Getting ready for the 4th quarter – #112Leads

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
– Francis of Assisi, Italian Friar

Spring Break is complete in our communities – it’s now time for the final weeks of learning, leading, teaching, and experiencing life! This year has been full of change, transition, opportunity, obstacle, confusion, clarity, fairness, unfairness, resiliency, and creativity! With 75% of the school year in the rearview mirror, it’s time for us to finish strong for each and every child in our care.

In North Shore School District 112, we’re gearing up for a fourth (and ideally final) FIRST DAYS of school. This year we have opened Hybrid 9/3-10/20, reopened Virtual/Remote 10/21-1/29, reopened Hybrid since 2/1, and in the next few weeks, with a pivot to full in-person learning for 90% of our students and full virtual learning for 10% of our students, we are going to reopen once again! April 6th will mark the K-5 reopening into the full in-person and full virtual models, and April 12th will mark the same for the two middle schools. All of our reopening plans are documented on our reopening web pages.

At Northwood Middle School, there is a double re-opening, though! Northwood has been located at Elm Place School since 2019 for a massive modernization project and now, in the midst of this pandemic, and a completed construction project (on time and on budget), we’re opening the school on March 30 in the Hybrid Learning Model and then again on April 12, we will reopen into the full in-person and full virtual model. Needless to say, we have a lot going on in District 112!

In preparation for the next few weeks, I shared a brief audio podcast episode with the community today:

In the podcast episode, we mention the top thoughts from a recent ThoughtExchange survey opportunity. Check this link for the report on all thoughts with responses to many thoughts, as well as the word wall showing the most prominent words shared by the community:

We also shared a “Facebook Live” video tour of the New Northwood Middle School, set to open to students on Tuesday, March 30, 2021:

Link to Video Tour of New Northwood

In District 112 we’ll share an update to the community on March 31 at a special Board meeting, and we’ll focus on the best, most impactful learning for each child as we bring this most unusual and historic year to a close in three months!

Planning for summer school is far along, and planning for the fall as well as tutoring and other interventions and learning supports are also being planned literally around the clock.

 

The COVID-19 Impact on District 112 – #112Leads

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
– Ryunosuke Satoro

Since March 12, 2020, our school district has been engaged in the COVID-19 global pandemic. Our schools first closed their doors on March 13, 2020, then Illinois closed all in-person schooling on March 17, 2020. Our teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, students, community, everyone, marshaled new resources for learning, teaching, and living, and our lives changed forever. Our Teaching & Learning team met with teachers and administrators and made learning and teaching plans to get us through and ahead of each and every step of the journey we were thrust into. Schooling for the 2019-2020 school year ended on June 4, 2020, with revolutionary transformative impacts still yet to be fully understood or realized. The District pushed out online resources at a pace and scope and scale never before seen. The District pushed out devices to children and families at a pace and scope and scale never before seen – and the District’s four priorities led us through the next phases. 

During this phase, the March – June phase, I was honored and humbled to be asked to join and take part in multiple interviews regarding the District 112 story, some shared below:

Learning Through Leading Podcast   Edmentum – Video Interview Anchored In Education – Podcast Chip Southworth – Podcast Interview NLU Video Webinar Blog Talk Radio Interview  

In July, the District ushered in its first-ever virtual summer school and the data showed effective impact! The District assembled a 50+ person stakeholder team to plan for the restart of schools with the support and advice of the DMGroup from Boston, MA. We planned last summer for the possibility of three options, fully in-person schooling, fully remote schooling, and Hybrid schooling.  In September, and through October, the District implemented the well thought out plans for Hybrid Learning (full plan and many communication tools linked https://www.nssd112.org/domain/1243).

