Mike Lubelfeld's Blog


Tag: Dual Language

Holiday Greetings – Multi-Lingual Video – Supt Message

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

December 2023

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

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

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



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

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

We look forward to a fantastic year in 2024! 

With regards,


Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Reflections from Bottle School Trip – Guatemala 2023 July

Bottle School Project with Hug it Forward

Reflections from  Tecpan, Guatemala

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

From the Hug it Forward Website

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

Before bottle walls are constructed

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

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

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

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

Audio Excerpts of National Presentation – Supt and Principals – Impact on learning in #112Leads

In this episode, learn how an initiative and partnership called DMBreakthrough Teams implemented last year at the District 112 Dual Language elementary schools positively impacted student growth & achievement!

Over spring break, I went to New York with Oak Terrace Principal Lilli Melamed and Wayne Thomas Associate Principal Colleen Goodrich. In addition to learning at the conference, we were invited to present the results from an initiative implemented last year at both dual language schools, DMGroup Breakthrough Teams.

Having the opportunity to share, and specifically, hearing from Lilli and Colleen about the impact of last year’s DMBreakthrough teams 10-week program on multi-lingual learners in grades K-5 at their respective schools is incredible and made me very proud of our work, our students, and the District. Our session was titled “Learn how North Shore School District 112 (IL) supported their multilingual learners and achieved a higher percentage of students meeting their MAP growth goals after the Breakthrough Results experience.”

Our work with DMGroup to implement their Breakthrough Teams programs at our Dual Language schools last year was driven by that commitment to continuous improvement in learning. We are committed to creating conditions for equitable access to educational opportunities for each child every day. We are committed to creating conditions for teacher support and excellence every day. We are on a journey and proud to be focused on results.

En este episodio, aprenda cómo una iniciativa y asociación llamada DMBreakthrough Teams implementada el año pasado en las escuelas primarias de lenguaje dual del Distrito 112 impactó positivamente el crecimiento y el rendimiento de los estudiantes.

Durante las vacaciones de primavera, fui a Nueva York con la directora de Oak Terrace, Lilli Melamed, y la directora asociada de Wayne Thomas, Colleen Goodrich. Además de aprender en la conferencia, fuimos invitados a presentar los resultados de una iniciativa implementada el año pasado en ambas escuelas bilingües, DMGroup Breakthrough Teams.

Tener la oportunidad de compartir, y específicamente, escuchar a Lilli y Colleen sobre el impacto del programa de 10 semanas de los equipos DMBreakthrough del año pasado en estudiantes multilingües en los grados K-5 en sus respectivas escuelas es increíble y me hizo sentir muy orgulloso de nuestro trabajo, nuestros estudiantes y el Distrito. Nuestra sesión se tituló “Aprenda cómo el Distrito Escolar 112 (IL) de North Shore apoyó a sus estudiantes multilingües y logró un mayor porcentaje de estudiantes que cumplieron con sus objetivos de crecimiento MAP después de la experiencia de Breakthrough Results”.

Nuestro trabajo con DMGroup para implementar sus programas Breakthrough Teams en nuestras escuelas de lenguaje dual el año pasado fue impulsado por ese compromiso con la mejora continua en el aprendizaje. Estamos comprometidos a crear condiciones para el acceso equitativo a las oportunidades educativas para cada niño todos los días. Estamos comprometidos a crear condiciones para el apoyo y la excelencia de los maestros todos los días. Estamos en un viaje y orgullosos de estar enfocados en los resultados.

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









Reflections from Dominican Republic – IASA Global Service Trip

IASA Global Service Trip 2021-Blog Post 1

Cabarete, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

Cabarete, Dominican Republic 1,851 miles from Highland Park, Illinois

October 2021

As our world heads out of the restrictive nature of the recent years, and as our school district re-energizes and re-commits to student educational access and excellence in education for each child, every day, I’m beyond grateful that I have had the opportunity to join a recent trip to another country to learn the culture, history, sociology, teamwork, global interconnection, education (of course) and much, much more. Together with a member of my school district’s Board of education, and with leaders from all across the state of Illinois (Cairo, IL to Zion, IL and all parts in between), our lives were forever changed and opportunities for students across Illinois and throughout the Dominican Republic will be impacted for years to come.

In 2018 thirty strangers agreed to participate in international service, culture, and leadership trip called the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) Global Service Trip. The trip was delayed twice due to the impact of the global pandemic. Thanks to incredibly generous and supportive business partners, the cost per person was minimal, and thanks to an international educational tour company, the world-class tour, trip, adventures, experiences, reflections, expertise, travel, fellowship, new friendships, shared love for our calling to serve and to educate, and the overall service-learning was among the best I have experienced.

Understanding I will likely leave out details, miss a detail or two or three, to the degree possible, I’m making an effort to share in this blog a documentary accounting and “editorial” in this blog post and some follow-up posts as well.

To start, we all met together at a dinner at a restaurant outside of Chicago, IL. As a reminder, we are each superintendents, board of education members, school administrators, and we represent all areas of the great and diverse state of Illinois. We had no idea the depth of communal care, comfort, support, experience, joy, reflection, and leadership upon which we were each embarking.  We each had our own motivation for applying to join this trip. Our partners at the Law Offices of Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhamner, Rodick, & Kohn (HLERK), International Contractors Incorporated (ICI), DLA Architects, AXA, and SPM Architects all took a significant leap of faith believing in the powerful vision of my good friend and the Leyden High School Superintendent Nick Polyak and his vision for impacting the world, education in Illinois, superintendent-board relations, and so much more — words cannot thank the business partners for their support and investment — and genuine on the ground experiential learning and partnership. Life-long friendships were made on this trip across the Dominican Republic!

