Unlearning Leadership Planning – Article in IL ASCD Journal Summer 2017

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”
Alvin Toffler

 

In this blog post I’m sharing an article published in the Illinois Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ILASCD): The Unlearning Leader’s Guide to Strategic Planning, Summer 2017, Volume 63, Number 1, pp. 8-16

End of Year Message – #Engage109

“As a leader, you need to help your people flip their perspective — help them be open to seeing these new challenges as opportunities.”  –John Kotter


Dear District 109 Staff, Families, and Community Members,

Thank you for your many contributions to another outstanding year for education in the Deerfield Public Schools District 109. Many of you contributed via focus groups and surveys to the development of our newly approved 2017 Strategic Plan, which will guide our innovative work and growth for the next few years.

While we are quite proud, we never are completely satisfied. Our work is a journey in leadership, education, and service. But before we look to our future, I want to take a minute to highlight success from our recent past. This past year, two of our schools — Walden and Shepard — were named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education. In a series of Botvin LifeSkills parent sessions, we came together as a community to focus on what we all can do to help children make positive, healthy choices. We also started a digital privacy, safety and security initiative and hosted a parent technology night with a former student as our keynote speaker.

Our active and achieving students earned awards and recognition in so many areas, including mathematics, writing, robotics, music, athletics, geography, spelling and Destination Imagination, to name a few. Staff professional development grew with the learning and collaboration opportunities provided by Early Release Wednesday.

This summer we’re doing some maintenance on parking lots, roofing work, renovating the two middle school locker rooms, and performing other “life-safety” projects. Next year, we’ll begin planning for renovating and updating the middle school libraries. Finally, as part of the strategic plan, next year one of our major objectives will be to review at least two of our programs (e.g., foreign language, middle school schedule, social studies, TAP 3-5). We’ll keep the community informed and likely will reach out to you for committee work and input.

We will continue to ask you to Engage, Inspire, and Empower children, students, friends and neighbors to contribute to this incredible community. Please stay in touch this summer. Check the website regularly, and look for emails from Cathy Kedjidjian and your schools — and never hesitate to contact me with comments, questions or suggestions, or just to say hello over the summer!

Sincerely,
Mike

 


Michael Lubelfeld, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools
Deerfield Public Schools District 109
517 Deerfield Road  |  Deerfield, IL 60015
(847) 945-1844 x7231
http://www.dps109.org | http://dps109supt.edublogs.org/

The mission of the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 is to: Provide innovative educational experiences of the highest quality that engage, inspire and empower each student to excel and contribute to improving the world.


Text-a-Tip: 24/7 anonymous support for students who need help for themselves or a friend. Download the Lake County Help app or text 224HELP to 1-844-823-5323 to connect with a trained counselor.

Our New Strategic Plan – #engage109

“If you want extraordinary results you must put in extraordinary effort.”
– Cory Booker

On Monday, April 24, 2017, the Board of Education of the Deerfield (IL) Public Schools District 109 approved the 2017 Strategic Plan! This new plan is the outgrowth of focus groups, interviews, surveys, studies, analysis, and leadership. More than 1700 voices have been heard as part of this process.

We have a Portrait of a Graduate, a mission, vision, guiding principles, goals and objectives.

This is the District’s Guiding Document! All actions, plans, initiatives, plans, programs and reviews will be aligned with and measured against this plan and its components.

 

From my letter to the community in the Plan:

On behalf of the Board of Education, I am proud to present the 2017 Strategic Plan. We developed this plan with input from more than 1,700 people in our community through interviews, focus groups, surveys, data analysis and student performance.

Those 1,700 people included representatives from the following stakeholder groups: teachers, parents, students, support staff, community members, business leaders, government leaders, administrators and members of the Board of Education.  The plan lays out the mission, vision, portrait of a graduate, guiding principles goals and objectives. This plan will guide our work on behalf of the children we serve. The three broad goals to which the objectives are aligned clearly share that which we value: Limitless learning experiences for ALL children.

