Mike Lubelfeld's Blog


Tag: Engagement (page 2 of 2)

Impact of a Teacher – #112Leads

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
– Benjamin Franklin

With this school year coming to a close on June 4, 2020 I was reflecting on the power of a teacher, and in February 2017 I shared a similar story about one of the most impactful educators in my life. I thought it would be a good time to reflect on Dr. McFarland and share his impact on me again as we prepare to bring the most unprecedented school year to a close! Originally shared in February, 2017 I shared some thoughts about how a college professor from an undergraduate course on the American Presidency from many years ago impacted my life and my professional journey. A journey that currently has some powerful meaning/relevance with our district’s move to remote e-Learning. With this blog post, I’ll draw the connections!

As a former 6th and 8th grade social studies teacher (U.S. history, civics, law, world history, reading, etc.) I have a deep interest in our nation’s culture, history, values, beliefs, celebrations, etc. In addition, I hold a degree in political science, so I have been a “policy wonk” for many years, and to this day I follow the news, politics, etc.

While I was a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, UIC, I had some of the best teachers in my life. The late Dr. Twiley Barker Jr., Dr. Kevin Lyles, and Dr. Andrew McFarland, to name a few. During a course on the American Presidency, POLS 229, an event took place in my life that impacted my philosophies, beliefs, and actions as a teacher and educational leader over the past 30 years. In some ways it likely shaped my philosophies and impact as a teacher and as an educational leader so many years later. Right now there is a current challenging transition from the abrupt changes to remote e-Learning and how teachers have to “report progress” in this unusual time. Looking back at my personal educational history, I’m reminded of why meaningful feedback, teacher /student relationships, and the mastery of content and the flexibility of instruction supersedes any percentage grade or mark in terms of meaningful feedback and communication about learning.

With this blog post, I’m reflecting on the congruity of an impactful event in my life during an undergraduate course, and the realization that this impactful event has impacted my beliefs whether I consciously knew about it or not. This is an “aha” moment for me – this is partially why I so strongly believe the growing pains and transition are worth the time, effort, energy, and extra work involved in pupil progress reporting.


Change is hard (I’ve written a lot about the change process) – Unlearning is hard (I have also written about this concept).

My college professor Dr. Andrew McFarland gave me a chance in the “real world” -when I was in college. Because he knew me, he knew what kind of student I was – he knew my passion for political science he treated me like I was more than a percentage or a score. Dr. McFarland also taught so that students would learn. He had high standards for each and every student and he held himself to high standards too.

So what is this all about? What is this big event that caused me an “aha” moment? Dr. McFarland called me one night while I was eating dinner with my parents; it was 5:30pm – I don’t know how I remember this fact, but I do. This event took place in 1988 or 1989 and I still vividly remember our call!

He called me that night because earlier that day when I took the final exam, I inadvertently forgot to answer one or two additional questions. If Dr. McFarland graded or assessed based on the “old” system I would have received an F. Dr. McFarland, though, was using standards based learning and instruction (whether he or I knew it or not). He called me on the phone and asked me to respond to the final exam question prompts – for 30 maybe 60 minutes. Because he cared about learning – not about percentages or “harsh” lessons, I was able to demonstrate mastery and competency of the American Presidency course (in which I did earn an A, not only because of what I learned, but more importantly, because my professor cared about discovering what his students knew).

He assessed my knowledge acquisition in an alternative learning setting because my teacher was more concerned about assessing my learning and mastery than he was about issuing a grade or a percentage. Had this caring professor used traditional methods I would have failed the exam. In my opinion and in my experiences, standards based grading, reporting, learning, and assessment actually prepares people for real life by holding them accountable to learn. Thank you Dr. McFarland!

Our district will transition through this remote e-Learning to next year (whatever that may be … ideally safe, healthy, and in person). Through this transformational experience for our schooling and for our society, we have all shown how quickly we can unlearn when we must, we have shown how we can relearn schooling, and we will show that we can learn how to create a new reality as necessary.

Dr. McFarland unlearned old school and rigid grading and assessment practices and I consider him to be remarkable and gifted, he was a leader who impacted me and my practice. Let’s use modern instructional strategies to maximize the impact and effect of learning whether we’re in person or remote, or in a hybrid combination of both. Let’s help people unlearn practices that make no sense other than to have been used in their past school experiences.

Preparing students for the future world requires teaching them content that is meaningful in learning environments that are powerfully purposeful and full of clear, regular, meaningful feedback and opportunities to learn and demonstrate learning. As we bring the school year to a close, we are reminded of the impact and power of a teacher and his or her feedback. Thank you to all educators — and thank you again, Dr. McFarland!

D112 Superintendent Thanksgiving Message #112Leads

November 27, 2019

Sharing a note I sent to the North Shore School District 112 Community with greetings of holiday cheer and links to some recent success metrics in our District.

“You don’t owe me a thing, I’ve been there too

Someone once helped me out,

Just the way I’m helping you

If you really want to pay me back,

Here’s what you do

Don’t let the chain of love end with you” – Rory Lee Feek and Jonnie Barnett, performed by Clay Walker, The Chain of Love,1999

Dear North Shore School District 112 Community,

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday this year, I want to share a message of gratitude on behalf of the Board of Education and the leadership team of North Shore School District 112. In District 112, we have so much for which we are thankful. Each day, when I reflect on our service and work, I am so thankful. I am lucky to work with so many talented, professional and effective educators in such an engaged and thoughtful community!

We have accomplished so much in just over one year, we’re optimistic that our future is going to be bright and exciting! As you know, we are on a  journey of continuous improvement. The important work we do puts our children on the path to success. Some highlights of our successful work include the following:

To our community members who make supporting the local schools a priority and a focus – we thank you as well! We firmly believe in educating all children in a learning environment with high expectations. As the center of the community, all of the schools in Highland Park and Highwood are honored to Inspire, Innovate and Engage all students every day. We are grateful to our teachers, support staff, parents, grandparents, community members, administrators, and members of our Board of Education. 

Thank you,


Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

District Updates and Information – #112Leads

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

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

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

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

The measures approved are as follows:

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

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

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

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











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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survey Says — Ask, Listen, Plan, Engage, Monitor — #112Leads

Team effort goes vain when individual effort is in the wrong direction.”
– Ram Mohan











This blog post content is also published in the Highland Park Neighbors magazine December 2018 issue on page 11 (Best Version Media)

Survey Says …

In North Shore School District 112 we take community engagement and stakeholder input very seriously!

As part of the Long Range Planning process, the District worked with a telephone research partner (Fako group) as well as with an online community engagement service called Thought Exchange to solicit community input and thoughts. People are encouraged to visit the District’s Long Range Planning Web page for more information: https://www.nssd112.org/Long-RangePlanning Those efforts in addition to the 25 member Superintendent’s Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) gathered for several months to review, refine, draft, question, and advise the superintendent of schools.

In addition to community engagement for facilities and finance, we seek input on a regular basis to learn and grow as an organization. We believe that what you respect you inspect. We respect input and voice and we take action on an ongoing basis.

In addition to the statewide survey of school climate and learning conditions, 5Essentials Survey, we also conduct additional engagement surveys. It is essential for the leadership team to know what families think, what students think, and what teachers and support staff members think about the school district.

This year we conducted an INSIGHTeX organizational survey of all employees, and we have set goals by school and administrative department to act on and improve culture. The image shows that 72.41% of the 438 employees who took the survey indicate they are completely engaged and satisfied in the work they do in the school district. That survey measures culture on 15 dimensions (including communication, pride, growth, mission, quality, communication, recognition, etc.)

Starting in December, the District will be sharing the results of the student and family engagement surveys. Student voice, in addition to teacher and parent voice, is instrumental in leading the district on behalf of and with the people most impacted. Sometimes school districts overlook the voice and input of students; in our District we make it a priority to engage and involve students in our leadership. To that end, any facilities upgrades or improvements will include student and teacher voice (as well as community input) as part of the refinement process.

In addition, the District will also share the results of the Bright Bytes innovation and creative practices survey. The results of these surveys continue to drive change, improvement, and quality in our local school system. The Bright Bytes survey asks questions related to four major areas of technology impact: Classroom, Access, Skills, Environment. By learning what our stakeholders perceive, we’re able to see if there are gaps between perceptions, reality, and desired outcomes. Using survey data and the voice of the people so to speak, allows the District to lead in an inclusive and open manner.