Service-learning changes lives forever, after having the incredible opportunity to have served on several trips over the past few years, I know firsthand how powerful the hands-on learning and engagement of people make a lasting impact and serves to support a legacy of global connectedness and growth opportunities. Hat tip to the AASA for allowing me to join in on the LifeTouch Memory Mission in 2016 to the Rio Grande/Constanza, Dominican Republic area with World Servants, and hat tip to my friend and fellow Illinois Superintendent Jim McKay for two trips to San Juan, Puerto Rico (so far) for service learning, educational partnership, teacher exchange, training, technology,  hands-on construction and more! On one of these adventures, I had the opportunity to bring my son with me; blending work and home, blending professional and personal, wow – seriously impactful. My son and I will clearly enjoy many more memories and experiences in the future.

Back to this 2021 trip, …Me and my Board member (or my Board member and I) learned together, experienced together, built together, laughed together, and most importantly, we planned together visions for students in our school district to experience life-changing service like we did. I’ve reached out to the district and school administrators back home (while in the DR) to start the thinking process for a legitimate investment in our students in partnership and travel as an adjunct part of the curriculum. Our motto in North Shore School District 112, https://www.nssd112.org/ is Inspire…Innovate…Engage. This trip to the beautiful island nation of the Dominican Republic was highly inspiring, we are beyond motivated to bring these learning opportunities to our students, and we were engaged from the dinner meeting the night prior to our departure.

A few years ago I posted a reflection post about a series of reflections (I see writing as an intimate and public way to express myself, communicate my thinking, and share professional experiences). See link: Reflecting on Global Service – 3 Year Anniversary of Dominican Republic Memory Mission Trip – This is the blog from Public School Superintendent & Author Dr. Michael Lubelfeld

The incredible company Education First,  EF Education First – Global SIte (English), sent us their “A-Team” of leaders and they truly have outdone themselves in terms of an authentic set of learning, leadership, service, opportunity, and true business/education vision and planning opportunities for children. Thank you, Brian, Alex, Claire, Gabriel, Hector, and everyone in the Dominican Republic on the ground for their amazing leadership, expertise, camaraderie, fellowship, friendship, vision, and overall and genuine professionalism. This was a fantastic experience all around. Thank you also to Angel for day and night support!!

We literally visited and traveled through the entire length of the country traveling from the south to the north. We visited urban, rural, and coastal communities. We saw both the Caribbean and Atlantic coats. We visited cultural and historic sites, geographic sites, the two largest cities, public school sites, private school sites, after school clubs, “NGO” not for profit areas committed to environmental sustainability, social justice, education, future-focused support and so many opportunities for post-trip partnership and service and support. I will be sharing the information and “leads” with my local Rotary Club, Leadership Team, Board of Education, and community leaders.

After we arrived in Santo Domingo, the capital city, we visited a Coral Reef and Mangrove reforestation NGO on the Caribbean Sea prior to our long drive north, through the center of the island towards Jarabacoa. We were immediately taken in by the

Captivating natural beauty

immense natural beauty of this island nation. We were also starting our journey and adventure into the Dominican Republic’s commitment to environment study, preservation, sustainability, and education. The sense of community was powerful and we were just getting started.

The overall journey from Santo Domingo to Jarabacoa is 90 miles/144 kilometers, and by motorcoach with a quick visit to the Coral Reef/Mangrove restoration center (and the Caribbean beachfront), it’s a trip of around 3-4 hours (with a stop on the way for a rest and some coffee). We were at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago at 3:00am for a 5:00am flight to Miami, Florida, then after a short layover we headed to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (journey of 1,936 miles/3,116 kilometers), we arrived in Santo Domingo at 12:40pm local time (O’Hare is CST and Santo Domingo is EST). The journey was long, our anticipation was high, our anxiety was being eased by actually being on the ground and for having enjoyed dinner the night before as well as a long travel journey. But the learning was just getting started.

On our next visit, we went to the Environmental Institute, formally called Instituto Técnico de Estudios Superiores en Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales in Recinto, Jimenoa. At this impressive, Ministry of Education funded school, founded in 1968 and refurbished within the past few years, we learned a ton about reforestation efforts, trail building and preservation, the

Trail “oasis” “before” work

connection of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the overall impact on the preservation of nature’s greatness. At the institute, students are 18-25 years old, the integration of genders was recently added and the federal government funds and runs this impressive, two-campus higher education institute. Topics we addressed at the briefing included conservation, tree nursery, forestry, agriculture, trail building, learning, service, and education. The impact of climate change is real and the need for a larger-scale focus on sustainability is everyone’s responsibility. Here in the Dominican Republic, there are scholarships for students from Haiti in an effort to positively impact the entire island of Hispaniola which both countries share. One of the service projects, hands-on learning for our leadership team, was in the tree nursery and the other was in the nature trail. This institute plants more than 750,000 (seven-hundred fifty-thousand) saplings across the island each year! The impact is beyond huge and lasting.

I was part of the trail restoration project. With sweat equity and really intense physical labor, our team cleared out tree stumps, restored a number of benches and a table (in a clearing on a nature trail at the Institute) our team was really proud of the physical labor and task completion. With natural leadership and skills emerging from team members, and under the

Trail “oasis” “after” completion

supervision and leadership of our Dominican hosts, together we created a nice and comfortable oasis in the trail for a meeting space, thinking, reflection, and ambiance of the beautiful and serene nature trail on one of the campuses.

The tree nursery group learned how to take “baby” trees and plant, clean, separate soil/plants, and recreate the initial steps in the tree nursery growing and sustaining process. Education First (EF) formed relationships with institutions that thrive on their own, but who also benefit from volunteer service and support from student groups, educator groups, and others, to complete their mission-driven work.

