I Voted Today! What does this mean? Decision Making #engage109

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
– Andrew Carnegie

Democracy is a value ingrained in the “DNA” of Americans. Our entire education system is based upon democratic principles, our Declaration of Independence from the British Monarchy declares our rights to be independent (men and women).  “…certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Liberty is the right most closely aligned with voting. The right to give input is a foundational right we enjoy. We apply and extend democratic principles all through the tapestry of our society.

Ten year olds “vote” for the student council (a governance model in the image of our government). Associations vote their members in for leadership positions. In the USA, we feel it is normal and just to vote for pretty much anything.

Some of you reading this will remember commercials where people voted for the better tasting soft drink on TV. Often couples will vote on which restaurant to attend. Families may vote on what colors to paint their rooms. The concept of voting, choosing, giving input is almost an assumed right as an American. The will of the majority rules so many of our institutions of government and society. The majority rule, though, is not the only rule in democratic societies. The rule of 3/5 or “super majority” as well as the rule of “plurality” (the number of votes cast for a candidate who receives more than any other but does not receive an absolute majority.)

In leadership, though, even in a democratic republic, sometimes the elected representatives vote in a different way than their constituents. This does not mean theydisregard the input, it simply means that multiple factors influence decisions.

In general, if you don’t vote can you really complain about the decisions made on your behalf? No, I don’t think so, that’s why I vote; I want to have a voice, whether it is a large voice or a small voice, whether my candidate choices win or not – at least I can say I voted! I went to the table to give my input and in some small way I contributed to our democratic way of life.

I vote for candidates who I believe will represent me, my values, my interests, and the choices I would make if I were in their shoes. I don’t expect the folks for whom I cast a ballot to always agree with me, at times, perhaps often, they will be better educated on the particular issues than I.

In the United States our government and ways of life are more Roman than Greek. That is to say we follow a republican form of government (not the political party) but it’s a representative democracy concept. We don’t employ a direct democracy where everyone gets one vote; we have a representative democracy. This means we vote for people who will represent the views of groups of people. For example, members of Congress are assigned to districts, geographic areas, representing certain numbers of people. This is why the decennial census (the population count every 10 years) is so important to political map-makers.

  • I vote in every election.
  • I vote because I can.
  • I vote because I am a free man.
  • I vote because it is my civic duty.
  • I vote because it is my responsibility as a free man to exercise this powerful right – the right to give input as to whom should represent me and my interests.
  • I vote because I hold great value in the power of representative democracy.
  • I vote because I would like to have my input considered.
  • I vote so I can share my views and values and be a responsible member of society.

One of the tenets of voting that some people overlook is that their vote is going to elect others who will represent their interests. Will those for whom I cast a ballot always vote the way I want them to? No – of course not.

Will they take my follow up input under consideration? Yes – that is the beauty of a democratic republic, the type of society in which we live. I would like everyone I vote for to become elected. But that is unlikely since there are many other voters and that is not a realistic wish. I understand this and I’m ok with this.

As a regular part of my role as the superintendent of schools, I regularly give input to our elected representatives in Washington, D.C., and in Springfield, IL. I would like them to consider my input even if they disagree with it. They may disagree in principle or they may disagree because they are better informed, or they may disagree for political reasons. They also may take my input and form, reform, or transform their beliefs!

I vote for school board members (even my own bosses!); I vote for village trustees and township trustees; I vote for friends, neighbors, colleagues, folks about whom I know a lot and at times, I vote for folks about whom I do not know a lot, but who are aligned with a political coalition I support or understand.

Many voters select based upon political party or candidate gender or candidate ethnicity. It is free choice; people can literally vote for anyone who is on the ballot (and at times they can enter a “write-in” candidate too). That is the beauty of living in a free society.

What does democracy mean in the workplace?

I consider myself to be an inclusive and collaborative leader. I seek input and views and votes from the people likely to be impacted by a decision or set of decisions. I work in an industry full of committees, viewpoints, processes, procedures, etc.

I work for an elected non-partisan school board made of seven citizens who, with me, form a governance team of 8 to manage and govern the school district. I seek input from the nearly 500 employees whom I serve and employ.

Do I always agree with every one of their votes? (no) Do I always do what the will of the majority requests? (no) The plurality (the larger number of votes when a majority is not there)? (no)

Or do I consider their input with care, concern, and respect, and make a decision based upon the combination of input, voice, votes, research, evidence, etc. YES – As a leader I truly have to balance the will of the many with the right decision – often equal or congruous with the will – but not always.

