The Wow Factor – #engage109 #suptchat

Great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
– Steve Jobs

Every day in every classroom everywhere, student voices should be filling the halls, rooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias, playgrounds, buses, everywhere with “WOW” language.

At some recent professional leadership learning conferences I was WOWED with the experience, the possibility for extending that “wow” to all of the students and staff I serve, and reminded we CAN and we MUST WOW our communities!

As educators we have a gift in our calling to serve, teach and lead. The gift is creating the WOW every day for every child. Each child has but one year to spend with us (typically we have children in our grade level for one academic year). We adults get “do overs” annually but the children have but one time to be a 1st grader, an 8th grader, etc. Thestudents do NOT get “do overs” – we owe them WOW moments.

I believe we owe the students WOW moments all the time. My role as a superintendent of schools and a national leader affords me incredible opportunities to both have and create WOW moments. Wow moments for my own development as a leader, wow moments for colleagues and peers through national, statewide and regional leadership, and most important – helping others create WOW moments for students and staff.

Todd Whitaker (highly respected educational leader, professor, author, and speaker) says “10 days in a row” – meaning we must engage, inspire, empower – every day – every child – every learning encounter. In education our profession is too critical to mess up – to create wow moments 7 out of 10 days for example. 10 days in a row … we must do this because the students rely on us to be ready for them and to provide limitless opportunities for them every day.

The past few weeks have been quite busy for me professionally as I have participated at the state superintendent conference, an executive briefing at Apple in Cupertino, CA, I also attended a Visible Learning conference with John Hattie (himself perhaps the greatest research aggregator of our modern times), and I co-led the American Association of School Administrator (AASA) Digital Consortium Fall Conference in Seattle, WA with my good friend Nick Polyak.

At the Digital Consortium Fall Conference we spent time at three schools in the Highline School District; we also spent time at the Museum of Flight and Boeing in Seattle, WA.

So at Apple and at Boeing we educational leaders got to learn first hand what jobs are needed today as well as tomorrow at two of the planets most impactful companies. We got to see what a modern, contemporary workspace looks like. We got to see what a factory in 2017 looks like – it’s a lot different than the factory of 1917 for which the foundation of US public schooling is built. We thought leaders are doing great work disrupting archaic organizational structures in preparation for 2017 – and for 2020, 2025, and beyond.

At Apple and at Boeing I was WOWED around every corner – I cannot share photos because we are not permitted to take or share photos (corporate protection is real and necessary) though I can share with you how and why I was wowed – but more importantly and far more impact-fully I can share how and why we can and must provide WOW moments for every student every day.

I can share photos from the Museum of Flight – I am sharing photos throughout the text of this post.

While we were engaging in US and world history discussions as well as science and technology history discussions and math and engineering discussions, we were WOWED.

We learned about sociology, manufacturing, coding, computer programming, photography, digital photography, national security and more. We were engaged in our learning. We were provided both whole group and small group learning experiences. Our docent was able to differentiate, individualize and even personalize our experiences. We were learners – we were learning – we were engaged, inspired, and empowered. We connected our own interests, knowledge, and thoughts with the content (the exhibits). We were able to imagine, think, … learn.

In our 30-60 minute lesson at the Museum of Flight, and during our visits to the innovative schools in Highline, we were wowed and we saw wowed lessons and experiences. These experiences included students explaining to us what competency based learning means (i.e. take a year of Spanish in a few months for credit and advancement at the high school); what individualized pacing with artificial intelligence looks like (i.e. with advanced curricular resources); in addition, we learned about how the principals and teachers were building cultures of excellence and managing change. On behalf of Students, Staff, and community!

Our challenge, and as Nick and I write about in the Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today, and what Nick and PJ and I write about in Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable, is to provide true and meaningful engagement for ALL students – every day.

We can do it – we have the knowledge and we must have thecourage. As always, I welcome comments!





What does the superintendent do all summer? #Engage109

“Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you”
– John Wooden

What is going on in #Engage109 this summer?  What do we do all summer is a common question I have been asked for most of the 25 years I’ve been in education! Well it’s official – we are in school year 2017-2018! We have a guiding Strategic Plan, we have many new leaders, we will have a new board member on the way – it’s a whole new year. Aside from running summer school with more than 500 students, overseeing major summer construction projects approaching $5Million dollars, and the on-boarding of nearly 10 new leaders, we’re also making sure we have plans for meetings, workshops, professional development, curriculum development and other milestone events for all administrators.

As far as we’re concerned, it’s time for 2017-2018 to start (Ok … we’ll wait a few more weeks …).

