Mike Lubelfeld's Blog


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In 2023: Unlearn, remain Unfinished, and elevate Student Voice

“What each of us must come to realize is that our intent always comes through.”
– Thurgood Marshall, First African-American Supreme Court Justice

Another trip around the sun … another year full of hope, dreams, opportunity, and possibility, another “do-over” for us all! Over time, I have written about the power of the “do-over” that we in education get each July (the new school year). On January 1st, around the world, we each get another “do-over.”

So … what will we do over? What hopes, dreams, opportunities, and possibilities should we put forward? It’s a powerful contemplation – a powerful window with which we get to look through the world. It’s pretty awesome to be able to rest, recharge, and re-do all that makes sense. In my profession, it’s all about creating conditions for educators to support and enrich youth — we teach, we create learning spaces for children and young adults, and we create the future (I know … it’s a bit lofty — but we in education work in the profession that creates all other professions, we’re at the foundation of humanity).  Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic on the first day of the new year, or perhaps I’m embellishing our impact as educators; perhaps, I’m right!

In my personal and professional career in public education, 2023 marks my 31st year of service as a public school educator (teacher, school administrator, district administrator, and I’m finishing my 13th year as a public school superintendent). In the year of my country, we’re entering our  247th year as a free nation. It’s the 13th year of the iPad … 2023 is many things to many people. From the new AI tool, when I entered the search query: “what does the year 2023 represent, I received the following machine-generated response:

The year 2023 is the 2023rd year in the Gregorian calendar. It is a common year, meaning it has 365 days in total. 2023 is the 23rd year of the 21st century and the 4th year of the 2020s decade.

I share the AI (artificial intelligence) response as an interesting “statement” as to what’s going on “technologically speaking.” I (or anyone) can enter a search query, and this new tool can generate a “Human-Like” chat with me about just about anything. So … I’ve been an educator before the internet, during its birth, before Google … and so on. In our 2017 book, The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today (Rowman & Littlefield), Nick Polyak and I wrote, in chapter 1,

Times have changed. Ten years ago, superintendents and principals used the U.S. Postal Service to support communication and leadership. They used paper memos and inter-office envelopes and even voicemail. Teachers would send a paper newsletter home each week. Communication today is instant and immediate. Today’s superintendents,  today’s teachers, and today’s students are connected 24/7 and are able to communicate with blogs, audio, video, text messaging, e-mail, and any number of social media applications like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Remind, Voxer, Snapchat, etc.
The past ten years have shown significant changes in terms of consumption of information and “fingertip” access. Yes, times have changed. Communication has changed, but the importance of communication in support of leadership and innovation remains the same. Today’s superintendent knows how to leverage the power of technology to harness effective and impactful communication. Today’s teachers share learning examples in real time.

This was a reflection on communication from 2006-2016. Now, 7 years later, with exponential growth and change in technology, communication tools, “fingertip access,” and the worldwide global pandemic (and related trauma, change, silver linings – all of the above), there have been even more powerful real-time examples of how teachers and superintendents can enhance and improve their abilities to communicate and to lead.

In our 2021 book, The Unfinished Leader: A School Leadership Framework for Growth & Development (Rowman & Littlefield), Nick Polyak, PJ Caposey, and I write about Managing Change with New Information (Chapter 11 in Part V: Communication).

The most important thing is transforming our minds, for a new way of thinking, a new outlook: we should strive to develop a new inner world.Dalai Lama

If you are reading this book, we can say with near certainty that you make critical decisions and problem solve every day.  Oftentimes when we are pushed into making a critical decision there is not a singular answer that can satisfy the problem at hand. Instead, you call on  your prior experiences, the input of trusted colleagues and mentors, and the input of your affected stakeholders. 

What we are certain of is that as a leader you will be faced with problems and issues in the future that seem unimaginable right now. The world is changing at an exponential rate.  Understanding that fact is crucial, and understanding how to successfully navigate those problems and issues is what will make the unfinished leader ultimately successful.

So, as we embrace the changes, both known/predictable and unknown/unpredictable, with the dawn of the year 2023, I share a sense of wonder, excitement, anticipation, and hope for the good that we as a human race can offer, that we as educators can create, and that we as writers can share with the world! It’s always time to “unlearn”, remain “unfinished,” and embrace the “do-over” as the calendars clear for 12 more months.

End of Chapter feature in our book – To hear the voice of students, just “ask’em”!

Finally, in our 2018 book, Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable (Rowman & Littlefield), we conclude with a call to action, so as we embark on 2023, as a long-time public school educator, I suggest that the resolutions we should have in addition to Unlearning and remaining Unfinished, should be to elevate student voice and agency in your public school system. In conclusion,

This book is about one thing – building upon the kids-first mentality that all great educators have and transforming the mentality of serving kids first to serving with kids first. This book is our call to action. This book should provide a sense of urgency and a corresponding hope for the future. Our greatest asset is (and always will be) our students.


Ask: Ask students to think big and ask them to think about where their voice being heard would have the greatest impact on the school.

Support: We have taken some of the brilliance from students over time and they may not know how to react to this question. It is your job to ensure that they reach into their Kindergarten heart and mind to be fearless and to guarantee that their imagination has no bounds.

Know: Nobody knows your kids as well as you do. This is a change, and it is a change that they may not initially trust. It will most likely take leadership at the individual student level to help create student ownership as part of the culture of your building.

Empower: Great leaders set floors for performance but never ceilings. Create an environment that empowers your students to lead change and dream big.

Monitor: Giving students an opportunity to have their voice heard and not acting on it will cause significant regression in your building. It is important to understand that this process is fluid and ongoing. Change is incremental and not linear. It is necessary to monitor the level of success of incorporating student voice at every turn.

Happy & Healthy New Year!

Calls to Action – Reflections from Superintendent Conference #NSR2022

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Reflections and Calls to action from the convening of the National Superintendent Roundtable

Atlanta, Georgia – October 14-16, 2022 – #NSR2022

Education for Democracy is the theme of this year’s Roundtable conference. There is a sense of urgency now for the P-20/K-12 school leaders to advance the purposes, successes, stories, and narrative of Public Education. This convening of superintendents and business partners from across the USA was another engaging, inspiring, and motivating set of discussions, thought leaders provoking discomfort, and true leadership challenges in a safe, inviting, and inspirational location.
American demographics are shifting, and the American need for civics and history is more pronounced now than possibly at any time in our history; privatization forces threaten not only public schools but the nation itself; it’s incumbent upon us to amplify the narrative of public education and tell our stories! In this blog post, I share notes, thoughts, and reflections. I also share some calls to action for myself and us all. It’s possible that our way of life depends on this!

From time to time, I write about and reflect upon “what a superintendent does” since there are not too many of us in consideration of the overall educational community. We are multi-faceted, complex leaders faced with dynamic challenges woven into the tapestry of our nation, our states, our regions, our towns, and of course, our school districts/organizations/divisions.

What is “now” that is needed is clarity around the value proposition of public schools for democracy. The conference title of the National Superintendents Roundtable was Education for Democracy. We learned from speakers ranging from university leaders to national reporters to each other. We gathered at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum and reviewed and interacted with our nation’s history, our own leadership stories, and our personal contributions to this point. We are a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational group of leaders, scholars, and advocates for democracy, public schools, and the urgency of NOW.

Our charge, our challenge, and their call to us for action involve rebuilding the capacity for people to believe in the schools! Ask for students’ voices – what can school be/become – what is it?

The purposes of public schooling are inherent in promoting democracy and civics. The public school is the public institution where ALL gather. They are NOT free private schools … they are community/state/national benefitted since EVERY person in the community benefits from the fact that the public schools educate the communities children. The workforce benefits from public school investments. The community benefits from public school investments. The public schools are a benefit for us ALL.

In this blog post, I will share some reflections from the amazing speakers and a few calls to action. One call to action is to VOTE – clearly, the most fundamental right of the people in a democracy is the right to VOTE. I have never taken this right for granted. I vote in every general election and in some primary elections. I encourage my family members to vote; I don’t really care for whom or for what you vote – I genuinely care, though, that you do, in fact, get out to vote. It’s a cherished right that many in our nation did not have and had to fight for – not too long ago! Some still have to fight for this right – it is crazy but true.

Another call to action is for everyone in a public school leadership position to share the public education narrative. Tell our stories. Tell your stories. Share the realities that exist in the most democratic INFRASTRUCTURE of our nation and of any functioning democracy.

My colleagues at this conference are among the finest in the land, and each has a great role in getting our work at the forefront of the national discussion. While the Pandemic impacted some of the visceral local disagreements and nationally, there are some localized conflicts and controversies, the bottom line is our nation’s students are learning and growing, they are succeeding, and the institution of the public school is a national treasure worth fighting for, understanding, and preserving. We’re certainly not perfect, and as I often state, we will never let perfect be or become the enemy of good!

A quote that the Roundtable prefaced in the materials for the conference is from one of our nation’s hero presidents: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

National Superintendents Round Table (NSR) and the Schlecty Center have joined forces; the overarching themes of each speaker and each thought session were designed to: 

  • Help us think about education’s role of being “the answer”
  • Serving public education
  • Value of public education

Before we began to engage with one another and our speakers, we discussed, as a group where is the sense of urgency as a nation – for public schools? Education in general? We each reinforced what we hold as self-evident; the students are our WHY- We also started to describe and illustrate the multiple challenges facing public education from all sides all over the nation.

We started by listening to some amazing student singers from the M.E. Stilwell School of the Arts – Wow! It was a great kick-off – hats off to Dr. Morcease Beasely, NSR member and one of the local host superintendents!

As a group, we reinforced our strongly held beliefs about the value of public education – the reality that we as superintendents need to lead & engage communities – and that we convened to learn, connect and reflect on the real trouble and challenges we face, and more urgently and more important, what our nation’s youth face!

We began by looking at demographics – facts tell the story – the world is changing. Thanks to Dr. James Johnson from the University of North Carolina for scaring us and inspiring us to realize that reality is … well – real.