The paradox of leadership is leading with an inspired vision and per a collective plan, mission, agenda, vision, etc.

Seeking input, empowering people yet “at the end of the day” realizing that “the buck stops here” and the accountability and responsibility rests with the leader.

Not following the will of the majority is not rejecting input. Not following the will of the majority is not “not listening”. From time to time the leader must seek input, gather facts, anticipate impact and … well … lead. Sometimes leading means helping the group see a different reality than the one they think they want or the one they think is right.

Recently as part of our work, I shared committee recommendations and my administrative recommendation to the Board of Education (there were sometimes differences in the committee recommendation and my ultimate decision). These examples about which I refer are from the 2013-14 Superintendent’s Task Force for Middle Level Education. This coalition of students, parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders, and board members, a 140 member stakeholder community engagement group, made recommendations for improvement to our middle schools.

I took input from many, shared the input publicly, reviewed a number of factors, synthesized the priorities and make a recommendation. For the elective areas I took all the votes/input and I made a recommendation with some differences. The input continues to guide decision making and resource allocation. The STEM team recommendations were accepted 100%.

The challenge of a leader in a democracy is to respect input and consider the votes and then decide what is in the best interest of the many and to lead. The leader may know more and be able to see around corners the people cannot yet see. The leader often needs to have vision beyond the past experiences and limits of the group. The leader needs to lead and challenge the process and manage the change process.

Does your vote and your input guarantee that your choices will be advocated? No – just like the village trustee for whom I cast a ballot will vote his/her conscious when employees give input, or vote, if you will, they are giving input to the representatives who will ultimately decide what action to take. Your vote does guarantee that your views will be at the table and respectfully reviewed and considered!

What does a leader do when the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and the future for which he is leading requires systemic unlearning? Well … with compassion and conviction, he leads.

I’m proud I voted today.

I’m proud that the educators with whom I work continue to share voice, vote, values, viewpoints and vision.

I’m proud to share the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 new Strategic Plan later this month.

The mission, vision, guiding principles, portrait of a graduate, goals, objectives and action plans have been carefully prepared, reviewed, planned, and considered.

The Strategic Plan is created by reviewing input of more than 1700 stakeholders – those who voted in surveys have their voice represented. Those who participated in focus groups have their voice represented. Those who Engage, Inspire and Empower have their voice represented as we “rebrand” and “re form” our educational organization for the next several years.

5 Minutes in 5th Grade – Podcast of Student Voice – #Engage109

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”
– Benjamin Franklin

Many years ago when I taught 8th grade students U.S. history and reading at Blackhawk Middle School in Bensenville, Illinois, the team of teachers with whom I worked grappled with the home/school communication conundrum. We did not have ready access to email or blackhawkmiddleschoolwebsites back then, and we did not always have the most compelling “packets” and paper reminders going home.

So we set up a weekly communication for the parents called “Behind the Nothing”. This was a letter which was a letter written by each student each week for their parents to see and learn what the students learned that week.

You see for most of our students, back then, when their parents would ask, “What did you learn today at school?”, the student would almost always reply, “nothing”. So we decided to create a communication from the student voice and from the student perspectives as a new way to inform their parents what they were learning! Well . . . a lot has happened in education, communication, and technology since 1993 when I first started teaching! Of course students were learning then and they are learning now!

In today’s blog post I’m sharing 5 minutes in 5th grade, a five minute podcast withwhatdidyoulearn students telling the listener what they learned at a recent outdoor education experience. Today’s teacher is equipped with far more tools for communication than the teacher of 1993. Using the application AudioBoom, I recorded the student’s voices on my iPhone. Click the link below to spend 5 minutes in 5th grade!

Special thank you to Dr. Dave Sherman, Ms. Megan Chin, Ms. Keidan, Ms. Kramer, and Mr. Templer and their awesome South Park School 5th grade students!


Global Service – On my way to help build a school in the Dominican Republic

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations. ”
– Earl Nightingale




Image retrieved from: http://www.lifetouchmemorymission.com/photo-gallery.html

This January I will be a part of a team that will build an elementary school in Rio Grande, a small community in Constanza in the Dominican Republic. The team of volunteers will consist of superintendents, principals, educators, PTA members and others who all share a passion for serving children and families. This memory mission trip is sponsored by LifeTouch and supported by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA).  I am proud to be one of the superintendents representing the AASA on this mission!

As part of the process of participating in the mission, there are some volunteer questions which I was asked and answered and I want to share via the blog as an amplification as to the purpose of this upcoming leadership and life experience for me.

Question: Why did you volunteer for the Lifetouch Memory Mission?

