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.


From the Future Ready Team – “Speak Up Surveys”

“Success isn’t something that just happens. Success is learned, success is practiced, and then it is shared.”
– Sparky Anderson


Sharing an excerpt of an email as well as survey links on behalf of the Future Ready Schools

We want you to Speak Up! Future Ready Schools (FRS) is helping to support Project Tomorrow on the 2016 Speak Up surveys.

If you are not yet familiar, Speak Up is a national research project as well as a free service to school districts. The survey should take about 15 minutes and includes a series of multiple choice questions.

If you are interested in using any of the other Speak Up surveys (for teachers, school administrators, students, parents, librarians, community members), they are open through January 13th.

To learn more, please visit: http://www.tomorrow.org/speakup.

Thanks for taking the time to participate.

Our Best,

The Future Ready Team
Sara Hall, Tom Murray and Lia Dossin

#ASuperDay – Sharing the story of education through the superintendent lens


“One of the marks of successful people is that they are action-oriented. One of the marks of average people is that they are talk-oriented.”
– Brian Tracy



From time to time I share “tweets” from superintendents and school leaders around the world on “ASuperDay” – a super day is designed to give school leaders the chance to tell the stories of what education is … using pictures, audio, video, and text superintendents share “real life” views of meetings, classroom visits, etc. The superintendent position is no longer lonely – or at least it should not be lonely – when we band together as a “PLN” (Personal/Professional learning network) and we take a few minutes to share what it is that we do and what it is that we share.

In the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 our motto is Engage, Inspire, Empower,


through venues like #ASuperDay on Twitter, we’re able to join so many others in so many places doing just that – engaging, inspiring and empowering.

The narrative of education is in the hands of the leaders … please take some time to check out #ASuperDay on Twitter – November 16, 2016

Welcome Back Institute Day – 2016 – #Engage109

“Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.”
– Dalai Lama


Today, August 18, 2016, was the first official day back for DPS109 staff. As we have done for the past four years we gathered as a whole school family at Alan B. Shepard Middle School for the opening institute day. This year our themes are Joy and Innovation.

Earlier in the week I sent out a note to the entire community, I’m sharing excerpts of that letter below:

Dear District 109 Parents, Staff and Community Members,

On Thursday, we welcome our teachers and staff back to work with a full day inservice that includes a keynote speech by Rich Sheridan, author of Joy, Inc., as well as collaborative learning time to prepare all of us to welcome our students back to school on Monday, August 22. …Nearly 50 staff members attended a three-day intensive workshop led by a faculty member of the Buck Institute to bring project-based learning to our classrooms.  In addition, teachers and staff set up classrooms, collaborated on curriculum, researched innovative methods, and mentored new teachers and staff, whom we welcomed to the District 109 family last week.

What’s New?

Click Here for a 360 degree view of a new library learning space

Click Here for a 360 degree view of a new art space

Click on image for a 360 degree view of labs in our district
…Every elementary school has reconstructed their library media space, adding PTO funded SmartLabs fulfilling a long held plan to incorporate more STEAM into the elementary schools. Click for live video of the construction progress – we’re getting close!

Both middle schools also have innovative and redesigned learning spaces; the art and music spaces have been completely transformed into areas that will inspire creativity, innovation, and future focused arts instruction.

Last year, the Department of Teaching & Learning awarded our second phase of innovation grants. Ten teachers across every building in the District won grants to have a classroom set of iPads, and two other teachers earned special grants for their exceptionally innovative projects. In addition, 100 teachers received individual iPads to begin exploring the potential of tablet technology to our already robust 1:1 transformative learning environments…


As part of my welcome remarks, I shared the following slide deck (I’ll also be sharing notes for clarity). The notes reflect my thinking and preparation and they are very close to the commentary I delivered in person at the assembly. As always, your comments are encouraged and welcomed!

Notes for slide 3: Our mission, our motto, our statements as to WHY we exist  –  Engage, Inspire, Empower our students, each other, and our community. You continue to do an amazing job of engaging, inspiring, empowering each and every day. I remain quite proud to serve you as the superintendent of schools!

Notes for slide 4: How do we engage, inspire and empower? One major way is through innovation. We innovate to increase student learning … We facilitate learning for our students as well as one another. Innovate means trying new and better ways of doing things. We started with Innovation grants three years ago and we keep on demonstrating new and better ways to inspire learning and to support a culture of excellence.

Notes for slide 5: One very public way we show innovation is through modern learning spaces. We have been designing and creating new and better learning spaces across the district for the past several years. With new lighting, better flooring, award winning classrooms and labs we demonstrate our commitment to excellent public education. We are proud to host visits from leaders all over the state and nation to our award winning middle school science labs. This year we cannot wait to open and unveil new middle school art and music spaces, PTO funded K-5 SMART labs, redesigned library spaces, student friendly furniture, and more. All of these physical changes are designed to support innovative learning and teaching practices. The spaces themselves do not reflect innovation though, it’s what you do with and in these spaces that truly creates new and better learning for ALL students. We provide the conditions for optimal learning and growing, the spaces provide opportunities for new and better experiences.

Notes for slide 6: We also innovate with new and better instructional tools and resources designed to support your work. With collaborative Google Apps for Education we have created opportunities for communication across boundaries of time and space. Other tools like the extensive suite of technology we offer support innovative learning and teaching practices. The tools themselves are not innovative; it’s what you do with these tools that creates new and better learning for our students. This year we’re proud to celebrate Innovation Grant Phase II with new and better ideas about how to leverage the power of technology. A focus area includes the 4Cs of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. These new tools allow for innovative practices supporting the 4Cs.

