March 17, 2020

Dear District 67 Community Member,

Tonight, I would like to touch upon two topics with you.
As many of you know, District 67 held their first day of e-Learning today, in response to the continued spread of the coronavirus and the need to close our schools. The complexity of this endeavor cannot be overstated.
Thank you to our teachers and the Lake Forest Education Association for their collaboration and willingness to go “above and beyond” to get e-Learning implemented. The Governor called these days “Acts of God” days and closed the schools, but our teachers said, “Not so fast!” Our teachers had a single-minded focus to ensure that our students continued their learning during this incredibly difficult time. 
Thank you also to our Administrative team and staff. They had been planning for an e-Learning day for a long time, but never on such a broad scale and not to last for an indefinite period of time. They not only had to develop procedures for teaching and learning, but also for technology, communication, facilities, and payroll.
Our teachers and our staff have been incredibly hard working, innovative, flexible and creative throughout this process. Each year at graduation, I have told our 8th grade graduates that “Success = Do Your Best and Pursue Your Passion.” The District 67 team certainly has “Done Their Best and Pursued their Passion” in implementing e-Learning for our students during this time of crisis. 
Turning to my second item, as I announced in January, today is my final Board of Education meeting. After seven years, the last five as Board President, I am resigning from this outstanding group.
While the job has been a lot of work, the experience has been fantastic. I have worked alongside some incredibly smart and gifted people, and I am fortunate to now call many of them friends. I have learned a ton. My hope is that the district may be in a little better place than it was seven years ago.
There are many people to thank for the support provided to me.   
  • Thank you to my fellow board members, current and past. 
  • Thank you to the Administrative team and staff.
  • Thank you to the teachers. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, District 67 has the best group of teachers that I have ever met, anywhere. 
  • I want to thank the parents who have offered advice, encouragement, support, a little criticism now and again, and a lot of friendship. 
  • Also, I thank the students. In this role, I have had the opportunity to get to know many of our youth, and that has certainly been a special highlight for me.
  • A special thanks to our Superintendent, Mike Simeck. I consider Mike to be the Smartest Person in Town when it comes to educational matters. He has taught me more about education than I ever imagined was possible. Our community is fortunate to have Mike Simeck as the Educational Leader and CEO of our schools. I am fortunate to call him my friend.
  • Finally, I want to recognize my family: Renee, John and Katy. Each of them helped me, and by extension, helped our school district. Thank you, Renee, John and Katy, for allowing me to serve on this Board, and for sharing me with the community these past seven years.
Rather than look back and reflect on what has been accomplished, I want to share my hopes for this Board, for this School District, and for the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff educational community. 
Seven years ago, the Board in collaboration with the entire Lake Forest community created a Mission and Vision statement for our school district; a Vision that is focused on every single student and on growth. I am extremely pleased and proud of the progress we made in working towards that Vision, but I am not satisfied. I urge my Board members, the staff, and the community to join me in not being satisfied. I desperately hope that we all continue to push towards that Vision.
Five years ago, we created a set of Core Values. Those Core Values have been incredibly important to me in my role leading this group, and I encourage my fellow Board Members, the Superintendent, and everyone associated with education in our community to continue to utilize these Core Values as your lodestar, your guide or compass, as you move the district forward.
The three Core Values are simple to say, but hugely impactful if truly followed.
  • First, our Board strives to provide Student Centric Governance, which means keeping the students at the center of every single decision we make. 
  • The second Core Value: our Board values Fiscal Responsibility. While students are at the center of every decision we make, the impact on taxpayers is also important. Responsible stewardship of our resources is something this Board believes in.
  • The third Core Value: our Board will provide Vision Centric Leadership, meaning we will strive to accelerate the achievement of the District Vision, Mission and Milestones, wherever and whenever it is prudent.
I believe much of the success we have had is because these Core Values are not just empty words; rather, they drive our actions and they are behind our decisions. I believe keeping these Core Values front and center can be a critical success factor as this Board and school district move forward.
Fully achieving the Vision is extremely ambitious. It will not be achieved by mistake or happenstance, but rather by having a laser-like focus. Our district has a rare opportunity for success, because virtually every staff member knows the Vision. It is not a Vision statement that sits in a binder on a dusty shelf. Rather, it is a Vision that is alive in every classroom in our district. The staff’s knowledge and ownership of the Vision provides a powerful engine to drive it forward, but it will require continued vigilance, focus and prioritization by the Board. It will be hard, but it is possible and it is worth the effort. To quote President John F. Kennedy, “We choose to go to the Moon,” or in this case - We choose to achieve the Vision, “not because it is easy,” but because it is worthwhile. Achieving this monumental task, as JFK continued, “will measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to achieve!” I believe this Board, this Administration, this staff, and this school community can indeed achieve the Vision, and I look forward to watching it happen.
As I complete my service on this Board, I think of George Washington’s closing statement in his final address. He said, “In reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am not aware of intentional error, but I am too sensible not to think it likely that I have committed many errors.” That statement is also true for me, as I am certain that I have made many mistakes. With that said, I do take great comfort knowing that I did indeed, "Do my Best, every single day, while Pursuing my Passion."
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve on this Board.
Thank you,
Mike Borkowski
District 67 Board of Education