Response: I view education as a calling and as a call to service. I have been blessed with guidance, mentorship, coaching, and opportunities from others, and I want to pay it forward and servleadquotee globally. Over the course of my career (23 years in public education so far) I have worked with students from various nationalities, economic stations, religions, and perspectives. I believe, and I know from experiences, that spending meaningful time in another country serving a local community will improve my life and my service. My aim is to also show via modeling for my own children and family and for the folks in the community where I serve that I am willing to “walk the walk” in multiple venues and situations.

Question: What do you hope to learn from the experience of building this school, interacting with the residents of Constanza and working as a team with your fellow Memory Mission volunteers?

Response: I expect a truly life changing experience in terms of culture, language, building, caring, and doing. I am hoping to see the world through the lens of the people of Constanza and through that lens Image result for public diplomacybetter clarify my own lens. I hope to spread “public diplomacy” as well by showing the good side and caring side of our American people and of our school personnel. I look forward to making life long friendships and connections with my fellow volunteers. I want to make my wife and children proud of me by modeling a life of service.

Question: How do you think the Memory Mission will change you? Do you have personal goals for what you take away from this experience?

Response: I think this trip will change me in terms of the building experiences, the family/citizen interactions, the overall cultural exchange in the Dominican Republic. My goal is to listen, learn, embrace the culture and the people and aim to give as much as I can to these projects.

Question: Please tell us about any past experiences with international travel. Where have you visited? What experiences abroad have left the greatest impression on you?

Response: I have traveled to Germany, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Dominica, Barbados, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico. I lived with a family in Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1992 while attending coursework at a school. The homestay in Mexico gave me an appreciation and respect 20140803-165030.jpgfor the Mexican people, culture, and ways of life as well as the life long skills of biculturalism and bilingualism. My travels to Spain included recruiting Spanish teachers to work in the USA in a dual-language Spanish/English immersion education program. I learned about Germany in 1995 during the opening of the Berlin Wall and the wrapping of the Reichstag. In addition I visited schools, professional learning institutes and government facilities. The greatest impressions I have include the “sameness” that we all share regardless of language, heritage, country, etc. We are all citizens of the world with contributions and benefits to share and to serve. My Caribbean experiences broadened my appreciation for global history, economic interdependence and natural and cultural beauty.

My efforts to help support this project stretch beyond manual labor. There is still a great need to raise funds for the construction and furnishing of the school. Your donation of any size to the Lifetouch Memory Mission can help us continue to raise a village out of poverty. Let’s create a positive change for hundreds of children and their families in this community!

Each day Kids Risk Lives to Reach School

For most parents and kids, crossing the street to catch the school bus may be the riskiest part about getting to school. Could you imagine sending your child on a 2 ½ mile hike up a mountain in order to receive an education? Or what if you didn’t have the ability to send them in the first place?

Children in Constanza, Dominican Republic face these unfavorable conditions daily. Many choose not to take the long journey to school and stay home instead. With the lack of educational resources in this part of the world, children are being deprived of reaching their full potential.

For more information:

Mike Lubelfeld’s Page Lifetouch Memory Mission

We are Building Schools – And Hope – And You Can Help

Beginning, Middle, End – Opportunities

“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. ”
– W. Clement Stone

journey Something that makes working in a school system so engaging and rewarding is that each year we get a new journey. Each year we begin a journey with new students – students for whom grade “x” is the first and only time they get to experience grade “x”. A journey with mid points and milestones and traditions and experiences. A journey part of an embedded culture with tradition and history. A journey that has a targeted end point. A journey whose bittersweet end takes place annually. A journey with milestones like “promotion” and “graduation” and entry into the military, service, job market, higher education, or a combination of all of the above.

future We get to create the future in public education! We get to “shape young minds” and help support our society and our economy and our culture. We get to go on a journey each and every year with a beginning, a middle and an end. We shape our future and our outputs based upon our inputs. We have varied and specific curriculum, instruction, assessment, tools, techniques, strategies, measures, and studies. We have fun field trips and engaging parent involvement and community outreach. Our journey goes on each and every year, our teachers, support staff, and administrators are the journeymen and journeywomen at the heart of our school system. They too experience the emotional highs and lows of our journeys.

road All roads begin and all roads have exits and all roads allow for experiences and decisions. As we approach “the end of the road” for our graduates and our retiring staff members, we remember that there is a beginning, a middle, and end every year for each and every one of us. The graduates will begin a new journey (in our case, in 9th grade, or high school or in 6th grade in middle school, promoted from 5th grade) as will our retirees. The many who have served us so courageously and so dedicated, who together tally hundreds of years of service, we say THANK YOU! For them, August will be different this year … there will be a new road on which they will travel. Their journey begins anew.