Notes for slide 7: We also innovate in DPS109 with professional learning opportunities. I am so proud of the hashtag #engage109 on Twitter where any day or time I can look and see what is happening in the classrooms around the district. #Engage109 is known far and wide as a space where DPS109 staff share and learn and communicate. Often our hashtag is trending due to the activity. Twitter is a space where anyone can learn and access virtually anything at any time. In addition, this year’s early release Wednesday structure is designed to create new and better ways for teacher learning. Through sustained job embedded learning opportunities we will create conditions for innovation. We are also proud of the Deerfield University an often replicated example of innovative professional learning and teacher support. The DU offers a voluntary personalized, learning platform where we can learn and grow any time any place at any speed or any pace, our motto is You can DU it! Finally, the upcoming EdCamp North Shore 16 to be held at Kipling on October 29 reflects yet another way we innovate in the professional learning space. I hope the folks from Kipling will tweet out the link to sign up via the #engage109 hashtag today!

Notes for slide 8: I consider myself to be an innovative superintendent. I learn from you and I learn with you. I truly enjoy learning alongside you and joining in classroom practices like Shark Tank shown in the photo above. I look forward to every visit to the classrooms. I learn new and better ways of doing education from you. Thank you for continuing to invite me and welcome me into your classrooms. In addition, I innovate through partnerships and professional memberships in forward thinking organizations like BrightBytes, Discovery Education, and the American Association for School Administrators, the AASA. This summer a group of 50 superintendents from around the USA came to learn our story – they came to visit our new and better learning spaces. Because of your great work I get to show off and share our stories of innovation. In addition, I learn from them and their expertise and I share that here in Deerfield. You give me great pride and so much to share! Finally I innovate by experimenting with gizmos and gadgets that support new and better learning, I am eager to see the innovative results of the 2nd phase of the Innovation Grant process.

Notes for slide 9: I seek out innovation in my personal life too. For the past 11 years my family has gone to the same resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. We love the vacation and the kids look forward to it each year. This summer we innovated – we experienced tubing for the first time. While it may seem simple or even silly for me to share this personal example, I wanted to share how we took an awesome family experience, our annual trip to Wisconsin – perfectly fine for 11 years; and with an innovation, the tubing, our first time as a family doing so, we innovated our vacation! We tried something new and better and created a new learning experience.

Notes for slide 10: I highly value being a connected educator and leader, I learn from others, I share our stories of innovation, and I become a better leader through collaboration. Please continue to reach out to me and welcome me into your learning spaces. You can contact me, and I encourage you to do so, through any number of addresses and social networks. Welcome back to another fantastic school year! Please give a warm welcome to Dr. Jeff Zoul who will continue our program this morning. Thank you.


Innovation Has Many Forms – #ENGAGE109

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.”
– C.S. Lewis

IL In our school district we take pride in the words and actions ENGAGE, INSPIRE, EMPOWER. We aim to do this each and every day with and for each and every student, staff member, and the community! Since July 2013 our Big 5 have been driving our actions and initiatives:

Common Core State Standards (a/k/a Illinois New Learning Standards), Next Generation Science Standards
Teacher Evaluation – Charlotte Danielson Frameworks for Effective Teaching
Organizational Culture
Superintendent’s Task Force for Middle Level Education


We often write about innovation and we often share examples of the teacher’s innovative practices in blogs, Twitter, Facebook, principal newsletters, emails from the district, in person events, etc. Today I’m writing to celebrate an innovative project experience from 7th grade English Language Arts. In the 7th grade ELA class this year the students had to complete a project entitled:  Change the World. One of our students sent a letter to the Illinois Department of Homeland Security. The boy’s letter was so impressive to the staff that the Deputy Director, James Joseph, called principal, Dr. John Filippi, and he shared his delight at the letter. In addition he offered to come visit the student and his classmates!

IMG_0039 IMG_0035 IMG_0034 IMG_0028 (1)

Today Mr. James Joseph, the Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor came to Alan B. Shepard Middle School and visited with the student, his classmates and teachers.

In addition he made a brief presentation and answered questions from the students. In the pictures shown to the left we also show another special guest, retired Major General Robert G.F. “Bob” Lee. Gen. Lee was visiting the Governor’s office and it fit into his schedule to join Director Joseph. Gen. Lee shared information about his fascinating service to our country as well as to his home state of Hawaii. Security is a national concern and it’s nice to know we have such able, knowledgeable, talented and able leaders helping defend our nation and our state.

The power of a letter, the power of a communication, the power of an inquisitive student can lead to the highest levels of government, society, agencies, companies, etc. Our amazing teachers are taking learning to new levels with engagement, inspiring lessons and empowerment of students to reach out to “real people” in the world who do the work about which we are learning!

Check the podcast for a 5 minute excerpt of today’s visit:

In Deerfield we truly believe, and we teach our students, that, in the words of Margaret Mead:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Our students, through agency and voice, are learning that they matter not only in school and at home, but as part of the larger world. It’s wonderful, especially as a public school leader, to show the power ofittakesavillage education and the value of our innovative public education in terms of meaning and relevance.

We are grateful to General Lee, Director Joseph, as well as other dignitaries who have visited our schools like Governor Bruce Rauner, U.S. Congressman Hon. Robert Dold, Illinois Senator Hon. Julie Morrison, Illinois Representative Hon. Scott Drury, Lake County Regional Superintendent of Schools Hon. Roycealee Wood, Deerfield Mayor Hon. Harriet Rosenthal, and many others who visit to engage with students, learn from our teachers, interact with our world class facilities, and in one way or another, show support for meaningful, effective public education!