In addition, we’re reaching end of life for hundreds of nearly 10 year old Promethean Boards, so the Technology Team is rolling out new projection and whiteboard systems to replace the Promethean boards in all six campuses.  Our Director for Innovative Learning, Marcie Faust and many of our outstanding iCoaches have trained nearly 64 teachers in summer workshops thus far and expect another 57 on the scheduled dates in July and August!  This is in addition to widespread learning sessions in the multiple classrooms at each building that we had set up last spring as a “debut”.  

We also continue to close the fiscal year that ended on June 30, and we prepare for the annual auditors who are scheduled to come spend two weeks conducting field test at the end of the month.  

In addition, the Director of Buildings & Grounds, Charlie Privett, and the B&G team are exceptionally busy working on a variety of projects throughout the district, including:  

Caruso & Shepard Locker Rooms, Security Projects (throughout the district), Casework at Kipling & South Park, Parking Lots at South Park, Walden, Shepard, & Wilmot, Roof Project at Wilmot, Flooring Projects & Painting Projects Throughout the district, and more!

In addition, I published an article in the IL ASCD Summer Journal and I’m working on a few other writing projects.

So … while the students are enjoying much needed recreation time, the leadership team is busy making sure everything will be ready for them in August!

I always smile when folks say “It’s easier in the summer, right?” – nope – but I would not want it any other way.


Teacher & Edu Staff Appreciation Day/Week – Thank You #Engage109

This is teacher, nurse, educational support staff (and administrator) appreciation week! We can never say thank you enough to our educators!! THANK YOU!

I’m sharing a quote I have held closely for many years and I’m sharing two notes I recently sent the DPS109 community.

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.”
Maya Angelou

Dear District 109 Families and Community Members,

At its last meeting, the Board of Education declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017 as Teacher Appreciation Day in District 109. Please join the Board of Education and the District administration team in applauding our teachers and all of the educators and support staff throughout District 109 who work so hard each day. We have high-achieving, nationally recognized, innovative, warm and welcoming schools because amazing teachers engage, inspire and empower our students – your children, grandchildren, and the children of your friends and neighbors!

I encourage you to find a way to show your support to your favorite teacher, or any school staff member who makes a difference in the lives of the children in our community. Whether you write a heartfelt, handwritten note, have your child create a work of art, or just go out of your way to say a personal “Thank you,” you are giving a great gift. They deserve all the thanks that we can shower upon them!


“If we neglect our gifts and talents, they, like an unused muscle, will atrophy and waste away.”  Stephen Covey

Dear District 109 Teachers and Staff,

The Board of Education recently approved our 2017 Strategic Plan. The planning process was both reflective and forward thinking, and very eye-opening to me. I realized how much we have accomplished in four short years.  I also acknowledge and thank you for being open to change. I know that’s not easy. Your leaps of faith and constant hard work have allowed our students to thrive, and schools to achieve local, regional and national recognition. In the strategic planning process we should all be proud of the input and impact of that input. Your voices and your input helped shape the goals, objectives and plans. I look forward to working with you and for you to achieve our goals in the coming years.

On April 24, the Board of Education declared Tuesday, May 9, 2017 Teacher Appreciation Day in District 109. The community will celebrate you throughout the week. To show our thanks, the District administration and Board will provide a gift and special treat at some point during the week. They are small tokens of our boundless appreciation of you and your continual work to engage, inspire and empower our students, their parents, your colleagues, and our community.

So THANK YOU, from me personally, and from the Board of Education and District leaders, for allowing us to work with the best team of educators in the nation.


Video Podcast Interview Collaborating with your Administrators on Professional Development Goals

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.”
– Ken Blanchard

Recently I was on a video podcast interview with other educational leaders around the country. On the episode of the TechEducator Podcast I was one of three administrators interviewed with technology coaches & educators on the importance of having a strong relationship between the principal (or admin) and the technology coach. It was a great conversation about
leadership, technology, training, support, culture, relationships, recent leadership books, and overall educational excellence.

It was a treat joining Jeff, Sam and Jennifer!

The TechEducator Podcast is a weekly round table discussion about current topics in educational technology.

For more information, please visit

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Jeff Bradbury – – @TeacherCast
Sam Patterson – – @SamPatue
Jennifer Judkins – – @JennJudkins

The video is shared at

The video may start in the middle, if it does, just slide it back to the start.

About Our Guests

Jennifer Schwanke

Jen Schwanke began her career as a language arts educator eighteen years ago. She has worked at both the elementary and secondary level as a teacher and administrator. A graduate instructor in educational leadership, she has written frequently for
literacy and educational publications and presents at literacy and leadership conferences. She is the author of the book, You’re The Principal: Now What? Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders.

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D.

