 2023, and with a great deal of energy and purpose since the CoSN national conference in April 2024, we have been on a “vision quest” with Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools. The potential revolutionary changes for teachers and students alike have inspired teams of administrators and teachers in the exploration, research, implementation, study, review, and implementation of GEN AI into our professional practice!

In this blog post, I’m sharing an AI produced (and human edited) executive summary of the District 112 Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) Guidance Document and Plans shared with the Board of Education in May and June 2024.

What follows the executive summary is an information blog post further illustrating our “why” in terms of deep study of how GEN AI will support our vision to Inspire, Innovate, and Engage for each child – and each staff member – EVERY day! The blog post is entitled, Embracing the Future: Integrating Generative AI in North Shore School District 112

First, here is an Executive Summary:

North Shore School District 112 (Illinois) Generative Artificial Intelligence Guidance and PlansGenerative Artificial Intelligence Guidance and Plans

Introduction
North Shore School District 112 is at the forefront of integrating cutting-edge technologies to enhance educational outcomes and operational efficiencies. The “Generative Artificial Intelligence Background, Guidance, Plans” document outlines the strategic approach to piloting Magic School AI in our district, providing a roadmap for successful implementation.

Key Objectives
The primary objectives of integrating Generative AI in our district include:
1. **Personalized Learning**: Leveraging AI to tailor educational content and experiences to meet the unique needs of each student, thereby improving engagement and academic performance.
2. **Operational Efficiency**: Streamlining administrative tasks and processes to allow educators to focus more on instruction and less on bureaucracy.
3. **Data-Driven Decision Making**: Utilizing AI to analyze vast amounts of data, providing insights that drive informed decision-making and strategic planning.

Implementation Strategy
1. **Pilot Program**: The initial phase involves piloting Magic School AI in select classrooms to evaluate its effectiveness and gather feedback from educators and students.
2. **Professional Development**: Providing comprehensive training for teachers and staff to ensure they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively use AI tools.
3. **Stakeholder Engagement**: Engaging with students, parents, and the community to build support and ensure transparency throughout the implementation process.

Benefits
1. **Enhanced Learning Experiences**: AI can create customized lesson plans, provide real-time feedback, and suggest resources tailored to each student’s learning style and pace.
2. **Increased Efficiency**: Automation of routine tasks such as grading and attendance tracking frees up valuable time for educators to focus on teaching and mentorship.
3. **Improved Outcomes**: Data-driven insights help identify areas for improvement, monitor student progress, and develop targeted interventions to support student success.

 

Challenges and Mitigation
1. **Data Privacy**: Ensuring the security and privacy of student data is paramount. Strict protocols and compliance with relevant regulations are in place.
2. **Equity and Access**: Addressing potential disparities in access to technology and ensuring all students benefit from AI integration.
3. **Change Management**: Managing the transition and ensuring all stakeholders are adequately supported through continuous communication and training.

Conclusion
The integration of Generative AI in North Shore School District 112 represents a significant step towards modernizing our educational approach. By embracing this technology, we aim to create a more personalized, efficient, and data-driven educational environment that prepares our students for the future. This pilot program is just the beginning of our journey towards transforming education through innovation.

With that background, I share the following blog post which further illustrates our “why” for deep exploration of GEN AI tools for our 500 staff members and nearly 4000 students in grades PK-8 in Highland Park & Highwood Illinois.

Embracing the Future:

Integrating Generative AI in North Shore School District 112

In our rapidly evolving educational landscape, the integration of cutting-edge technologies is no longer optional but essential. At North Shore School District 112, we are pioneering the use of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance both educational outcomes and operational efficiencies. As we pilot Magic School AI in our district, I want to share insights into how this innovative technology is transforming our schools. As of this writing, we have 252 users who have generated 3,817 uses of Magic School AI tools since May! – SINCE MAY 13, 2024 – There is interest here 

As a public school superintendent with a passion for educational leadership and teacher practices, my focus has always been on driving change and growth. Our recent work on “Generative Artificial Intelligence Background, Guidance, Plans” highlights the potential of AI to revolutionize our approach to teaching and learning.

