When Michael Lubelfeld came to Deerfield Public School District 109, located about 25 miles north of Chicago, the new superintendent knew that engaging the entire community would bolster the educational bottom line.
The district previously faced community engagement challenges in this area, both internally and externally, including parents. Lubelfeld leveraged the district’s technology, including a school administrative solution, to keep students and parents in regular contact with teachers, administrators and each other.
“My administration is centered on clear communication and a healthy organizational culture and climate,” said Lubelfeld. “We want to understand how satisfied all stakeholders – students, parents and community members – are with our services, how engaged students are in their work, and how this translates to success in the classroom.”
"STUDENTS, ALONG WITH PARENTS AND TEACHERS...HAD A VOICE ON A LARGE SCALE BECAUSE WE USED A SOPHISTICATED COMMUNICATION ARRAY."
His engagement mission got a boost from Google Apps for Education, which allows students to create documents, slides and spreadsheets, as well as email anyone within the school’s domain.
“Children are collaborating on projects, and teachers are providing real-time feedback in the cloud,” Lubelfeld said. “We’re also experimenting with Google Sites and other Google Apps for Education features. It is especially helping the more introverted students find their voice because the collaborative aspect of the Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. allows for a level playing field in terms of input and communication.”
Skyward aided Lubelfeld’s communication efforts with its electronic messaging service, Skylert, and has kept all stakeholders engaged in education. Last year, Skylert was used to email members of a task force that shaped middle school programming – leading to new STEM and communication media arts electives, as well as a “Welcome to Sixth Grade” evening program that included a student-made YouTube video.
“It was a really cool engagement process,” Lubelfeld said. “Students, along with parents and teachers, had input on science labs, activity nights, electives. They had a voice on a large scale because we used a sophisticated communication array.”
“Students told me they appreciated getting emails from me,” Lubelfeld added. “They felt good that they were engaged in the process.”
"OUR PARENTS AND STUDENTS ARE VERY ENGAGED, AND THAT HELPS US MAINTAIN EXCELLENCE IN ALL AREAS."
This past fall, the district rolled out a one-to-one computer program to expand student use of technology in the classroom. To gauge feedback, Lubelfeld surveyed students and parents via Skylert. Like other surveys he's conducted – on everything from content of emails to satisfaction with education and facilities – the response rate was more than 70%, Lubelfeld said.
“Our parents and students are very engaged, and that helps us maintain excellence in all areas,” he said. “Kids get a kick out of our emails to them. And while they might not be crazy about their parents seeing their grades or that they handed in something late, we find value in families having access to this information. Everyone is more engaged that way.”
Parents have access to their student’s class information, school policies, events and more through Skyward’s Family Access. Parents simply log into the program and stay connected. Family Access also allows administrators to communicate with parents via email, text or automated telephone calls featuring the voice of the superintendent or building principal.
“We can see who has read an email, skimmed it or deleted it without opening,” Lubelfeld said. “Teachers can then reach out to parents who have not downloaded their student’s report card, for example, to be sure everyone is staying engaged.”
With the help of a comprehensive and advanced technology solution, Deerfield Public School District 109 was able to enhance communication district-wide. The district's commitment to transparency and engagement is even apparent on social media, where #engage109 is widely used at all levels to disseminate information and share individual successes.
**Postscript: Michael Lubelfeld is now the superintendent at North Shore School District 112, just down the road from DPS109. Deerfield continues to experience sustained student achievement success under its new leadership.
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