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!

 

 

 

 

Culture of “Nice” vs Culture of “Honesty” #suptchat

“Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is for you”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

In terms of organizational culture, many (Drucker & others) are clear that culture “eats strategy for breakfast”. Meaning – focus on culture or you’ll have nothing on which to focus! Culture is not just important – it’s everything! I write about culture a lot, folks a lot smarter than I (Fullan, Marzano, and others) write and research a lot about culture too! So … if we know how important it is to create it, measure it, build it and sustain it (in education especially) … why are we so “nice” instead of “honest” in the context of leading and managing change?

So this year in the Deerfield Public Schools District 109, two more of our six schools earned the highest education award in our nation – the National Blue Ribbon Award. They join two other of our six schools who earned this distinction last year.

In two years four out of our six schools earned the highest honors. Leadership, Culture, Focus, Excellence, and Joy define the experiences for children and adults at these schools. What are the leaders doing with respect to culture at these schools that it making the difference?

Are these leaders confronting brutal questions? Are these leaders acknowledging when good is good and when good is not enough? Are these leaders honestly and respectfully addressing that which needs to be addressed even when it ruffles feathers? “You bet they are!”

In education many of us have been faced with “niceness” and an aversion to “critical review” for whatever reason – we don’t know why – “that’s the way we have always done it” (TWADDI). In conversations, training workshops, conversations, discussions etc. with school leaders, I have discovered many report that the toughest part of supervision/evaluation/coaching is giving honest, direct feedback. 

Often the “culture of nice” supersedes the “culture of honest”. With this post I’m hoping to highlight how the culture of honest impacts the organization in measureable and powerful ways. The culture of honest is pervasive in the Deerfield Public Schools!

If you’re reading this blog and you are wondering why your particular organization is not changing or is not making progress – perhaps you should check your culture and communication.

Is everything in our district’s culture perfect? – NO – of course not; but we as a matter of leadership assess, measure, and lead with respect to culture and dimensions of culture every year. Our school principals are held accountable for their school’s culture. We expect increases in dimensions especially when action plans are centered around growth, acknowledgement and honesty. This year 93.81% of all employees report that they are highly engaged and highly satisfied with their work in our district!

2017 Organizational Culture Results – DPS109

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In In 2013 the average “dream box” (top right) score was 61.90% from a database of more than 10,000 education employees in the USA. Our district’s “dream box” score in 2013 was 85.75%. See below for a look at the past five years’ worth of dream box organizational culture for the Deerfield Public Schools:

 

 

In our district we are far from perfect – highly successful but never satisfied!

We are on a journey toward excellence with a focus on continuous improvement. Over the past two years we have had a failure in the execution of middle school standards based learning. There are a number of reasons for this. One of the reasons was the “culture of nice” superseding the culture of honesty; and our deliberate decisions to “compromise” in the spirit of cooperation (compromise with the best of intentions – but it was really appeasement).

Students of history remember what happened when Neville Chamberlain appeased Adolph Hitler … well – appeasement doesn’t work so well in leadership

honesty and courage work. Granted I’m oversimplifying a really complex and life and death time in history with the day to day leadership of a school system … you get the point.

Strong, direct, honest, dignified, respectful conversations and coaching are required – are imperative – are expected – are to become the norm when success is desired. With honest, direct, clear communication people know what the shared vision is – what the direction is and to what they’ll be held accountable. The three goals shown above reflect the current strategic goals in our district; clear, concise, coherent.

Five years ago the principals in our district began a process of becoming honest and clear culture leaders. They started to address student growth, teacher performance, stretch goals, limitless opportunities for ALL as well as innovative, future focused leadership. As a result, we have four of our six schools honored with the nation’s highest educational honor, we have administrators with regional honors, and we have shared the DPS109 story around the USA. Is it easy to lead in a culture of honesty? No – but I don’t go to work for an easy time … I go to work for a meaningful, impactful time!


I would love to hear your thoughts about culture – “nice vs honest” and leadership overall! If your leaders are too focused on management and not on leadership – excellence will be out of reach! Those who can manage and lead with courage, power, honesty, and in line with the shared vision – those leaders will be successful!

Article about Voxer in AASA Journal

“When you’re a leader, you don’t have a ton of people that work for you– you now work for those people.”
– Todd Bentley

Lately I have discovered a passion for writing! I have published several articles and books. My second book: Student Voice: From Invisible to Invaluable, ISBN 9781475840025, will be released in January 2018 (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers).

Like the quote above, I work for those I serve – I write for those I serve. The story of the success of the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 (main content for many of my writings) is written for the thousands of students, teachers, support staff, board, administrators, parents, and community members whom I serve.

Another passion of mine is using social media tools for leadership, communication, and progress. To that end, I have published an article in the latest School Administrator Magazine about the social media tool Voxer – see the images below (each is linked to the article/journal). 

As always comments are welcome!

 

 

 

Leadership! Episode 3 of 3 – Perspectives in Education Podcast

“Without excellence, we have lost our honor. Without honor, we have lost our integrity. And without integrity, we are all lost.”
– Anonymous

Nick and I wrote the following as the first two paragraphs of the conclusion of our book (p.95): “The premise of this book is that we all need to unlearn because old conventions stymie meaningful change. In addition, learning is very difficult to unlearn. The “wiring” in our brains is hard to alter. Once we learn what is right, it’s often almost impossible to unlearn and accept a new right. As we stated in the beginning of the book, our landscape as leaders is applied to school leadership, classrooms, pedagogy and educational systems in general.In order to change course and effectively prepare today’s youth for tomorrow, we submit that much of what we have learned in general over the course of our lives, education, and professional careers must be unlearned in order to provide a new tomorrow for our nation’s children. It’s urgent to reimagine education. It’s urgent to pack up the 19th Century and move it into a museum. It’s urgent to unlearn so we can create a modern educational system for our nation’s youth.”

The process of writing a book, going through editing, copy-editing, revisions, rewrites, and peer review was energizing and humbling at the same time. Nick and I are really proud of The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s Schools Today (2017-Rowman & Littlefield). The three podcast series from Perspectives in Education allows the reader and the prospective reader a chance to get to know us, our perspectives, and the value of the book! Please reach out with any questions – share comments to this post – and if you like the book, please consider sharing a review on Amazon!

 

 S01 Episode 6 Part 3: Mike Lubelfeld and Nick Poylak: Superintendents, #suptchat hosts, and authors.

Episode 6 Part 3: Superintendents, #suptchat hosts, and authors.

Our guests for our 3 part mini series of episode 6 are Mike Lubelfeld and Nick Polyak.

Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D. currently serves as the superintendent of schools in the Deerfield, IL Public Schools (District 109). He is the co-moderator of #suptchat – the superintendent educational chat on Twitter.

Nick Polyak, Ed.D. is the proud superintendent of the award-winning Leyden Community High School District 212. He is the co-moderator of #suptchat – the superintendent educational chat on Twitter.

Both are co-authors of a book called The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrow’s School Today

In this episode we discuss:

  • Characteristics of good leaders
  • How to unlearn things of the past
  • Preparing students for college, workforce, and how to be good citizens
  • Their Perspectives on Education

Please share and comment!  Would love to get feedback and suggestions.  If you are interested in sharing your story, please reach out to us!

Thi

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.