WHY?? Enhancing Educational Outcomes

Generative AI offers a myriad of opportunities to personalize learning. By analyzing vast amounts of data, AI can tailor educational content to meet the unique needs of each student. This aligns perfectly with the strategies outlined in my upcoming book, *Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today*, where Nick Polyak and I emphasize the importance of individualized learning pathways. Truly creating opportunities for each child every day is more within our grasp, I strongly believe, with GEN AI tools than ever before. This is not just “ed tech” or a “cool suite of tools” – this is revolutionary change in our time.

For instance, Magic School AI can help create customized lesson plans, provide real-time feedback, and even suggest resources that align with each student’s learning style and pace. This not only improves student engagement but also empowers our educators to focus more on instruction and less on administrative tasks. With Magic Student (with great data privacy guardrails and nearly total control by teachers), students can get book lists, engage with historical figures, and much, much more. It’s not going to do their work for them – it’s going to help them do their work better!

GEN AI helps with Operational Efficiencies

Beyond the classroom, Generative AI can streamline various administrative processes. From automating routine tasks to improving data management, AI helps our district operate more efficiently. This aligns with the holistic approach I advocate in sessions like “Creating and Sustaining a Mentally Healthy Community,” where effective use of data and technology supports the overall well-being of our students, staff, and community. All that we do, and all that we have done, align with ways to support teachers, educational support staff, administrators, families, and at the core, students.

Building on Success

North Shore School District 112 has a history of success, and integrating AI is a natural next step. Over the past six years, our district has achieved remarkable milestones, thanks to the dedication of our staff and the support of our community. The adoption of AI technologies will build on these successes, ensuring we continue to lead in educational innovation. We cannot wait to see the results of this pilot (May – September) with professional development opportunities this summer and fall! Based on input we’ll determine our next steps!

We encourage educators to explore and experiment with GEN AI tools in their lives too (we encourage taking advantage of Khanmigo – free to every teacher/educator in the US – thank you Sal Khan!, ChatGPT – thanks to Open AI there are free versions with tremendous capabilities, Microsoft’s co-pilot, Google’s Gemini, Latimer offers a diverse AI tool, and much, much more. Our point, safety and legal concerns are addressed by Magic School AI – which is why we are in full pilot implementation mode. There are other really cool tools that we support reviewing, using, checking out, etc. as humanity itself is embracing the advent of this strange, new, powerful technology reality.

Collaboration and Continuous Learning

Our journey with AI is collaborative. By involving teachers, students, and the community in this pilot program, we ensure that the implementation is both effective and sustainable. This approach reflects the principles I discussed in my newest publication, *The Unfinished Teacher: Becoming the Next Version of Yourself*, which emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and adaptation.

Looking Ahead

As we move forward, I am excited about the possibilities that Generative AI brings to our district. This pilot program is just the beginning. By embracing these technologies, we are preparing our students for a future where digital literacy and technological proficiency are paramount.

I look forward to sharing more updates as we continue this journey. Together, we are shaping the future of education, one innovative step at a  time!!

An AI Generated Image relating to North Shore School District 112

Superintendent Summer Learning #112Leads

June 2024

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

Leadership is all about change – perspective change, mindset change, functional change, improvement change, essentially, helping to create conditions with culture, systems, instruction, and growth. As a school superintendent (finishing year 14 in this role, and year 31 of consecutive full time dedication to public education in suburban Chicagoland),  I often get asked “What do you do in the summer?”

Since the schools are closed (except for summer school) and people think the teachers are “off” (even though they work all summer, attending workshops, classes, and preparing their lessons). Summer is an awesome time for an educator – we get to reflect on what went well during the past year. We get to reflect on what could become better next year, and we get to devote time to our own learning, growth and recharge! We get a beginning, middle, and end, each school year! This year I just completed my 31st consecutive full time year in public education. Each year I learn more, grow more, experience more and hopefully extend my impact as a leader in positive ways.

This summer (we just started as our “last day of school” was June 5) a team of teachers and administrators joined me on a professional journey to Ohio where we joined with educators from all over the country in the shared pursuit of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) in our PK-12 school districts and communities. Educators from 9 US states were in attendance at this inspiring convening.