It’s really hot in the Dominican Republic— even in October — it’s 90 degrees, powerful sun, intense heat, and we’re not all physical/manual laborers by day. So, the work was really intense and we had sweat on top of sweat and we drank more water than we normally drink! It was also highly rewarding to impact this institution in such a positive way. The service-learning projects are high-intensity and powerfully related to what our students will do as well. In addition, the concepts of inter-dependence are built upon each other at each step.

Following this intense and novel manual labor, our hosts from EF allowed us to experience a geographically beautiful and one of the highest waterfalls in the Dominican Republic. We visited Salto Jimenoa Waterfall,  in Jarabacoa. This was about 35 meters, or 115 feet, tall. The walk to the “watering hole” at the foot of the waterfall was far easier on the way to the falls vs the way back (climbing back up was tough). We were so hot, really stretching muscles we don’t normally use, an intense pride in task completion due to the adrenaline and pride in service we were walking around with since we boarded the plane in Chicago. The visit to this waterfall, impressive on its own — tall, loud crashing water, awe-inspiring geography, and much welcomed “cold water”. Once we entered the watering hole we felt the wind — forceful and inspirational wind — we then headed towards the actual waterfall itself. The massive, natural force driving this water from the mountains — this waterfall invited us in — we each felt a sense of invigorating relief at the entrance with the cold water, the cold almost mystical wind; but words cannot describe the feeling of inspiration upon entering the area against the rock behind the crashing cascade of water! The force reflected our powerful desires and force to serve, learn, and accomplish all we can for each child, every day. We were in paradise — a unique and foreign world compared to our middle-American realities.

Words I wrote in my journal were: “work hard, serve, learn from collaboration, sweat equity, the satisfaction of contributing part to whole, symbolic of the overall trip, aim each of us as global citizens are parts contributing to the whole – cultural, local”.

Each meal was authentically Dominican. We ate rice, beans, chicken, beef, plantains, yucca, fruit juices, fruit, banana, truly outstanding and truly local cuisine.

Each cultural experience was a tribute to our Dominican hosts, the beauty and richness of the people, and representative of the value of travel, touring, meeting other people, gaining experiences through other people’s lenses, learning and respecting the locale. We were not there on any mission to “help” or to “save” — we were present in respect and mutual admiration to learn, lead and serve shoulder to shoulder. We were not there to show who we are and what we do — by embracing our hosts and by opening our minds and hearts, we showed who we were and who we are. On our journey we learned about Bachata, Merengue, Salsa, yes, we superintendents danced (or tried to dance) with the Latin rhythm and beats in our hearts and our souls. Our dance teacher was really patient.

My next 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 first post about half of our journey in the Dominican Republic!

Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Superintendent Community Update – Audio Dec 3 – #112Leads

“Embrace the pace of your own journey.” – Unknown

Dr. Lubelfeld is checking in with the community on the “running of the schools” in a Pandemic. Reminders of the challenges we’re facing in this public health crisis along with reminders and clarifications about the D112 plan, communications, and science behind decision making. Tune in for a quick 15-minute update! Visit https://www.nssd112.org/domain/1243 for ongoing updates on the reopening of schools in District 112.

Spanish Transcript (English follows)
– Escuchan Lighthouse 112, el podcast del superintentende del distrito escolar correspondiente al Distrito Escolar 112 de North Shore. Somos ocho escuelas preescolares públicas del distrito en el Northeast, Illinois. Este podcast es una fuente de información sobre el distrito escolar, sobre su liderazgo, su profesorado, sus estudiantes y su comunidad. Es otra fuente de información actualizada y una fuente adicional de noticias sobre el cambio de narrativa en la educación pública. “Inspira, innova e involúcrate”.

