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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

End of Year Highlights from D112 – #112Leads

“Success doesn’t come to you, you go to it.”
– Marva Collins

2018 was a big year for North Shore School District 112! With this blog post, I’m thrilled to share some highlights of 2018 as we look back on many exciting accomplishment with an eye on our future. The Future is NOW in North Shore School District 112.

  • The Long-Range Plan Phase I for the renovated and modernized middle schools in the District
  • All schools rated commendable or excellent by Illinois
  • Establishment of a guaranteed & viable curriculum for all children in all schools (new training, materials and expectations)
  • Renewed focus on communication and publicity of the changing narrative of the school district – The Future is NOW!
  • Reaching a five-year collective bargaining agreement with our North Shore Support Staff Association recently was a “win-win” for both parties! (all non-teaching and non-administrative staff)
  • Continuing our 1:1 journey by being able to provide iPads for Kindergarten – 2nd grade students!  It’s been so nice to see how iPads have helped achieve facilitate high levels of engagement and success for teachers and their students.
  • Upgraded safety and security internally and externally at all school sites, including a Visitor Management System and safety vestibules.
  • We implemented Too Good for Drugs, a youth substance use prevention program, at all schools in grades 3-8.
  • We trained all mental health professionals in the school district on a threat assessment protocol to keep our schools safe.
  • We attained a AAA bond rating from S&P Global Ratings. A AAA bond rating illustrates the exceptional degree of creditworthiness and fiscal aptitude of the district.
  • We have continued our excellence in transparency, financial reporting and budgeting; winning awards such as the ASBO Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting, for twenty-two successive years, the GFOA Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for twenty years, the ASBO Meritorious Budget Award for the past seven years.
  • Fiscal Sustainability –  We have maintained a 4.0 Financial Profile Score from the Illinois State Board of Education – every year since the fiscal year 2012.
  • We have engaged with the award-winning K12 architectural firm, Wight & Company to develop our long range facility plan.
  • We successfully transitioned to a new food service contract with OrganicLife at Northwood, Oak Terrace and Red Oak.
  •  We joined the Northern Illinois Health Insurance Program, a health insurance cooperative made up of over 30 Illinois school districts.
  • Highland Park Community Foundation awarded Northwood Social Studies teacher, Mr. Jon Mall with the Highland Park Golden Apple Award.  The selection committee considered nominations for middle school educators and the finalists for the award also included Northwood teachers Margaret Delligatti and Sarah Holsen.  All teachers were honored at the North Shore School District 112 Board of Education meeting May 15th.
  • Northwood hosted the 8th annual Day of Giving event including an inspirational assembly featuring Mr. Angel Roman from the Boys and Girls Club of Lake County.  Mr. Roman encouraged the young people in the room to give back to their community; and told them they could make a meaningful difference. Following the assembly, the students got to work setting up the Northwood gym for the Day of Giving on December 1.  Students organized clothes, toiletries, food and other necessities donated by families across District 112. Other students made blankets, cards and gift bags for local families. The 112 Education Foundation is proud to support this service-learning program.  We extend our thanks to Northwood teachers, Constance Cunningham, Ida Fiore and Caitlin Lucci, for their tremendous effort to bring this opportunity to students at Northwood and Edgewood.
  • Northwood Junior High School is the proud host of the District 112’s annual Robot Revolution Tournament and Northwood teacher Bill Steinbach is the Robot Revolution Grant recipient.
  • The Green Bay Early Childhood Center began implementation of the Math Learning Center Bridges Pre-K Program. This program directly aligns with the kindergarten programming, and will allow for Green Bay students to begin kindergarten familiar with both the format and content of math in kindergarten.
  • Jolly Phonics, a multi-sensory phonics program, was introduced in all monolingual sections of preschool. The program was paced with the intention that students will begin kindergarten with an understanding of the letter sounds. Students in Dual Language programming are focusing on sounds that are the same in both the English and Spanish languages.