The 2017-18 school year will mark the first year of implementation of this plan.  I look forward to working with our entire community as we embark on shaping the future of education in the Deerfield Public Schools. Thank you for your continued support as we continue to Engage, Inspire, Empower our students, each other, and our entire community.

We take the concept of limitless learning experiences for ALL children very seriously. We do believe that the current, 19th Century structures serve many of our students and families (it’s familiar and it’s a system that is not completely broken). But, there are more and more students for whom the current system simply does not work. There are more and more students for whom the current structures block their growth and potential. Just because the systems have worked for more than a century does not believe we have to continue them blindly with no options.

This current Strategic Plan allows us to move beyond the 19th Century structures. We can move beyond our 20th Century accomplishments and struggles. We can move forward in this current 21st Century with vision, mission, “the end in mind” and options!

The three goals form the umbrella of the driving forces toward our future – a future where we design, create, implement, and evaluate Limitless learning experiences for ALL children.

Tied to these goals we have six objectives each for a total of eighteen objectives. The objectives were vetted by members of the Board of Education, our research partners ECRA Group, and the Leadership Team (assistant superintendents, principals, associate/assistant principals, executive directors, directors coordinators, etc).

Tied to these eighteen objectives we have formulated eighteen action plans! We’ll tie our work to this plan. We’ll align our work to these objectives. We’ll report more throughout the next few years. In three years we’ll review the entire plan to see what is still relevant. Annually we’ll report on progress, planning, and evaluation. This will be a LIVE plan – not a plan that sits on a binder.

 

 

 

What is your Longpath? Thinking about the Future – TED Talk – #engage109

“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.”
– Laird Hamilton

In this post I’m sharing a TED talk that I enjoyed, and I believe serves as a good reminder for our fast “immediate” world. Ari Wallach’s talk caused me to think about reflection, he asks …”to what end”, how far out do we think? The speaker, Ari Wallach has a good message. Reactions/Responses are always welcome.

Tomorrow I’m joining hundreds of other Illinois Superintendents with Tweets, emails, blog posts, etc. in support of a LONG TERM IL funding solution; for too long we in IL Education have been victims of the short term.

Transcript:
So I’ve been “futuring,” which is a term I made up —
0:15
(Laughter)
0:16
about three seconds ago. I’ve been futuring for about 20 years, and when I first started, I would sit down with people, and say, “Hey, let’s talk 10, 20 years out.” And they’d say, “Great.” And I’ve been seeing that time horizon get shorter and shorter and shorter, so much so that I met with a CEO two months ago and I said — we started our initial conversation. He goes, “I love what you do. I want to talk about the next six months.”
0:44
(Laughter)
0:47
We have a lot of problems that we are facing. These are civilizational-scale problems. The issue though is, we can’t solve them using the mental models that we use right now to try and solve these problems. Yes, a lot of great technical work is being done, but there is a problem that we need to solve for a priori, before, if we want to really move the needle on those big problems. “Short-termism.” Right? There’s no marches. There’s no bracelets. There’s no petitions that you can sign to be against short-termism. I tried to put one up, and no one signed. It was weird.
1:26
(Laughter)
1:28
But it prevents us from doing so much. Short-termism, for many reasons, has pervaded every nook and cranny of our reality. I just want you to take a second and just think about an issue that you’re thinking, working on. It could be personal, it could be at work or it could be move-the-needle world stuff, and think about how far out you tend to think about the solution set for that.
1:52
Because short-termism prevents the CEO from buying really expensive safety equipment. It’ll hurt the bottom line. So we get the Deepwater Horizon. Short-termism prevents teachers from spending quality one-on-one time with their students. So right now in America, a high school student drops out every 26 seconds. Short-termism prevents Congress — sorry if there’s anyone in here from Congress —
2:23
(Laughter)
2:25
or not really that sorry —
2:27
(Laughter)
2:29
from putting money into a real infrastructure bill. So what we get is the I-35W bridge collapse over the Mississippi a few years ago, 13 killed. It wasn’t always like this. We did the Panama Canal. We pretty much have eradicated global polio. We did the transcontinental railroad, the Marshall Plan. And it’s not just big, physical infrastructure problems and issues. Women’s suffrage, the right to vote. But in our short-termist time, where everything seems to happen right now and we can only think out past the next tweet or timeline post, we get hyper-reactionary.
3:07
So what do we do? We take people who are fleeing their war-torn country, and we go after them. We take low-level drug offenders, and we put them away for life. And then we build McMansions without even thinking about how people are going to get between them and their job. It’s a quick buck.
3:25
Now, the reality is, for a lot of these problems, there are some technical fixes, a lot of them. I call these technical fixes sandbag strategies. So you know there’s a storm coming, the levee is broken, no one’s put any money into it, you surround your home with sandbags. And guess what? It works. Storm goes away, the water level goes down, you get rid of the sandbags, and you do this storm after storm after storm. And here’s the insidious thing. A sandbag strategy can get you reelected. A sandbag strategy can help you make your quarterly numbers.
4:05
Now, if we want to move forward into a different future than the one we have right now, because I don’t think we’ve hit — 2016 is not peak civilization.
4:15
(Laughter)
4:16
There’s some more we can do. But my argument is that unless we shift our mental models and our mental maps on how we think about the short, it’s not going to happen.
4:27
So what I’ve developed is something called “longpath,” and it’s a practice. And longpath isn’t a kind of one-and-done exercise. I’m sure everyone here at some point has done an off-site with a lot of Post-It notes and whiteboards, and you do — no offense to the consultants in here who do that — and you do a long-term plan, and then two weeks later, everyone forgets about it. Right? Or a week later. If you’re lucky, three months. It’s a practice because it’s not necessarily a thing that you do. It’s a process where you have to revisit different ways of thinking for every major decision that you’re working on. So I want to go through those three ways of thinking.
5:08
So the first: transgenerational thinking. I love the philosophers: Plato, Socrates, Habermas, Heidegger. I was raised on them. But they all did one thing that didn’t actually seem like a big deal until I really started kind of looking into this. And they all took, as a unit of measure for their entire reality of what it meant to be virtuous and good, the single lifespan, from birth to death. But here’s a problem with these issues: they stack up on top of us, because the only way we know how to do something good in the world is if we do it between our birth and our death. That’s what we’re programmed to do. If you go to the self-help section in any bookstore, it’s all about you. Which is great, unless you’re dealing with some of these major issues. And so with transgenerational thinking, which is really kind of transgenerational ethics, you’re able to expand how you think about these problems, what is your role in helping to solve them.
6:12
Now, this isn’t something that just has to be done at the Security Council chamber. It’s something that you can do in a very kind of personal way. So every once in a while, if I’m lucky, my wife and I like to go out to dinner, and we have three children under the age of seven. So you can imagine it’s a very peaceful, quiet meal.
6:30
(Laughter)
6:32
So we sit down and literally all I want to do is just eat and chill, and my kids have a completely and totally different idea of what we’re going to be doing. And so my first idea is my sandbag strategy, right? It’s to go into my pocket and take out the iPhone and give them “Frozen” or some other bestselling game thing. And then I stop and I have to kind of put on this transgenerational thinking cap. I don’t do this in the restaurant, because it would be bizarre, but I have to — I did it once, and that’s how I learned it was bizarre.
7:09
(Laughter)
7:10
And you have to kind of think, “OK, I can do this.” But what is this teaching them? So what does it mean if I actually bring some paper or engage with them in conversation? It’s hard. It’s not easy, and I’m making this very personal. It’s actually more traumatic than some of the big issues that I work on in the world — entertaining my kids at dinner. But what it does is it connects them here in the present with me, but it also — and this is the crux of transgenerational thinking ethics — it sets them up to how they’re going to interact with their kids and their kids and their kids.
7:47
Second, futures thinking. When we think about the future, 10, 15 years out, give me a vision of what the future is. You don’t have to give it to me, but think in your head. And what you’re probably going to see is the dominant cultural lens that dominates our thinking about the future right now: technology. So when we think about the problems, we always put it through a technological lens, a tech-centric, a techno-utopia, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s something that we have to really think deeply about if we’re going to move on these major issues, because it wasn’t always like this. Right? The ancients had their way of thinking about what the future was. The Church definitely had their idea of what the future could be, and you could actually pay your way into that future. Right? And luckily for humanity, we got the scientific revolution. From there, we got the technology, but what has happened — And by the way, this is not a critique. I love technology. Everything in my house talks back to me, from my children to my speakers to everything.
8:55
(Laughter)
8:58
But we’ve abdicated the future from the high priests in Rome to the high priests of Silicon Valley. So when we think, well, how are we going to deal with climate or with poverty or homelessness, our first reaction is to think about it through a technology lens. And look, I’m not advocating that we go to this guy. I love Joel, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not saying we go to Joel. What I’m saying is we have to rethink our base assumption about only looking at the future in one way, only looking at it through the dominant lens. Because our problems are so big and so vast that we need to open ourselves up.
9:40
So that’s why I do everything in my power not to talk about the future. I talk about futures. It opens the conversation again. So when you’re sitting and thinking about how do we move forward on this major issue — it could be at home, it could be at work, it could be again on the global stage — don’t cut yourself off from thinking about something beyond technology as a fix because we’re more concerned about technological evolution right now than we are about moral evolution. And unless we fix for that, we’re not going to be able to get out of short-termism and get to where we want to be.
10:18
The final, telos thinking. This comes from the Greek root. Ultimate aim and ultimate purpose. And it’s really asking one question: to what end? When was the last time you asked yourself: To what end? And when you asked yourself that, how far out did you go? Because long isn’t long enough anymore. Three, five years doesn’t cut it. It’s 30, 40, 50, 100 years.
10:45
In Homer’s epic, “The Odyssey,” Odysseus had the answer to his “what end.” It was Ithaca. It was this bold vision of what he wanted — to return to Penelope. And I can tell you, because of the work that I’m doing, but also you know it intuitively — we have lost our Ithaca. We have lost our “to what end,” so we stay on this hamster wheel. And yes, we’re trying to solve these problems, but what comes after we solve the problem? And unless you define what comes after, people aren’t going to move. The businesses — this isn’t just about business — but the businesses that do consistently, who break out of short-termism not surprisingly are family-run businesses. They’re transgenerational. They’re telos. They think about the futures. And this is an ad for Patek Philippe. They’re 175 years old, and what’s amazing is that they literally embody this kind of longpathian sense in their brand, because, by the way, you never actually own a Patek Philippe, and I definitely won’t —
11:41
(Laughter)
11:42
unless somebody wants to just throw 25,000 dollars on the stage. You merely look after it for the next generation.
11:49
So it’s important that we remember, the future, we treat it like a noun. It’s not. It’s a verb. It requires action. It requires us to push into it. It’s not this thing that washes over us. It’s something that we actually have total control over. But in a short-term society, we end up feeling like we don’t. We feel like we’re trapped. We can push through that.
12:13
Now I’m getting more comfortable in the fact that at some point in the inevitable future, I will die. But because of these new ways of thinking and doing, both in the outside world and also with my family at home, and what I’m leaving my kids, I get more comfortable in that fact. And it’s something that a lot of us are really uncomfortable with, but I’m telling you, think it through. Apply this type of thinking and you can push yourself past what’s inevitably very, very uncomfortable.
12:47
And it all begins really with yourself asking this question: What is your longpath? But I ask you, when you ask yourself that now or tonight or behind a steering wheel or in the boardroom or the situation room: push past the longpath, quick, oh, what’s my longpath the next three years or five years? Try and push past your own life if you can because it makes you do things a little bit bigger than you thought were possible.
13:19
Yes, we have huge, huge problems out there. With this process, with this thinking, I think we can make a difference. I think you can make a difference, and I believe in you guys.
13:34
Thank you.
13:35
(Applause)

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.