– Hola, este es el superintendente Mike Lubelfield y tengo una actualización y un mensaje para la comunidad con relación a la educación en el Distrito Escolar 112 de North Shore. Hoy es jueves 3 de diciembre, el distrito 112 ha permanecido en una pausa de adaptación con relación al aprendizaje a distancia desde el 21 octubre debido a la tasa de incidencia de casos de COVID-19 y a la recomendación que hace el Ministerio de Salud Pública del Condado de Lake sobre la educación a distancia. Así que hoy vamos a revisar algunas de las razones de por qué estamos aquí. Y también hablaremos un poco sobre lo que estamos haciendo y hacia dónde vamos. Y les daremos una actualización. Además, el 15 de diciembre habrá una transmisión en vivo de la reunión del consejo escolar, en la que daremos una actualización oficial al consejo y a la comunidad. Ésta es una revisión general de lo que se verá ahí y daremos información. Regresemos a la primavera pasada. La pandemia y los cambios educativos comenzaron en marzo. Llevamos casi 10 o 11 meses en cuanto a la experiencia con el coronavirus, COVID-19. Hay cinco retos clave que hemos identificado, reconocido y comunicado con relación a la reapertura del otoño de 2020. Y estamos muy orgullosos de que, de hecho, reabrimos de forma exitosa un modelo de aprendizaje que tenía aquí a los niños y al profesorado solo por ocho semanas. Y, de nuevo, desde el 21 de octubre hemos cambiado al aprendizaje a distanca. Pero nos enfrentamos con un reto de salud pública, no es un reto educativo, no es un reto económico, a pesar de que la educación y la economía han sido puestas a prueba. Se trata de un desafío a la salud pública. Y falta mucho por aprender sobre el virus del COVID-19, su transmisión, su forma de manifestarse; su tratamiento y su cura aún son una incógnita. Hay una falta datos científicos revisados por sus pares, porque esto continúa, es en tiempo real. Los distritos escolares, como el nuestro, han estado preparados para responder a varios escenarios. Respondimos con actividades a distancia híbridas y con actividades completamente realizadas a distancia. Ahora estamos analizando los datos, las cifras y cuáles son nuestras opciones para seguir adelante para lo que queda del año escolar, claro. Otro desafío ha sido la falta de acuerdos. Desafortunadamente no existe un precedente. Desde 1918 no se había dado un acontecimiento de esta magnitud y a esta escala. Por lo que ninguno de nosotros ha recibido orientación con datos científicos y médicos revisados por pares, meditados y aprobados. Esto está limitado y en cambio continuo. Se ha interpretado de muchas formas distintas, tanto médicamente, como políticamente y de otras formas. El resultado es que las decisiones han sido cuestionadas e interpretadas, y, desafortunadamente, han sido polarizadas a través de la realidad política de nuestro país. Además, no ha habido tiempo suficiente. Estamos realizando estos cambios y tomando estas decisiones en tiempo real. Nos ocupamos del liderazgo mientras enfrentamos el reto de la salud pública y la falta de acuerdos. Estoy muy orgulloso de nuestro consejo, y estoy orgulloso de nuestros maestros; estoy orgulloso de la administración, de los padres de familia, de los estudiantes, de la comunidad; estoy orgulloso de nuestro personal de apoyo educativo, porque hemos trabajado juntos y hemos hecho cosas que no habíamos hecho antes y que no sabíamos que podíamos hacer. Asimismo, otro desafío relacionado con la reapertura y el desarrollo son que las decisiones se adoptarán por escrutinio. Todos nuestros planes, no sólo en el distrito 112, sino también en los distritos vecinos, como Illinois, que para bien o para mal tiene 853 distritos escolares públicos. De alguna forma, nos han dejado solos y hemos tenido que hacerlo por nuestra propia cuenta y nuestras decisiones han sido escrutinizadas y estamos realizando el escrutinio de nuestras propias decisiones. Esta es una versión radical de la antigua decisión de cierre por nieve. Cuando todos estaban mirando distintos pronósticos meteorológicos y tenían retos en aquella época. Hace un año, unos de mis colegas diría que la decisión de cierre por nieve era como desvelarse y sacar una D-, porque sin importar lo que hacías, se hacía el escrutinio. Hoy no es distinto, y lo comprendemos. Uno de los grandes desafíos que seguimos enfrentando es que las circunstancias siguen cambiando, pero estamos trabajando en ello. Lidiamos con el desafío de la reapertura, y por eso reabrimos. Determinamos nuestros principios rectores que ahora ya saben cuáles son: la comunicación segura y el aprendizaje. Seguimos transmitiendo datos de información de casos que recibimos, porque dimos nuestra palabra de comunicarnos de forma transparence. En lugar de enviar una carta cada vez que existe un caso, cada día hemos enviado una sola carta cada día cerca de las 3:00 de la tarde con la información que tengamos disponible. También hemos estado trabajando con el Ministerio de Salud Pública de Illinois, con el Consejo de Educación del Estado de Illinois, etc. Estamos haciendo lo posible por aprender lo que podamos. El distrito 112 ha invertido millones de dólares para reducir el riesgo, para crear medios más saludables y seguros; y también da cuenta de las necesidades curriculares para trabajar durante de esta pandemia. Hemos invertido recursos en los planes de estudio, en la enseñanza y en los materiales de aprendizaje desde casa. Los hemos estado encuestando, y por eso les damos las gracias por darnos sus opiniones, las necesitamos. Recibimos sus opiniones, trabajamos con ellas, y luego compartimos con ustedes lo que aprendimos de ellas. Y seguimos invirtiendo para hacer el aprendizaje lo mejor que podamos. Nos importa completamente lo que aprenden nuestros niños. Nos importa completamente el concepto de “pérdida de aprendizaje”. Recuerdo, y se lo recuerdo a todos, que la pérdida de aprendizaje se da a nivel internacional y nacional. Por lo que nadie quedará rezagado. Todos vamos a trabajar juntos para recuperar lo perdido. La lectura de nuestros datos iniciales muestran que no tenemos, necesariamente, pérdida de aprendizaje y de lectura. Sí hay una pérdida de aprendizaje matemático y estamos trabajando en ello. Estaremos realizando algunos exámenes adicionales y seguiremos informando sobre esto mientras seguimos trabajando hacia adelante. Le recuerdo a todos que tenemos un comité con más de 50 personas interesadas que nos ayudan con nuestros programas. Los programas y la programación son increíbles y complejos y han dado como resultado la realización de un modelo de aprendizaje de forma coherente y consecuente. Tenemos cinco horas de enseñanza. Algunas horas se dan en vivo, y otras se dan por medio de