20150129-215415.jpg As we prepare to shut down our 168th school year we look to the future. We look to the new beginnings and new journeys yet to begin. We consider and prepare for our new students in grades PK-8 who start their new journeys in 107 days. We continue to look for ways to Engage, Inspire, Empower!

One of the learning adventures we’re taking part in this summer is the Future Ready Summit in We are Future Ready!Chicago. This Future Ready Summit will help pave the way for our DPS109 future! Best wishes to all for joining in our journey – and though it is bittersweet to come to the end of a school year – it’s wonderful to know we have the chance in a few short months, to begin a journey again!


Leading Innovative Change

“We must look for ways to be an active force in our lives.  We must take charge of our own destinies, design a life of substance, and truly begin to live our dreams.”
– Les Brown

Since taking the helm of a school district as the superintendent in 2010, I have made it a mission to “walk the walk” with regard to instructional and communication technologies. I’m humbled to have been nominated by a colleague as someone whose practices are worthy of recognition:

“We at EdSurge and Digital Promise are delighted to inform you that your colleagues have nominated you for consideration for the Walk the Walk Award for the first annual Digital Innovation in Learning Awards! The awards have been created by EdSurge and Digital Promise to spotlight great practices in education–and to share those practices with others. So thank you for all the great work you do!”

 As part of the application process, I produced a short video as required (password to watch  is DILA). In the video I show examples of how I use digital innovation in my daily practice of leadership to support our mission. In addition, colleagues of mine share comments about how I (WE) support the growth and progress of students and staff through digital innovation. To me the video is a great source of pride because it showcases how our community is impacted by digital innovation in support of the District motto: Engage, Inspire, Empower.

Over the years I have made it part of my personal and professional mission to Model the Way and Inspire a Shared Vision and Challenge the Process and Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart in support of innovation and progress!

Examples  of digital innovation impacted directly by my leadership  are shared through a video presentation made for the state superintendent’s association that details the initial journey in the first District I served as superintendent. In support of innovative digital leadership, I/we also support and/or use  Facebook, Twitter, my blog, use of Present.me, slideshare, Podomatic, AudioBoo, VoiceBo, and HaikuDeck. These also serve as examples of regularly integrated hands-on digital innovation and usage in “real life” in my practice of leadership as an elementary superintendent of schools.

In addition, I proudly share District implementation of digital innovation by classroom teachers – this is about which I am most proud – paying it forward and modeling that which I support and expect for all members of our learning community. The award nomination is secondary or tertiary and truly it is really for all of the teachers, administrators, students, and community members who carry the torch of educational success every day! I am but one of many (e plurbus unum) and my hope is for the spotlight to shine on everyone else and not on me!!

The long lasting impact our collective journey towards transformative communication, learning and teaching for the learners in DPS109 is also shown in professional development and those seeking us out. Some numbers that reveal the lasting impact in terms of communication reach: # of followers FB 881 DPS109 page, # of followers on @DPS109 541, District hashtag #Engage109, # of followers of @mikelubelfeld 1843, # of Subscribers to this Blog 134.

In addition, as we approach the start of school this August, we are proud of the planned transformation for all of our classrooms into 1:1 Transformative Learning Environments. This year all students in grades K-2 will receive an iPad and all students in grades 3-8 will receive a Chromebook just like we used to issue textbooks. methods for today’s learners.  Other long lasting impacts can be seen in the voluntary professional development in which our teachers have engaged this summer in anticipation of changed learning environments.  This summer we offered 17 two hour sessions. More than 110, or 38% of our (out of our 290) teachers have signed up to attend one of these voluntary “kick starter” 1:1 transformative learning environment sessions.

Our teachers are committed to the success of their own learning as well as the learning of our students. Another example, or “metric” of change impact is found in the number of teachers who already have signed up for a new (free) learning management system (LMS): 100 teachers or 34% of our teachers have already signed up for Edmodo – this is not required until school starts. Change happens when people are committed to the changes! I’m proud to share and report that our teachers are part of the solution, part of the progress, part of the change process and part of the solution! I am so proud to be part of this progressive and modern minded learning organization!

 My work encompasses the award for which I was nominated; I truly do walk the walk when it comes to digital innovation in learning! I support the notion that all children can learn and grow and they each deserve learning environments with high expectations and no limits.

Please share how you are leading innovative change, please share how you are participating in innovative change.