  • An academic enrichment program was launched in the spring of 2018, allowing additional intervention outside of the school day for children identified as below age expectations in mathematics. In the spring of 2019, the enrichment program will include intervention in both pre-literacy and mathematics.
  • Successfully integrated Dual Language students, staff and families from Sherwood Elementary and Red Oak Elementary to form the new Red Oak Dual Language Academy.
  • Made the Top Ten in Lake County for attendance in the annual Lake County Attendance Week competition.
  • Applied for and received a Title I grant to support our struggling learners. We used these funds to begin an after school Academic Extension program. We also purchased the Imagine Learning math, Spanish and English intervention programs that are used during Academic Extension and also during the school day.
  • Successfully implemented our Student Success Block, a daily 30-minute intervention and enrichment program for all K-5 students.
  • 44% of Red Oak students exceeded national norms for growth in reading and math as measured by NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) winter assessment.  
  • Implemented a new Student Leadership group. Students initiate multiple service projects and have a voice in school spirit days and celebrations.
  • The proportion of students meeting or exceeding standards jumped from 65 percent to 84 percent in one year at Ravinia School as measured on PARCC.
  • Implemented a 5th grade Leadership program. Students participate in mentoring K-2 students within our school; Junior Coaches program for  5th graders that focuses on leadership and facilitating recess for  K-2 students. (Indian Trail & Wayne Thomas).
  • Based on the NWEA Map assessment, student growth on ELA and MATH at all grade levels, was at the highest level in school history at Wayne Thomas.
  • The 4th annual Braeside STEAM Night was fully conceived and produced by students. There were nearly 40 stations of child centered exploration from a dog dryer to elephant toothpaste to a variety of robots. The STEAM community has expanded over the years and now includes former Braeside students who return from Highland Park High School and Edgewood Middle School to share in the fun, lend a hand, and let our little scientists drive their robots.
  • Successfully transitioned to a 50/50 Dual Language allocation program model in grades K-5 (OT & RO).
  • At Oak Terrace, focus on guaranteed & viable curriculum led to increased the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards in English Language Arts from 24% to 33% and in mathematics from 18% to 24% as measured by the PARCC assessment.
  • Developed and led a summer school program specifically for at-risk students in our Title I Dual Language program which led to growth in reading and math for nearly 70% of all participants (OT).
  • Edgewood maintained a focus on giving back to the community by participating in and/or leading various successful philanthropic events. Some examples include collecting over 1,600 books to donate to Bernie’s Book Bank, collaborating in the planning, donating, and implementation of the Day of Giving at Northwood, and fundraising to provide 45 children with holiday gifts through the Phyllis Santullano Gift Drive.
  • Edgewood also hosted the first annual Grandparent Night, providing grandparents the opportunity to take a student-guided tour of the school, ask questions to a student panel, and learn about life as a middle school student from the building’s administrators and teachers.
  • In a continued effort to provide opportunities for each student to be involved and feel connected at school, Edgewood issued a survey in which students voiced their interest in various clubs and teams and proposed new ideas for activities. The results of the survey informed the introduction of various new programs at Edgewood. A few of the new offerings include Ping Pong Club, Climbing Club, Improv Club, the Fall Play, Philanthropy Club, Reach for Change, and Yoga Club.
  • Indian Trail developed a new learning community with additional students and families from the closing of Lincoln School. The merge started in the spring of 2018 and the work has continued into this school year. Students have developed new friends and families have opportunities to participate and volunteer. We are Indian Trail and looking forward to a great 2019!
  • Indian Trail celebrated the opening of our Greenhouse and Garden with a ribbon cutting ceremony that included all IT students and staff, school board and community members.
  • Students participate in fun activities such as Green Growers Garden, Coding, Robotics, Chess, Boys/Girls Sports, Books and Cooks, STEAM, Chorus and Drama (IT).
  • Indian Trail Green Growers Club donated pounds of fresh vegetables to the Moraine Township Food Pantry.