In District 112, we just adopted new middle school (grades 6-8) science curriculum resources (for the first time in more than 30 years) and we eagerly anticipate how to facilitate optimal rigorous and engaging science for our middle school students. Since our District is also PK-5 as well as 6-8, an elementary principal and the assistant superintendent for teaching & learning joined with two of our middle school science teachers and a middle school instructional coach on this academy!

What we do in the summer is study, learn, review, research, and collaborate on making the most meaningful educational conditions for students when they return in the late summer, next August!

Our journey literally starts at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport where we take off for a relatively short flight to Cincinnati, Ohio!

As we head to Cincinnati, where the airport is actually in Kentucky, we’re mentally preparing for the learning, growing, studying, and networking that lay ahead of us! The six of us plan to attend the multiple offerings during each session to learn and share with each other so we can maximize the opportunities for our students back home.

Sharing some images and then an “executive summary of some of the content we learned and engaged with”:

Superintendent and host Kirk Koennecke

Airplane on tarmac at O’Hare airport before takeoff

Beautiful Chicago, IL from the air shortly after take off

Cincinnati, Ohio in the distance, on approach near landing time

Our transportation – awesome bus drivers keeping us safe!

Let’s go! From the newly constructed commons area at Indian Hill Middle School

Braeside Elementary School Principal Jamie Kahn synthesizing learning during hands-on group work!

JASON LEARNING STEM Certification Framework, a multi-year, multi-step comprehensive look

Sharing an executive summary of our take ways – as you can see, we learned a lot and we have much to process, review further, ideate on, plan for, and work with colleagues as we plan for our student’s future! We used a shared Google Doc to record our learning, thinking, etc. – Open AI’s Chat GPT 4o looked at the text and made an executive summary (it did a nice job!)

Executive Summary of Breakout Sessions

Finding Success Using Labsites
– **Objective**: Utilize professional development to build staff capacity and lead instructional change without needing new furniture.
– **Strategic Plan**: Focuses on learners as individuals, whole-child development, student agency, wellness, career pathways, STEM, and diversity.
– **Lab Classrooms**: Teachers meet with coaches three times a year to observe and plan; ensure alignment with standards and interdisciplinary connections.

Harnessing the Power of PBL in High School STEM
– **Presenters**: Julia Kunkel and Jackie McCarthy.
– **Key Points**:
– Create a collaborative culture with shared promises.
– Develop projects requiring persistent revision; e.g., mapping classroom furniture.

Spaces of Belonging: Designing Learning Environments for Enhanced Agency & Achievement
– **Media Room**: Equipped with donated newsroom equipment, offering classes and clubs in broadcast journalism.
– **Digital Arts Lab**: Created from private donations, offering computer science certifications.
– **LOTH Furniture Firm**: Involves teachers and students in furniture selection, piloting designs, and using vertical dry erase boards.
– **Indian Hill Elementary School**:
– “Brave Room” for anxiety relief, with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital consultation.
– “Go Time” for teachers to engage students in various topics.

 

Transformational Partnerships
– **Focus**: Establishing mutual success partnerships with community members, integrating STEM education at the center.
– **Key Elements**:
– Community members on teams during registration.
– Shared vision and consistent goals/action steps.
– Collaborations with JASON Learning, Cuebric AI, and other organizations.
– Entrepreneurship spirit and leveraging resources like the Recycled Materials Association.

STEM for ALL: How to Build and Support a Comprehensive K12 STEM Program
– **Integration**: Embedding STEM across subjects and grade levels, with leadership, community connection, and teacher professional development.
– **STEM Learning Ecosystem**: Sustainable mobilization of STEM involving all stakeholders, focusing on interdependence of pillars.

Schoolwide Design Thinking in Action (Grades 3-5)
– **Implementation**: Daily STEM activities, STEM Days, and integrating design thinking across the curriculum.

Be an Argonaut: Localize Your STEM Curriculum
– **Program**: Students apply to be National Argonauts, involving interdisciplinary projects and public speaking.

Building a Strong STEM Culture with AASA & JASON Learning
– **Certification Framework**: Audit internal processes, provide supplemental curriculum support, and ensure equity and inclusion.