On October 21, and through today (and ongoing) the District is engaged in full remote learning. We have measured learning (using the NWEA MAP tests) we have measured Remote Learning (with our partner ECRA Group assessing teachers/staff, parents, and middle school students in May and October), we measured staff culture (with our partner Humanex Ventures), we measured family engagement and student engagement (with our partner Humanex Ventures), we take what works and replicated and improve upon it and we take what doesn’t work and fix it (example with middle school remote learning moving from all asynchronous to all synchronous).

So, when will we reopen our schools …. when will we resume the Hybrid Learning Model and even the fully in-person model? Early on in this journey, we yielded public health expertise, advice, and guidance to the public health experts. The Lake County, IL Health Department (an agency of the Illinois Department of Public Health) has taken a lead in Illinois (and in the nation) with parsimonious guidance and leadership to the schools in Lake County, IL. Our District follows their advice. Our plan has been clearly laid out and communicated since August.  The hyper significant community spread of COVID 19 caused us to close the doors to our school buildings and transform learning and teaching from Hybrid to remote.

We will open our schools again when we can. There is no calendar date for reopening since the virus, hyper significant community spread, and the advice of public health experts will guide our decision making. We investigate widespread surveillance testing as an enhanced risk mitigation, we investigate how to get the vaccines to turn into vaccinations in the arms of our staff and community, as well as the efficacy of the millions of dollars in already introduced risk mitigation in our schools in an effort to get our kids and staff back on campus.

I want our kids back in school and our doors open again as soon as practical and permissible. As the winter holiday season falls upon us, I call for grace, compassion, kindness, love, and care as we bring this year of years to an end – farewell 2020 …. and as we welcome 2021 with open arms and HOPE and ANTICIPATION!

I know this to be true, our schools WILL be open again to in-person learning in 2021 – I do not know the dates for the transition, but I know we will create a new and improved learning system that innovates, inspires, and engages each child, each staff member, and each member of the community. Where we go from here is up to us. How we react to life is up to us. How we model humility, grace, resiliency to our children is up to us!

Stay tuned … our journey is just beginning!

 

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!

Looking Forward – May 16 2020

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”– John C. Maxwell

Haga clic aquí para leer la versión en español

Saturday, May 16, 2020

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

While our #1 focus is on finishing this year as strongly as we can, we have our eyes and plans on returning to school in the fall. With this note, I’m sharing our thoughts, questions that are being posed, and advance planning to update you. My intention is to help you start to plan and adhere to our priority to communicate with you often.

In anticipation of next year’s reopening, we are pouring over content and planning and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), other state plans and professional association guidelines for returning to school, like that from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET). Yesterday, the state superintendent of schools released considerations for closing this school year. The guidance on return to school is forthcoming.

My plan is to provide a formal update to you all on June 30, 2020, at the regular Board of Education meeting. Meantime, I’m sharing some highlights and resources that I would like you to be aware of and to consider as we prepare for “back to school” in a few short months. I will follow up with additional communications prior to the June 30, 2020, Board meeting.

Education
Our Back to School planning is focused on keeping student learning at the forefront – safe, healthy, and intentional focus on learning. We are also conscious of the fact that there could be further interruptions experienced during the 2020-21 school year due to a resurgence of COVID-19. We are also aware of a subset of our community who may simply refuse to send their children to school for a variety of reasons. Generally, we are anticipating three prongs as we return to school:
In-Person schooling – with health safeguards
We are waiting for the Illinois Department of Public Health/Illinois State Board of Education return to schooling guidance
Hybrid Approach – some in-person schooling and some remote learning 2.0
Remote Learning – taking what worked in the crisis, what we learned in the crisis, and input from the surveys to refine and improve e-Learning

The quality of learning for students during this crisis has not been equal to in-person learning. We know this. We are working to make sure that we use the reflective observation and input of our teachers, administrators, and community to improve our in-person schooling, our health focus, and our Remote/E-learning 2.0 to focus on the best and most impactful learning and teaching. I am deeply grateful to our teachers, support staff, administrators, and parents for the herculean efforts demonstrated during this public health crisis that caused a complete and total change to education.