Mike currently serves as the superintendent of schools in the Deerfield, IL Public Schools (District 109). Mike earned his Doctor of Education in curriculum and instruction from Loyola University of Chicago, where his published dissertation was on Effective Instruction in Middle School Social Studies. He is also on the adjunct faculty at National Louis University in the Department of Educational Leadership. Mike has earned an IASA School of Advanced Leadership Fellowship and he has also graduated from the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program. He can be found on Twitter at @mikelubelfeld and he is the co-moderator of #suptchat – the superintendent educational chat on Twitter. He and Nick Polyak co-authored The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today (2017 Rowman & Littlefield). Mike has been married to his wife Stephanie for the past 13 years and they have two children.

Twitter: @mikelubelfeld
District on Twitter: @DPS109
District Hashtag: #Engage109
Voxer: mikelubelfeld
Periscope: @mikelubelfeld
LinkedIn: Michael Lubelfeld
Nick Polyak, Ed.D.

Dr. Polyak is the proud superintendent of the award-winning Leyden Community High School District 212. He earned his undergraduate degree from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, his Masters from Governors State University, and his Ed.D. from Loyola University Chicago. Nick has been a classroom teacher and coach, a building and district level administrator, a School Board member, and a superintendent for the past seven years in both central Illinois and suburban Chicago. Nick has earned an IASA School of Advanced Leadership Fellowship and he also graduated from the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program. He can be found on Twitter at @npolyak and he is the co-moderator of #suptchat – the superintendent educational chat on Twitter. Nick has been married to his wife Kate for the past 16 years and they have four children.

Twitter: @npolyak
District on Twitter: @leydenpride
District Hashtag: #leydenpride
Voxer: npolya154
Periscope: @npolyak
LinkedIn: Nick Polyak
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Social Emotional Focus – #ENGAGE109 – Botvin Life Skills

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of potential, for the eye which, every young and aredent, sees the possible.  Pleasure disappoints; possibility never.”
– Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher

In the Deerfield Public Schools, District 109, our aim is to educate the whole child. This year two of our schools, South Park (Safe Whole Child School) and Kipling (Engaged Whole Child School) were recognized for excellence in educating the whole child from the Illinois Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (IASCD). Our view of the whole child is demonstrated in our measurement of multiple metrics (including but not limited to the list below):

  • Engagement of students
  • Academic performance of students
  • Organizational culture of staff
  • Climate perceptions from stakeholders
  • Impact of Technology and Innovative Instruction from parents, students, and staff


Current efforts on mental health, drug abuse resistance, addiction, decision making, life skills, prevention, safety, anti-bullying, etc. are in place using evidence based programming, including our recent implementation of the Botvin Life Skills Program.


This year we are implementing parent training/education starting after the first of the year; our mission Engage, Inspire, Empower focuses on students, staff, parctadents, and the entire community. Our efforts are not in isolation, we are in partnership with a local Drug Free Community Grant coalition, Community the Anti Drug. CTAD is leading and coordinating the efforts of our villages/cities, school districts, police departments, clergy, media, treatment providers, students, teachers, and more. Through this partnership as well as the partnership with the Jordan Michael Filler Foundation, we are able to provide mental health evidence based, proven instruction to our students across the communities the coalition represents.


This week the Wall Street Journal ran two articles about our efforts

(sharing below):

Schools Step Up Efforts to Fight Opioid Abuse

Measures include enlisting pharmacists, counseling and prevention programs

Many U.S. schools are launching more aggressive campaigns to prevent opioid abuse among students as evidence mounts of a growing problem. Gilbert Botvin, developer of the Botvin LifeSkills program, which teaches children the proper way to use prescription drugs, joins Lunch Break. Photo: CVS Health

Many U.S. schools are ramping up campaigns to prevent opioid abuse among students as evidence mounts of a growing problem.

Some are inviting pharmacists to schools to convey the dangers of prescription pills. Others are offering emergency counseling via text message. In some regions, schools are teaching a substance-abuse-prevention program developed at Cornell University to students as young as fourth grade.

The widening crisis of addiction to heroin, prescription painkillers and other opioids “has been very scary, very serious,” says Michael Lubelfeld, superintendent of an elementary- and middle-school district in Deerfield, Ill. “We want to do everything as a community to start addressing it at age 10, 11, 12, so when they are 23 they aren’t going to be addicted.”

 The rate of U.S. children hospitalized for prescription-opioid overdoses more than doubled over a 16-year period ending in 2012, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics last month. Particularly at risk were 1- to 4-year-olds, who most likely swallowed their parents’ medications, and older teens who abused the drugs or attempted suicide, the researchers said.

Hospitalizations for heroin overdoses among teens 15 to 19 nearly tripled over the same period, from 0.96 to 2.51 per 100,000 teens, the study showed.

The roots of the crisis lie in widespread prescribing of painkillers that created a generation of opioid addicts among adults and children, public health experts say.