Dr. Johnson illustrated to us that we are in the midst of a massive demographic transformation. We are in a disruptive demographic change. Transformation is and will impact K-12 and Higher Ed. These forces are and will also impact the US and the global economies.

Data shows that the Pandemic also had major demographic impacts. Dr. Johnson shared and showed the profound regional population redistribution in our nation. 

Dr. Jim succeeded in helping us to create a common understanding of what’s happening around us – facts don’t lie – they illustrate realities.

What do young people need in their toolkits to weather the certainty of uncertainty?

Dr. Johnson posits, “We need people who can groove on ambiguity!”

Sharing some “notes” from Dr. Johnson’s lecture:

1970-present, the South has captured a majority of in-migration.

Destination – added 22.7 Million during the 2010-2020 period

2010-2020–Who is coming to the South – “everybody”

NE and Midwest to West and SOUTH

Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia – “migration magnet” states growing faster than the other southern states 79% of the share of in-migration in the South

What about during the Pandemic?

South gained about a million more people in 15 months of the Pandemic

Midwest lost 144K people

          NE lost 449K people

West gained 80K people

The South got “pandemic refugees” from Midwest and NE, and they stayed – they did not come back to NE or MW

Dr. Johnson also emphasized how We also have the browning and graying of America

Highlights of his commentary on this topic:

  • 1965 was a crucial year in immigration history
  • Before this – law was related to racial/ethnic balance from 1900 – preference of white people to be blunt
  • 1965 – Quota system that was regionally discriminatory to foreign people who were not white
  • Nation managed the composition of the population via immigration laws
  • In 1965 (coincidentally with Civil Rights Movement) – the Hart Celler Act of 1965 – eliminated immigration restrictions based on people who were previously not eligible to immigrate
  • Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives

2000-2010 Census in the USA

2MM White, or 1.2%

15MM Hispanic, or 43%

4MM Asian, or 42%

The demographic shift is like a Gale Force Wind Dr. Johnson shares, transforming the workforce, the public schools, and the entire nation – people are leaving the Northeast and the Midwest.

Beyond the population shifts, the “color” of America is browning and graying as fewer white people are born and more people of color are born, more mixed-race marriages produce children, and more Americans live longer and “gray”. The demographic shifts have historic and policy foundations.

  • Intermarriage in the USA 1967-2015
  • Before 1967 it was illegal in the USA for black and white people to marry
  • The growing role of immigration, the growing role of inter-racial marriage, browning and graying of America – 2 or more races is a category growing rapidly – not “neat little boxes” for people
  • US Life Expectancy 1900 47.3, 2010, 78.3, 2030, 100

Right now, we have five Generations in the workplace – the implications are crazy!

Silver Generation – pre-boomer, Baby Boomer, Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z

In addition to the demographic shifts, population/race/age, there is another factor Dr. Johnson shared:

He calls it “Disappearing & Rebelling”

  • 2020 Census trend – slowing of total population growth in the USA 
  • Rate of growth – peaked in 1960, 18.5% growth, grown slower progressively in every decade since then, such that in the last decade, 7.4% growth. The second slowest rate of growth in the history of the USA since 1790; the slowest was Great Depression which was 7.3%
  • Trends to continue to be lower
  • Far-ranging implications for everything – changes are here and are coming

First 15 months of the Pandemic – the first time in history – we added less than half a million in 15 months – the first time we did not grow history by 1MM per year – this is PROFOUND

Total Fertility Rate is below 2.1 in the USA – need 2.1 to replace yourself (mathematical index) – we’re losing more humans than we’re getting – on a large scale

In 2018 deaths outnumbered births among whites in more than half of the nation’s 50 states

Deaths of Despair and Declining Life Expectancy – due to suicide, alcohol, and drugs – 90,000 drug overdoses in the first year of the pandemic, a 30% increase over 2019 – the biggest increase in overdose deaths – overwhelming

100K in 2021 (prime working age people 25-44)

COVID-19 impact on fertility. Estimated 300K population decline

Globally 10MM kids lost parents – became orphaned during the pandemic – 550K in the USA

The Great Resignation – increased labor activism – it’s real – the impact is far-reaching

There is a grand reckoning among us = create a new workplace – a new normal – make workers excited to stay – culture and climate

Our next speaker was also inspiring and clarifying! Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick – from Howard University and the author of Jim Crow’s Pink Slip – the untold story of black principal and teacher leadership, took us to a powerful place in reckoning our American history, Supreme Court decision implications (Brown V. Board of Education 1954), and MORE!

She asked us and helped us contemplate our sense of urgency — to whom must we invest? Equitable educational opportunity & access to education – this is elusive in some locales – still, even today in 2022 – why?

Dr. Fenwick reminded us that a national treasure is at the Smithsonian US National Museum of African American History – there is vast and accessible digital access to PK-12 instructional materials! in schools across the nation! The truth must be told; the objective, fact-based journeys of our ancestors and the ancestors of our countrymen and women can be told and accessed by all.

In addition, she reminded us that the Pulitzer Center has resources as well, including the 1619 project and various perspectives in US history. 

Dr. Fenwick called upon us to “bust myths.” “Let’s mine and disseminate accurate data! Let’s remove negative stories and statistics – let’s find assets, not deficits – for example, there are more Black men in college, 1.6MM vs. Black men in prison, 600K, in the USA – what are prevailing stereotypes? Need to “myth bust.”

Dr. Fenwick’s book, research, and US historical data shed light on our realities. She reminds us and calls us to follow historical facts, not myths. The landmark US Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, KS (1954) overturned the 1890s case of Plessy vs. Ferguson, which called “segregation” illegal. This policy was long overdue, and our nation is obviously better off due to this heroic and historic decision.

But … like physics laws, every action has equal (and often opposing) reactions. So while schools were desegregated and integrated by law/policy, there were also some profoundly negative implications. Dr. Fenwick illustrates in her book, and from US history, that as an unintended consequence of the Brown ruling, an entire class and multiple generations of Black educators were eliminated from America. This is a direct cause of today’s underrepresented educators of color across the nation.

Dr. Fenwick shares that 100K black principals and teachers were fired, demoted, and displaced from the 1954 Brown decision to mid-1970 – there was racist and political resistance to having black educators teach and lead alongside whites. Black educators were replaced by less qualified whites. 17 “dual system” states (Delaware to Texas) – Black peers were fired – this was a horrible consequence of the Brown decision. 

This was not because the Black educators were less qualified. On the contrary, as early as 1926, the all Black faculty held Masters’s degrees, same in the 1930s – often they went North and earned degrees from higher ed universities. In the 1960s, after desegregation, white faculty had lower rates of master’s degrees. White superintendents and school boards were pressed to hire more educators; they turned to more whites and ignored and displaced existing and well-qualified Black educators. This was not the intent of desegregation. Turning desegregation into a “students only” situation exacerbated the lack of a Black educational force to work integrated alongside the white educators. This impacts us today.

Why today is there an underrepresentation of people of color in the nation’s schools and boardrooms, and principals’ offices – history illustrates this – policies fighting against the law of the land caused generations of Black teachers and principals to be deposed, displaced, demoted, and fired. They were removed from education. They have not returned! This is true history – not political, judgmental, ideological – simply the truth. And reckoning with the truth will be our only salvation and progression.

What does it mean to American schooling? Had these Black professionals been integrated into the post-Brown decision educational profession as integrated professionals, instead of being expelled, we would have a far different reality today – representation, legacy, history, reality. Would societal and institutional racism and racist policies have been so prevalent had the integration of schools been for both students and faculty? Would the need for so much “focus” on DEI today be necessary had the nation simply moved forward integrating adults and children?

A myth Dr. Fenwick busted is that  Black educators did not “flee” education after Brown since they had more opportunities in the newly desegregated workforces – they were removed due to resistance to black educators joining white educators in a similar post-Civil War “reconstruction” era revision of the Jim Crow laws that took hold in the USA following the progressive 13, 14, and 15 Amendments to the US Constitution. One needs to look at the Hayes election in the USA and then dismantle “equality” policies with the 1899 Plessy vs. Ferguson case, with codified “separate but equal” was clear and equal was not.

We have the power to change trajectories for kids, communities, and our nation. Dr. Fenwick’s call to action is to simply learn, acknowledge, learn from, tell the truth, and transform our public schools (and society) to reap the rewards of democracy and to realize the vision of so many who fight for equality, equity, dignity, and the American ideals of life, liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness for all of us. Not just for some of us.

     At this powerful conference, we also benefitted from Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss and the authors of A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door authors Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire

So what is a “good school” … continuing narratives about public school value – public school critical space in our society

They, too, call us to action with fact, not a myth; as an example, even though research shows that public schools have better outcomes than those in the private sector (check Univ VA research), some privatization folks claim the contrary.

They discussed: How is privatization affecting public schools, and why is this dangerous?

Advocates for parental rights & private school/choice – they want this to be a “litmus” test issue politically

Public education is in danger in many states (eg – Florida… Texas …)

Funding and widespread disinformation campaigns

We pondered, “What does the future of schooling look like?” Our aim and their directions for us is to try to make clear to people that the vision of an alternative to public education is NOT hyper elite – instead, a voucher system, for example, loses oversight, loses accountability, loses rights … etc.

We also had an incredible visit to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum, sharing some cool pictures from that inspiring and eye-opening

Reminder about  5o years of American history – on display!

The purposes of public schooling are inherent in promoting democracy and civics. The public school is the public institution where ALL gather.

So, as part of the evolving stories about “what superintendents do,” the essence is that we lead. We listen. We learn. We challenge ourselves to be uncomfortable and unfinished. And we, of course, help one another unlearn so we can relearn!

Final Reflections – DR Service Trip 2022

“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.”– Jana Stanfield

August 10, 2022

Justin and I finished our amazing adventures and life-changing trip with so many peak moments on Saturday, August 6. We left Constanza around 6am and headed down the mountain for under 4 hours. We spent some time in Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. We toured the old city, flew to Miami, then to Chicago, and arrived home around 1:30am. We were energized (though sleepy).

