Mike Lubelfeld's Blog


Tag: ThoughtExchange

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

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











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

Survey Says …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


Skip to toolbar