Open Letter to Community – Re: Racism, Equality & Freedom

“Let no man pull you low enough to hate him.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

June 1, 2020

An Open Letter to our Community,

The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, brings racial violence to the forefront of our country and our psyche as a nation.  While our nation and local communities have made strides regarding racial equality over the years, the reality is, our nation has a lot of work to do.  The current sadness I feel and that is felt around the nation and world is not sadness that should be present in our society. We are all and we are each better than this. Everyone deserves respect and honor as a human being.

Our school district takes great pride in serving families of many races, creeds, ethnicities, religions, languages, etc.   While we value these as strengths of our district, we continue to look for ways to respect and engage our differences. In the days, months, and years ahead, our district will need to engage students and families in exploring their own identities and learning through a lens/perspective different from their own. We must go beyond celebrating diversity in surface-level ways. It’s time to go deeper. It’s time to raise the generation that will erase the legacies of institutionalized racism.

I recently watched the History Channel miniseries on Ulysses S. Grant, it was a three day, six-hour documentary of Grant’s life, leadership, trials & tribulations. It also chronicles the American Civil War and the Reconstruction efforts in the South. Through literal bloodshed, slavery in the US was abolished and racial equality was legislated and put forth into law. In the decades that followed the US Civil War, the evils of institutionalized racism reinstituted a 2nd class society for people of color. Each time achievements were made in our nation, there were steps backward. Perhaps this is the time for us to step forward and stay forward.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Dual Language Two-Way Immersion, Spanish-English program in District 112. The blending of race, culture, language, ethnicity, and personal family histories serve to strengthen our schools, our children, and our communities. I’m proud to oversee an ethnically and linguistically inclusive educational program.

Standards-aligned curriculum & instruction serve to support the facilitation of balanced and thoughtful learning in all grades PK-8. Flexible changes in school boundaries and attendance centers sometimes appeared to be the greatest challenges and “problems” we faced in our district. World and national events surely put all of this into perspective as we reflect on the abundance and joy in our school district. If ever there was a time for perspective — it is now!

As we reflect on recent national events (racial oppression and inequity) and global events (worldwide Pandemic bringing nations to a close), I call upon us all to rise up above the myopic views that sometimes stifle true understanding and growth. In North Shore School District 112,  we are committed to educating each one of our students. We are also committed to supporting each member of the staff.  We stand by equity, justice, kindness, respect, and good character. It is no longer enough to be against racism and oppression, we must become anti-racist and accomplices in the fight for equality and justice for all.         

Remember our motto is Inspire…Innovate…Engage through our collective efforts and unity in kindness and good we can help to create a more just and bias-free society. While we endure the uncertainty of a Pandemic and we bear witness to the tragedy of racism and systemic oppression, it is my belief that we can unite and learn and grow in partnership for the good and right!

While we commit to embedding the tenets of social justice and anti-racism in our core, we are not there yet. We have work to do to actualize equality in both action and results. We are committed to this work and to ensuring that each child is able to grow in an educational environment that is safe and actualizes their greatness. To our students and families of color, I commit to start with me. I commit to not just reflect and discuss but to act upon injustice. I commit to acknowledge the rich contributions of Blacks and Latinos in the curriculum, to both listen and to act. I commit to using my power and privilege to fight against racist policies and practices. I commit to lead a school district that pays back the educational and societal debt that is owed to you.

With hope and respect,

Mike

Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Impact of a Teacher – #112Leads

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snapshots of Success in District 112 – #112Leads

“We rise by lifting others.”– Robert Ingersol 


I recently posted a podcast episode with the information contained in this blog post, if you’re interested, you can listen:

In North Shore School District 112, I’m proud to report that our present is bright and our future will be brighter! We use various metrics to measure and gauge our success. For reference, check an earlier blog post: Measurement of Success – Blog Post

In today’s blog post, I’m sharing two slide presentations and a few extra slides that highlight some recent and current success in the District. The first presentation below was shared with the District’s PTO President’s Council (PTO refers to the Parent Teacher Organization). This is the formal leadership group representing the parents in the District’s 10 schools. In this report, the results of the Family Engagement Survey reveal significant growth in the areas of the school (& District) satisfaction/pride / and perception of our services.

My report from the January 21, 2020, Board Meeting focused on the District’s “Big Three” areas of focus for the 2019-2020 school year, which are Closing Achievement Gaps, Facility Upgrades and Modernization, and Portrait of a Graduate. The report began with student success data from the winter Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

Data shows students in 1st grade are showing the highest achievement out of all grades at 66% projected to meeting or exceeding state standards. I also highlighted additional strong growth in multiple grade levels over the past three years, particularly in mathematics. These trends point to the success of the Full Day Kindergarten program, multiple curricular implementations K-8, professional development, implementation of instructional coaches, and the hard work of our teaching staff and students. 