Educating without Silos: Cross-Curricular PBLS with AI in K12
– **Interactive Session**: Focus on collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking through PBL and AI.

This summary highlights the key points and objectives of the breakout sessions, emphasizing professional development, project-based learning, inclusive learning environments, and transformational partnerships in STEM education.

The summary does not share session presentations, handouts, images – those will be further shared internally with our teams and our colleagues. What I hope to illustrate in this blog post is that learning never takes a vacation in education and in North Shore School District 112, #112Leads. I’m proud of the teachers and administrators who joined me on this learning journey and adventure, and I’m inspired by what our future holds for our teachers, students, administrators, and the community!

Thank you Kevin, Jamie, Alexandra, Alex, and Jess for joining, learning, leading, reflecting, planning, putting up with my endless comments about Generative AI 🙂 – and for the collaboration!! Our future is bright because of YOU!

Thanks for reading and know that comments are always welcomed.

 

Holiday Greetings – Multi-Lingual Video – Supt Message

“When there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” – Mattie Stepanek, American Poet

December 2023

Dear North Shore School District 112 Parents/Guardians and members of the Community, 

Happy Holidays! As the calendar year ends and we prepare for a well-deserved winter break starting after school on Thursday, I’m sharing a note of gratitude, information, and a fun video animation. To create the festive and inclusive video, Enrique Castro, our coordinator for ESL and Bilingual Programs, recorded “happy holiday” greetings from our students representing each of the 30 home languages spoken by our families. Thank you to our families, students, Mr. Castro, and the EL teacher team!

As you may already know, in District 112, we take great pride in supporting diverse cultures, languages, and backgrounds. 

 

LINK TO VIDEO 

As we take time to reflect on our time in District 112, we are proud to acknowledge that we have accomplished a great deal this year.  We are optimistic that our future is going to be bright and exciting. The important work we do puts our children on the path to success. Some highlights of our successful work include the following:

  • Historic construction projects continue with support from the community
    • Completion of Phase 1 of the Long-Range Plan (Edgewood opened April 2023)
    • Indian Trail and Ravinia School Construction is underway and ongoing
  • Sixth-year of staff, student, and family culture/engagement data collection & growth
    • Even with some “survey fatigue,” we are getting great feedback on what we are doing well and what we need to work on – thank you!
      • Top rated item from the Family Survey, “Teachers treat me with respect” 4.64 out of 5.00
      • Top rated item from the Student Survey, “I have friends at school who care about me” 4.45 out of 5.00
  • Improvements in PK-8 Learning
    • Last year’s state assessments showed our students were in the 81st and 90th percentiles in English and math, respectively, compared to all students in IL
  • Increased mental health interventions
    • Wellness webinars with the Cook Center for Human Connection

We look forward to a fantastic year in 2024! 

With regards,

Mike

Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Thanksgiving – Gratitude – #112Leads

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

November 22, 2023

Dear North Shore School District 112 Staff, Families, and Community,

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this year, I want to share a message of gratitude on behalf of the Board of Education and the leadership team of North Shore School District 112. We serve you as part of our calling to help make the world a better place; like Gandhi’s quote, we seek to know who we are as we help our students learn and grow.

I am so thankful daily when I reflect on our service and work. I am lucky to work with many talented, professional, and effective educators in such an engaged and thoughtful community! As I celebrate my 19th year of service to the Board, sixth as your superintendent, I am so thankful for every one of you and for the honor of service to our children, staff, parents, Board, and community!

We have accomplished so much in our years together. The COVID-19 Pandemic, the mass tragedies we have endured, global strife, national conflict, and so much more continue to challenge and stress our minds and hearts. Throughout all of this, though, you demonstrated resilience, hope, love, care, and support to me. It matters, and please know I and we SEE YOU. It’s incredible that after all we have been through, recent state performance data ranks District 112 in the 90% percentile based on last spring’s math performance, for example, compared to all other districts in Illinois.

Thanks to you, we’re on our way to modernizing & updating more of our schools and continuing to improve our safety and security measures at all campuses. We are optimistic that our community’s future will be bright and exciting! As you know, we are on a proud journey of continuous improvement. The vital work we do puts our children on the path to success. 