Before we headed to the airport, we visited the old colonial city, the oldest fort in the Americas. We saw a raucous public demonstration regarding immigration policies headed for Independence square, where we had just visited.

To spend this time with my son was incredible and fun and a huge proud, peak moment for me. As Justin enters his Freshman year of high school and I as I start what is very likely my 4th to last year as a full-time public educator, we both got to laugh, enjoy each other’s company, serve together, work together, experience life together, and so much more!

Ideally, he and I will have more opportunities like this! Ideally, he has the confidence to travel and serve as he goes from young adulthood to adulthood. He is an incredible young man, and I am proud to be his dad.

As a life-long educator, I see firsthand how education with emotion and education with hands-on experiential opportunities becomes lifelong learning. Thanks a ton for following our adventures! Thanks a ton for letting me brag about my son 🙂

Finishing up an amazing week with Justin! In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic- First Nation Columbus came to the Americas. Culture and history end our adventures here! 

Sharing some images. The first cathedral, live protest March heading to Independence Square, 16th Century city walls.

Oldest fort in the Americas! Wow! So much history… need to come back!! 16th Century-20th Century. In use for various purposes. So many socio-political implications here!!

Thanks to World Servants, LifeTouch, the AASA, Cecaini Foundation, and so many others who, together in service for humanity and in furtherance of the dreams and visions of Pastors Angel and Jacqueline Moreta, have built schools and changed lives — forever!! Including those of my son and me.

Gun Turret in the oldest fort in the Americas, La Forteleza Ozama

Beautiful view on the way to the airport in Santo Domingo

One of the cannons – one is Spanish, and another is English – so much history!

5th Reflection – Dominican Republic Service Trip – Reflections

In this post, I am sharing more reflections, thoughts, and images from a LifeTouch Memory Mission reunion trip to the Dominican Republic, Constanza, La Vega, and Cecaini School in Rio Grande. In these several blog posts, I’m sharing my reflections. One major personal “peak moment” for me on this current trip is that my son came with me! With words and images, I am trying to do my best at telling our story — of our life-changing, humbling, impactful, and seriously amazing set of experiences! Thanks for reading 🙂

Back in 2016, I was lucky enough to be a part of the LifeTouch Memory Mission trip to the Dominican Republic and I was a representative of AASA, The Superintendent’s Association. I wrote about that set of life-changing experiences on my blog — BLOG POSTS ABOUT TRIP IN 2016

Sharing short posts from August  3, 4, and 5 with images

August 3, 2022

Today’s post will have a collection of images that really help tell the story and illustrate the incredible impact, humble service, powerful relationship building, and overall cultural experiences we are privileged to be engaged with.

Today our Dominican hosts and teachers encourage us to slow down and enjoy every moment. The figurative saying that one rock creates a ripple, or one journey of 1000 miles begins with one step, or to lower a rock pile one must do it one rock at a time, became a reality.

We literally reduced a large rock pile one rock at a time. We slowed down to enjoy each moment we were immersed in this incredible location. We savor every minute with the children we have the honor and privilege of playing with daily. And we savor each moment we spent getting to know our Dominican hosts as people, as friends, and his fellow world citizens.

Thank you for sticking around and following Justin and my adventures in life.

August 4, 2022

Today Was another incredible day here in the Dominican republic. Justin and I continue to do really good hard work and enjoy playing with the children and engaging with members of the community. 

Yesterday Justin had his home visit today I had my own visit and it’s really awesome to step inside someone’s home sit down, have a cuppa coffee, learn about their family, and share about yours. We build community, relationships, and friendships and help improve the schools that have become community centers that have impacted and changed the community for the better. 

Tonight‘s post is going to have a lot of photos. I’m going to switch (from posting on Facebook) to my blog to put in longer reflections which I probably will post over the weekend if not sooner.

Thank you for experiencing our journeys together through our words and photos.

August 5, 2022

Deeper reflections will be posted on my blog in the next few days.

Bittersweet end of work today!  Jobs well done. Friendships created!

Life-changing adventures!

Sharing some more images from our mission, culture, service, and “life” trip to the Dominican Republic 🇩🇴- sorry if there are some repeats.

Justin and I are preparing for our final day in Cecaini Constanza Constanza today!

Part of the overall beautification project in the back – many separate projects went one here. The tires will become planters!

Tim Gibson – an amazing leader! Wise, kind, deliberate, intentional, experienced – just amazing! And me and Nick – our worldwide adventures and friendship take us to life-changing places!

Justin made many new friends on this trip, little and big!

We did enjoy some “grilled” ice cream!

Our incredible crew – wonderful people who we are proud to call friends!

Proud to highlight contributions from AASA and members over the years!

4th in a series -Dominican Republic Service, Mission, Culture Trip Reflections 2022

In this post, I am sharing more reflections, thoughts and images from a LifeTouch Memory Mission reunion trip to the Dominican Republic, to Constanza, La Vega, to the Cecaini School in Rio Grande. On these several blog posts, I’m sharing my reflections.

Once major personal “peak moment” for me on this current trip is that my son came with me! With words and images, I am trying to do my best at telling our story — of our life-changing, humbling, impactful, and seriously amazing set of experiences! Thanks for reading 🙂

Back in 2016, I was lucky enough to be a part of the LifeTouch Memory Mission trip to the Dominican Republic and I was a representative of AASA, The Superintendent’s Association. I wrote about that set of life-changing experiences on my blog — BLOG POSTS ABOUT TRIP IN 2016

August 2, 2022

What a day and night we had today! We put in a full day’s worth of hard labor at the Rio Grande Cecaini School — it was amazing and fulfilling on many levels.

A mural in the cafeteria painted by Ken, the amazing painter, teacher, and friend!

Justin painting and learning a lot of Spanish from Ken

Time with the children of Rio Grande was a highlight for each of us every day!

Nick and Domingo removed the well used rim and net in preparation for replacement “break away” and new nets.

Pam was an amazing painter!

We all helped wherever we could.

Friendship between our two nations.

As we enter Rio Grande, the sign by the bridge!

The building behind the basketball court was built just before and just after the Pandemic. It will house a library, computer lab, infirmary — for the school and the community. We finished this building (paint, window guards) on this trip.

The beautiful views of the countryside were breathtaking.

Our awesome crew with representation from all over the USA! New Hampshire, Minnesota, Arkansas, Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota

Jan was an excellent painter!

I spent a lot of time back here – moving rocks, raking rocks, moving dirt, moving sand, making planters out of tires, pouring concrete, learning a ton from Domingo.

We made a lot of concrete. We used cement mix, water, sand, rocks, and dirt. And we mixed it A LOT

Every morning we started by gathering as a group, getting instructions from our Dominican hosts and experts (Ken and Domingo) and establishing our work teams, expectations and goals!

By the end of the trip each room was painted well, cleaned up and the window frames/decorative and security bars were installed.

Tonight’s Face Book post had less text and more photos – it was more of an Insta Gram type post vs the “blog” type posts I have shared the first few days of our adventures on Face Book.

Justin and I, along with our new friends and community are humbled by so much we are seeing, doing, and learning in Rio Grande, Dominican Republic. Today we were able to apply learning, enter into new cultural space, learn, do, build, create, play, speak, and engage with an entirely new set of people.

It’s fun to paint, to sand, to scrape, to fix up, to mix concrete, to put glue on PVC  pipes for plumbing, to move rocks, to move dirt, to connect PVC tubes … that’s all  a lot of what’s depicted in the pictures.

It’s also nothing short of amazing to walk the street leading up to the school with the neighborhood kids who waited hours to play with us and to hang out with us and to speak with us and learn about our families and share with us about theirs!

Today we started with a quote from President Ronald Reagan, “live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest of God..” The word for today was generous. While it might appear that we were generous, I submit that the people of Rio Grande at Cecaini School are the ones who are generous. Ken the head painter – he is amazing. Domingo the head engineer – he, too, is amazing. They and the entire community shares their generosity allowing us into their culture, their school, their homes — their generosity is humbling and powerful.

Tonight we reflected on our experiences, we discussed the applications for learning. We enjoyed being in our collective and individual spaces. Until tomorrow

Third in a series on Dominican Republic Service trip 2022

Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful & fulfilled life.”
– Jack Canfield

Back in 2016, I was lucky enough to be a part of the LifeTouch Memory Mission trip to the Dominican Republic and I was a representative of AASA, The Superintendent’s Association. I wrote about that set of life-changing experiences on my blog — BLOG POSTS ABOUT TRIP IN 2016

This is another post, the third in a series describing and showing the creation of peak moments in service, learning, and culture. This summer, July 30-August 6, my son and I went on a reunion trip to the Dominican Republic, to Constanza, La Vega, to the Cecaini School in Rio Grande. Through these blog posts, I’m sharing my reflections.

Once major personal “peak moment” for me on this current trip is that my son came with me! With words and images, I am trying to do my best at telling our story — of our life-changing, humbling, impactful, and seriously amazing set of experiences! Thanks for reading 🙂

August 1, 2022

We engaged in thoughtful, hands-on activities to help us get to know ourselves, share about ourselves with our new friends, and to get to know our friends.

We focused on learning, doing, and reflecting. What did we learn or experience? “So what”, “Now What” – we learned about each other, we served with each other, we started as strangers and left as friends!

Today we continued cultural orientation with some really engaging activities designed to activate and challenge our thinking, help us prepare to enter a new culture — it’s beyond simply “traveling” or “touring”, it’s more. The activities also allowed our group of 18 to further develop bonds of trust, fellowship, friendship, and camaraderie. We have a mix of “middle aged people” like me 🙂 people in their 20s-30s and some teenagers 14-19. In addition, our tour leader is very experienced in these types of travels and our translator is amazing! While our ages may range from 14-75, the depth of each one of our stories and, more important, the stories of our Dominican hosts, guides, teachers, and friends, makes an impact on each of us each day during each of the varied experiences.