The report went on to cover the Northwood Modernization Project, which is on time and is within 1% of its budget. I mentioned multiple ways for the public to engage with the process including the Long Range Plan webpage, drone footage and a live feed of the construction site. It was also mentioned that in July of 2020 Phase 2 of the Long-Range Plan will commence with a Thought Exchange community engagement process that will be used to help form a recommendation that will be presented in April 2021.

The report concluded with information regarding several highlights including the Portrait of a Graduate, the 5Essentials Parent Survey, the Innovation Learning Parent Survey, and other ways to engage with the district. These communications tools include the Lighthouse 112 podcast, the district mobile application, e-newsletters, #112Leads, Facebook, and Twitter.

At the Board meeting I did not present the Reading MAP data for time/efficiency, but, in this blog post, I’m sharing the comparable Winter MAP Reading data below (see images).

All in all our District work is showing progress and upward trends!

Reflecting on Global Service – 3 Year Anniversary of Dominican Republic Memory Mission Trip

“We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.”
– Konrad Adenauer

Three years ago I had an amazing opportunity to serve the people of Rio Grande, Constanza, the Dominican Republic through the Lifetouch Memory Mission as a representative of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

Three years ago I wrote several blog posts about the experiences (I’m sharing one of the last posts in this blog post as a re-post as I reflect upon the third anniversary of this life-changing service). In addition, at the end of this post and the original posts, I’m including a collection of photos taken while on site in the Dominican Republic.


As we approach our nation’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday and often commemorated with days of service in communities around the nation (as well as in Deerfield, IL, and in Highland Park, IL), I was connecting with friends from the 2016 Memory Mission and reviewing Facebook memories and images, and I wanted to reshare some of the first-hand accounts I shared as a member of a global service experience in the hopes of sharing, inspiring, and communicating the value of serving others.

Whether the service is on your street, in your neighborhood, in your city or village, in your county, in your state, in your nation, or in our world, there is value in service and in serving. There is value in opening your lenses from where you view the world to the lenses where others view the world. There is value in learning to listen, love, and understand reality different from your own. There is value and lasting impact & legacy in serving humanity, and that is what the Lifetouch Memory Mission did for me and does for countless others.


Originally posted at https://dps109supt.edublogs.org/2016/01/31/education-lifetouch-memory-mission-reflection-6/

On this journey, there were so many outstanding leaders and each and every one of them went out of their way to support our incredible accomplishments.

As I have written before, the Dominican engineer and skilled laborers were among the best teachers with whom I have ever worked. AmFK2A1044ong their many attributes, they were patient, they used multiple forms of communication, they assessed our strengths and weaknesses, they helped guide us to highly skilled work and they never lowered their standards. They took us (unskilled laborers) volunteers as we were, they accepted who we were and what we could do, and they turned us into skilled experts in a number of areas. Their standards of excellence never wavered, in fact, they got higher as our skills and abilities increased under their direction.

Pastor Angel Moreta is the visionary leader who has set forth on the transformation of Constanza’s outskirts. He is seeing to it that the lives of the forgotten villagers will soon be better. He is the champion of education and social justice who we went to serve. He is the inspiring visionary leader who brings forth people from multiple walks of life in unity for a common good. He deserves tremendous credit for 20160126-201217-29f6o3q.jpgimproving the lives of the young people in these areas. While we were there the Cecaini school was dedicated and authorized by the government – this was the first school project that Lifetouch embarked upon in the Dominican Republic. It was powerful for us to begin with the end in mind in terms of our school project. The pastor is seeing the power of his vision and his leadership in the work of so many… We were truly engaged in the work, in the relationship building, and in reflection. We were truly inspired in service, personal growth, and social justice. We were truly empowered to build/construct, make relationships, and to learn from others. In our district, we often talk about creating environments where we want our students to run to school every day. Well, in our Dominican construction school, we did run to school/work every day. As a result of our

Dominican workers patience, trust, communication (non-verbal, reassuring, in Spanish), respect, attention, and teaching, we ran to the construction site hoping to do better than we had done yesterday. While we were building walls of the school we were breaking down walls of language and culture. While we were building walls with physical force and skill, we were tearing down walls and barriers of emotion and relationship.

I’m not the handiest guy in the world … in fact I have hardly ever done any manual labor or physical construction work in my life. After this trip

LUBELFIELD_Michaeland due to the teaching of some very patient workers and supervisors, I now know how to make concrete – I now know how to apply math in real life situations. Seriously, I knew intellectually that water, cement, rocks, and sand combine to form concrete, but I never had the opportunity to mix, make, and use concrete until this trip. I know how to lay cinder IC3A9565blocks. The top and bottom sides and the right and left sides have significance in the engineering and physics of the building process. I may have known this in my head in the past, but now, as a direct result of project-based learning with an emotional tie, I will NEVER forget how to apply my knowledge.

We had to engage in authentic learning on this trip. Our teachers had to guide us and help us and re-direct us as needed. We learned cultural and construction lessons. We were faced with real problems every day and we had to solve them. We were faced with real decisions every day and we had to use teamwork every step of the way. We developed friendships, care, concern, and trust and respect for one another each and every day. All of these 4C’s (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking) were part of each and every lesson throughout each and every day.

We learned during our home visits, community walks, play and recreation, photography experiences, picture day, we learned from the minute we landed to the minute we took off.

This was truly a memory mission – memories here, there, and everywhere. Our international crew from the USA, Canada, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic made a huge impact on the lives of the people we set sail to serve in Rio Grande as well as in each and every one of us as well as all of the people with whom we interacted along the way. We were not tourists we were members of the community!

A 5-minute video of some of us sharing how the trip impacted us is shown below:

LifeTouch #MemoryMission2016 Moments (5 minute video)

Board approves Phase I — #112Leads

“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self-improvement, about being better than you were the day before.”
– Steve Young

We have the authority to move forward as a school district with the Long Range Plan Phase I! In this blog post, I’ll share excerpts of recent communication efforts with respect to our Board of Education making an historic step forward on behalf of all students in the District. Briefly, what we’re doing is shown below:

  • Investments in Northwood and Edgewood Middle School 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
Snapshot of Phase I Impacts 2019-2023

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing excerpts from a letter to the community following the Board Approval

Haga clic aquí para ver la versión en español

Dear North Shore School District 112 Community,

On Tuesday, November 27, 2018, our Board of Education made history — they voted to move District 112 forward with resources at our reach (with no direct tax increase in the Bond/Interest fund for construction) based upon the best information available (10-25 years of planning) to impact all students.

The Board voted 7-0 to:

  • Approve Northwood and Edgewood Middle School construction projects with a total combined cost not to exceed $75 Million
  • Use up to $20 Million from fund balance (savings account)
  • Proceed with the sale of $55 Million Alternate Revenue Bonds
  • Authorize the superintendent to form a citizen advisory committee for construction projects.

From now to May 2019, the administration will be focused on opening up Elm Place as the temporary middle school location for Northwood’s students in school years 2019-20 and 2020-21 (the next two school years). This means we’ll be conducting information meetings (i.e. PTO groups, teachers, staff, students, community, neighbors, etc.). We’ll be working with the architects and engineers to refine plans and cost estimates for the projects. We’ll continue to Inspire…Innovate…Engage all students every day in every classroom…

We are not forgetting about our PK or K-5 schools; we’ll continue to maintain, keep safe, clean, and provide the highest quality education that we can. Subsequent phases of community engagement, Board direction, and construction projects will take place as they would, and as they do, in school districts around the nation. One step at a time we will upgrade, modernize, and improve the conditions in which we facilitate learning…

We will continue to communicate, seek input, make plans in the best interests of students, and work to ensure that North Shore School District 112 provides high-quality educational access for all students. Stay up to date with the Long-Range Plan at the Long-Range Plan web page.

Thank you for your flexibility, support, and communication through the upcoming changes and transitions.

With regards,

Mike

From our Press Release

“With the passage of Phase I of the Long-Range Plan, the district now has the opportunity and great responsibility to achieve excellence for all students starting with investing in modernized learning facilities at the middle schools,” said Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools. “I would like to extend a special thanks to our students, staff, community members, the long-range planning committee, and board of education for input, support, and leadership, which has made approval of Phase I possible. Your continued engagement will only be more important in the months and years to come. Let’s get to work as the Future is NOW!”

The tentative project timeline overview and draft concept drawing information is as follows:

Northwood (DRAFT Concept)


NORTHWOOD:

  • Bid on construction projects – by end of May 2019.
  • Close Northwood for construction – Summer 2019.
  • Start Construction – September 2019.
  • Transition Students to Elm Place Middle School.
  • Completion – January 2021.

EDGEWOOD:

  • Bid on construction projects – by end of October 2020.
  • Start Construction – Spring 2021.
  • Close Edgewood for construction –  Summer 2021.
  • Transition Students using Elm Place – TBD
  • Full renovation and upper floor additions – through summer 2022.
  • Review overall schedule to determine completion for Aug. 2022 or winter 2022.

 

Edgewood (DRAFT Concept)

 

FUTURE PLANNING NEEDS:

  • Review dollars, funding, and elementary school needs in the 2022-2023 school year (Planning Year)
  • Re-prioritize needs and appropriations for 2023 and beyond

“I would like to thank Dr. Lubelfeld and his administration for recommending a comprehensive vision for the future of District 112,” said Eric Ephraim, NSSD112 Board President. “I am proud to be part of a board that approved a significant investment in our schools.  These improvements will positively impact the learning experience for all of our students. This is an important milestone for our district and our community.”

Our aim is for regular, transparent, clear communications!

Click here to read the Long-Range Plan approval press release  

Click here to read the full Long-Range Plan Final Report

Click here to view “The Recommendation” a video that offers an overview of the plan

Visit www.nssd112.org/Long-RangePlanning for more information

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