deberes en casa. Y seguimos aprendiendo, nos informamos de lo que hacen otras personas, somos oportunos con ello, y lo replicamos, aprendemos de los éxitos y los fracasos de otros. Lo que hacemos y funciona bien, lo replicamos. Lo que se hace y necesita reelaborarse, intentamos rescatarlo, arreglarlo y cambiarlo mientras lo mejoramos. Tenemos una oficina virtual dedicada al aprendizaje emocional y social. Y si no sabían de esto, les pido que contacten al trabajador social escolar en su escuela, al psicólogo educativo de su escuela, al maestro de su escuela, a cualquiera que pueda brindarle ayuda para conseguir los recursos sobre cómo ayudar a su hijo, cómo ayudarle a su familia durante esta etapa. La salud mental emocional es de gran importancia y contamos con recursos sobre esto. Si no saben cómo pueden encontrarlos, por favor, contáctenos y les ayudaremos. Con respecto al modelo de aprendizaje a distancia, los estudiantes realizan el 100 % del aprendizaje a distancia. Este modelo se da cuando las escuelas están físicamente cerradas. La consecuencia ha sido que los estudiantes están aprendiendo cinco horas al día desde casa. Si presenta algún problema o necesita ayuda, contacte al maestro de su hijo, contacte al subdirector, al director o la oficina distrital. Estamos aquí para ayudarle. Nuestro profesorado trabaja desde casa o en las instalaciones escolares. Llevamos a cabo censos cada día para saber cuántas personas están en las instalaciones y en cualquier momento podríamos tener el 20 o el 30 % de nuestros trabajadores en las instalaciones. Hemos mencionado que es posible que miembros importantes podrían regresar a las instalaciones durante este giro del aprendizaje a distancia. Y actualmente contamos con algunos psicólogos, ortofonistas y estudiantes que trabajan mediante evaluaciones cara a cara y en grupos reducidos. Observamos las métricas y somos un organismo de aprendizaje que se basa en la ciencia. Seguimos las directrices de salud pública de los expertos de la salud pública. Con una tasa de 14 contagiados o menos, podemos realizar el modelo de aprendizaje híbrido Con 7 o menos, se puede asistir a al escuela. Ahora mismo, con esa escala, tenemos 58.3. Por eso necesitamos que las métricas cambien, que la propagación en el comunidad cambie. Asimismo, observamos el Ministerio de Salud de Illinois y tenemos un tasa de positividad de 12.8 %. La ciudad de Nueva York cerró con 3 %, y algunas personas están regresando de nuevo. Illinois tenía un umbral de 8 %, y ahora es de 12 %, y estamos a 12.8; y el CDC en 5 %. Repito, estamos observando todos los datos lo mejor que podamos, lo más rápido que podamos y de la forma mejor examinada antes de permitir el regreso de la gente. Si ven Highland Park, con el código postal 60035, está a 33.2/100,000, según un punto determinado en el tiempo y Highwood, C.P. 60040, tiene 85.2. Repito, el Condado de Lake está a 58.3, y necesitamos estar a 14. Todas estas cifras son muy negativas, y estamos tratando de reducirlas, como todos los demás. Usen cubreboca, guarden la distancia, lávense las manos. Una noticia alentadora y grandiosa, es que están aprobando las vacunas, y pronto estarán a disposición de la gente, de forma literal. Primero se podrá vacunar a los adultos y así ayudará a bajar las cifras, lo cual será útil. Una de las razones por las que no establecemos una fecha del calendario para decirles cuándo regresaremos al modelo de aprendizaje híbrido es porque el virus no sabe leer ni conoce un calendario. Hay una evaluación que se realiza. Si hay una forma de traer de regreso a otras personas, es algo que estamos trabajando con nuestro equipo. Estamos viendo la posibilidad de realizar ensayos de vigilancia pero todo esto se está investigando febrilmente de forma alterna. No hay una fecha del calendario que prediga cuándo regresaremos. Seguimos con el aprendizaje a distancia. Estamos trabajando con el grupo director del distrito para poder conocer, modificar, validar y ajustar, para ejecutar y supervisar. Y nuestro principal interés, mientras seguimos con el aprendizaje a distancia es revisar el aprendizaje y el compromiso de nuestros estudiantes. Les agradecemos que sean nuestros padres auxiliares y nuestros socios desde sus casas. Les agradecemos que todos puedan ver que en unos meses hemos cambiado todo el sistema de aprendizaje. Estamos haciendo un excelente trabajo y lo estamos evaluando. Y lo que no estamos haciendo correctamente, estamos trabajando para cambiarlo. Es difícil realizar rápido los cambios, pero lo hacemos lo más rápido que podemos.. Nuestro objetivo, mi objetivo personal, mi deseo, es es que regresemos de manera física a la enseñanza tan pronto que podamos. Por ahora el COVID-19 aún sigue con nosotros. Lávense las manos, usen cubreboca, guarden la distancia. Gracias por ser una comunidad increíble a la que puedo servir. Gracias por comprender la situación no es sencilla. Comprendemos, reconocemos y sentimos empatía por los cambios en nuestras vidas. Por favor, visiten nuestro sitio web: www.nssd112.org y vayan a la información que está de nuevo disponible para ver todas las presentaciones del consejo y los videos. Por favor, vayan a “Long Range Planning” y vean el increíble éxito de la escuela secundaria de Northwood que abrirá al inicio del 2021. Por favor, reconozcan y celebren la primera premiación del National Blue Ribbon School que se le da a Indian Trails School. Y, por favor, sepan que nuestro lema “inspira, innova e involúcrate” se realiza cada vez que estamos presentes, bajo el modelo híbrido o de forma remota. Estamos comprometidos con ustedes. Regresaremos para mostrarles una presentación completa el 15 de diciembre. Y les repito, por favor, comuníquense con nosotros si tienen preguntas o algún problema. Cuídense y que tengan salud. Gracias a todos. Gracias por escuchar Lighthouse 112, el podcast del superintentende del distrito escolar correspondiente al Distrito Escolar 112 de North Shore, para las escuelas preescolares públicas en Northeast, Illinois. Este podcast es una fuente de información sobre el distrito escolar, sobre su liderazgo, su profesorado, sus estudiantes y su comunidad. Es otra fuente de información actualizada y una fuente adicional de noticias sobre el cambio de narrativa en la educación pública. “Inspira, innova e involúcrate”. Este podcast se puede escuchar en Anchor, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, Pocket Cast, RadioPublic, Stitcher y todo el tiempo se agregan otros recursos. Por favor, vuelvan y suscríbanse con nosotros para mantenerse actualizados con lo que sucede en el Distrito Escolar 112 de North Shore. También visiten nuestro sitio web www.nssd112.org. Muchas gracias por escucharnos y por su interés.


