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!




Photography – 5th Post about Life Touch Memory Mission

“A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.”
– Simon Sinek

The power of photography has never been more evident than during my time on the LifeTouch memory mission trip. For 80 years LifeTouch has been one of the leaders in photography around the USA. They take school pictures, church pictures, family portraits and they work on safe identification cards for FK2A1044children with the US government. They are also now my friends.

From the president Señor Bill C. (who was also my roommate on the trip) to the video team (Donnie and Adam) the glossy print photo team (Haim and Matt) the goofy school photographers (Jay and Sean) to Jeff, Shari Dr., Shari Du., Mary, Becky, Jan H., Jan G., Sue, Tina, Amy, Claire, Haley, Brenda, Jamie, Heather, and AC – each of these amazing members of the LifeTouch family and organization demonstrated to me the power of organizational culture and the power of photography.

On this trip we took school photos of and for all the children in the community. For some this is the first photograph of themselves – ever. We also took family portrait photos and printed them on site!


Finally a picture with his daughter!

For one man (shown at the right) this allowed him the chance to do what he could not do with his daughter when she was alive – due to our visit he was able to take a family portrait holding a picture of his deceased daughter (she died last year at the age of 19).




LUBELFIELD_MichaelIn addition, they took photos of each of us – photos we got to trade with workers, children, and adults in Rio Grande. To say picture day is routine will never be something I say. To consider picture day a passé routine will never be something I think.

The power of photography was also shared in the amazingly poignant candid shots the selfless and tireless LifeTouch crew gave to us as gifts. They made individual collages for us – they also uploaded images from DR to the home office in MN and then one of the LifeTouch team members (Shari) flew down to the DR with the photos during our trip. Their operation is impressive beyond words.


The memory mission also allowed we educators to connect back home via a Live On Air Google Hang Out. I am so grateful to the 8th grade Spanish students at Caruso and Shepard, and their teachers, and our iCoaches and library information specialists and other staff who made the memory mission trip come alive and relate to their learning in school. Some cool extras related to the Google Hang Out included the engagement of several children from the area, one of the awesome translators, Daniel, and a little boy who stole hearts at home, 5 year old Eduardo (both shown at left).

The Deerfield Public Schools District 109 8th grade Spanish Google Hang Out is shown below, it allowed us to show how our motto Engage, Inspire, Empower crosses borders and time zones:

Though I speak Spanish and it got a whole lot better this week, I struggled to understand the Spanish question of one of our 8th graders, so I needed Daniel to help me translate Dominican Spanish and American Spanish on this trip! I had unique opportunities to more deeply engage in conversation with all people since I speak the language. I also got to help my teammates with translation, and I also got to work with the the translators to improve my ability to communicate. A proud moment for me – among many – is when Pedro, our enthusiastic translator extraordinaire “promoted me” from Translator in Training to Full Translator.

In front of the AASA logo on the Cecaini School
In front of the AASA logo on the Cecaini School

Thanks to the LIfeTouch team for making me feel like I was part of a “National Geographic” magazine! Thanks also to the photo sharing site they set up for us allowing all of us to share and post photographic images as part of our storytelling.

The next post will be about education and the realizations I experiencd about project based learning, interdisciplinary connections, and tying emotion to learning for lasting impact. The Dominican engineer and skilled laborers were some of the most effective teachers with whom we worked. They turned a mostly unskilled group into a school building machine.

Thank you for reading and commenting!



The LifeTouch Memory Mission – The 3rd in a Series of Posts

Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.”
– Booker T. Washington


From January 18, 2016, to January 26, 2016, I travelled far away from my home and my regular life as a member of a mission trip to help build a school to change lives. Our destination was the beautiful scenic paradise of Constanza, Dominican Republic. A contrast to the immense natural beauty is the lack of hope and economic opportunities that have plagued this part of the country. In addition to lack of accessible educational opportunities for young people, there also exists a shortage of jobs and a great deal of teen pregnancy and malnutrition. These folks crave a better life with more hope. They welcome the mission trips and the fulfillment of local leaders and their vision of a better life. They welcome the gift of hope that these trips bring. They welcome a chance to support education and economic and social growth. This mission trip was many things: public diplomacy, global travel, bi-culturalism, relationship building, international understanding, construction, and the realization and power of project based learning and the essential nature of play, recreation, and the power of entering one’s home, church, and lives!