A snapshot of the pressing issues on our agenda includes:
Constructing, modernizing, and renovating Indian Trail  and Ravinia Schools

  • Using Elm Place for Indian Trail School and Green Bay for Ravinia
  • Planning for Sherwood, Braeside, and Wayne Thomas Construction
  • Amending our social media approaches based on input from the staff and parent communities
  • Increasing parent education and mental health approaches
  • Looking forward for growth and enhancement in student learning, selecting updated resources for reading and writing
  • Measuring and reporting on input from students, families, and English Learner families
  • Using Parent Square to share “what’s going on in our schools” with imagery and stories of learning, teaching, and growth is amplified.

We are stronger together, and we take great pride in serving you and the students of District 112. We firmly believe in educating all children in a learning environment with high expectations and access to rigor for each child every day. As the center of our community, District 112  schools are honored to Inspire, Innovate, and Engage all students daily. Our vital work is designed to put each child on the path to success. 

Thanksgiving is an excellent opportunity for me to give thanks to my wife, children, dogs, family, friends, and the North Shore School District 112 brothers and sisters with whom I serve and lead daily.

Collectively, we are grateful to our teachers, support staff, parents, grandparents, community members, administrators, business owners, and members of our Board of Education.  We wish you and your family a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday season!

Sincerely,

Mike

Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools 

Honoring Veterans – Superintendent Message

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

Subject: Honoring Our Heroes on Veterans Day

Dear North Shore School District 112 Community,

Today, we come together to honor and celebrate Veterans Day, a day of profound significance in our nation, and express our deepest gratitude to the brave men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. More than ever, it seems, we need to acknowledge those defenders of freedom, those warriors of the just, those who devote their lives so that we may be free and safe.

As your Superintendent, I am continually inspired by the values that our veterans embody – courage, sacrifice, and dedication. These are the same values we strive to instill in our students, making today a day of remembrance, learning, and reflection. I’m proud to have veterans in my family (my father, father-in-law, uncles, cousins, and others have proudly served our nation over the years).

Our veterans have shown us the true meaning of service, putting the greater good above self. They have defended our freedoms and safeguarded our way of life, enabling us to thrive as a community and a nation. Their sacrifices remind us of the importance of resilience, respect, and responsibility – principles that guide our mission in education.

Let us take this opportunity to teach our students about the importance of Veterans Day. Let’s encourage them to learn from our veterans’ exemplary lives, understand the sacrifices made for our country, and appreciate the peace and freedom we enjoy. Whether you visit a website from the government, like, Defense Department, or US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, or you attend events in the community, it’s essential that today especially, we honor those who serve and those who have served!!

To our students who are family members of veterans, we also recognize the sacrifices you make. We are proud to serve hundreds of military-connected families in District 112. Your strength and support for your loved ones in service are admirable and do not go unnoticed. For more than a century, District 112 has proudly served military families. It is one of many honors, historic legacies, and special attributes that make our community proud.

I urge each of us to take a moment today to thank a veteran. Whether it’s a family member, a neighbor, or a friend, let’s show our veterans the respect and appreciation they deserve. Their stories of bravery and resilience are a source of inspiration to us all.

In North Shore School District 112, we proudly support our veterans and military families. Today and every day, we stand in solidarity with those who have served and continue to serve our country. On behalf of a grateful school district, school board, administration & staff to our veterans, servicemen, and women, I humbly thank you!

With deepest respect and gratitude,

Mike

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D
Superintendent

 

Impact of an educator is far and wide – #112Leads

Superintendent’s Welcome Remarks for 2023-2024 in North Shore School District 112!