Our day today was focused on preparation for entering into a new culture, as I mentioned above. Our leader Tim started the day with inspiring words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., regarding the “Good Samaritan” “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” If you are blessed, who are YOU blessing? The focus is that if you are blessed but you are not blessing anyone, then you are not really blessed. We discussed not mistaking joy for happiness (there was great depth in our lessons and reflection today, again!).

The gist of the whole World Servants meaning on trips like this is learning, serving, storytelling- “Learner, Servant, Storyteller”. Tell your story AND tell others’ stories. We were reminded to stop — listen — immerse in the target culture – find out what’s going on with others. It’s like the Dominican greeting, “Que lo Que” (“what’s up”). We are here to learn, serve and tell our collective stories.

We engaged in several hands, on, experiential learning activities today — I hope and plan to adapt for my own work as an educator. We completed a puzzle that was different from what we expected. We put squares together from shapes without speaking (when we followed the rules :)), we discovered there are many more ways to complete the task than meets the eye. Repeatedly we changed our perspectives through “doing” and reflecting after doing. It was exceptional pedagogy.

As Americans we’re pretty task focused in general, and as a school superintendent I’m really task focused. So, it’s powerful and smart for me to stop — listen — be immersed in the present and in the moment – especially for my son as well as the group I’m serving with (and learning with and story telling with). It’s NOT always about the task — and the task may change, and the “square” we make might prevent someone else from making a square – so take some time and really listen and observe (the points of the activities).  The bottom line from these activities and a few others we did with culture role plays and trust guiding all led to a common point. It’s about the “dash” — it’s about the PROCESS not only or always the task.

Prior to engaging in the actual physical labor, the engagement with the community, and even the recreation with the children after work, we reminded each other through task, word, deed, and activity that teamwork was the main aim of our time together. Each one of us would meaningfully engage, immerse, do, learn, serve, have fun, and “be”— as a team. We do then we reflect then we do more. The orientation activities were well designed, clear, meaningful, allowed us to mix up and work with everyone, and to generally create community as well as expectations for our intense labors of love and service.

We went to Rio Grande to the school where our work is focused, where the school is becoming the community center, and where I was six and a half years ago when it all started here at school #2! Due to the hundreds of other volunteers and service participants, the school is far more than merely a school. Don’t get more wrong, as a superintendent, a school in and of itself is pretty awesome and amazing. BUT … when a school becomes a community center, a community playground, a community health center – it’s beyond amazing.

The last time I was in Rio Grande the roads were gravel/dirt leading up to the school site (it was not yet a school). School 1 was built by groups prior (2011-2015). In 2016, the second school was a dream about to happen. We built the first floor and a wall – we played in a cow pasture up the road! Today – 6.5 years and a lifetime later, we have a beautiful school with two floors, a basketball court, a retaining wall, vibrancy, life, jobs, hope, and we’re finishing a health center.

In the years since this school opened, the government invested in the infrastructure. They began to assume some of the salary responsibilities for the employees (the community had to prove their concept prior to government support/sponsorship). The schools were built by Dominican engineers, construction works, professionals who guided scores of volunteers over the course of many years and many private funds raised and donated. It’s a colossal partnership that is more than a decade in the making. The constant has been World Servants and their support. A great lift was from LifeTouch (the photography company) through its Memory Missions that brought educators, photographers, and others together year after year after year.

The community is united in service. The community is united in hope. The community is growing, improving, sustaining, living, and thriving in great part due to the school and the relationships built and sustained for more than a decade.

We worked really hard today and you’ll see that in the images.

Thank you for following our adventures. Justin is checking out Duo Lingo, practicing Spanish with kids, adults, etc. We’re beyond blessed to have this time together as father and son and as we learned today, we’re sharing these blessings, per Dr. King and Tim Gibson, in learning, service and storytelling!

We’ll share more tomorrow. Hat tip to Jan Haeg for the awesome photos. Today we put our phones away – we disconnected for as long as we could and we were in the moments fully and today was full of many peak moments.

View of the school from the “comedor”, lunchroom. Looking at the sand/rock/earth pile – we spent a lot of time making concrete at that pile for our multiple projects.

The sign at the bridge from the mountain road into the community of Rio Grande, where our school was!

Our crew on one of the many bus rides!

Huge infrastructure investments from the government, in part, due to the success of the school! The community center, the change in hope, opportunity, pathway, family outlook, and so much more!

Me and Justin out of our hotel room heading to dinner!

Teamwork, Teamwork, and more Teamwork.

Each morning we gathered and took directions from our Dominican hosts! Ken on the paint crew and Domingo on the concrete crew. We did what was asked, we learned as apprentices and helpers. We served along side and with our new friends and hosts!


More Reflections – Dominican Republic Service & Culture Trip 2022 – 2

This summer, July 30-August 6, I went on a reunion trip to the Dominican Republic, to Constanza, La Vega, to the Cecaini School in Rio Grande. On the next few posts, I’m sharing my reflections.

Once major personal “peak moment” for me on this current trip is that my son came with me! With words and images, I am trying to do my best at telling our story — of our life-changing, humbling, impactful, and seriously amazing set of experiences! Thanks for reading 🙂

July 31, 2022

What a full and fulfilling day and night here in Constanza, Dominican Republic. Justin and I started the day with a fantastic breakfast. New tastes and foods along with some familiar ones. After a great breakfast with the group, we headed into a study room for more cultural orientation activities. We participated in a “scrap book” activity. One that my good friend Nick Polyak and I have adapted and adopted in adult professional development & training for many years (we first did this activity 6 and a half years ago on our first mission and service/culture trip here in Constanza with LifeTouch and the American Association of School Administrators, the AASA, The School Superintendents Organization).

So in this scrapbook activity you have a poster board, glue sticks, scissors, and magazines on multiple topics (everyone was asked to bring 3-5 magazines to cut up). With images, “share your story” — who are you? What is/has been your leadership journey? Whether you’re 14 or 54 or 60 or 35, what’s your journey in life so far and what is a graphical representation of this story? In 15 minutes – NOT a long period of time, we made some pretty cool posters. Then we mixed up into triads, triads with people we just met on this trip. We each had 3 minutes to share our journey/story. Our new friends and partners had two minutes to reflect/ask questions and we repeated the process for each member of the triad. In just over 30 minutes we three learned A TON about each other, what and who we value, what our journey is/has been, etc. Like an image you see, you make a “judgement” or “assumption” but until you listen, look, ask questions, engage, you really do not know what the “perspective” you have is. In fact, our perspectives change – and they should change and be pliable (think “growth mindset” for example).

The exercise serves multiple purposes, it allows us to become friends and fellow travelers, explorers, servants, leaders. It also allows us to be fully present in what we are doing here – each experience, each set of moments and peak moments. It allows us to experience an illustration of the power of open mindedness to change (one of the Big 5 Personality Theories of human being) as we embark on community building and service along side our Dominican hosts and friends.

We were invited to Pastor Angel’s church, the message was of hope and faith, universal principals good for us all to hear and internalize. In addition, today is Father’s Day in the Dominican Republic and we were honored with some cool cultural experiences! We then walked about a half mile through town for our lunch at a local restaurant. We had some time dodging motorbikes on the street while enjoying the act of being present in a new town, in a new space, with new learning and living.

Each night after dinner we reflect upon our learnings and experiences, What, Now What, So What, and Applying our learning is the focus. Tomorrow we engage in some more education, “activating schema” and opening our hearts and minds to full presence of being while here (and in life in general).

Tomorrow we also head to the school site for some manual labor at the invitation of our hosts and community. See some images today from our adventures in the city, our time at Pastor Angel’s church, some recreation and fellowship with our fellow travelers and more.

Thanks for following our adventures.


The orientation activities were designed to help us enter into a new culture. Helped us to enter into new environments with openness, empathy, understanding, intelligence, and joy.

Our first night I celebrated my birthday! On the second day we were invited into Pastor Angel’s church service. After the service, we were happy to learn that it was Father’s Day in the Dominican Republic so we enjoyed some local treats including a photo booth.

The hotel we stayed at was incredibly beautiful and the meals were excellent and the grounds were great. Here Justin and I were zip lining on the grounds with some early recreation time.

The views into the city, on the grounds of the hotel, in the community where the school is at — all were incredible and impressive views. This is a beautiful part of the world and I captured as best I could.

Part of our service, learning, culture, growing, included visiting Constanza, the city in the area. Rio Grande is just up the mountain on the outskirts or “heights’ of the city. We were able to walk the city streets, get some ice cream, we also had a great lunch.

Menu at the local restaurant. The food we ate was incredible and we needed the fuel for the hard labor in which we were engaged during our time at Rio Grande Cecaini School.

Pastor Angel’s church service. Welcoming and engaging.


Audio Update on Safety & Security July 22 2022 #112Leads

Sharing an audio update to the community on safety and security.

This update on safety and security is shared with thought, emotion, care, and concern. We have a board meeting coming up on July 26, 2022, at 7:00pm, we’ll meet live and broadcast that meeting live as well. This informational update is intended to preview and highlight the upcoming Board discussion and presentation on safety and security and to follow up from the July 14 communication I shared. I’m sharing this update as your superintendent and as a father of two teenagers, a husband to a wonderful wife, a community member, and a human being. 

I know that people are in different emotional spaces right now. Some can fully embrace safety and security messages and information. Others are not yet ready to fully process this information. Some focus on specific ideas, and others are somewhere between. The main takeaways are that with school opening soon. As you likely know, District 112 is fully committed to safety and security issues. Before the July 4 incident and other national incidents, District 112 had been heavily involved in its schools’ physical, mental, and emotional safety for its students, staff, and the community. In a video message, and an audio podcast, I am highlighting the focus points in place, under review and consideration, and specific actions we take regarding safety and security. Later today, I’ll post an audio transcript in English and Spanish on my blog. Thank you for your support of our schools, your interest in our programming, your outreach, and your trust in the fact that we follow and implement best practices in all domains of our work. 