– This is Lighthouse 112, the podcast from the superintendent of schools in North Shore School District 112. We’re a pre-K through eight public school district in Northeast, Illinois. This podcast is a source of information about the school district, it’s leadership, it’s teachers, it’s students and it’s community. It’s another source of updates and an additional source of news regarding the changing narrative of public education. Inspire, innovate, engage.

– Hello this is a superintendent Mike Lubelfeld with an update and a message to the community with respect to schooling in North Shore School District 112. Today is Thursday, December 3rd district 112 has been on an adaptive pause to remote learning since October 21st due to the instance rate of cases of COVID-19 and the recommendation of the Lake County Department of Public Health for remote learning. So today I’m going to review some of the reasons as to why we are here and also talk a little bit about what we’re doing and where we’re going to give everybody an update. In addition, on December 15th there’ll be a live broadcast school board meeting where I’ll provide a formal update to the board and the community as well. This is a snapshot or a preview to that with some information. So, let’s go back to the spring. This pandemic and the changes to schooling started in March. We’re going on 10, 11 months now in terms of this experience with COVID-19 coronavirus. There are five key challenges that we’ve identified, acknowledged and communicated with respect to the reopening in the fall of 2020. And we’re very proud that we successfully did in fact, reopen on a hybrid learning model that had children and staff here for just under eight weeks. And again, since October the 21st we’ve pivoted to remote learning. But we’re dealing with a public health challenge, it’s not an education challenge, it’s not an economic challenge though education and the economy have both been challenged, this is a public health challenge. And much that’s remaining to be learned about the COVID-19 virus, its transmission, its manifestations and its treatment and cure are unknown. There’s a lack of vetted scientific peer reviewed data because this is going on now, it’s in real time. School districts like ours have been ready to respond in a variety of scenarios. We responded in hybrid learning and we responded with fully remote. And now we’re exploring the data, the numbers and our options moving forward for the remainder of the school year obviously. Another challenge has been the lack of agreement. Unfortunately there’s no precedence. It’s not been since 1918 that a public health event of this magnitude and scale has occurred. So none of us have been guided by vetted and thought out and peer reviewed medical and scientific data. It’s limited, it’s constantly changing, it’s being interpreted in many different ways, medically, politically and in another ways. The result is that decisions have been questioned and interpreted and it’s been polarized through the political reality of our nation sadly. In addition, there’s been lack of time. We’re making these changes and making these decisions in real time. We’re doing the leadership while we’re being faced with a public health challenge and lack of agreement. And I’m very proud of our board, I’m proud of our teachers, I’m proud of our administrators, proud of our parents, I’m proud of our students, I’m proud of the community I’m proud of our education support personnel because we’ve banded together and we’ve done things we’ve never done before we never realized we can do. In addition, another challenge that has been related to the reopening and its ongoing is decisions will be scrutinized. All of our plans and not just in district 112 but in neighboring districts, Illinois has 853 public school districts for better or for worse. We’ve all sort of been left to lead on our own and these decisions have been scrutinized and we’re scrutinizing our own decisions. This is an extreme version of the old calling a snow day when everybody was looking at the different meteorological forecast and being challenged back in the day. A year ago, colleagues of mine would say calling a snow day it was like pulling an all nighter and getting a D- ’cause no matter what you did it was scrutinized and this is no different, we understand that. One of the greatest challenges that we continue to face is that the circumstances keep shifting, and we’re working through that. So we dealt with the challenges to reopening, we reopened. We’ve established our guiding principles that you know by now, our safety communication and learning. We continue to communicate case information data that we receive because we’ve pledged to communicate transparently. Instead of sending a letter each time there’s a case, we’ve reduced that to one letter every day around 3:00 PM with whatever information we have. We also have been working with Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education, so on and so forth. We’re doing all we can to learn what we can do. District 112 has invested millions of dollars for risk mitigation to create safer, less unhealthy and healthier environments and also account for the curricular needs of working through this pandemic. We’ve invested resources in curriculum in teaching and learning materials at home. We’ve been surveying you ongoing and thank you for continuing to give us input. We need the input. We take that input, we work behind the scenes and then we share with you what we’ve learned from it and we continue to invest in making learning the best we can make it. We absolutely care about what our children are learning. We absolutely care about this concept known as learning loss. I remember and remind everybody that learning loss is international and national. So no one is going to be behind. We’re all gonna work together to recoup that. Our initial reading data indicates that we do not have reading learning loss necessarily, we do have mathematics learning loss and we’re working on that. We’re gonna be doing some additional testing and we’ll continue to report back as we continue to work forward. Reminder everyone, that we have a 50 plus person stakeholder committee that help with our plans. The plans and planning are really awesome and complex and have yielded a coherent and consistently implemented learning model. We have five hours of instruction, some of it is provided live, some of it is provided as homework. And we’re learning, we’re finding out what other people are doing and we’re appropriate, we’re replicating it and we’re learning from their successes and failures. What we do that works well, we replicate. What we do that needs help, we try to help it and fix it and change it as we improve it. We have a virtual office for social and emotional learning. And if you’re not aware of this I beg of you to contact the school social worker at your school, the school psychologist at your school, your school’s teacher, anybody in the school that can help you get the resources for how to help your child, how to help your family through this. Emotional mental health is of the greatest importance and we’ve got resources. If you don’t know how to access them, please reach out and we’ll help you. On the remote learning model students are experiencing 100% remote virtual learning. It’s been used when the schools are physically closed. Our impact is students are at home learning for five hours a day. If you’re concerned or you need help, contact your child’s teacher, contact the associate principal, the principal, contact the district office. We’re here to work with you. Our impacted staff members are either working at home or on campus. We take a census each day as to how many folks are on campus and at any given time we may have 20 or 30% of our workforce actually on campus. We’ve mentioned that possible cords can be brought back on campus during this remote learning pivot. And currently we do have some psychologists, speech language pathologists, students working through evaluations one-to-one and in small groups. We are looking at the metrics and we’re a science-based learning organization. We follow the public health guidance of the public health experts. At 14 or less we can do the hybrid learning model. At seven or less we can have full in person. Right now on that scale we’re at 58.3. So we do need metrics to change, community spread to change. In addition, we look at the Illinois Department of Health and we’re at 12.8% positivity rate. New York City closed on scale at 3%, they’re bringing some folks back. Illinois had an 8% threshold, now it’s a 12% threshold and we’re at 12.8 and the CDC at 5%. So again, we’re looking at all of the data as best we can, as quickly as we can and as best vetted as we can before we can bring folks back. If you look at Highland Park, zip code 60035 33.2/100,000 at a snapshot given point in time and Highwood 60040 85.2. So again, Lake County is 58.3, we need 14. So all of these numbers are pretty bad and we’re trying to mitigate this as everybody is. Wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands. Encouraging news, great news is that vaccinations are being approved and soon we’ll they’ll get into people’s arms, literally not figuratively. And we can get adults vaccinated first and then that’ll help put the numbers down and that’ll help. One of the reasons we don’t use a calendar date to tell you when we’re going to pivot back to hybrid learning is because the virus doesn’t know how to read and doesn’t know a calendar. We’ve got evaluations going on. If there’s any way to slowly bring back others, we’re working with our staff, we’re working with the possibility of surveillance testing but all of these things are being researched feverishly behind the scenes. There is no calendar date to predict when we’re coming back yet. We’re still educating in remote learning. We are working with the district management group to learn and modify, validate and adjust, and act and monitor. And our first major focus while we’re in remote learning is to check the learning and the engagement of our students. We appreciate you being our adjunct faculty parents and our partners at home. We appreciate that everybody realizes we change an entire learning system in months and we’re doing very very good work and we’re measuring it and what we’re not doing well, we’re working to change. It’s hard to quickly scale change so we’re changing as fast as we can. Our aim and my personal goal desire philosophy is to get back to fully in person schooling at such time as we can. Right now COVID-19 is still with us. Wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance. Thank you for being an amazing community to serve. Thank you for understanding that this is not easy and we understand and acknowledge and empathize with the changes to our lives. Please visit our website at www.nssd112.org and go to the reopening information for all of our board presentations and videos. Please go to long range planning and look at the incredible success of Northwood Middle School which will be opened early in 2021. Please acknowledge and celebrate the first ever National Blue Ribbon School, Indian Trails School. And please know that our motto of ‘inspire, innovate, engage’ is whether we’re fully in person, in hybrid or remote, we’re committed to you, we’ll come back with a full presentation on December 15th and as always, please reach out with any questions or concerned and stay safe and healthy. Thank you everybody.