At the all-staff institute day on August 23, 2023, superintendent Lubelfeld welcomed back nearly 600 staff members for another awesome school year in North Shore School District 112. In this episode of Lighthouse 112, we share excerpts from his thank yous and his messages about leadership — how we are all, and we are each a leader, how the “seeds” we “plant” today will help our students (and society) flourish in the future. While we may not always see the fruits of our labor, each child, every day, deserves our very best! Inspire. Innovate. Engage! #112Leads

Audio

Selection of Slides used during the Welcome

Audio – Welcome New Teachers – #112Leads

On August 14 in North Shore School District 112, we welcomed nearly 40 new teachers and staff members! This was the first of five days of orientation and onboarding exercises, workshops, and “setting the stage” for an amazing year and career in our District. Superintendent Dr. Lubelfeld & Deputy Superintendent Dr. Schroeder set the stage for the new staff with a welcome! In this Podcast, we share excerpts from their message of welcome, including brief bios of them as individuals, the brief history of District 112, the mission, vision, values, and goals, and why new folks were selected in the manner that they were. Welcome to School Year 2023-2024 to our new staff and thank you for listening to Lighthouse 112!

Part 4 of 4 – Final Reflections from Conference on Education – A Nation at Risk

In this fourth of four blog posts illustrating forty years of educational reforms in the United States since the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983, I am proud to reinforce some of what I knew, know, and plan to do! The report gave a start to decades of educational reforms that helped to cause a national obsession with standardized test results. Some of the momentum has been great in terms of causing an awareness of what it means for a school system to educate each child every day — some of the momentum has been horrible in terms of causing people who score “less than proficient” to be looked upon as illiterate.

So … in a nation where soundbites rule and folks no longer read a lot of content, except for readers of this blog – of course! On a five-point scale, for example, in Illinois, at the end of year high stakes assessment, students who score a 4 or a 5 are labeled “proficient,” and anyone with a 3, a 2, or a 1 is NOT. And if you are NOT proficient, the narrative calls for you and for your school to become failures.

I know this sounds kind of dramatic, and I know it sounds overly simplified — and it is –, but that’s what 40 years of “reforms” and an obsession with standardized test scores to rate and rank the nation’s public schools have yielded. Make no mistake, I am all for accountability, and I preside over a public school district where I want each

Worthy of review and discussion especially 40 years past the “reform” movement …

child to be proficient in all of the standards (knowledge, skills, performance indicators). I absolutely understand the need for academic measures to show the public they are getting a positive return on their investment of public tax dollars, and in my district, I’m proud to report that they are.

My issues are that one score at one point in time does not accurately reflect or show the actual quality of education of the school or of the district. The child with a score of 3 (in the above example), for example, and clarity – is literate. He can read. He can compute. He is somewhere behind the “proficient” rating put upon him by the state … and in the 50 different states, there are different measuring sticks for proficiency… what else have I learned about 40 years of reform? It’s not been equally implemented. It’s not been equitably implemented; it’s not been fairly implemented.

Instead of “A Nation at Risk,” – they might have been more accurate if they entitled the report “50 states do public education differently, and we have no idea if the nation is at risk” …Our nation might have been at risk, it might be at risk today – I’m not fully qualified to make that assessment nor can I declaratively make that conclusion, I can, though, indicate that my local public school district is NOT at risk. We have work to do, and we are committed to continuous improvement. We rely on measures of culture, satisfaction, customer service, financial responsibility, student learning, and student growth, among others, to assess our successes and our needs for improvement.

Solutions we discussed and that were presented by professor.

I do question the “proficiency” rates and the complete “wall” between a 3 and a 4 in the end-of-year Illinois test. We do all we can each day for each child to get our students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities to meet and exceed the standards set. Thanks to input and, dialogue, and intellectual discourse with leaders all across the United States, including from the District of Columbia, CA, IL, OH, IN, TX, MI, PA, MD, NY, CO, & AZ, my thinking was challenged and my analyses of the past forty years of American education in the United States was enhanced.

We talked about “the science of reading”, various political groups engaged in local school board elections, the existence of school boards themselves, local control issues, state issues, civil rights issues, and much, much more! Some among us called for a “Marshall Plan” for public education to restore the prestige and invest in getting more teachers (and educational support personnel and administrators) into classrooms, schools, and districts. We discussed the structure of education itself, the roles of state and federal, and local governments, and the pros and cons of each.

Let’s all remember that in the United States of America, we have the most patents in the world, we have the largest economy in the world, and we have the strongest military in the world. With 90% of students in our public schools, clearly, our Nation is NOT at risk due to the public schools. One could surmise that in the forty years since A Nation at Risk, we have learned much, and we are successful in many areas.