Finally, please know that our efforts are done with love, care, compassion, expert advice, and excellence.

Note in Spanish

Esta actualización sobre seguridad y protección se comparte con pensamiento, emoción, cuidado y preocupación. Tenemos una reunión de la junta el 26 de julio de 2022, a las 7:00 p.m., nos reuniremos en vivo y transmitiremos esa reunión también. Esta actualización informativa tiene la intención de previsualizar y resaltar la próxima discusión y presentación de la Junta sobre seguridad y protección, y para dar seguimiento a la comunicación del 14 de julio que compartí. Estoy compartiendo esta actualización no solo como su superintendente, sino también como padre de dos adolescentes, esposo de una esposa maravillosa, miembro de la comunidad y como ser humano.

Sé que las personas están en diferentes espacios emocionales en este momento. Algunos pueden aceptar plenamente los mensajes y la información de seguridad y protección. Otros aún no están listos para procesar completamente esta información. Algunos se centran en ideas muy específicas, y otros están en algún punto intermedio. Las principales conclusiones son que con la apertura de la escuela pronto. Como probablemente sepa, el Distrito 112 está totalmente comprometido con los problemas de seguridad y protección. Antes del incidente del 4 de julio y otros incidentes nacionales, el Distrito 112 había estado muy involucrado en la seguridad física, mental y emocional de sus escuelas para sus estudiantes, personal y la comunidad. En un mensaje de video, un podcast de audio, estoy destacando los puntos de enfoque en su lugar, bajo revisión y consideración, y las acciones específicas que estamos tomando con respecto a la seguridad y la protección. Más tarde hoy publicaré una transcripción de audio en inglés y español en mi blog. Gracias por su apoyo a nuestras escuelas, por su interés en nuestra programación, por su alcance y por su confianza en el hecho de que seguimos e implementamos las mejores prácticas en todos los dominios de nuestro trabajo.

Finalmente, por favor sepa que nuestros esfuerzos se realizan con amor, cuidado, compasión, asesoramiento experto y excelencia.

Link to VIDEO messageVIDEO message

Espanol/ Spanish Transcript (English transcript follows)

– Hola, soy Mike Lubelfeld, superintendente de escuelas. Y vengo a ti hoy con una actualización sobre seguridad y protección. Y antes de pasar a los detalles, y antes de entrar en las tuercas y tornillos, quiero que sepas que tenemos una reunión de la junta el martes 26 de julio. Nuestras reuniones de la junta están aquí, en vivo personalmente, en las oficinas administrativas. También estaremos haciendo una transmisión en vivo, para que la gente pueda ver en vivo o después del hecho. Y simplemente quiero decir, al principio, que vengo a ti, no solo como tu superintendente de escuelas y como líder educativo, pero también como ser humano y como padre de dos hijos adolescentes, y marido de mi mujer, y como alguien que siente junto a todos y cada uno de ustedes, con lo que hemos estado pasando como resultado directo de los trágicos acontecimientos del 4 de julio, aquí en Highland Park y también de hechos anteriores a eso, desde una perspectiva de seguridad y protección. Me importa, siento, empatizo. También estoy aquí para hacer mi trabajo y compartirlo contigo. Pero solo quiero señalar eso, que algunos de ustedes están muy listos para escuchar los mensajes que tengo y algunos de ustedes están muy interesados y actualizados. Otros de ustedes, en este momento, realmente no pueden escuchar esto, y lo respeto, lo entiendo. Otros de ustedes están enfocados en ciertas cosas o no están enfocados. Y estés donde estés, está bien. Simplemente quiero afirmar, afirmar, validar que hay muchos sentimientos y muchas emociones. Aquí en el distrito escolar, quiero compartir con ustedes lo que está pasando. Y sé que hay mucha información que he compartido por correo electrónico y otras áreas. Así que hoy en esta actualización de video, es un adelanto de lo que vamos a hablar el martes. Digo esto con un corazón abierto y una mente abierta, y más allá de ser el superintendente, que tiene un trabajo que hacer, pero como un chico que se siente junto a ti, como padre y como ser humano. Probablemente sepas esto, pero de nuevo, a veces vale la pena repetir, la seguridad ha sido un compromiso continuo en el Distrito Escolar 112. No sólo en reacción a los acontecimientos, y ciertamente no solo en reacción a lo que acabamos de experimentar como comunidad. Pero durante muchos años. En 2014, tuvimos una auditoría. 2018, se implementaron vestíbulos de seguridad en los planteles. Y a medida que avanzamos, hacemos mejoras. En 2018, iniciamos la asociación de capacitación ALICE, de lo que hablaré un poco más. También tuvimos otra auditoría en 2018, y hemos implementado esas recomendaciones desde entonces. En junio, le pedí a la Junta de Educación para aprobar otra auditoría de seguridad. Es parte de un compromiso continuo. Preguntamos a los expertos en la materia, que saben de esto, qué es lo correcto que las escuelas, como la nuestra, ¿se supone que deben hacer para asegurarse de que estamos seguros por dentro y por fuera? De nuevo, el 14 de junio, nuestra junta aprobó un contrato con un señor llamado Paul Timm, que dirige una empresa FEA. En 2022, este verano, hemos estado haciendo otras inversiones, que resaltaré en este breve mensaje de video, y algunas mejoras a nuestra seguridad en nuestras instalaciones. Pero también quiero hablar contigo sobre una investigación, de la que soy parte de nuestro equipo, que vamos a abordar con respecto a varias soluciones. No sé si vamos a implementar estas o si las vamos a implementar tarde o temprano, simplemente quiero que sepas que estamos escuchando y estamos investigando guardias, dispositivos de detección y otras cosas. Pero realmente quiero compartir con ustedes aquí, que el trabajo que estamos haciendo no está en el vacío. Y siempre buscamos a los expertos en el campo. En este caso, en 2019, 2020, la Fuerza de Tarea contra el Terrorismo de Illinois. Y odio incluso decir esas palabras en un mensaje a nuestra comunidad, pero la Fuerza de Tarea contra el Terrorismo de Illinois tenía un grupo de trabajo de seguridad escolar. Hicieron recomendaciones a personas como nosotros, que trabajan en las escuelas públicas aquí en Illinois. Y quiero que sepas, y repasaremos esto con mayor detalle el martes por la noche, pero quería tomar el punto ahora mismo para compartir con ustedes. Y no sé si vas a obtener esto en video, en audio o forma escrita, estamos tratando de obtener la mayor cantidad formas de comunicación que podamos. Pero los expertos en seguridad escolar hablan de tres maneras de ver esto, evaluación del comportamiento, y eso va con las auditorías que hicimos en 2014, 2018 y la auditoría que estamos comenzando inmediatamente ahora mismo en 2022, el concepto de endurecimiento de las instalaciones, la seguridad física de la que les hablaré, y luego algo que no sé que he hablado contigo bastante, y ese es el protocolo de respuesta. Así que en el mensaje de video de hoy quiero compartir contigo recomendaciones de expertos. ¿Cómo lo maneja el distrito 112 ahora? y ¿qué podemos hacer en el futuro? Es posible que sepas que contamos con equipos de evaluación del comportamiento. Dra. Holly Colin, nuestra asistente del superintendente, en el extranjero y lo dirige. Puede que no sepas que tenemos cerca de 30 miembros del personal de salud mental, trabajadores sociales, psicólogos directamente dedicados a brindar apoyo socioemocional en el distrito escolar. Este año, estamos aumentando la equivalencia de tiempo completo para los trabajadores sociales en todo el distrito. Y estamos agregando un medio tiempo, en todo el distrito, persona en todas las escuelas. Esto es nuevo. Tendremos al menos un trabajador social a tiempo completo y no necesariamente alguien compartido entre campus. Además, tenemos en los libros, acuerdos intergubernamentales, IGA, con la Policía de Highland Park, la Policía de Highwood. También trabajamos con el Sheriff del Condado de Lake y la Dirección Regional de Educación. Puede que sepa que tenemos un oficial de policía de Highland Park, un oficial de recursos escolares, asignado al Distrito 112. Algunas cosas que no sé que compartimos lo suficiente contigo, y quería aprovechar el tiempo aquí para compartir con ustedes, también tenemos estrategias para toda la escuela, prácticas restaurativas, desescalada, también la construcción de relaciones. Usamos cosas como Second Step, Calm Classrooms, Sembrados para Crecer, capacitación CPI o prevención de crisis. También tenemos PBIS, intervenciones y apoyos conductuales positivos. Tenemos Líder en Mí. Tenemos Tiger Stripes, Panda STARS, Champs y otros programas diseñados para ayudar la relación socioemocional con los estudiantes, para que se sientan seguros y cómodos compartiendo con nosotros cómo responder. También tenemos Text a Tip y Safe2Help Illinois. Estas son herramientas de reporte, confidenciales 24/7. En este momento, en tiempo real, estamos investigando STOPit. Tendremos más información para ti en las próximas semanas. Y el Distrito 112 tiene una línea de información. Y cuando obtenga un enlace a estas diapositivas, puedes tener un enlace a estos recursos y te alentamos a que lo compartas con tus hijos. En cuanto al endurecimiento de las instalaciones, a la Fuerza de Tarea contra el Terrorismo de Illinois se le ocurrieron varias capas, cinco capas. Hay diferencias para los primeros años de primaria, hay diferencias para primaria, secundaria, secundaria, universidades, etc., etc. Pero quiero compartir contigo, la capa uno que habla de agregar videovigilancia, señalización para mensajería y comunicación, estamos mejorando nuestro trabajo en ese sentido este verano, a través de las escuelas. Segunda capa, cerraduras dobles de puertas exteriores. Así que tanto las puertas exteriores como las interiores requerirán un zumbido, eso está de vuelta en todos los campus. También vamos a trabajar con nuestro personal de primera línea para asegurarnos de que hagamos una pausa y nos detenemos para asegurarnos de saber quién viene y entendemos cuál es tu negocio, cuando entras en la escuela. Nos disculpamos de antemano por las molestias, pero sabemos que nos vas a apoyar. También disponemos de un sistema de gestión de visitantes donde comprobamos DNI o nombre y fecha de nacimiento. Esto es parte de la seguridad para los niños y nuestro personal. Tenemos vestíbulos de entrada segura, es la capa tres. La capa cuatro tiene múltiples componentes. Tenemos cámaras de vigilancia dentro y fuera, en todos los campus, con acceso remoto a la nube. Estamos haciendo actualizaciones en este momento. Tenemos un oficial de recursos escolares dedicado, un oficial de policía de Highland Park, especialmente entrenado, dedicado al Distrito Escolar 112. En áreas selectas, por obvias razones de seguridad, no te diré donde pero en áreas selectas tenemos materiales a prueba de balas y resistentes a las balas. Es simplemente un hecho de la vida. Nivel cinco, tenemos BluePoint Security. Entonces, al igual que tirarás de una estación si hay un incendio, aquí puedes sacar una estación si hay necesidad de la policía. También hemos mejorado completamente la seguridad en Northwood y Edgewood, como parte de la fase uno de nuestros planes de seguridad a largo plazo. ¿Qué otra cosa? Durante el año pasado y este verano, hemos invertido cerca de 2 millones de dólares para actualizaciones, para estandarización. También estamos considerando actualizar nuestra actualización de megafonía de intercomunicación. También estamos buscando expandir nuestro sistema de acceso a las puertas. Gente que estamos investigando, en este momento, Soluciones de Detección de Armas, seguridad armada, seguridad desarmada, vallado, cabinas telefónicas exteriores, cerraduras electrónicas de puertas. Con la planificación de la fase dos, del plan a largo plazo y el posible referéndum, contamos con planeamiento arquitectónico para seguridad y protección. Escribimos sobre esto en el Highlander de junio y julio que va para todos los residentes de Highland Park. Y también tenemos un compromiso continuo para asegurarnos de que estamos haciendo esto en nuestra planificación en este momento. Nos reunimos regularmente con los representantes policiales de Highland Park, Highwood, Deerfield, Riverwoods, Bannockbum. Todos los departamentos de bomberos, también, que alimentan al Distrito 113. Incluye personal del distrito escolar. Nos vemos en persona, nos vemos por zoom. Revisamos nuestros procedimientos de seguridad y nuestros planes de acción de emergencia. Algunos públicos, otros no. Hablamos de simulacros y protocolos. Recientemente, el 28 de junio, hubo una interdisciplinariedad regional reunión de seguridad del edificio. Y la última semana de julio, me reuní con nuestro consultor de seguridad de seguridad escolar, subjefe de policía en un área vecina y algunas otras personas. Estamos viendo un programa global de respuesta a la violencia. Estamos viendo el programa ALICE, alertar, bloquear, informar, contrarrestar y evacuar. El programa que tenemos corre, escóndete, lucha. También estamos buscando capacitación en trauma. EStás consciente, a través de las comunicaciones, he dicho que acabamos de recibir un entrenamiento reciente. Lo que puede o no saber es, hemos planeado el entrenamiento Stop the Bleed para nuestro personal este verano. Realizamos RCP, reanimación cardiopulmonar y DEA, formación en desfibrilador externo automático, está en curso. Acabamos de programar la capacitación del personal informado sobre trauma este verano, antes de que comience la escuela. Te envié una nota completa en julio y lo entiendo de nuevo, algunas personas pueden leerlo y entenderlo. Algunas personas no están listas para leerlo. Algunas personas quieren ciertas cosas. Sé que estamos en diferentes etapas y me importa. A todos nos importa. Por favor, comprende las escuelas estarán abiertas pronto. Tenemos nueva orientación para el personal, 15 de agosto. Tenemos otra reunión ordinaria de la junta escolar el 16 de agosto. Tenemos a todo el personal regresando con un día de instituto del psicólogo escolar, Dr. Doug Bolton el 22 de agosto. Tenemos a nuestros estudiantes regresando el 24 de agosto. Amigos, antes de cerrar, quiero recordarles, el martes 26 de julio, este próximo martes, tenemos una reunión de la junta escolar. Realizamos nuestras reuniones en vivo en persona, aquí en el Centro de Administración de Green Bay. Puedes verlo en vivo. Quiero aprovechar el momento, en tantas formas de comunicación como puedo decir, somos conscientes, escuchamos, nos importa. Tenemos un corazón, somos parte de nuestra comunidad. Estamos orgullosos de ser parte de nuestra comunidad. Estamos orgullosos de dar la bienvenida a casi 4.000 estudiantes en menos de un mes. Tenemos mucho tiempo, energía e inversiones y recursos financieros en seguridad y protección. Estamos escuchando sugerencias, miedos e inquietudes. Estamos investigando. Tendremos una actualización y una discusión el martes por la noche. Esto está en curso. Te agradezco tu apoyo del Distrito Escolar 112 de North Shore. Y gracias por contactarme a mí y a la Junta de Educación. Nuestro lema es inspirar, innovar y comprometer y continuaremos haciéndolo con amor, cuidado, compasión. También seguiremos recibiendo asesoramiento de expertos y hacer todo lo que podamos en este día y época para asegurarnos de que estamos dirigiendo las escuelas en un entorno seguro y ordenado. Muchas gracias. Mantente en contacto.