On January 18 I left Deerfield, IL (Chicago) and flew to Atlanta, Georgia en route to the Dominican Republic on the experience of a lifetime! I left behind my wife, children, work, friends, etc. as I entered a new world and a new set of life experiences as a learner. The 51 other people with whom I joined on this trip were pretty much complete strangers. Some of the volunteers work for LifeTouch Photography (the company sponsoring this mission trip), some like me represented professional associations in the USA and Canada. I was one of the representatives of the AASA (American Association of School Administrators), the school superintendent group. Other members of our team came from the national principal associations (NASSP and NAESP), the national PTA, and the National School Board Association. Together we helped build a school in the mountains of this beautiful country. While doing this, we learned to love the Dominican people, we learned everything about how people live in Constanza, we learned that play transcends language, and we learned how a trip based upon learning, serving and storytelling changed our lives – for the better! On January 26 I boarded a plane with our group who started as strangers and with whom I am now friends as we head home to the USA and as we reflect on the life-changing journey we started last week.


Imagine a group of 52 strangers gathering together in Atlanta, GA – barely learning each other’s names – and 8 days and 7 nights later this group of strangers have become close friends and co-builders of a school in Rio Grande, Constanza, Dominican Republic! The following blog postings reflect my views, thoughts, learnings, lessons, and story of the LifeTouch Memory Mission 2016. As part of the experience of building a school in the Dominican Republic on the LifeTouch Memory Mission 2016 trip, we engaged in cultural learning and team building experiences prior to starting on the work site.


As background, LIfeTouch has been running mission trips since 2000, and they have been engaged in building schools, hope, and relationships in the Dominican Republic since 2011. Participation in the trip is based upon lottery selection – I was originally selected as an alternate and since someone could not attend I received the opportunity of a lifetime. After we arrived, the first major school building project, Cecaini School, was approved by the government and officially dedicated. We entered this journey thinking we would help build a school but we left this journey doing a whole lot more! My aim is to capture with words and images, among several postings, the power of this journey and the message that relationship building forms construction that can last forever! The image above is of the current school in Rio Grande – it’s a one room school house serving children in grades 1-4.


So … Back to our beginning …Our trip facilitators were EXCELLENT – though I will try to use words and images to represent my experiences, neither words nor images alone can truly share the respect I have for Mr. Tim Gibson, Jan, Amy, and all of those who helped make this memory mission such a huge success. When we started, we were told that trips like this allow people to enter the culture of a foreign land as a learner – we were not tourists – we were here to learn, to serve, and to share our stories. Through learning, serving and storytelling we would become bi-cultural and quite frankly part of the Rio Grande community.


We were reminded that we were on this trip to learn alongside our new friends and adapt to their ways of doing things. We were helping build a school under the direction, guidance, leadership and teaching of the Dominican engineers and workers. We were here to serve them through helping them accomplish their goals. What they wanted done in the order they chose by the methods they directed us to use was a manner of our service to them. We served with hard work, sweat equity, friendship, relationships, play, conversations, home visits, and a ton of fun and pride. Our storytelling (part of which is shared in the blog) is based upon sharing, listening, and describing the impact of our journey through experiential learning, sharing with people, family, friends, and through the major focus of our trip which was to help fulfill the vision of community leaders like Pastor Angel Moreta that the children of Constanza would have HOPE – hope that they were not forgotten – for a life with greater opportunities for advancement than currently exist today.


As we engaged in the thoughtful team building and getting to know you exercises early in the trip it started to become clear to me that the reality of our work was much larger than the physical labor of building the school – it was going to build heart, soul, emotion, and a school. We truly became messengers of peace and hope to a forgotten village and along the way we were greatly impacted in many ways!


I’ll post more entries later this week!