I strongly believe it’s time to change the narrative that the USA is at risk due to the public schools. In contrast, we’re doing so well BECAUSE of the nation’s public schools. I also believe it is time for us all to accept that it’s statistically impossible for “all” to be “proficient” on a bell-shaped curve – with 50 as “normal,” there will always be less than and more than. It is time to develop a more realistic accountability system that means more than “average” or “beyond or below”.

Finally, I thank the National Superintendent Roundtable for convening us so thoughtfully, so provocatively, and so meaningfully as we ponder the past forty years in US public education – and as we forecast the next decades. Our nation and our world have endured powerful changes due to public education. Let’s commit to sharing the correct narrative, and let’s believe in each child every day with rigor and high expectations, and high standards. Let’s measure what we’re actually doing and let’s get it right in the next 40 years!

Part 1 of 4 – Forty Years Since “A Nation at Risk” – Education Reflections

There is no comfort in the growth zone – but there is no growth in the comfort zone – this was a quote shared with us at the start of the National Superintendent Roundtable national convening in the summer 2023 conference in Los Angeles, California.

Nearly 40 of us convened to remember the education “reform” document and call to action called A Nation at Risk, and to contemplate the 40 years since – where we have been, where we are, and most important, where we are going!

With powerful presentations (some excerpted and summarized here in the blog and in subsequent posts) and with a visit to the President Ronald Reagan national presidential library & museum in Simi Valley (shared via images in the blog), the convening was awesome! Great dialogue, great, courageous conversations and questions and recollections, civil discourse with folks who have differing political views, and a whole lot more took place in our compact, concise, and short but powerful conference.

Often, people ask me, “What do I do as a superintendent” Part of the purpose of this blog is for me to illustrate just that. What “do” I do? 🙂 – A LOT … The role is diverse and rewarding, the opportunities to develop leaders are the most powerful and impacting legacy, and the power and honor to share and extend HOPE is a true gift.

In this blog post, I reflect on, share, and describe superintendent professional development. Leadership convening at a high level. History, politics, government, sociology, education, journalism, and more are covered in this experience and blog post.

40 years ago, A Nation at Risk was presented to the nation. It was a flawed report (as I will share), but it did raise PK-12 education to the forefront as a presidential issue – which can be a good thing. It started a four-decade pathway towards educational “reforms” and an obsession with standardized testing that we still grapple with today.

So …. What do I do?

I learn I gather with national and global experts, I engage in dialogue to make my thoughts known and clearer, and when challenged with new ideas, I may change my

I am facilitating a discussion with one of our presenters

mind! I am a leader and a learner, and a lead learner. My attendance at and participation in professional development is part of what I do as a superintendent of schools. Each day I aim to be better, do better, and lead better for the thousands of students and staff, and community members I have the honor of serving.

40 Years Since a Nation at Risk … What have we learned … I will be sharing thoughts from the many pages of notes I took during our amazing and challenging presentations as well as during our incredible visit and guided tour at the President Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. As a former social studies and US

Me at the podium! The backdrop is the inauguration – pretty cool!!

History teacher, this was AMAZING. A whole bunch of peak moments were had during this short but powerful trip across the country!

The National Superintendent Roundtable (NSR) is a membership association of superintendents from around the USA. Currently, there are about 91 members nationwide. In partnership with its sister organization, the Schlecty Center, there are about 180 superintendents in total between the two organizations. Both are mission-driven to support leadership and growth.  We are all in favor of and stand by “Strong families, strong communities, with strong schools” as a mantra or “calling card.” We’re here to honor the 40th anniversary of A Nation at Risk and truly digest and dissect – what we have learned and where we are going.

James Jim Harvey – incredible speaker, scholar, writer, one of the authors of A Nation at Risk & Founder of the National Superintendent Roundtable

Our keynote presenter, Jim Harvey, founder of the NSR and one of the writers of A Nation at Risk was outstanding!! Jim reminded us all that public education is one of the major foundations of the United States society. Supporting American ideals and progress is our mission. Jim also reminded us of President Reagan’s inaugural address in 1980, where he stated that essentially, “…government is the problem.”. President Reagan ran on a platform that included eliminating the US Department of Education. His first Secretary was Terrell, Ted, and Bell.