District 112 sent information to students, teachers, and parents for completion of the Illinois mandated 5Essentials survey during the first week of December. The Illinois 5Essentials Survey provides a comprehensive picture of a school’s organizational culture in an individualized report measuring five “essentials” critical for school success:

  • Effective Leaders
  • Collaborative Teachers
  • Involved Families
  • Supportive Environment
  • Ambitious Instruction

From the U Chicago Impact site: Twenty years of research at the University of Chicago in more than 400 schools has shown that schools that were strong on at least three of the 5Essentials were 10 times more likely to make substantial gains in improving student reading and math than schools that were weak on three or more of the Essentials. Those differences remained true even after controlling for student and school characteristics, including poverty, race, gender, and neighborhood characteristics.

The survey was deemed an important component to balanced accountability under the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan by stakeholders, which resulted in state legislative changes requiring the survey annually. Principals and superintendents will receive 5Essentials Reports in March 2019. Survey results will also be reported publicly on the 5Essentials reporting site in Spring 2019 and on the State School Report Card website in Fall 2019. On behalf of the Illinois State Board of Education, UChicago Impact is providing Illinois 5Essentials to schools statewide.

Student Voice Article Published in DisruptED TV Magazine – #ASKEM

In Chapter four of our latest book Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable (2018 Rowman & Littlefield), Nick Polyak, PJ Caposey, and I start the chapter with the following quote from Dorothy Day: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.” (page 55). In chapter four we also feature the voice of high school student Kyla Guru.

In this blog post, I am sharing an article published today that shares excerpts of the conclusion of our book and highlights the special end of chapter feature we created: ASK’EM. It’s an acronym for what we suggest throughout the book about how leaders can incorporate student voice … just “ask’em”. The letters represent Ask, Support, Know, Empower, & Monitor, and throughout the book we share examples, suggestions, calls to action, etc. that leaders (and readers) can implement to incorporate student voice in their schools, organizations, communities, and settings! At the end of our book we have a special offer from human capital management firm HUMANeX Ventures for every reader to take a free Sensory Preference Inventory™.

From the book: “Continued learning and development starts at the foundation – first understanding HOW you learn best. Having a clear understanding if you are a VISUAL, AUDITORY, or KINESTHETIC learner can greatly impact the way in which you learn and grow in your life and career.”

In future blog posts I’ll share local efforts at gaining Student Voice through the Student Engagement Survey with HUMANeX Ventures (a survey being administered to all students in our district from grades 3-8 this month). For now … here is the article just published (as always, comments are encouraged and welcomed):

DisruptED TV Magazine
Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable

By Michael Lubelfeld, Nick Polyak & Phillip J. ‘PJ’ Caposey

As educators we are engaged in listening every day. As superintendents we’re also engaged in leading every day. As leaders we have tested theories and approaches to systems change for many years in suburban and rural PK-12 school systems. Recently we started writing as a way to reflect, share messages of success, and in an effort to inspire others. One of our latest projects Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable (2018 Rowman & Littlefield) underscores the value we place on student voice in the overhaul and transformation for education in our nation. In this article we’re sharing excerpts from the preface of the book that include a call to action.

Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable is about why today’s leaders need to connect with students and how to accomplish true success by giving students a voice in their own education. The premise of this book is that student voice is often, for some inconceivable reason, invisible.

The failure to systematically include students and listen to their viewpoints is a contributing factor which explains why schools have changed little since the 19th Century. This book will explore many topics ranging from digital citizenship to teacher evaluation, and we sincerely believe that by leveraging the voice of students as collaborative leaders, true school and educational transformation can and will occur.

The book is based around two central questions:

● Why should today’s school leaders engage student voice from a leadership perspective as collaborators in leading?

● How can today’s school leaders engage student voice from a leadership perspective as collaborators in leading?

Core beliefs that drive this book are largely based on research. These beliefs include that the single most impactful person in a student’s learning journey is the teacher. The second most impactful is the principal (Marzano & Waters 2005). If the teacher is a manager and the principal is a leader, congruence in the approaches of engaging the student in his own learning must exist. Additionally, confidence is necessary to amplify student voice in our schools.