Because opioid addiction often begins with misuse of prescription painkillers, CVS HealthCorp. last year started sending pharmacists to schools to warn about the dangers. The pharmacists gave nearly 3,000 presentations in 40 states in the 2015-16 school year.

Kayla Mays, a CVS pharmacist who has given presentations in Atlanta-area schools, says she rattles off a list of generic and brand-name prescription painkillers—Lortab, Norco, OxyContin, fentanyl and others—and asks kids to raise their hands if they have heard of them. “There is a lot of giggling around names like Percocet or OxyContin,” she says, “because those drugs are mentioned in a lot of pop songs.”

But the mood turns serious when Ms. Mays plays a video describing the downward spiral of four teens who got hooked on prescription medication, she says. Drug overdoses killed one of the students and paralyzed another; two others made it into rehab. “The video really demonstrates this can happen to anybody—good kids, athletes, anybody,” Ms. Mays says.

CVS this summer paid $3.5 million to settle federal allegations that 50 of its pharmacies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire filled forged prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substances. The company says it has “implemented enhanced policies” to help its pharmacists “determine whether a controlled substance prescription was issued for a legitimate medical purpose.”

In the suburbs north of Chicago and east of Los Angeles, some schools are trying a new texting tool that connects kids to a counselor within minutes. Kids send their questions anonymously—the system hides their phone numbers—and can use the service to seek help for themselves or a friend, says Andy Duran, executive director of Linking Efforts Against Drugs, or LEAD, a nonprofit in Lake Forest, Ill., that developed the tool, called Text a Tip.

Licensed therapists are on-call round the clock to respond. “We have had kids text at a party and say, ‘There are kids using around me and I don’t know what to do.’ So we respond and say, ‘Can you distract yourself, can you leave, can you call a friend or adult to pick you up?’” says Dana Slowinski, who oversees the therapist team. “Because what we find is, in the moment kids are not thinking through their options.”

More than 100 school districts in Illinois and California are using Text a Tip. To cover the program’s costs, LEAD charges each district about $7,500 a year for the service, plus a per-student fee of about 49 cents.

We want to do everything as a community to start addressing it at age 10, 11, 12, so when they are 23 they aren’t going to be addicted.

—Michael Lubelfeld, superintendent of an elementary- and middle-school district in Deerfield, Ill.

The Jordan Michael Filler Foundation, established by the family of a young man who died of a heroin overdose in 2014, helped finance the cost of the texting service for eight schools in Highland Park and Deerfield, Ill. The foundation also helped fund a substance-abuse-prevention program, called Botvin LifeSkills Training, in the schools.

Botvin LifeSkills was developed by Gilbert Botvin, a professor emeritus at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. Conducted in as many as 15 sessions over several weeks, the program teaches kids the traits they need to resist pressure to abuse substances, including self-esteem and strong problem-solving and decision-making skills.

One study in middle-school children in Iowa and Pennsylvania found that use of the Botvin program “significantly reduced” the chances of students taking prescription opioids for nonmedical purposes by grade 12, compared with a control group that didn’t receive the training, according to results published in 2014 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

Julie Filler, the mother of the young man who died, said it took a while to convince some of the schools to accept the help. “The communities don’t want to talk about it because they want people to buy houses here,” she says of drug addiction.

Write to Jeanne Whalen at

2nd article:Putting Addiction-Prevention Program Into Action

School relies on role-playing, class discussion to help students make good decisions

Gilbert Botvin, a professor emeritus at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, developed the Botvin LifeSkills Training substance-abuse-prevention program.
Gilbert Botvin, a professor emeritus at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, developed the Botvin LifeSkills Training substance-abuse-prevention program. PHOTO: WEILL CORNELL MEDICINE

At South Park Elementary School in Deerfield, Ill., teaching kids to resist drugs, alcohol and cigarettes involves a lot of role-playing and class discussion.

The school, like others in District 109, uses Botvin LifeSkills Training, a program designed to help kids resist peer pressure and make good decisions.

In a recent lesson on assertiveness, fifth-grade teacher Faith Keidan says she first defined the difference between passive, aggressive and assertive responses, and then asked students to role-play them. The scenario: responding to a sibling who borrowed a videogame without asking.

Then she explained why being assertive is a good thing: because it helps people know what to say to get out of bad situations.

In another lesson on resisting cigarettes and marijuana, the kids discussed the economic history of tobacco and how it gained acceptance by being a big part of the economy. She also asked students to suggest five laws that would decrease tobacco use.

Joanna Klopfer, assistant director for student services in the district, says it tested the Botvin program in its fifth-grade classes before extending it to fourth and sixth grades, with plans for seventh and eighth grade down the road.

Write to Jeanne Whalen at