Subsequent blog posts will detail more of the content and “What do we do now?”.

Reflections from Bottle School Trip – Guatemala 2023 July

Bottle School Project with Hug it Forward

Reflections from  Tecpan, Guatemala

July 2023
Wrapping up an incredibly meaningful experience with my son in Guatemala! We finished tying up the 10,000 bottles filled with inorganic trash in the three classrooms we helped complete in the elementary (K-6) school in Zaculeu, Tecpan, Guatemala! The 400 students in grades K-6 now have three more elementary classrooms for education. One day we or someone will build a middle school, grades 7-9, so that these kids can continue their education. Currently, about 15-20 students are able to continue to middle school from the community.
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Think about that for a minute or two……. Trips like this, service like this, and experiences like this help to illustrate how education, economics, politics, geo-global politics, etc., all intersect to create or stifle opportunity. Trips like this give me context, perspective, hope, and love.
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Thanks to Hug it Forward and Serve the World Today, my son and I got to join some amazing people from across the United States and from France and Guatemala to make change in our world – to do good with other good people – to build a school alongside people in a community who seek partnership, support partnership and work alongside in partnership! The bottle school project confronts many challenges, including trash/environment, community development/involvement, investment in often forgotten people, education – space, opportunity, function & hope, economic development, and migration policies (and more).
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From the Hug it Forward Website

From their materials:
“Hug it Forward works to support and empower communities in Guatemala to build Bottle Schools: schools built using plastic soda bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. Entire communities come together to make the dream of educational opportunity a reality by upcycling “waste” to build their own bottle school.
  • This school infrastructure project will be accomplished thanks to funds provided by Hug it Forward’s donors and with the collaboration of community members. The municipality and the PTA (parent-teacher organization in the community) work jointly with students’ families in order to provide all the manual labor required for the construction, as well as a three-classroom bottle school requires over 10,000 bottles—children in the community are responsible for collecting the majority of these and stuffing them with trash to make “eco-bricks.” This gives them pride and a true sense of ownership in the school.
  • The school is built in Zaculeu, located in the municipality of Tecpan, Guatemala, Chimaltenango. Zaculeu means “White Land.” People in Zaculeu grow their own corn, beans, coffee, and a lot of different kinds of vegetables and fruits, especially snow peas, corn, and beans. This project of which we are a part, will benefit 386+ students, 13 teaching staff members, and 600 families in the area.
  • The members of the community are indigenous Mayan people who speak Kaqchikel.
  • The signs are in their mother tongue, Spanish and English.
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We built walls out of bottles in three classrooms. We expanded the educational footprint in the community and we supported ecological awareness and recycling on a grand scale. We played with the children, we spoke with the community elders, we visited homes of the members of the community.

Before bottle walls are constructed

A bottle wall before it’s covered with plaster and used as insulation – construction in process

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We immersed ourselves in Mayan culture, Guatemalan culture, we learned Guatemalan and Mayan history and politics and immigration perspectives first hand.

Park of the Cross, beautiful view of Agua Volcano (dormant)

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We learned, we served, we experienced, we helped, we hugged, and we leave better people than when we arrived as we have new friends, new world views, and we now have a community with greater educational opportunities.
As I have stated, words and even pictures alone cannot fully illustrate the power and intensity of this trip and its set of experiences. I encourage you to consider attending a Hug it Forward service trip. Thanks for reading, as always, I welcome comments!
It is an honor to try to make the world a better place through service, family, spirit, and hands on learning. We leave Guatemala mentally, spiritually, emotional fulfilled. We brought good, we received good, and our little efforts will lead to generational change.
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As we come home, we aim to extend the learning, feelings, doings, beings illustrated herein and live as best we can sharing good wherever we can.
As I prepare for another school year, I am recharged, refreshed, revised, and wholly energized to support and facilitate change. I am committed to supporting administrators so that they may create optimal conditions for teachers and staff, so that they may create the environment for “each child every day” where all means all and where, in North Shore School District 112, #112Leads, we inspire, engage and empower every day!
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