English Transcript

– Hi, this is Mike Lubelfeld, superintendent of schools. And I’m coming to you today with an update on safety and security. And before I go over the details, and before I get into the nuts and bolts, I want to let you know that we have a board meeting on Tuesday, July 26th. Our board meetings are here, live in person, at the administrative offices. We’ll also be doing a live broadcast, so people can watch live or after the fact. And I simply want to state, at the beginning, that I come to you, not only as your superintendent of schools and as an educational leader, but also as a human being and as a father of two teenage children, and a husband of my wife, and as someone who is feeling alongside of each and every one of you, with what we’ve been going through as a direct result of the tragic events of July 4th, here in Highland Park and also of events prior to that, from a safety and security perspective. I care, I feel, I empathize. I’m also here to do my job and share that with you. But I just want to point that out, that some of you are very ready to hear the messages that I have and some of you are very interested and up to date. Others of you, right now, you really can’t listen to this, and I respect that, I understand that. Others of you are focused on certain things or uni-focused. And wherever you are, that’s okay. I simply want to state, affirm, validate that there’s a lot of feelings and a lot of emotions. Here in the school district, I want to share with you what’s going on. And I know there’s a lot of information that I’ve shared via email and other areas. So today in this video update, it’s a preview of what we’re going to talk about on Tuesday. I say this with an open heart and an open mind, and beyond just being the superintendent, who’s got a job to do, but as a guy who’s feeling alongside with you, as a father and as a human being. You probably know this, but again, sometimes it bears repeating, security and safety has been an ongoing commitment in School District 112. Not just in reaction to events, and certainly not just in reaction to what we’ve just experienced as a community. But for many years. In 2014, we had an audit. 2018, there were safety vestibules implemented at campuses. And as we go on, we make improvements. In 2018, we started the ALICE training partnership, that I’ll talk a little bit more about. We also had another audit in 2018, and we’ve implemented those recommendations since then. In June, I asked the Board of Education to approve another security audit. It’s part of an ongoing commitment. We ask experts in the field, who know about this, what’s the right thing that schools, like ours, are supposed to do to make sure that we’re safe inside and outside? So again, June 14th, our board approved a contract with a gentleman named Paul Timm, who runs a company FEA. In 2022, this summer, we’ve been making other investments, that I’ll highlight in this brief video message, and some upgrades to our security in our facilities. But I also want to talk with you about some research, that I’m part of with our team, that we’re going into regarding various solutions. I don’t know if we’re going to implement these or if we’re going to implement them sooner or later, I simply want you to know we are listening and we are investigating guards, detection devices and other things. But I really want to share with you here, that the work we’re doing is not out in a vacuum. And we always look to the experts in the field. In this case, back in 2019, 2020, the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. And I hate to even say those words in a message to our community, but the Illinois Terrorism Task Force had a school safety working group. They made recommendations to people like us, who work in public schools here in Illinois. And I want you to know, and we’ll go over this in greater detail Tuesday night, but I wanted to take the point right now to share with you. And I don’t know if you’re going to get this in video, in audio or written form, we’re trying to get as many forms of communication as we can. But the experts in school safety talk about three ways to look at this, behavioral assessment, and that goes with the audits we did in 2014, 2018 and the audit we’re actually starting immediately right now in 2022, the concept of hardening of facilities, the physical security that I’ll talk with you about, and then something that I don’t know that I’ve talked with you about enough, and that’s the response protocol. So in today’s video message I want to share with you recommendations from experts. How does district 112 handle it now and what might we do in the future? You may know that we have behavioral assessment teams. Dr. Holly Colin, our assistant superintendent, overseas and runs it. You may not know that we have nearly 30 mental health personnel, social workers, psychologists directly devoted to providing social-emotional support in the school district. This year, we’re increasing the full-time equivalency for social workers across the district. And we’re adding a halftime, district wide, person in all schools. This is new. We’ll have at least one full-time social worker and not necessarily someone shared between campuses. In addition, we have on the books, inter governmental agreements, IGAs, with the Highland Park Police, the Highwood Police. We also work with the Lake County Sheriff and the Regional Office of Education. You may know we have a Highland Park police officer, a school resource officer, assigned to District 112. Some stuff I don’t know that we share enough with you, and I wanted to take the time here to share with you, we also have school wide strategies, restorative practices, deescalation, also relationship building. We use things like, Second Step, Calm Classrooms, Sown to Grow, CPI training or crisis prevention. We also have PBIS, positive behavioral intervention and supports. We have Leader in Me. We have Tiger Stripes, Panda STARS, Champs and other programs designed to help the social-emotional relationship with students, so they feel safe and comfortable sharing with us how to respond. We also have Text a Tip and Safe2Help Illinois. These are reporting tools, confidential 24/7. Right now, in real time, we’re researching STOPit. We’ll have more information for you in the next few weeks. And District 112 has a tip line. And when you get a link to these slides, you can have a link to these resources and we encourage you to share that with your children. In terms of hardening the facilities, the Illinois Terrorism Task Force came up with various layers, five layers. There’s differences for early elementary, there’s differences for elementary, middle, high school, universities, so on and so forth. But I want to share with you, layer one that talks about adding video surveillance, signage for messaging and communication, we’re upping our work in that regard this summer, across the schools. Layer two, exterior door double locks. So both the exterior and interior doors will require a buzz in, that is back in place at all campuses. We also are going to work with our frontline staff to make sure that we pause and we stop to make sure we know who’s coming in and we understand what your business is, when you come into the school. We apologize in advance for the inconvenience, but we know you’re going to support us. We also have a visitor management system where we check ID or name and birth date. This is part of safety for the children and our staff. We have secure entry vestibules, it’s layer three. Layer four has multiple components. We have surveillance cameras inside and outside, all across the campuses, with remote cloud access. We’re making upgrades right now. We have a dedicated school resource officer, a Highland Park police officer, specially trained, dedicated to School District 112. In select areas, for obvious security reasons, I won’t tell you where, but in select areas we have bullet proof and bullet resistant materials. It’s simply a fact of life. Level five, we have BluePoint Security. So just like you’ll pull a station if there’s a fire, here you can pull a station if there’s a need for the police. We’ve also completely upgraded security at Northwood and Edgewood, as part of phase one of our long range security plans. What else? Over the past year and this summer, we’ve invested nearly 2 million dollars for upgrades, for standardization. We’re also looking at upgrading our Intercom Public Address Upgrade. We’re also looking at expanding our door access system. Folks we’re researching, right now, Weapons Detection Solutions, armed security, unarmed security, fencing, exterior call boxes, electronic door locks. With phase two planning, of the long range plan and the potential referendum, we have architectural planning for safety and security. We wrote about this in the June, July Highlander that goes to every resident of Highland Park. And we’re also have an ongoing commitment to making sure we’re doing this in our planning right now. We meet on a regular basis with the police representatives of Highland Park, Highwood, Deerfield, Riverwoods, Bannockbum. All the fire departments, too, that feed to District 113. It includes school district personnel. We meet in person, we meet on zoom. We review our safety procedures and our emergency action plans. Some public, some not. We talk about drills and protocols. Recently, on June 28th, there was a regional interdisciplinary building safety meeting. And last week in July, I met with our school safety security consultant, deputy chief of police in a neighboring area and some other folks. We’re looking at an overarching violence response program. We’re looking at the ALICE program, alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate. Run, hide, fight program that we have. We’re also looking at trauma training. You’re aware, through the communications, I’ve said, we’ve just had recent training. What you may or may not know is, we have planned Stop the Bleed Training for our staff this summer. We do CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and AED, automated external defibrillator training, it’s ongoing. We have just scheduled trauma informed staff training this summer, before school starts. I sent you a comprehensive note in July and I understand again, some folks can read it and understand it. Some folks are not ready to read it. Some folks want certain things. I know we’re at different stages and I care. We all care. Please understand, schools are going to be open soon. We have new staff orientation, August 15th. We have another regular school board meeting August 16th. We have all staff coming back with an institute day from school psychologist, Dr. Doug Bolton on August 22nd. We have our students returning August 24th. Friends, before I close, I want to remind you, on Tuesday, July 26th, this coming Tuesday, we have a school board meeting. We hold our meetings live in person, here at the Green Bay Administration Center. You can watch it live. I want to take the moment, in as many forms of communication as I can to say, we’re aware, we’re listening, we care. We have a heart, we’re part of our community. We’re proud to be part of our community. We’re proud to welcome our nearly 4,000 students back in less than a month. We have significant time, energy and financial investments and resources in safety and security. We’re listening to suggestions and fears and concerns. We’re doing research. We’ll have an update and a discussion Tuesday night. This is ongoing. I thank you for your support of North Shore School District 112. And thank you, reaching out to me and to the Board of Education. Our motto is inspire, innovate, and engage and we’ll continue to do so with love, care, compassion. We’ll also continue to get expert advice and do everything we can in this day and age to make sure we’re running schools in a safe, orderly environment. Thank you so much. Stay in touch.