Proud to serve – Humbled to be honored for service!

“Let tradition be our guide, but not our jailer.”
– W. Somerset Maugham

As public school leaders my colleagues and I do all we can do to keep the focus on what is important, right, and most impactful: STUDENT FUTURES! We do the work for the honor of service and for the reward of helping impact communities and the future. It is humbling to be acknowledged and recognized by peers and professional associations, and it’s humbling to share the following video that honors a friend and NASSLOGOcolleague, A. Katrise Perera, as NASS (National Association of School Superintendents) 2015 Superintendent of the Year, as well as honoring me as one of three finalists for this high honor.

I dedicate this and any honors and acknowledgements for our work in DPS109 to our Board of Education,

Leadership Team, Teachers, Support Staff, Students, Parents, and community! It is rewarding to serve and it’s an honor to be acknowledged for the meaningful work of the DPS109 teams!

Engage, Inspire, Empower – End of Year reflections

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. “
– Maya Angelou

As I reflect on leadership, administration, public service, endings, and beginnings, I find the same connections between successful people and relationships. As social beings, we seek the benefits of friendship, mentorship, collegiality – in work, personally, in civic clubs, sports, and hobbies. The people are who/what “matter” insofar as leadership and change, and growth and progress are concerned.

On a personal level, I have the good fortune to serve in four school districts over the past 22 years. Each change allowed me to channel the excitement and possibility about the new beginnings I was about to “encounter”. It is always bittersweet to leave the many relationships I have had the privilege of building over the years in one place. I am confident that many of the relationships will sustain the transition and my departure. What is most exciting about leadership transition and change is that it allows for contributing in another community that has a rich history, strong continuity, and strong community ties.

It is an honor to have been selected to join learning organizations with the wonderful people with whom I have worked and led. My hope is always to meet/greet/start to build relationships with the people and then find out their needs and wants; and my hope is to be able to work together and lead in as collaborative manner as practical in the best interests of the students, faculty & staff, parents, members of the board, and the community in general. It is fantastic to have this opportunity for new beginnings!! Each new opportunity has provided a series of true leadership experiences and opportunities for learning and growth

“There are as many ways to recognize people as there are people to recognize.” -Eric Harvey

When we do employee survey work, “Recognition” is often the most neglected dimension by managers. For recognition to be appreciated, it must be timely and perceived as an earnest expression from a caring colleague. Get to know your coworkers as humans beings and understand how they prefer to be acknowledged, recognized and rewarded. Then catch them “doing things right” and do the needful with enthusiasm. Taking time for oneself, one’s family and one’s faith. Leadership involves balancing the many “pulls” in one’s life and enjoying all of the gifts that life has to offer. Each day is a gift – take care to not take for granted!! Here in DPS we have sustained a focus on The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes & Posner) and Encourage The Heart (recognition is part of this) is one of the five practices of exemplary leadership about which they write.

Essentially my whole focus is on EXCELLENCE – I have lived my life by this focus, I conduct my work by this focus. As a public school superintendent – a proud superintendent – my charge is to support student growth and learning every day – I am held to high standards by my school board, my staff, the students, the community – everyone. And I should be held accountable to very high standards, and my performance is measured – as it should be – according to established best practices and internationally accepted standards for leadership.

I also have had the honor of working for several years as a Sr. Educational Consultant for HUMANeX Ventures (Ventures for Excellence) as a practitioner scientist, researcher, trainer, and developer of leaders. In my roles (private and public) I work on helping others reach heights higher than they thought they could reach through scientifically validated highly predictive instruments and research and analyses used in selection and development of staff.

During my more than two decades of public educational leadership, teaching, and service, I value the coaching I have received through mentors and coaches powerfully dedicated to supporting my impact as a leader.As I read the news about “reforms” and legislation and philanthropic efforts toward impacting education, I state emphatically and publicly that selection of staff AND the development of staff will lead to excellence in our schools. Personal and professional connections lead to supportive relationships and culture.

As we approach the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another, I appreciate the opportunity to serve, reflect, and lead!

As we say in DPS109: