Mike Lubelfeld's Blog

#112LEADS #SUPTCHAT

Tag: Learning (page 1 of 2)

Superintendent Summer Learning #112Leads

June 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superintendent and host Kirk Koennecke

Airplane on tarmac at O’Hare airport before takeoff

Beautiful Chicago, IL from the air shortly after take off

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

Our transportation – awesome bus drivers keeping us safe!

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

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

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

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

Executive Summary of Breakout Sessions

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and know that comments are always welcomed.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So …. What do I do?

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

I am facilitating a discussion with one of our presenters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflections from Bottle School Trip – Guatemala 2023 July

Bottle School Project with Hug it Forward

Reflections from  Tecpan, Guatemala

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

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

Before bottle walls are constructed

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

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

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

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

Education is Life

I’m a fan of the Apple TV show “Ted Lasso” and one of the characters, Dani Rojas, has a saying “futbol is life” … so, in the spirit of Dani Rojas, “Education is Life” is the title of this blog post!
I’ve been a public school educator in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA since 1992. I’ve been a superintendent of schools (PK-8) since 2010. Education really has been and in some ways “is” my life too!! My daughter is in college studying to become a special education teacher, my son is a park district day camp counselor, my wife taught pre-school and worked in park district recreation, so I guess it’s in our DNA as a family too!
Education, of course, is essential – everywhere.
Together with my son and our other adventurers, we’re helping construct a bottle school in the indigenous Mayan community of Zaculeu in the Tecpan region. This is our third such trip together and my seventh since my first experience on the 2016 LifeTouch Memory Mission to Constanza, Rio Grande, in the Dominican Republic. I have written on my blog about past experiences and adventures! Feel free to search the blog (enter Dominican Republic or service learning).
The father son time is priceless, the father/educator in me also finds this time affirming and spiritual on many levels. To be able to serve and share these Peak Moments with my son is greater than any words I can piece together. The opportunity to make new friends from around my country as well as from all over the world is pretty amazing too.
During this bottle school building trip and Guatemalan culture, history, and ecology trip, we are fortunate to have amazing guides and leaders. From Guatemala, we have Vivi, Andres, Lilian, Enrique, Christy & Marta, from the USA Hug it Forward team we have Adam and Jennifer. Together with veteran Gary and so many others – we are engaged in lifetime memories and incredible learning. Our team is aged 9 to 67, we hail from multiple races, religions, ethnicities, vocations, locations, and together we are now one!
Working alongside of our Guatemalan hosts, working with the children of Zaculeu, and building walls made of eco bricks to help demonstrate care for the ecological needs of our planet, we learned, lived, felt, experienced, and did each day on this incredible set of experiences.
When we arrived in Zaculeu, as the first representatives from Hug it Forward, ever, and among the very few foreigners who ever have come to visit and serve with the Mayan people of the village, we were welcomed LARGE! The assembly from the nearly 400 students in grades K-6, the teachers, the principal, the mayor and the village elders, the parent organization and many of the parents of the children – we knew we were not in Kansas anymore! The assembly with speeches, songs, dances, signs, and an unbelievably warm welcome was so energizing and so motivating, that when we got to the job site, the excitement was palatable.
I’ll share a bunch of photos as a picture is worth “1000 words” in an effort to illustrate the incredible set of experiences — words alone cannot capture the power of this experience and even the photos & videos don’t do it justice – but I’m so moved and so inspired, that I am compelled to share my story.
Feel free to follow Hug It Forward on Facebook and on Instagram to see not only our trip, but previous and future trips. Anyone with the motivation can reach out and serve.
Service, education, cultural immersion, and more is what we found on this trip. Food was prepared for us daily by cooks Marta and Christy – the food was outstanding! Enrique drove us in our bus (chariot) through city streets, highways, country/rural roads, mountains, hills, and dirt roads with angles approaching 80 degree inclines – incredible!
We also met individuals who shared their personal stories and histories regarding various timely topics including the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996), migration from Guatemala to the United States, economic conditions in the nation, social history, and much, much, more.
We also engaged with local artisans who make their living creating cultural and personal effects for sale and for more than a “side gig” – for some folks, this is their primary income.
As I write these words, I realize, as best as I try, nothing can capture the power of this trip and the series of peak moments more than actually experiencing this, but my aim and my effort is to celebrate the good and highlight the hope of serving, learning, getting out of one’s comfort zone, and joining amazing people who do this all the time.
Education in Guatemala is different than education in the United States. The public school system is not always present, fully available, or even funded in the rural/indigenous areas of Guatemala where we were serving. There were classrooms from a USAAID project in 1987 and in 1993, and then there is our project in 2023! The classrooms for this village of Zaculeu serve children in grades K-5 — there are not classrooms for children in middle school, grades 7-9 (YET). High schools in Guatemala are fee based – not free.
Creating classrooms for children in grades K-6 and ultimately in grades 7-9 changes lives and changes cultural, historical, and economic opportunities and access to opportunities for generations of children. This bottle school project in which we are involved is one step to provide chances, hope, opportunities, and change for people.
Our public ambassador programming and efforts represent efforts afloat all over the world and efforts I have had the privilege of participating in in the USA (Puerto Rico), in the Dominican Republic and now, in Guatemala! In addition to the bottle school construction, the engagement with the villagers via the welcome ceremony, the artisan markets, and the community walk/hike and home visits, we also visited sacred Mayan archeological sites, learned from first hand historical accounts and engaged with the powerful beauty of this incredible country!
Sharing more images of our incredible journey to Guatemala!