– Thank you for listening to Lighthouse 112, the podcast from the superintendent of schools in the North Shore School District 112 for Pre-K public school district in Northeast Illinois. This podcast is a source of information about the school district, it’s leadership, it’s teachers and students and its community. It’s another source of updates and an additional source of news regarding the changing narrative of public education. Inspire, innovate, engage. This podcast can be listened to and heard on Anchor, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, Pocket Cast, RadioPublic, Stitcher and other sources are being added all the time. Please check back and subscribe to us to stay current with what’s going on in North Shore School District 112. Please also visit our website at www.nssd112.org. Thank you so much for listening and for your interest.

China Bridge Delegation 2018 – #112Leads

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

China Journey 

On my first trip to the People’s Republic of China, 🇨🇳, as a delegate in the 2018 Chinese – American Principal Delegation, I was nervous, excited, proud and open minded. I was nervous about o leaving my family for an extended period of time, and  I was excited to learn about an ancient and respected culture, and I was open minded as I was about to represent my school district with the hope of bringing Mandarin language and Chinese culture into the North Shore School District 112 curriculum & instructional programming.

In this blog post, I’ll share some background, purpose, images, and perspective from this amazing professional learning  mission.

Over the years, I have visited Mexico, Germany, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and other foreign nations as part of educational and cultural exchange, exploration and leadership development.

Each trip and set of experiences makes me a better leader who can view the world and its beauty and challenges through lenses beyond those I normally see the world through. In addition, my service to the leaders who work for and with me as well as to the community as a whole become enhanced and improved by these global experiences.

With respect to this trip, the flight to China from Chicago  was a non-stop plane ride from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Beijing, China.  We literally flew around the world in about 14 hours. I was traveling with a group from the College Board. There were educational leaders, board members, teachers, and others in the groups traveling on this K12China Bridge Delegation. In conjunction with the Confucius Institute (Hanban), leaders like me visit China’s schools, cultural sites, and business & economic zones on a mission of public diplomacy and educational exchange.

All in all, our delegation had about 150 educational leaders from all over the United States. Once in China, after initial meetings and orientation in Beijing, we were organized into 6 groups to visit 6 provinces around China. Our hosts in Beijing and in the provinces our groups visited rolled out the red carpet in terms of warmth, welcome, pride, and intensity.

The intensity that the Chinese support education is impressive. Teachers are highly honored professionals in the nation and in the culture overall. The schools I visited took such great pride in their founders, former principals, and teachers, made an impact on how we present our schools in the US. For example, it was normal and typical to have extensive physical space allocated for teacher offices and collaboration, school history museum areas, and student art galleries.

In addition to the many school visits and the educational forums with colleagues in China, we had opportunities to visit, explore, engage, and learn at some of the most famous and important cultural sites in the world. These included parts of the Great Wall of China as well as the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, as well as additional sites in the provinces. From the sights, sounds, overall experience of traveling abroad and feeling like a newcomer to our country must feel, it was exciting, overwhelming, stressful, and rewarding at the same time. We were engaged from early in the morning to late in the night every day we were on the delegation. We visited elementary schools, high schools, and we also spent a full day of observations, interactions  and seminar work at Beijing Language and Culture University. We really got to glimpse and experience the full range of Chinese educational programming.