Inspired by Leadership Conference – Honoring President’s Day #112Leads #Suptchat

“I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.”
– Vincent Van Gogh

On Monday, February 21, 2022, we celebrate President’s Day in the United States. It’s a day to honor those who have been elected by the “people” or some version of the “people” as that has evolved over time, to lead the “free world” as we say. These leaders have experienced trials, tribulations, scandals, triumphs, and much, much more over our nation’s many years in the global sphere. Leadership is what makes the difference as all leaders have ups, downs, and in between.

Our nation’s schools, a foundation and cornerstone of freedom, democracy, and “The American Way”, have come under a spotlight, scrutiny, hate, and love during the nearly two years of the experimental leadership driven by COVID-19 and divergent leadership around the nation. Follow the scientists – OK but they disagree. Follow the public health experts – OK but they disagree. Follow the politicians? – Uh – no thank you (LOL)! – But even they disagree. So … what is a leader left to do?

Publicly elected school board members (unpaid volunteers in Illinois and in many states around the nation) became (and are) at the front lines of democracy. Elected Officials who shop at the same grocery store as their neighbors who voted them in office. They who attend the same churches and faith-based organizations as their neighbors, and those, who until recently, held boring meetings. You know things may be out of control when Saturday Night Live parodies school board meetings and every superintendent is “like” – “yep, they got it right”!

So how do we evolve and grow, progress, and lead for our nation’s children and educators? When outside “experts” either abdicated leadership, waffle at the leadership, paralyze themselves with fear of failure, other, or “all of the above”, the leader (eg – the superintendent of schools in partnership with his/her school board and team) must LEAD.

I’ve been in public schools for nearly 30 years, I was a middle teacher (social studies, US history, civics, reading, Spanish, English, 6th grade, and 8th grade), a middle school associate principal (grades 4-8 and 5-8), a middle school principal (grades 6-8), a PK-8 Assistant Superintendent, and for the past 12 years, I have been a PK-8 public school superintendent. I learn from other leaders, and I lead others. I have four degrees from college universities (Bachelors, Masters, Specialist, and Doctorate). I’m a member of the AASA Leadership Network and the IASA Leadership Team, I’m a published author and a leadership coach. Blessed with opportunity, coaches, guides, friends, colleagues, and inspired by students, families, teachers, and experts, I am a lead learner proud of opportunity and highly cognizant of responsibility.

I take nothing lightly (for better or for worse). Thankfully the school board for whom I am employed, dedicated, and proudly serve is composed of seven amazing people who understand governance, leadership, and future-focused planning. With them we have and we continue to navigate the uncertain waters of the pandemic. We are now at a “crossroad” where the politics have gone haywire, the scientists and public health experts have gone haywire, and the need for leadership outpaces the speed at which outside experts have offered guidance. This coming week, the week where we honor President’s Day, our Board, locally, will be demonstrating on-the-ground leadership at a very important time. I’m honored and proud to lead in #112Leads.

My experiences from last week have reignited my passion to write … this is my first blog post in months … thank you AASA!

Leadership is a Team Sport

Recently I had the good fortune of attending the National Conference on Education, NCE, from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA). The School Superintendent’s Association, the AASA, has been in operation for more than a century. Supporting professional development, growth, and innovation for our nation’s top educational leaders has been and remains their mission of service. In the twelve years, I have served as a public school superintendent, I have attended the NCE. The conference was in person this year, the first time since February 2020 — and even though it’s only been a few years — it has seemed like an eternity since we have been able to learn together, lead together, and network together as colleagues and friends from all over the USA.

Education, public education, some would argue is the glue that binds us as a society. Some would argue it’s the most “American” of institutions. It’s where our youth spend more time than anywhere else from age 5 to 17 (or age 3-22 in many cases, as well). It’s the place where cultural values and norms are taught, reinforced, challenged, and promulgated. It’s where the very roots of the foundation of our democracy are first taking hold. And since March 2020, the foundation has been shaken, inequities have been exposed, innovations have been tested, divisive politics have divided and leadership both absent and present has guided us — or misguided us — on many fronts.

The #NCE2022, with great keynote speakers, honored partners, and heroic superintendents recognized for leadership and accomplishment helped restore my faith and confidence and my re-energization with respect to my role as a suburban Chicago, Illinois public school superintendent. The title of this post is “Leadership is a Team Sport” and that is exactly what #NCE2022 reminded me and my colleagues at each interaction. Whether it was awarding the national Superintendent of the Year or focusing on a keynote speaker from government, higher education, k-12 education or global leadership, or whether it was in the form of the hundreds of break out sessions, roundtable discussions, or special events, one huge theme came forward – we’re in this together. Whatever “this” was, is, and will be, we’re in it together.

I have the good fortune of leading with many exceptional people in North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, IL, in Lake County, Illinois, in Illinois in general, and around the nation. At the #NCE2022, I was able to bring closure to a year-long leadership academy called the AASA National Aspiring Superintendent Academy, Blended Learning Model. Together with my good friend and leadership partner, Nick Polyak (Superintendent in Leyden High School District 212) we had the chance to meet in person most of our students with whom we have been leading on the journey towards the superintendent of schools position. Of our 29 students/participants representing 17 US states, 19 were able to make it in person, 14 US states were represented. Ideas and perspective sharing from Alabama, Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusets, Arkansas, Maryland, Tennessee, Arizona, South Carolina, and Ohio were prominent in the team building and capstone project presentations.

Each of the participant’s capstone projects, presented in the IGNITE style (20 slides with imagery advancing every 15 seconds for a concise 5-minute presentation) were moving, thoughtful, highly prepared and planned, innovative, inspiring, and reflective of the excellence that each of the aspiring superintendents brings to the table in their home, work, and beyond interactions. They were individuals who became a team as a result of our time together. After all that we have been through and all we endure during the pandemic, it was powerful to gather, learn, and lead in person. Their graduation ceremony was fun, dignified, and well deserved.

In addition to teaching at the conference, Nick, PJ Caposey (Superintendent in Stillman, Valley, IL, Meridian CUSD 233) and I had the opportunity to make a presentation as a breakout session to more than 100 attendees at the conference. Our session on Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable was based on our 2018 Rowman & Littlefield book of the same title. Our team approach to research, writing, and presenting was energizing and affirming too. The AASA Conference staff wrote about our session and made a short video interview of my thoughts on Student Voice, which was also the theme of the conference. 

As I return to my home and next week back to my home district, I have recalibrated my “why” and thanks to my multiple teams of colleagues, friends, mentors, coaches, and fellow superintendents, I have the strength to lead with purpose no matter what challenges emerge. I have the strength and courage to lead for the students I serve, the employees I lead and manage, the Board to whom I report, and the community.

Leadership is a team sport and the strength, inspiration, grounding, and clarity a team provides can only help us each and all do better for those we have the privilege to serve.

Post 2 of 2 – Global Service – Dominican Republic- IASA 2021

Post 2 -IASA Global Service Trip – Dominican Republic October 2021

This is the second post describing and documenting a global service trip I had the opportunity to attend in the Dominican Republic with 30 colleagues. Each member of this international travel experience was a school superintendent, school or district level administrator or elected member of a Board of Education. Under the exceptional guidance and care of our team from Education First and the Dominican people, we led, learned, served, grew, opened our minds and hearts and set the foundation for student learning and teacher learning opportunities at home.

In this blog post, I will share the rest of the story that was started in the first blog post about this incredible set of adventures and experiences. As I left off in post #1,  this post will highlight our visit to Santiago (the 2nd largest city) visiting the historical district and learning about street art history and culture. I’ll describe the visit to the artisan area in Moca where we learned how to use pottery and bricks for stoves that help reduce the use of wood and lumber by 70% in the mountain areas, our adventures on the north coast of Cabarete, the Dream School and Inspire DR.

Thank you for reading the posts about of our journey in the Dominican Republic! Below I’m showing some photos from the Environmental institute I wrote about in the first post.

Trail “oasis” “after” completion

Tree Nursery

Hands on service!

Trail “oasis” “before” work

Trail Restoration Project

Creative reuse of plastic bottles to insulate wall of outdoor greenhouse

Discussing environmental possibilities

The journey from Jarabacoa towards Santiago afforded us the chance to visit with a local artisan and engage in several workshops and hands on learning experiences at a pottery shop. The artisan was located in Moca, Dominican Republic, and at our briefing we learned cultural and historically significant information as well as sustainability and direct impact on rural Dominican homes as well as the greater environment, health, and wellness.

Briefing at artisan site

The cultural lessons centered around a faceless doll. This was a special art project that originated in 1977. Essentially, in a nod to the complex and mixed ethnic and cultural and racial ancestry of the Dominican people, with 2% Taino (native peoples), 23% Spanish, and 75% African heritage and DNA in its citizens, the artisans wanted to make a statement about the pride and complexities of the mix. Therefore, the idea of the Faceless Doll of a Dominican women was born. A proud, interesting, and creative example of telling a highly complicated and high level concept (ancestry, heritage, etc.) in a clay doll. Beyond our new learning and appreciation for the progression of “who am I” and “who are we”, we actually had the chance to make a doll (though it’s really not easy! And the art teacher was as patient as anyone could be with our amateur creations).

Attempt at making faceless dolls

Artisan pottery – chimney brick project

Brick stove with chimney – transformation

In addition to the Faceless Woman project, we also received a briefing on the stoves in the homes of folks living in the rural, mountain areas and the toll on health, especially for women and children that their old, traditional stoves were taking. For example, cooking indoors with wood, fire, and no chimney or ventilation system led to severe impact on trees (wood for cooking), severe impact on lung/respiratory health of women and children (traditionally in the home while the men go in the fields and work) and skin issues due to the smoke and its carcinogenic properties. So at this pottery artisan production center we visited in Moca, they also make bricks for new rural stoves that use bricks and chimney design to ventilate the toxic smoke, and it has benefits on health, the forest, and lungs! These brick ovens reduce the wood usage by 70% — this is already having a positive impact on the island.

Proud to learn and serve making bricks for brick stove



Our work in brick makingThis focus on sustainability is also impacting the Haitian side of the island. Together in partnership we all benefit. We on this trip are planting seeds of international cooperation and respect that we will ideally recreate so that students in our schools can learn, do, experience, and we can all pay this forward. The artisan shop is also an example of supporting the local economy as there are locally produced handcrafts for purchase.



After we visited Moca’s rich artisanal history, and experienced projects of value and of meaning for us and for future student groups, we headed to the nation’s second largest city Santiago. In Santiago, there is a recently restored historic neighborhood with incredible street artwork. I’m sharing a bunch of photos from this visit – I feel that the imagery is far more powerful and descriptive than my words can be.

This visit to Santiago shared for us urban redevelopment in the historic district as well as a visual representation of culture, history and the society over time. The streets on which were were walking are centuries old and have stories of their own.

From Santiago we headed into Puerto Plata on the north coast of the island nation. Our destination was Cabarete. Cabarete is a culturally significant city with a cosmopolitan and international flair. Cabarete and the Puerto Plata coastal area was the original spot for Dominican tourism prior to Punta Cana’s creation on the southeast side of the island. Cabarete is known for international visitors and “expats” as well as kite surfing and surfing on the Atlantic Ocean.

In Cabarete we visited and served at a community center/Montessori-inspired school called the Dream Center School, and we also visited Inspire, an after school and year round STEAM/Shop/Culture/Values program for boys 18-25 years old. Here are some photos of Dream Center and our on site, hands-on beautification service projects. 


Fixing up the recycling and trash receptacle after relocating

Our take aways, amens, and epiphanies are many and varied. With the school sites, the after school social organizations, the community library, and their integration and interdependence to supplement and in some cases supplant the overall social-educational systems in place, we saw firsthand how EF works with value and mission driven local organizations and groups so our students can be part of something much larger than their typical education/school experiences. We adults were highly moved and  affected by our service, the informational briefings, and the reflections We got to experience what our students will go through. The Dream School Center allowed us to see how a private school interacts with the public school system.

Finished project!

We saw how early childhood education up through grammar school is organized in very similar fashions to our US educational system. Montessori philosophy is popular in many settings around the world. The Dream Center shares a STEAM classroom with the local public school.

The Dream library is a community library, they have a “book mobile” as well and their outreach is community-wide, not just for the students in the school or special programs. Their Bachata sister academy for older youth (High school ages) demonstrated some Bachata music in an impressive display of musical talent!  As the photos show, we helped them with requested beautification projects and functional projects designating space for motorcycle parking, movement of a recycling and trash receptacle to the back of the grounds, as well as touch up painting throughout the classrooms.

Finished project!

The service elements, similar to what our students will experience, showed us that a group of people may start as strangers, yet they emerge as friends in part due to the opportunities that forge authentic bonds. The problem solving, skills development, team work and overall satisfaction with jobs well done meant a lot to each and every one of us every day on this fantastic set of adventures.

We left the Dream Center feeling a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and reward. We finished up our exploration and inquiry at an after school program for boys (though they are also adding girls programming) InspireDR – Free After-School Programs in Cabarete, Dominican Republic This private foundation “NGO” community based center offers swimming instruction, computer literacy, health education, wood shop, economics, a dojo for marshal arts, and more. We were truly inspired by the emphasis on technical life skills, problem solving, positive, moral, ethical, community focused learning and living. These boys and young men were learning English, swimming safety, and we were able to engage and interact with them on site. In addition, they teach public speaking and communications. This free (privately funded) community center has a waiting list of 90 students and they are serving as many as they can free of charge. This and so many of our new discoveries would each and all make great fund-raising, sponsorship, visit/exchange, education, and of course service projects for our own youth, Rotary and other civic organizations and other foundations.

We also ate lunch at Water to Wine, a water purification team — the opportunities to serve and make our world a better place seemed to be never-ending.

As I close the photo journal and documentary accounts of our incredible 2021 IASA Global Service Project, and as I again thank Dr. Polyak and our business partners, I’ll share some final thoughts, reflections and comments. In North Shore School District 112, we are going to explore the possibilities we can create with our own local partners for a student trip and relationship moving forward. Inspire…Innovate…Engage – our aspirational motto — in action!

Captivating natural beauty

We had so many “to do” or “do now” opportunities. We had so much history and culture learning and education experiences. We were not blind to the irony of our service during the Indigenous People/Columbus Day observances (at home and in the DR). It was not lost on us that we were meeting in Columbus Park for our Santiago art/history walking tour.

We learned and lived and engaged and built lasting relationships in a relatively short period of time.

Our world is complex. Our work is complex. Our past is complex.

In order that we support and facilitate the support for teachers and students to create conditions for a sustainable and globally connected world, we must get out of our safe and small circle of our worlds at home and jump out of comfort zones and live, learn, do, think, be open minded to change, and to lead.

With experiences in the educational, social, cultural, artistic, political, geographic, environmental, and service genres (and more), I simply say Thank YOU to all who put in so much effort to create the spaces where we and I could enhance ourselves and our worlds.

Here’s to the next time … truly we are all unfinished! Opportunities like this help us frame our paths to become the next versions of ourselves.

For nearly 30 years I have been serving public education and schooling in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA. I’ve been a public school superintendent for 12 years (so far). Each year, each job/role, each child for whom I lead, each adult with whom I lead, each family I serve, each community I serve — each one enhances my sense of self and my body of work. My answer to the call of duty in an ongoing and unfinished, never ending cycle of service is to serve, to lead, to push myself and to make my wife, my children, and my community proud and respectful.

Proud and grateful to sponsor partners









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