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:


Doing what I said I would do — leading for ALL –#112Leads

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”
– Zig Ziglar

So on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, at the Regular Meeting of the Board of Education, I have the opportunity to publicly, formally and officially recommend the first phase of our school district’s new Long Range Plan.

I said the Future is Now and I mean it! Our future depends on us taking the first steps toward modernization and equity. We used Thought Exchange for Community Engagement and we asked for input on configuration, scenarios, needs of the school districts. We then asked about specific examples of 9-8-7 school models with various moves and changes. Exchange 1 yielded clear input and guidance for us (see image below):

The community — even those divided on opposite ends of issues — came to common ground on the fact that the school district needs to focus on Equity, Instruction & Curriculum, Teachers & Staff, 21st Century Facilities, and Consistent Curriculum. This data set is shown below:

We also engaged with scientific telephone polling as well as a second Thought Exchange. In addition we held multiple meetings, in public, live streamed, and video archived, with questions and answers and with a great deal of thought and analysis. The process for Long Range Planning since July 1st has been a great example of community engagement, leadership, planning, and now, recommended action.

On October 30, 2018, the state of Illinois will release the Illinois School Report Cards. This expansive data, on all 852 public school districts in Illinois, will share student performance, new quality ratings as per federal law, as well as other data to inform the public as to the school district and the individual school performance. We are committed to improving every score and every measure, from attendance to math proficiency and growth, for all of our students.

This Long Range Plan as well as ongoing curriculum & instruction efforts all support and complement the efforts and vision for North Shore School District 112 and its current 10 schools and its ultimate configuration of “X” schools to Inspire Innovate and Engage each and every child and staff member in a responsive, responsible and authentic manner!

The story of our District is exciting and the narrative is about to change for the better! Please follow along at #112Leads on Twitter for examples of our excellence and our return to the clear, coherent, consistent, and focused mission of equitable access to excellent educational opportunities for all; and the vision of high quality growth and learning for all children every day.

On Tuesday, I’m recommending that the Board of Education approve (at its meeting on November 27) a $75,000,000 investment in the complete and total upgrade and modernization of both middle schools in the district.

Like I pledged to the community at my February 2018 Meet and Greet, I am leading a process designed for equitable access to excellent educational opportunities for all children at all schools. We are starting with the first steps of change that will move the district and the communities it serves forward. Below I share excerpts from a local newspaper article highlighting my incoming messaging and vision about leading for equity:

From: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/highland-park/news/ct-hpn-lubelfeld-outlines-d112-agenda-tl-0222-20180214-story.html

“…He reminded Lubelfeld about the divisiveness that previously existed over perceived or actual inequities between schools on the north and south ends of the district. “That perception, if not reality, has reared its ugly head over the past year or so,” said Henry, who asked Lubelfeld about his ideas to address that.

Lubelfeld said that once the district upgrades its facilities and implements its facilities plan, all buildings will be fresh and modern, and a school on one end of town will feel like a school on another end of town.

The schools also will offer the same learning opportunities for students, and the curriculum – whether in English or Spanish – will be uniform across the district and not specific to individual schools, he said.

“When you see equity of educational opportunity, and you see upgraded facilities that don’t break the bank – or anybody’s bank – things are going to be better,” the future District 112 superintendent said.

“We are not going to have any perceived losers or winners,” he said, adding, “We are all going to win.””

The Long Range Plan recommendation is posted on the District website: https://www.nssd112.org/Long-RangePlanning (https://www.nssd112.org/cms/lib/IL02217852/Centricity/Domain/1018/Long%20Range%20Plan%20Recommendation%20Oct%2023%202018.pdf)

Excerpts from the Long Range Plan Recommendation are shared in this blog post for reference:

“This Long Range Plan Phase I Recommendation is focused on equitable access to educational opportunities for all students in modernized learning facilities designed to support academic and social-emotional learning and growth. This is the first set of steps designed to improve education in North Shore School District 112 (NSSD112).

…our number one priority is to ensure that students achieve academically, socially, and emotionally. To achieve this goal, we have been focusing on our motto: Inspire…Innovate…Engage.  …This year’s intense focus on providing a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all students in all schools every day is the result of the district losing its way and steering into non-educational focus areas over the past 7+ years. … Phase I will impact all students in the school district since every child will attend Northwood or Edgewood before matriculating to high school.

We proudly serve the people of Highland Park, Highwood, members of the United States military on Ft. Sheridan, and residents of the the Town of Ft. Sheridan in Highland Park.  … Together with the Board we will lead the district back to a position of greatness and leadership. …

This first phase can be done without a tax increase to residents. We are quite proud that this first phase moves us ‘light years’ ahead of where we are; we are mindful that learning from past history, we cannot repair in one fell swoop that which has been broken over time. …

This first phase, to address long overdue needs at the two middle schools, will address and affect and impact long overdue improvements to educational quality, facilities, equity, student learning needs, and overall community growth at the middle schools. …

Even after spending around $75 million on both middle schools, the financial realities and needs will exist in terms of the district needing more than $70 million in remaining facility needs in the K-5 and PK school sites. With phase I, we are dedicated to creating the best middle school experience possible for our students by impacting the two facilities that will serve all of our students. …Right now we want to make significant investments into the middle school facilities where all children in the school district will attend prior to completion of their elementary school careers.