The American educators in the large group as well as the smaller groups shared common bonds of education leadership vision. Whether we carried the professional title of superintendent, director, principal, assistant principal, etc. we all shared the common bonds of care for the future of our nation through education. We all shared the common bonds of passion for leadership through open minded and open hearted global exchange and learning. We all shared the common bonds of becoming travelers instead oftourists. We were traveling to China to meet with and form and sustain people to people relationships on behalf of a larger global purpose beyond our individual and local objectives.

There are incredible opportunities to embrace globalism and global partnership in support of diplomacy, education, economics, and the overall future through education explorations and missions like this one.

The sights and sounds of China gripped us and impacted us from the moment we landed in Beijing’s airport. The historic Chinese language of characters was all around us as was the bilingual nature of English transliteration as well as English audio and visual translation. The world is bilingual and trilingual, and in many parts of the world, multi-lingual (beyond 3 languages). As Americans, we sometimes fall into a complacent state since “everyone learns English” — but language is far more than the ability to get from point a to point b. Language is the windows into one’s culture — it’s a personal connector; through partnerships and learning we can join various cultures together.

As part of the 2018 Chinese-American Principal Delegation, we were met by enthusiastic and able tour guides and representatives of Hanban, & the College Board. We American delegates were eager to dive in and get started on thisamazing, life-changing set of adventures. International travel is challenging in and of itself with time, distance and time changes, it’s also a challenge when you are entering a culture different from your own with unknown opportunities and plans and food, etc.

The Chinese hosts treated us like “rock stars” with local news coverage (TV, other media) as well as “paparazzi” like photographic documentation of the visits. In addition, at the Chongqing international forum, we were joined by Yong Zhao, famous author, speaker, and professor at the University of Kansas. Zhao student taught at the high school where we were gathered and he joined us to provide a keynote presentation as well as moderatea set of speeches from several of us from the USA and China.

I applied for this leadership opportunity because a few months ago, with the American Association of School Administrators, the AASA, we hosted a delegation of principals from China in North Shore School District 112 and Leyden High School District 212 and we began to form professional relationships withmembers of the Chinese delegation. In addition, one of my charges, or aims, as the superintendent of schools, is to share an inspired vision for the district beyond current realities.

The current realities of our school district are untapped potential for excellence through paralyzing “in fighting” and aversion to change and progress. Therefore, it’s highly energizing for me to see the future reality in the current opportunities. One of the many realities involves a world class education system emerging fromthe current one with enhanced language and culture offerings beyond and in addition to the current English and Spanish offerings. By expanding the current language and cultural offerings, we’ll take our school district to higher and more appealing heights. As the chief learner (so to speak) it’s my job to model the way by seeking additional challenges and experiences on behalf of students and staff. By joining the delegation, I became a global ambassador from my community in and with my Chinese counterparts.

My delegation group of 25 went from Beijing to Chongqing; Chongqing is a special economic and government area, like a county or municipal zone, that reports directly to the central government (like Shanghai, and a few other large and significant areas in China). Chongqing has a population around thirty million people; China, as you may know, has a population of more than 1.4 BILLION people. To say that the scale of buildings, roads, and the country as a whole isimpressive is an understatement. The campuses of the K-12 schools we visited were like US community college campuses or even university campuses in terms of physical size and scope. In my delegation, we had representation from Utah, Illinois, Florida, Texas, California, Ohio, New York, and Nevada.

Our individual experiences and sharing helped enrich the dialogue among us as well as with our Chinese hosts. Some inthe delegation, like those in Utah, have more than a decade of deep Chinese language and culture programming K-12. Others, like me, were on their first journey into the People’s Republic of China and into the possibility of adding Chinese language and culture to our local school districts and school communities.

In the US, it’s typical to have a K-12 classroom with 25 students (18-30); in China,it is far more common to have class sizes of 40-60. The Chinese and American political systems, histories, cultural norms, and lifestyles have many differences yet both cultures place high value and importance on education and child development (in parts of the US, the value has ebbed and flowed and perhaps my declarative should be more aspirational). But both nations invest in educational growth and progress. The system of education in China is centralized while the system of education in the US is decentralized.

The education system in China is following a group/national set of expectations while in our country, the education system is highly individualized and locally controlled. This adds to the fascination for a visit of this scope. I’ve visited other centralized educational systems in the Americas and in Europe; like with everything, there are pros and cons, opportunities and limitations in bothsystems. The key for delegation visits like this is not to compare and contrast, but instead, to integrate and learn. Like Confucius said: “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step”, the goal of this delegation visit is for many miles (figuratively and literally) and this first visit of mine represents the first steps toward the journey and the collaboration between our new Chinese friends and the district I represent.

At the end of the day, and to start, as a result of my journey, whether we start to have one classroom teacher engage with one of the Chinese teachers with whomI met, or whether we create and offer sustained and long term Mandarin language programming, the trip and this formal visit will positively impact my personal leadership and the improvement of my school district. After visiting multiple schools, classrooms, formal settings, and cultural and historic sites, I can clearly see a long-term, sustainable educational partnership emerge between the North Shore School District 112 and schools I visited in Chongqing, China. The beautyof Chongqing was impressive; mountains, rivers, bridges, high rises, lights, food (“hot pot”), historic locales, and so much more, enhanced our education focused mission.

As our Board of Education gets ready to make a historic vote to approve the Long Range Plan Phase I recommendation on November 27, I’ll share more insightsinto this experience and the overall vision of growth, improvement, change, and leadership for my administration in the District.

We’ll be sure to share updates on the Long Range Plan webpage, district communications (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as well as at our live-streamed video and archived video system.

Sharing excerpts from a Board Presentation I made on Nov. 27 highlighting elements of the Journey to China! See video on slide 4:


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