We submit that taking student voice from invisible to invaluable reflects the choices made by confident leaders. Leaders in the classroom (teachers) and leaders in the office (principals) and leaders in the central office (superintendents) must exist at all levels to truly listen to student voice and for school evolution and even transformation to be possible. Throughout this book, we will continually work to convince the reader of why this paradigm shift leading to an increase in student voice is necessary and give tips and techniques on how to get the work done.

Our leadership journeys allow us to test theories of leadership and put into practice beliefs, hypotheses, thoughts, and actions. While we lead with other adults and members of the typical school community: teachers, board members, administrators, and parents, we have engaged students in leadership as well. We share our successful leadership experiences and examples of making student voices invaluable in actual leadership and governance.

This transformation is truly a win-win for students and leaders. Educators must simply do two things to begin the paradigm shift necessary to take this forward. The first is easy — believe in the brilliance of your students. The second is hard — relinquish some element of control. This book will help walk you through both of these steps while focusing on precise areas of potential change within your classroom, school, or district.

EDUCATIONAL CONTEXT — Why the book is necessary

Around the nation many leaders are implementing various forms of personalized learning. The synergy between student learning and growth and teacher direction and knowledge grows exponentially when student voice is real, true, and authentic. Long gone are the days where compliance rules the priorities of teachers and schools. We will examine personalized learning and how student voice can be amplified through personalized learning environments.

Our vision is for student/learner centered systems that we’re compelled to create. As Mike and Nick wrote about in The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today (2017 Rowman & Littlefield) we all must unlearn so that we can learn and relearn — change is not an optional process.

Today’s leaders, teachers, students, pretty much all constituent stakeholder groups, must embody the 4Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. Teaching students what it means to “be at the table” and teaching students how to think “outside of the box” opens up pathways never before seen or applied in modern school systems.

These pathways can be replicated and refined with student leadership experiences in “real life” through their schooling experiences. Student voice does not “just happen;” the success of this fundamental shift in how we ‘do school’ is dependent upon shared vision, deliberate engagement, and by teaching students how to be a part of the process. We share examples of how and why the future belongs to the students and the present-day leaders can do much to set them up for success.

With this type of engaged and partner leadership we will allow future generations to bear witness to transformed systems of schooling and society. Long gone are the days of “sage on the stage” — in order to support the “guide on the side.” Leaders can engage students and establish new norms so their input becomes invaluable. This is a call to action book for all people interested in transforming education and to improving the world.

The learning purposes and unique features of this book include:

● Establish, propose, and reinforce the “How” and the “Why” for including student voice in leadership decision making

● Provide leaders with actionable case studies and examples from the field for implementation

● Model and share new ways of incorporating authentic student voice

● Reflection questions that will generate thought and conversation around each chapter

● End of chapter feature ASK’EM, an actionable acronym, at the end of each chapter to both reinforce chapter concepts and examples as well as a call to action: Ask, Support, Know, Empower, Monitor

● Stop-Think-Act prompts, questions, problems of practice

● Commentaries and essays from students and educational leaders throughout the book. This provides additional voices on the topics on progressing with student voice from invisible to invaluable.

About the Authors

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D. @mikelubelfeld

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D.-Mike currently serves as the superintendent of schools in North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, IL. His blog is at https://mikelubelfeld.edublogs.org/ He can be found on Twitter at @mikelubelfeld and he is the co-moderator of #suptchat — the superintendent educational chat on Twitter. He and Nick Polyak authored the 2017 Rowman & Littlefield book The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today. Mike has been married to his wife Stephanie for the past 15 years and they have two children.

Nick Polyak, Ed.D. @npolyak

Nick Polyak, Ed.D.-Nick is the superintendent of Leyden Community High School District 212 in Franklin Park, IL. He can be found on Twitter at @npolyak and he is the co-moderator of #suptchat — the superintendent educational chat on Twitter. Nick has been married to his wife Kate for the past 17 years and they have four children.

Phillip j. “PJ” Caposey @MCUSDSupe

Phillip J. “PJ” Caposey, Ed.D.-PJ is the author of three books and is a sought after speaker and consultant specializing in school culture, principal coaching, effective evaluation practices, and student-centered instruction. PJ currently serves as the Superintendent of Schools for Meridian CUSD 223 in Northwest Illinois and is married to his wife Jacquie and has four children. PJ can be reached via twitter @MCUSDSupe.

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