Some Questions we are working through in order to prepare for the school year 2020-2021:
As information continues to evolve, is it reasonable for our schools to be safely open as normal? What are health and safety protocols that need to be instituted?
What modifications should be made to safely open our schools, and is it possible for our schools to make those modifications? We don’t want to make false promises. We are eager to open but safety and health are #1 priorities and considerations.
What can be different about our attendance policies to ensure that students and staff can act in the best interest of their health and the health of others? We are mindful of the wide breadth of this pandemic and its continued impact on members of our staff, students, families, and the greater community.
How should we modify our “return to work/school” protocols?
What do we do with students or staff that are not safe in returning to school?
How do we determine if learning loss has occurred for some of our students?
How will custodial protocols change to meet current best practice?
If the State does not allow us to begin the school year in person, what does returning to school actually look like?

INSPIRE…INNOVATE…ENGAGE

Again, we know that the past few months have been challenging. Our students, staff, and families continue to be in our thoughts as we collectively experience this pandemic. We are stronger when we work together and appreciate the support, care, and attention that our staff and you have provided our students during this difficult time.

With respect, regards, and appreciation,

Mike

Michael Lubelfeld Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Letter to the Community April 17 2020 – #112Leads

Haga clic aquí para la versión en español

“In life, there is no such thing as impossible; it’s always possible.”– Venus Williams

Dear North Shore School District 112 Staff and Community,

As you may have heard or read, today Governor Pritzker announced that all schools in Illinois will remain closed, and he announced the suspension of in-person learning for the remainder of the school year. For us, that means that June 4, 2020, will reflect the end of the school year 2019-2020.

We recognize that this development will raise questions about the impact on students, staff, and families for the remainder of this school year with respect to learning, emotional concerns, end of year traditions, and more. We know this news is tough for many reasons. Let’s all reflect on our own personal health and our families. We will get through this difficult time together.

To date, we have served more than 7,000 breakfast and lunch meals, and we’ll continue to provide food distribution and work in conjunction with local social service agencies and the Township. Please use this opportunity to focus on staying safe and helping to slow the spread of the virus. We will complete this school year using our Remote Learning Plan.

As we review and process this new development, my team will work through necessary plans and responses to this new, unexpected reality. We are making plans for summer school options and we are exploring methods to assess learning including the learning loss as a result of the abrupt change from in-person schooling to remote learning. We are committed to supporting student learning. We’re monitoring attendance, schedules, learning, and impact as we “build this plane while flying.”

Dr. Ryan will have an update on e-Learning at next week’s Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, April 21, at 7:00 p.m. held remotely. We encourage you to take advantage of the learning resources shared by your teachers, the principals, those provided by Educere and other digital sources as we work through this new and transitional approach to running schools. We want to thank our teachers and support staff for their flexibility, resiliency, and creativity. We are working with our teachers on ways to improve e-Learning daily and weekly.

We are also consulting with local districts as well as with national partners on how to maximize learning and instruction using e-Learning for 4,000 students in grades PK-8.

As a reminder, we’ve been focused on the following four priorities in this evolving pandemic crisis:

  • Priority one – feed our families and children
  • Priority two – account for the extended safety, health, and welfare of our 4500 students and staff
  • Priority three – communicate clearly
  • Priority four – e-Learning

We are confident that our prioritization of physical and mental health first and foremost before other considerations is the right way for us to lead through this crisis. Since we are all experiencing this together I want to thank you for compassion and grace as we, like the rest of our nation, deal with this complete and total change in education.

We will be using a survey (or series of surveys) very soon to get your input to inform our new “rest of the year” planning. We thank you in advance for completing any requests for input. Our partnership has never been more important than it is right now. We are proud of our transformation, and we are grateful to each and every one of you for your dedication to education and public health.

Please stay safe & healthy.

