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Our “Best of the Blogs” section includes thoughtful insights on school leadership being shared through blogs maintained by AASA members. This representative sampling of five bloggers, through an RSS feed, will change periodically to showcase other member blogs, so check back regularly. If you are aware of others, contact

  • Does Smart Still Matter?

    Culture of Yes|9/27/2014

    I have been tasked with answering this question, “What is Smart?” for my short TEDxWestVancouverED talk today.  The essay that is a basis for the talk is a final collaboration I wrote with my dad this past July.  The slides are at the bottom and I am sure the video will be up in a couple of […]

  • Community support, engagement, outreach – in the news

    Superintendent's Office DPS109|9/24/2014

    “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” – Ben Sweetland When it takes a village, our village supports published in the Deerfield Review on 9/24/2014 In District 109, we are so fortunate to have individual community members and organizations that strongly support our schools. This school year, the community […]

  • DPS109 STEM/CMA in the News!

    Superintendent's Office DPS109|9/23/2014

    “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale Audio interviews with 7th grade students in real time – working on a STEM science lab: New labs generate collaboration, creativity in District 109 Published in the Deerfield Review September 22, 2014 by Steve Sadin A $2.7 million investment in new laboratories at […]

  • Threats - real, perceived, and created

    The Superintendent's Chair|9/23/2014

    Threats are all around us.

    Some are real. Some are perceived. Some are created.

    Take, for example, birds.

    Birds face real threats. Cats, high tension wires, cars. Each of these threats kill lots of birds.

    But the biggest threat to birds are buildings and windows. Out of every 10,000 bird deaths, buildings and windows are responsible for close to 6,000. (See chart below.)

    Yet, wind turbines and windmills used to generate electrical power are often blamed for bird deaths. True wind turbines and windmills do kill birds. But the numbers are incredibly small when compared to the other threats that face birds.

    What does this have to do with education?

    Our students face many threats to learning.

    Some of the threats are real. Poverty, lack of opportunity, safe learning environments. Each of these present real threats to students learning.

    Yet, there are some who would have us believe that teachers are the greatest threat to student's learning.

    It is just not true. Teachers, by and large, have a tremendously positive impact on students and their learning. Teachers help connect students in meaningful ways to their lessons. Teachers create enthusiasm for their subject. Teachers help students learn.

    Are their teachers who pose a threat?

    Yes. But the number of teachers who pose a threat is so very small. I understand that when teachers do pose a threat to learning - through indifference, through neglect, through incompetence - the outcomes can be devastating. I am not trying to minimize that negative impact.

    But there are some in our society who seem to promote this idea that it is the teachers who post the greatest threat to students. These people then work hard to create policies and pass laws that unnecessarily focus on changing teachers.

    There are other threats to student learning that are so much more powerful and devastating than teacher indifference or incompetence.

    Instead of creating a threat let's focus on the real threats to student learning - poverty, societal indifference to learning, learning environments that are not safe, and on and on - and work hard to eliminate those threats.

    That will make a real difference in our students' lives!

  • Modernization – First Wave and Next Wave

    Culture of Yes|9/22/2014

    About five years ago we started discussions in our district about modernizing the classroom. At that point it was really a discussion about creating a level playing field with technology in our schools. The First Wave What emerged from the discussions was the view of a modern classroom starting with wireless access across all schools. At the classroom level all teachers were provided […]

  • Reflections from teaching and researching – voice/input/respect – keys to success and growth

    Superintendent's Office DPS109|9/21/2014

    “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.” – Abigail Van Buren Early in my career I learned that student choice in how they could produce learning increased their engagement levels. I also learned that by […]

  • Financial impact of proposed legislation

    Superintendent's Office DPS109|9/18/2014

    “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden As a public school superintendent, I am non-partisan and publicly a-political. From time to time I post information about pending or actual legislation affecting our public schools. In Illinois, school funding is a regular source of debate, review, analysis, […]

  • What kind of doctor are you? A funny experience in kindergarten today.

    Superintendent's Office DPS109|9/12/2014

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle One of the great joys of working in public school administration is having the opportunity to visit classrooms, walk the halls of schools and interact with teachers, support staff, and children on a regular basis. On our central […]

  • Let's Read!

    The Superintendent's Chair|9/10/2014

    My wife and her book club recently celebrated their 15th anniversary. For 15 yeats this group of women has met monthly to discuss books and to support one another.

    Why would a person be willing to commit to a group for such a long period of time?

    First, books are powerful. They can move us to action; they can move us to tears; they can move us to reach beyond ourselves.

    Second, groups are powerful. We develop strong bonds with one another that become difficult to break.

    Combne the power of books and the power of a group and a wonderfully engaging and strong combination emerges.

    In conjunction with the Novi Public Library we have started a Parent-to-Parent Book Club. Our first meeting will be on September 23 where we will discuss The Motivation Breaktrhough: 6 secrets to turning on the tuned-out child by Richard Lavoie.

    I would invite you to join us. Books are available at the Novi Public Library. Or you could buy a copy like I did.

    Sign up with the Novi Public Library. (Click on the "Adults" tab and find the information on the Parent-to-Parent Book club.)

    Please come join us!

  • I'm OK and evidently you are as well

    The Superintendent's Chair|9/9/2014

    The vast majority of Michigan teachers are rated as effective or highly effective. The latest numbers posted by the Michigan Department of Education are from the 2012-2013 school year. They show that 97% of teachers were rated as effective or highly effective. (Look here for details. For the percentage click on the "percentage" tab.)

    Outrageous! Unacceptable!

    But why?

    How many doctors are rated effective or highly effective?

    I don't know. I can't find on the state of Michigan's website a list anywhere that rates doctors.

    My guess is that most doctors - probably over 90% - would be rated effective or highly effective.

    Yet, there are a lot of people who are obese. There are a lot of people who don't exercise. There are a lot of people who have high blood pressure. There are a lot of people who do not engage in a healthy lifestyle.

    Still - most doctors would be rated as effective or highly effective.

    But we don't know. Because the state of Michigan does not publish a list that rates doctors.

    How many Certified Public Accountants are rated effective or highly effective? Or financial planners? Or dieticians? Or legislators?

    My guess is that in most professions the vast majority of professionals are rated effective or highly effective. After all most professionals have college degrees, have lots of experience, and participate in ongoing training.

    Yet, there are a lot of people whose finances are in trouble or who can't plan a meal or who can't legislate. But do we blame the accountants or the financial planners or the dieticians or the politicians?

    We also don't know because the state of Michigan does not provide a rating list of CPA's or financial planners or dieticians or legislators.

    Are there bad teachers and administrators?


    Should bad teachers and administrators be evaluated out of their profession?


    Historically, education has done a bad job of evaluating educators.

    But, I would argue, that most professions have done a bad job of evaluating themselves.

    That does not excuse the historically poor job educators have done in rating teachers and administrators. Rating educators is important. Teachers and administrators work with children and have a tremendous influence on their lives.

    We must get educator evaluation right. But just because most end up being rated as effective does not mean the system is broken.

  • Measuring Success

    Superintendent's Office DPS109|9/4/2014

    “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi In DPS109 we measure success in many ways. We measure student academic performance, we measure staff culture, we measure all stakeholder satisfaction and we probe into special areas for […]

  • Where we are going, not where we have been!

    The Superintendent's Chair|8/29/2014

    It is attributed to Lou Holtz, famous football coach and sports announcer, to have once said:

    The good Lord put eyes in the front our your head
    rather than the back
    so you could see where you are going
    rather than where you've been.
    The new school year starts in my district on Tuesday, September 2nd.
    I am committed to looking forward trying to see where we are going instead of worrying about looking back to see where we have been.
    The ?new school year beckons all of us.
    We could all waste time looking back.
    We could mourn the loss of last year because we had the best teacher, the best team, the best lunch. We could mourn leaving last year behind because it was the best year of our life!
    We could also be eager to leave last year behind because it was, like Alexander's day, a horrible, no good, very bad year. We had a horrible teacher, a bad bus route, a no good lunch. So we look back eager to leave last year behind.
    But instead of looking back. I want us to look forward.
    Right now it is a clean slate.
    My hope is that as we look forward we are anticipating the best, not fearing the worst.
    My hope is that as we look forward we are committing ourselves to solving problems, not creating them.
    My hope is that as we look forward we will find the joy inherent in learning new things, not dread the work that comes with learning.
    A new school year starts Tuesday. I am looking ahead to see where we are going.

  • Getting a chance to start fresh – The new year starts with a focus on the future!

    Superintendent's Office DPS109|8/27/2014

    “The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes In DPS109 we are moving forward! Our mission is to Engage, Inspire, Empower and we do this on behalf of the FUTURE – the world will belong to our students – […]

  • Quest is Doing It

    Culture of Yes|8/27/2014

    I often hear feedback like “I really like what is happening with inquiry and project based learning, but my kids need to be prepared for university, and university is never going to change.” Well,  last week we loaded up the bus with all of our school principals and vice-principals and headed up the highway to […]

  • Innovation through Change – Superintendent’s Back To School Welcome to Staff

    Superintendent's Office DPS109|8/25/2014

    “One of the great ironies in life is that you must be acquainted with reality while not allowing your dream to be shattered.” - John C. Maxwell, Put Your Dream to the Test Today is Back to School Day for teachers, support staff, administrators, and adult employees of the DPS109 family. Today we kicked off […]

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