The revised, updated, draft Long Range Plan Phase I (to be formally recommended for approval to the Board of Education at the November 27, 2018,Regular Board meeting) calls for the following:

  • Major renovations at Northwood Middle School at a cost of approximately $40 Million (build out for up to 600 students)
  • Major renovations at Edgewood Middle School at a cost of approximately $35 Million (build out for up to 950 students)
  • Use $20,000,000 of the $49 Million fund balance
  • Use of $55 Million in Alternative Revenue Bonds 
  • Option Areas & Dual Language Potential Boundary Proposals
  • Plan to save/spend $3,500,000 a year on school upgrades, repairs, and modernization.


Update – Long Range Planning Focus on our WHY – #112Leads

“When fear knocks, let passion, faith, responsibility, or courage answer the door.”
– Unknown 

On September 12, 2018, the Superintendent’s Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC) held its second meeting. At this meeting my team and I brought our focus back to the “WHY” the long-range planning process is needed and the “HOW” we can move forward on our journey. Please take some time and review the presentation document as well as the video (both are embedded in this blog post).

The information gives an update as to where the LRPC committee is at in its process; and it lends clarity and background to the latest proposal. Remember that the LRPC advises the superintendent and then the superintendent/administration makes a recommendation to the Board of Education.

The next meetings related to the Long Range Plan for North Shore School District 112 are as follows:
Sept. 24 – LRPC (to be streamed live 5:30-7:30)
Oct. 2 – Board of Education Finance Meeting
Oct. 4 – LRPC (to be steamed live 5:30-7:30)
Oct. 9 – Board of Education Facilities Meeting
Oct. 23 – Formal Presentation to the Board – “the Long Range Plan”
Nov. 27 – Board action on the Long Range Plan

For the past 7+ years our school district community has been through a great deal — we are turning a corner and we are on the cusp of greatness once again. Hang in there – stay focused, let’s work together and let’s restore our historic district to prominence and excellence.

Educational Focus – As a public school district, our number one priority is to ensure that students achieve academically, socially, and emotionally. To achieve this goal, we have been focusing on our motto: Inspire…Innovate…Engage.  All NSSD 112 initiatives focus on our motto in order to ensure excellence. This year’s intense focus on providing a guaranteed & viable curriculum for all students in all schools every day is the result of the district losing its way and steering into non-educational focus areas over the past 7+ years. We’re correcting our course and we’re supporting our excellent teachers and support staff as we operate as a school system as opposed to a system of schools.

Financial Planning and Stewardship – As a public school district, we are mindful that strong schools build strong communities, and that our source of revenue comes from our stakeholders (parents and community). We are committed to building a strong school district while being fiscally responsible. In the slide deck embedded below, and in the video (also embedded below the slide deck) we are sharing clear actionable financial planning in support of the Long Range Plan. Our plan involves spending 75% of current fund balances (savings account/”rainy day funds”) as well as issuing NON-REFERENDUM bonds called Alternative Revenue Bonds (guaranteeing the payment over 20 years from operations), closing two additional schools and enhancing educational and operational efficiencies to sustain our future.

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 improvement of education. 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.


Our aim is equitable educational opportunities for every child — equitable, not necessarily equal — as shown in the image, equity is fair, equality is same. Sometimes … all the time … individuals need what is best for them. My dream is 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.

An analogy I use from time to time about personalized learning experiences is related to shopping. In the example I ask the audience to consider the shopping experience for deodorant (personal hygiene). In the men’s deodorant aisle at the local grocery store, for example, there are multiple brands, various scents, time delayed action, shapes, sizes, etc. The objective is for personal hygiene in this example, basically use deodorant as part of our cultural norm to present a pleasant aroma. The objective is for the grocery store to meet the various, individualized, personalized and differentiated deodorant tastes and preferences and interests and uses for the individual shopper. So if a man (in this example) wants to present the aroma of sandlewood ice or fresh sport lime, he has the ability to meet the objective of presenting a pleasant aroma, and he gets to use his unique interests, skills, abilities, etc. An equal deodorant shopping experience would have one brand with one size and one aroma — yes, everyone meets the objective of presenting with a pleasant aroma — but an equitable deodorant shopping experience is tailored to the individual’s interests, desires, preferences, background, etc. In order for us to provide educational opportunities that celebrate and enhance the unique and valuable differences our students bring forth every day we need to make multiple changes and significant improvements all across the district. I have faith in our teachers, staff, administrators, board, parents and community.

Our journey continues and I am convinced that our complex work will lead to positive powerful results for our students, staff, and community!

Slide Deck Presentation Shared at the September 12, 2018, Long-Range Planning Committee Meeting

Video of 2nd Long Range Planning Committee Meeting

Long Range Planning In NSSD112 — #112Leads

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
– Helen Keller

In the school district where I serve as the superintendent of schools, North Shore School District 112, serving the people of Highland Park, Highwood, and the Town of Ft. Sheridan in northeast Illinois, I have the challenge of leading a Long Range Planning Process. Some would say this process started in the 1990s — others would say it’s never been quite refined or finished, and still others would say a recent iteration almost tore the communities apart.

So a little history and connection … on July 1, 1993 two

educational firsts took place (I’m sure there were more than two, but the two about which I will refer are related to this post). One of the firsts that took effect on July 1, 1993 was the “birth” of North Shore School District 112 ; the other was the official start of my career in public education & public service. I became a middle school teacher at Blackhawk Middle School in Bensenville, IL. Since 1993 my current school district has been in service, and since 1993 I have been in service as a teacher and educational leader.

I first joined the North Shore School District in 1997, and then after four positions (teacher, associate principal, principal, assistant superintendent) and 13 years, I  left to become a superintendent in two other Chicago area public elementary school districts. This year on July 1st I returned as the superintendent of schools here in D112! My journey brings me back to an historic and proud school district in need of vision, guidance, and direction. The past eight years in this school district have been quite difficult. Academic achievement ratings have plummeted, physical facilities conditions have deteriorated, morale and climate have suffered and two of the district’s schools were closed. Long successful systems and structures fell apart and around 700 students left the system and were not replaced. When I left there were 4600 students and today we have just under 3900.

The Board of Education selected me for this post last December with the expectation I would execute policy, vision, mission, and planning. The Board has bestowed upon me the great gift of leadership and the great challenge of leadership. Together with the Board we will lead the district back to a position of greatness and leadership. Over the past few years the district has drifted off course and has, in many, many ways, lost its way.

So the challenges before the community and me and the Board of Education are to identify, define, recommend, reflect upon, plan, and act on a Long-Range Plan. The exciting part is that predecessor boards and administrators and community groups have done a great deal of work that provides a foundation for my administration’s planning! The focus on “reconfiguration” and a failed referendum campaign took the eyes off of many necessary systems and nearly broke the communities apart emotionally.

In the 62 calendar days since I became the superintendent of schools, I have been engaged in many transition activities that include the commissioning of and meeting of the Superintendent’s Long-Range Planning Committee. In one of our communication videos, https://youtu.be/nDZpdp5V4MA, the Future Starts Now, I share that I am called back to this school district for change leadership, change management, and change for and on behalf of ALL students and staff. I’m humbled to have the opportunity to right many wrongs and steer the ship of education on a new and right course for the next years, decades, scores, and beyond.


In the video and other communications, I also reference the Long-Range Planning process and the synthesis of the old ideas and realities and the new ideas and realities … we are not recreating the wheel so to speak. We are taking the work and input of the groups past and conducting community engagement of the group present to recommend a new plan. For our school district it’s time to UNLEARN.

On September 12, 2018, from 5:30pm-7:30pm, at Red Oak School, the Long-Range Planning Committee will reconvene for the purposes of learning about the funding and finance plans for the reconfiguration and renovation of our schools and district as well as for the chance to learn the findings of the 2nd ThoughtExchange and the Fako telephone survey.


We are NOT going to ask for a Referendum to raise money to pay for long overdue improvements to our schools. Instead, my team and I will show how the last 7 years of austerity have actually turned to good in terms of positioning us for the present and future. On September 24th the committee will meet to discuss and review the potential dissolution of assets (real property, historic work, land, etc.) as well as the potential curation of assets moving forward.

Briefly the District operated 12 schools in 2017-18, 10 schools this year, in 2018-19, and we’re set to operate 9 schools in 2019-20. My recommendation will reflect building on to a new location for our 225 student early childhood center (with room to expand the early learning offerings for our three and four year old students). It will also recommend establishing a new location for the Operations & Maintenance & Transportation Department (currently housed in a trailer and a warehouse in the parking lot of one of our schools) and the various administration departments housed in non-collaborative silos in our 90 year old building.

In addition, I will make recommendations for expenditures in a coherent and reasoned manner for schools as well as suggest potential boundary changes as we contemplate sticking with 9 schools or moving to some iteration of an 8 or even 7 school model.

I anticipate sharing greater detail with the planned changes on the 12th, the 24th as the final meeting of this input group which will take place on October 4th where they will refine the plans and ideas and make their advice to me in preparation for my report to the Board of Education at the October 23, 2018, board meeting.

Ideally the Long Range Plan will be approved at the November 27, 2018, board meeting. The future is now indeed! Stay tuned for more updates! Stay informed to know what’s happening!




New Beginnings – #112Leads

July 1, 2018

Welcome to my new blog!

My old blogs can be found at: Blog from 2013-2018 and

Blog 2009-2013

I’ve been blogging in one form or another since 2009. Today I start my 26th year in public education, my 9th as a public school superintendent, and my 14th (with an eight year gap) in North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, Illinois. Since December 2017 I have been engaged in a transition from the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 to the North Shore School District 112. During the transition from one district to another I took a few months off from blogging.

Why do I blog?? Communication is an evolving process reflective of the needs of the community, and as such, this blog and the district’s methods of communication – pushing and pulling – speaking and listening – are likely going to change and evolve as a result of needs and actions of the district and the superintendent’s office. I blog to communicate, share, reflect, listen, learn and grow as a leader.

I welcome and encourage comments and input! I am grateful to be a part of the educational system and the community. I am grateful to work with an outstanding group of educators, community members, parents, students, etc. I am grateful to learn and grow and support the learning and growth of others as the chief educational leader in the community!

As a superintendent, there are multiple ways in which I communicate. I communicate via the District website, via blogs from our teachers and administrators, via Twitter and Facebook, via the District app, via surveys and phone calls, and of course via personal, face to face communication, one on one and in group settings, like in a Town Hall Meeting. On Twitter, the new hashtag, or bookmark, for the district is #112Leads – check the hashtag on Twitter or via a web search to see messages with the district tag. I have also written a few books and published a number of magazine and journal articles. Communication is essential for a leader and I look for multiple ways to share our messages of educational excellence. On this blog I’ll mix personal thoughts and ideas, district initiatives, updates, and business, and links to content I believe will be of interest to readers.

For example, the short  Video Montage of Pictures from Puerto Rico Relief Through Leadership Mission June 2018  highlights a recent service trip in which I was a part. A group of Lake and Cook County, IL superintendents, principals, business partners went to Rio Grande, Puerto Rico to launch a service and relief partnership. From painting, light concrete work, supply donations and computer donations, we also started to form relationships with teachers, administrators, and community members. Our aim is to connect teachers in our districts with teachers in the school La Escuela Rafael de Jesus for an ongoing partnership. We plan to come back and continue our work and support. Members of our team me with representatives in the Puerto Rican House of Representatives. More on this later…

This week in our district we’ll be launching a Thought Exchange community engagement survey/engagement as we’re going to hit the ground running in terms of listening and learning.

Once “live” the Thought Exchange will be seeking communication on district configuration (priorities, potential school closures, potential boundary changes, etc.) — from the welcome message:

The configuration of our District is one of my first priorities as your new Superintendent. Although the reality of budget constraints and closing schools presents challenges, I believe by drawing on the strengths of our District and working together, we can address these challenges head on. I know you have engaged over configuration many times over the past several years. It’s time to arrive at some decisions. To this end, we’d like to bring our community together again with this Thoughtexchange to seek your perspectives on change and as well as your hopes for our district.

On July 28th, our Long-Range Planning Committee will look at the results of this exchange along with feedback we have gathered previously. Our goal is to synthesize all findings and arrive at several configuration options for D112. By the fall, we will share specific configuration plans for you to provide input on.

The Thought Exchange will be live this week:

For more information on Long Range Planning, please visit: https://www.nssd112.org/Long-RangePlanning

It would be very helpful for the committee to hear your thoughts on the factors that should be considered in the development of our plans.

The Transition In this time I have started to meet with members of the Board and administration, local government officials, civic leaders, foundation leaders, and others. I have also conducted a great deal of research on the last few years’ worth of configuration and reconfiguration efforts launched by previous administrators and boards. Click on the link below:

Recent video the district shared regarding our upcoming work and leadership

We will continue to use video, photos, and other forms of media to communicate and share our messages and to listen and learn as well.

Please check back or subscribe to the blog for automatic updates.

Please share your thoughts and feedback.


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