Sincerely,

Mike|

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Paint by Numbers or Creative Leadership – How do you lead?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become  more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Students have one chance to experience whatever grade level they are in. They will be in third grade once … it’s incumbent upon we in education, then, to make that the best and most meaningful third grade experience we possibly can. This takes creative, innovative, and empowering leadership. Gone are the complacent days of the “good old days” when rote memorization and “cemetery rows” of desks and chairs in public schools were the norm. Gone is (or should be) the “paint by number” mentality governing the public school system.

Well, I hope so … I endeavor to be a leader who demonstrates creative leadership and courageous leadership in support of excellence and the development of others so that we create optimal conditions for learning, growth, and success. One way in which I do this is through attendance at and participation in professional learning conferences.

When superintendents gather at a professional learning conference, there are some expected traditions. There will be a welcome reception, we’ll get a directory of members, we’ll review the history/tradition of the organization, we’ll have sessions that are whole group, keynote presenters, small group break out sessions, work with partner organizations, local culture/history excursions and networking opportunities. These are legacy traditions that bind us together in our professional organizations in pursuit of scholarship, fellowship, and leadership development.

Although there is a rhyme and reason, and while there is a set of expectations and predictable events, opportunities and experiences, the gathering of school superintendents – our nation’s chief education officers – is anything but paint by numbers professional learning. Today’s leaders must support one another and inspire one another and help one another be better than they were yesterday! The concept of Paint by numbers can be defined as:

Adjective. paint-by-numbers (not comparable) (of a picture) Made from a painting by numbers kit. (figuratively) By rote, without thought or creativity.

paint-by-numbers – Wiktionary

https://en.wiktionary.org › wiki › paint-by-numbers

From PAINT BY NUMBERS

th6-bw.gif

“For critics, the paint-by-number phenomenon provided ample evidence of the mindless conformity gripping national life and culture. “I don’t know what America is coming to,” one writer complained to American Artist, “when thousands of people, many of them adults, are willing to be regimented into brushing paint on a jig-saw miscellany of dictated shapes and all by rote…”PAINT BY NUMBERS

So paint by numbers became a craze in the 1950s in America so that “anyone could become an artist”. It was part of the postwar (World War II) leisure and recreation fads in the newfound postwar American prosperity. After the Allied victories in the European and Asian theaters, the nation experienced a postwar boom of economic prosperity, educational attainment (GI Bill) and suburban sprawl out of the urban and rural areas.

Life was good. Anyone could “paint by numbers” and become an artist. Through rote, orderly rule following, in clean, linear fashion, everyone and anyone could create masterpieces that were originally created through innovation and creativity and talent.

In the period of time following World War II, and following the Korean Conflict, it can be argued that America was lulled into a peaceful and prosperous conformity where leisure, complacency, and pursuit of the American Dream was the norm. This was until the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR/CCCP, the Soviet Union (archenemy of the United States during the Cold War) successfully launched Sputnik … that started the space race, and was a starting point for the American wake up call for many things, including a focus on scientific and mathematical learning in the nation’s public schools. “History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched SputnikI. The world’s first artificial satellite was about the size of a beach ball…” Sputnik

Followed up with President John Kennedy’s bold, audacious goal that America would put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. The palette of change and growth in America was about to become anything but “paint by numbers”.

Some argue that in the 19th year of the 21st Century, American public schools are again getting a wake-up call to create conditions for learning that resemble modern learning in response to the 4th Industrial Revolution instead of lingering traditions from the first or second Industrial Revolution. Why should our nation’s schools and classrooms still look like the image below?

F957DC40-CC54-43DA-9840-13282B189EF7.jpeg

When the world and the expansion of knowledge is far different and the work force has far newer needs, it’s urgent for K-12 schooling to change and adapt for the reality of the present and the possibility of the future. As illustrated in the image, there are degrees in college today that have significantly changed in the past half century. More and more of these college degrees, industry certifications, and career opportunities for which we in K-12are charged with preparing the future that cannot be mastered via rote, paint-by-numbers thinking.