Guatemala Service Trip Culture School Building 2023

Guatemala 2023
Tecpan, Guatemala July 2023

Justin (my son) and I ventured from Chicago to Miami and from Miami to Guatemala City, Guatemala. We are serving, learning, exploring, and traveling to Guatemala with Hug it Forward, https://hugitforward.org/ , on a service, mission, culture, education, and ecological trip. Hug it Forward works with Serve the World – they are two organizations dedicated to making the world a better place. The Hug it Forward Bottle School Project is what Justin and I are investing our time in during this trip. Together with about 15 other people from the US States of Illinois, Georgia, Oregon, Texas, Minnesota, & New York, plus group members from France, we are working with our Guatemalan hosts, friends, and leaders.

Hug it Forward has engaged in about 140 bottle school projects over the past decade.

From their website, describing what a Bottle School is:

Bottle classrooms are constructed using eco-bricks, which are plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. During the project process, entire communities come together to build a more environmentally responsible educational space for their future.

Bottle classrooms are built using eco-bricks, which are plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash. Our bottle classrooms are built using the established method of post-and-beam construction. The foundations, columns and beams are made from concrete reinforced with rebar. Unlike cinder-blocks which are not very environmentally responsible, we use eco-bricks in our constructions. As a result, our projects are much cheaper to build when compared to the more traditional building methods and materials, they work to clean up the environment, provide the space for real discussion about local environmental obstacles, and involve the entire community in their construction, resulting in a sense of pride and ownership

The people of Zaculeu collected 10,000 (yes, ten thousand) plastic drink bottles, filled them with debris to make them stable and full, and these became the “eco-bricks” to find a home as insulation in the walls of their school’s new classrooms. If they did not collect the “trash” it would have been burned, discarded, or placed in a landfill. The community collected the bottles and the trash – they cleaned up their area, their streets, their homes – and they prepared to welcome us to help them construct the walls of their school. Private donors funded the costs via donations to Hug it Forward for the skilled laborers to construct the flooring, roofs, structure, and masonry – some other Hug it Forward groups helped the skilled laborers, the government of Guatemala funded the masonry, and our group built the walls with the students of the school and members of the community! Our bottle school project was with the community, by the community, and with our help – it’s their lasting legacy of ecological awareness, activism, and educational commitment.

Subsequent blog posts will share more details and more images!

What are DMGroup Breakthrough Teams Results in D112? #112Leads

In the 2021-2022 school year, we chose to implement a robust planning and results-oriented project at both K-5 dual language (Spanish/English) schools in the District, Oak Terrace and Red Oak. Our main work has always been to create conditions that support student growth, learning, and teacher collective efficacy. In this post, I’m sharing some images that show graphically how incredible the student growth, learning, and performance was in this 10 week initiative last year.

The results focused approach, led by a team from strategic partner DMGroup (from Boston, MA), helps teams of leaders, teachers, and educational support staff refine their sense of urgency and target professional efforts to impact student growth and learning. We worked with DM Group on a number of challenging projects over the past few years (reopening in COVID, Student Services/EL audit, MTSS planning and implementation).

Firstly, in District 112, our motto is Inspire, Innovate, Engage; and we firmly believe each child can learn and grow – every day. We stand firmly for equitable access to educational opportunities for each child every day. We take pride in the excellence of our teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, and Board.

 When we learn how to do better – we do better. When we make a mistake, we own it – explain it – and learn from it (and take efforts not to repeat it). After the devastating impacts of the COVID global pandemic (on society, learning, social connection, etc.) we reached out to experts in strategic leadership to see how we could improve and enhance our impact on learning to help our students emerge successfully.

Student success and district success are measured in multiple ways.  Pleasesee a previous blog post to get a sense of how I measure “success” (culture, engagement, service, assessment, etc.). Search Results for “Measure succes” – Mike Lubelfeld’s Blog

The point of working with the DMGroup on Breakthrough Teams comes from their motto: “Successful Change Programs Begin with Results”. The focus of the initiative is to focus on results – not barriers; not challenges; not the “why nots;” not the “yea buts;” but results.  Let’s make an impact.

 They acknowledge psychological, organizational and cultural (org. Culture) barriers such as: “I’m doing all I can;” “It’s overwhelming;” “It’s not MY problem;” etc… .  And then share a team of strategic consultants to support the existing organizational structures and  help guide questions to and for student learning/growth and teacher learning/growth to work around, through and over those barriers to ultimately bring them down.

The cool part about working with the DMGroup on Breakthrough teams is that we had the opportunity to take existing structures (teacher team planning/group thinking time) student learning (using assessment tools), instructional coaching (District teacher leaders), administrative collaboration (co-designing and considering solutions) all to help us do our work better.

 

The DMGroup Breakthrough Teams program is focused on 10 weeks of intense, targeted, focused planning, ideation, succeeding, failing, learning, and re-ideating. The District, the School and the Teams work together to make the best decisions with the information at hand in real time on behalf of the learning. It’s an amazing professional experience – and, in D112, it yielded groundbreaking results for kids (and teachers) last year at Red Oak and Oak Terrace Schools.

We focused on our dual language schools with multi-lingual students in the District’s historic and long running magnet/choice instructional program. English Learners in the District have traditionally had challenging performance on standardized assessments, and the focus on their learning and needs, first, with this innovative program, proved that every child (regardless of “box to check”) can learn and grow in the proper conditions. We helped our teachers create the proper conditions and focus, and we co-created professional planning space to establish a results orientation.  And the results justify and support this effort.

As mentioned, in this post, I’m sharing some slides that show graphically how incredible the student growth, learning, and performance was in this 10 week initiative last year.

On April 11, at an upcoming school Board meeting, I will share a detailed presentation with two of my colleagues, Lilli Melamed (Principal at Oak Terrace School) and Colleen Goodrich (Associate Principal at Red Oak School last year and Wayne Thomas school this year).

 In June, we’ll share this year’s results from this year’s Breakthrough Teams experience at the five K-5 schools with traditional (English only) education, in grades kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.

Thanks for reading the blog! Check out the podcast, our upcoming board meetings, and general District communications as we share our journey of leadership, experiences, learning, growth, and results oriented focus.

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

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

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

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

August 2, 2022

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

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

Justin painting and learning a lot of Spanish from Ken

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

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

Pam was an amazing painter!

We all helped wherever we could.

Friendship between our two nations.

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

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

The beautiful views of the countryside were breathtaking.

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

Jan was an excellent painter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 31, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for following our adventures.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Angel’s church service. Welcoming and engaging.

 

Mission, Culture & Service Trip to Dominican Republic – 2022

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

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

And I also wrote about that trip three years later, Link to Anniversary Post

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

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

July 30, 2022

Mike and Justin leave the USA and head to the Dominican Republic. Beyond the 4:30am wake up and the 8pm arrival at the hotel at our destination, the “dash” or the “in between” is what really matters. We woke up, we were mentally prepared for the journey — eager with excitement, anxious with anticipation, and uncertain of all the details working out (plane from ORD to MIA from MIA to SDQ, meeting with the group, getting on the bus, making it to the middle of the Dominican Republic, meeting new friends, getting ready to immerse in another culture in a new land, etc.).

The journey, the adventure, the learning, the service, the reflection, the “what now” is what’s really cool about all of this! Justin and I are two of four people from Illinois. There are others from Minnesota, Arkansas, Washington, New Hampshire, Oregon, and of course, our hosts from the Dominican Republic.

After we arrived at our hotel, our home base in Constanta, DR for the week, we ate dinner. Food is a huge part of culture, dining together is a nice, subtle way to embrace and immerse in the new and different. Following dinner we engaged in some cool orientation and get to know you activities, we thought, we spoke, we shared, we even jumped around and danced a bit, all in the spirit of living and serving in the present.

Pastor Angel, our host and the local visionary leader who is responsible for so much good in the communities he serves and represents welcomed us. He shared the history of the past decade of work in the communities (school building, community center, government acknowledgement and support, and more). He thanked us for being part of the mission, vision, values, and goals of so many, and the impact and legacy of the service. We’re invited friends and partners. We serve and learn along side our Dominican hosts.

We are here in the service of humanity and the bond of love and service. As an educator and as a father, it’s great to see my two worlds integrate and unite.

Over the past decade, and due to Angel’s hard work, leadership, and vision, he acknowledged the “harvest” of good from all of this fellowship. This is his community; we are invited members, servant leaders from so many groups (including World Servants, the group we’re with on this trip) and we are now part of the DNA of Constanta and the La Vega/Rio Grande region.

Some images of our 4 hour bus ride up from sea level in Santo Domingo to about 4000 feet altitude. More to come this week! Thanks for checking our this set of peak moments for me and Justin.

 

Me and Justin on the airplane at O’Hare in Chicago getting ready for a trip of a lifetime!

On the mission trip, we brought donations of school supplies, painting supplies and tools and first aid kit materials.

We landed in Santo Domingo on the South Coast (Caribbean) and we drove for about 4 hours up the mountains into the center of the beautiful country. I share views and vistas in each of the posts.

We arrived on my birthday and the team surprised me with a cake, a candle, a song and this was just the start of many celebrations and peak moments.

The Dominican Republic is an island nation, it shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. We arrived in Santo Domingo, traveled north and stayed in La Vega, Constanza, at the Hotel Altocerro.

The red “pin” depicts our location with respect to Santo Domingo.

This is the shirt I received in 2016 on the Life Touch Memory Mission I participated in. This trip was a reunion trip of sorts, several of us were alumni of previous trips. One of the families on the trip attended service trips multiple times. They were inspired by an alumna from a prior trip!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership is a Team Sport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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