Episodes #184-190

Episode #184: Dr. Mike Nagler


Dr. Mike Nagler is the Superintendent of the Mineola School District, a suburb of NYC. Mike began his career as a social studies teacher in NYC. While teaching he earned his doctorate from Columbia University and accepted an administrative position with Mineola in 1999.

He believes strongly in the district’s mission to inspire students to become lifelong learners that exhibit strength of character and contribute positively to a global society. During his eighteen years with the district, he has been a big proponent of using technology to engage students in rigorous content. Mike has also been instrumental in creating a platform to assess student learning using electronic portfolios and digital badges. He even coded his own digital portfolio, view it here


All five schools in Mineola have been recognized as Apple distinguished schools. Mineola is also a member of the League of Innovative Schools. He is the author of The Design Thinking Visionary Planning Leader. Buy it here.

Trench story:  In his seat, every day is a difficult situation. He tried to view it in a positive way. He’s in touch with Matt Miller (episode #54). Can talk about his first supt. task, while was to close 2 buildings. It turned into something positive. 14 years ago. Deputy super. Used to have 7 schools. Hemorrhaged $. They reconfigured the whole district. Closed 2 schools. Rebranded, rethought what was important to. Reinvested savings back into district. Did 1-to-1 initiative early 2011. There were some nasty attacks. Suburbs outside NYC are “dying”. Kids don’t look, act and feel like they did 10 years ago. Pandemic didn’t throw them, all kids had devices. They were well prepared.

The DEV (Design Thinking Around Visionary Planning) Leader book, published in April: info from book jacket: “To keep pace with the speed of change and innovation school systems need to evolve new systems and mindsets that address the ambiguity that technological advances foster. To accomplish this, we must cultivate a new leader – one that embraces design thinking, entrepreneurship and a visionary outlook (D.E.V. Leader). This new leader will implement EnR thinking to make the organization thrive in ambiguity. The implementation of the D.E.V. Cycle will allow for organizations to become nimble and efficient in starting and assessing new initiatives”. It’s the story of his district. Taking $ and reinvesting in. Launching programs that are t driven, autonomy to t’s.] How can we do things & make it better? Schools do very little to match the speed. A 2020 graduate started K in 2007- when the iPhone came out. Educational system is tried & true- we pass courses, graduate, etc. It’s not the world a lot of kids are going into. 

Can talk about the publishing process. Looked for someone to publish last. Is a history person so read around his topic. Took notes. Had a manuscript but had to rewrite the whole thing b/c was written like a research paper. Darrin was doing a book study with his HS teachers. He had a ton of QR codes. They have a prof videographer on staff in his district. He acts in them. Around initiatives, concepts to the community. YouTube- Minneola creative content. the 2nd part has pieces from teachers, parents, kids.

Are you experiencing a lot of turn-over in the past few years, big initiatives in your district? Have had some turnover, not as much due to the pandemic, but retirements. 45-50 new t’s in last 5 yrs. Multi-pronged approach, they do action research. It’s easy to move things forward with new t’s. Use tech- they’re OK w/ the messiness. they’re ok w/ making mistakes. They fail a lot, t’s fail w/o defeat. He uses example of computer science, made a heavy investment teaching it to 5 year olds. This past May kids took AP exam in computer science as 9th graders. He preaches there’s no revolution in education. There’s an evolution. ENR thinking- Slow change over times. How do we build upon previous successes and move forward with those ideas. Diff than where you do student teaching. Essential ?’s, book studies. They de-emphasize high-stakes tests. Happy middle between what have to and what want to do. T’s get a skeleton. They build the whole thing out. Librarians are those who teach it. Scratch/block code. Have to do projects around the content. E. in DEV-entrepreneurial. Eliminated report cards preK-4, they have “badge books”, other districts have copied. Free to use on his website (link www.mineola.k12.ny.us) They have an integrated curriculum preK-7. 

PD in Mineola district for new t’s they have all sorts, asynchronous can do a mix. They have 18 50m. sessions mandatory a year.  Digital repository. “Stackables”. Mini-3 hour courses you stack together. 4 year new teacher workshops cohort, at all levels. They report at end of the year. New t’s get a coach/mentor, plenty. Coach is like an instructional coach, mentor is a teacher. Has received great feedback with them. He does exit interviews after they get tenure after 4 yrs. Most courses are around tech. Need 175 hours of continuing ed over 5 years for the state. About 5 credits in the district. Get a salary increment. Senior t’s built out virtual courses. CR t are leaders. They need to be empowered to feel that way. 

Tips & tools from someone who has been in superintendent seat for a while: You have to have a flexible mindset. Distill have vs. want to do. Find bridge b/w the 2. Don’t get beaten down by the system. Failure w/o defeat. We need ppl to change the system while working in the confines of it.

Key quotes:…the world is changing- change causes ambiguity in what we do. People get nervous. Embrace change. It’s constant. Plan for the future. “Go to where the puck is going to be, not where it is”. Wayne Gretsky 

Where can ppl find you online? On Twitter @naglersnotions Visit his website http://michaelnagler.oyosite.com/

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/KTLh9q6cjBE

Episode #185: Andrea Bitner


 Andrea Bitner is an educator, author, and speaker.  She lives on the East Coast among some of the fastest-speaking people in the country!  She has worked with students in grades K-12 through her twenty-two years in public education from all around the world.  Her work as an English Language Teacher, Reading Specialist, Literacy Coach, Presenter, and High School English Teacher inspired her to continue to share the great news: Learning a Second Language is an asset, not a handicap!  Her first book, “Take Me Home,” was published by Austin Macauley in July of 2021. “Take Me Home” is the true story of 11 of her former EL students who give a first-hand account of what it’s really like to become bilingual in America.  She is also a co-author of Chip Baker’s “The Impact of Influence-Volume 3,” and “100 No-Nonsense Things ALL School Leaders Should Stop Doing.”   

She travels the country speaking and teaching educators how to establish relationships and effectively communicate with EL families! 

Trench story: 10 years ago, she worked with EL students at a HS. 40 different kids- 25 different languages represented. Worked with kids from all different walks of life. Banner “what’s your plan?” Alumni returned. Presented kids with a t-shirt. Worked with the Lopez family from El Salvado. Nancy is the only female.  1 year later, Andrea saw helicopters. Nancy was hit by a train, killed. Huge trauma. Community navigated through trauma. Parents didn’t understand what happened because no one spoke Spanish. Andrea had to speak at her funeral- poem “Take me Home”. She put it out to publishers. They wanted her to write a book. Given 6 mos. Interviewed 11 former students.  Covered almost every continent with the experience. 

Tell me about some of your writing, like chapter in “100 No Nonsense Things All School Leaders Should Stop Doing” & TB blogging? Womens book, came out in March Chip Baker’s “The Impact of Influence-Volume 3, “Take Me Home,” Her chap in 100 Things is about Els. She has worked w/ so many families, she finds it essential to need all hands on desk. Noone achieves success alone. ELs are in other classroom often. We need to know who the EL students are. Chip Baker’s “The Impact of Influence-Volume 3, Not just geared towards. For Women, it’s a personal book. About trials and tribulations. “Take me Home”-interviewed people during, through pandemic. Former students responded that they would participate. Andrea took notes. Sent back chapter to former students what else could they do to help people understand the st’s experience? used a map of their country and how far from the U.S. Book is both in Eng & Sp. She had attended some of their graduations, met their kids. They’re excited to be a part of .

Also speaking at the Teach Better conference next month. We talk about her session there & other summer; early fall conf. Went to ITLE conf in June. “Take me Home” strengthening communications with EL families. 10 essential ?’s to ask ELs/ How to connect kids. End w/ immersion experience for attendees. Use a lang from India-Jirati & French. 

 Teaches ELL students solely now. We talk about her work informing teachers of other subjects to understand being immersed in a new language. Also, discuss what kind of impact she has in the community. We need our team. EL students are transient. She meets with teachers when new a EL student comes. If they can’t read & write in first language teaching approach is different. Teachers want to know the results of EL screener. What kind of support they need- reading, speaking, etc. Adaptations CR t can use. Continue conv. She connects families with EL community-wide parent nights. Amazing to hear other lang. Connect with a local job force center. Free adult English classes. Create school environment where they feel comfortable coming. She puts out YouTube videos for parents/community as well.

Key quotes…When you meet ppl learning Eng for the first time, treat it like an asset. Help them feel less like a rotten apple. Give them the tools they need to read, write, listen and speak. 

You can find Andrea at www.andreabitnerbooks.com, or on social media Twitter, Instagram @andreabitnerbooks LinkedIn.

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/7NMhahWetf4


Episode #186: Gopi Schomaker


Mother Gopi Gita guides parents in leadership to empower their child’s social environments. Her clients’ grown children lead teams across the US. As vice principal of a private school, and educational consultant for an international society, she mentors thousands of parents, educators and children using classic bhakti principles from the east. Her new book Leadership Parenting: empower your child’s social success Get It — Mother Gopi Gita launched June 30.

Trench story has taught 22 years never seen so much dishevel by parents/kids as in the past 2 years. Is currently an educatoional consultant for an international society. Kids have a developmental phase from ages 3-8. She worked as a a lower ES teacher. It’s her sweet spot. Is now VP at a lower ES school. Has grown kids. In Jan 2021, she got a call from student whose mom was in hospital. Child poured out their feelings. 

Share a client success story. (Through the counseling organization). Most parents come when kids are having problems, bullying etc. How can parents help their children? She gives tips on techniques they can use with child. Peer interactions. Hot/cold dynamic with kids. Esp after remote learning. She has amazing success stories from parents. Launched the current program in Feb 2021. Dysregulated child is then happy. Child pauses reactivity. Montessori peace flower. 


Tell me more about your new book, Leadership Parenting: empower your child’s social success, walk me through the writing process, length of time. Was about 10 years in the making. 3 months full-on work. Lots of grammar/revisions. Watching kids’ dynamics. Book for parents-opening their eyes how she can help. Is “how to empower your child’s social success”. Parenting strategies. Taken from Bhati tradition. Sanskrit. She worked late at night to help these kids. Concepts flowed in writing.


What does spirituality have to do with leadership empowerment? Meditation- she follows the Bhati practice. Taking moments of time w/ your child. She introduces mantra meditations in Sanskrit. Invigorating a child’s inner space. We want to invigorate a need that’s not been met. Envision child’s leadership qualities. She guides parents thru communication skills, knowing your child’s purpose. Playground is her meditation space. Seeing a kid crushed. Process of communication. How to deal with mistakes. It’s part of the growth process. If you’re tied to an internal source. Spend time in mindfulness. 


What meditation do you recommend for kids and why? mantras you do with kids. Conscious, active intention. Toys, objects you work with. Bringing in certain words. Ground in your purpose. Then you start to emphasize. For kids to start an empathy process, be firmly rooted. 


How can young children be connected to leadership? She works in a school with multi-level classroom. Wants to normalize leadership. It’s about helping each other to achieve a common goal. Give them opportunities to learn from each other. Children will listen attentively to others that way, strengthen their own skills that way. You can start those practices in the house. Leadership doesn’t mean bossing ppl around. It’s about serving others. Engaging others in a collaborative space.  The best definition is everyone together working to empower each other in a common goal. Working with kids in collaborative environments. Inquiry-based lessons. Decision making. Peers learning from each other. Story about student who brought in book after fall break. She wanted to share it. She shares how to do this in the book. Also, for teens- her son has done it with her organization. A process to get there. Book takes you step by step.

Key quotes…she flipped the script first on me! She then says “Parents need care. We don’t always have the tools to deal w/ situations. Rest yourself. Find your peace”.

Find you online? https://www.gopigita.com/parent

FB: https://www.facebook.com/gopigita7/   

IG: https://www.instagram.com/mothergopigita/

She has a YouTube channel.  People can sign up a free download of her book. 

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/FpLLhXsYa6E  




Episode #187: Dr. Chris Jones


Chris Jones has been an educator in Massachusetts for 22 years.  He is in his 15th year as a building administrator.  He is a teacher centered Principal and passionate about continuous improvement and the idea that success is not a destination, but a process. Chris is active on Twitter, vlogs about continuous improvement on a weekly basis, and hosts his own podcast called SEEing to Lead here: https://open.spotify.com/show/1ggQyKZrXSOoiQ3TH6WCBq

 as a way to amplify teacher’s voices in an effort to improve education as a whole promoting his “just cause”: improving the educational experience for as many people as possible by being purposeful, acting with integrity, and building character. He is currently the Principal of Whitman-Hanson Regional High School in Whitman, Massachusetts.

Trench story: was working under a supt. who was difficult. Butted heads. What Chris found were his ideas were not being respected. His current supt. says he likes to “get in trouble”. Other supt. has lied. Grew more as an educator. In those situations, we need to take action. Chris resigned. Had to make the decision at the time. Grew exponentially.

Writing of your blog Character Today…Success Forever: Is just getting back to blogging. On his new website. How to improve ourselves day by day. He believes success is a process not a destination. It’s small decisions we make every day/habits being formed. Continuous improvement. 

Being a #ruckusmaker: has been working with Danny Bauer since 2017. Is in Guiding Principles. He’s learned he has so much more to learn. Ppl support him. Was a checklist type admin. No matter how much you put in there’s more to give. Mastermind has pulled him away from being a checklist admin. Delegation, service, getting things done. Since leadership is challenging, Chris is an accountability guy. He is made to read, reflect, etc. Every day Chris gets 3 big things done. Things are clearer, he communicates better to staff. 

Describe how you support your teachers in terms of your leadership philosophy- his HS has 1200, 127 staff members with 76 teachers. no one comes to work and says, “I want to suck today”. First thing you need is a mindset shift. Difficult to do. Idea is we need to accept teachers in front of us and then support where they need to be. Pull the teacher in to be part of support. Recognize where the t is at. Recognize where the teacher should be. Get them involved with building bridges. Need to work with them to point out where they fell down. Depersonalize where they fell short “you know what really works for classroom management”. Chris isn’t a believer in “best practices”. That way teachers don’t get defensive. I-statements. If you’re setting goals right, you may fall short. Want a big goal.  

Let’s talk about your upcoming book, Seeing to Lead and what it’s about. Was released June 3rd, on Code Breaker?  It’s a framework about being a t-centered principal. It means he wants to impact everything in a positive way. Teachers are reading it because it’s applicable to them in their class as well. Framework to support, engage, empower. Has tips, tricks, strategies they can use immediately. Fly-wheel support, engage, empower. If you’re empowering someone, they’re going to fall short. 

Book deals/bonuses- offers bulk orders. Go to www.Seeingtolead.com and you can get signed copies. Will include book clubs for staff. He can do virtual presentations for 30 m. 3 portions for book study. If you do a bulk order & reach out to Chris, he will over-deliver.

Out of everything…if they approach ppl where they’re at you can help ppl realize they can be better than their current situation. Work w/ them authentically. Empower them beyond their current position. BE the best you can possibly be. 

Where can ppl find you online? Twitter, not so much IG @drcsjones 

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/1DvC_XTiWVM

Episode #188: Dr. Levatta Levels

Episode #188: Dr. Levatta Levels (podbean.com)

Dr. Levels has served many professional and civic organizations, including Delegate to the Texas Democratic Convention representing Senate District 23, DeSoto Chamber of Commerce Board, Leadership Southwest Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters Southern Region Board, University of North Texas Exes Board, and the University of North Texas Advisory Council.

She is active with the Texas Association of School Administrators, National Council of Negro Women, Parent Teacher Association, UNT Trailblazers, Texas Counseling Association, Texas Association of Black School Educators, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, and the Zeta Eta Alumnae Association.

Dr. Levels earned an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Texas A&M University-Commerce.  She earned both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Education with a focus on Education Administration from the University of North Texas and completed the Superintendent Certification program with the University of Houston-Victoria. She is most proud of her two children Leah and Lofton and granddaughter London.

Trench story: School district made decisions around positions. Trying time. Tried to allow input from everyone. Needed to best serve paret, t’s. budget allocations for the next year. Re-alligned budget items. Was very transparent. 

Tell me about work with (Higher Levels Educational Group) HLEG? Is it just for ppl who work in higher ed? She works with private industry. Started in 2006. Mentored principals in TX education assn. She still does that work. Individuals who want to craft goals, see progress, she assists in the progress.  Can tell a story about a current superintendent she has helped. Was hired to mentor leaders across the state of TX. Worked with a TX educational agency for 8 years. Still works with 100’s of leaders. Works with HS/MS on scheduling. Executive mentoring w/ superintendents. Reflective practices. Many thought partners are currently sitting supt. Also self-employed people. Has a knowledgeable team. 

She co-authored Power of Kingdom Mindset How would it help leaders who are of faith? It’s your story about discipline as a 1st year principal. It’s around discipline. In book she shared 15 diff stories. More leadership/inspiration Around her work as ES principal. Great for motivation, inspiration. Allows one to read & glean from. Helps overcome obstacles. Stories from many women about their different roles. It’s ok to take care of yourself. Her author name is ELLE DEAN. (amazon link)

Moving from superintendency to working with college students. Students are students, learners are learners. It’s a transferable skill. You understand it. Conduct officer, she works with code of conduct violations, complaints. Physical altercations, assaults. She wants students to participate in decision making. Maintains positive relationships. Mental health, emergency response. Much the same as asst. superintendent. principal, etc. Almost like a principal at college. Pres at college is a lot more executive. It’s not about the role, it’s about the goal. She ensured parents were involved. Had the same opportunities as at school. Constantly collaborating across college.  They have students from ages 16-80+.

Community, precinct chair. Is on county elections advisory committee-how elections are administered, was appointed for 2 yrs. Her sorority ensures they look at their work, actions, behaviors, etc. and focus on the community, elected positions. In the last 10 years has been involved w/ voter registration. Registered 500 HS St’s.  Huge proponent of voter registration. She is from O’Cliff, an urban area in Dallas, so she went to that area to get ppl engaged. Also conducted school board elections for 15 yrs. Became election judge when done working in K-12. Some centers outside her area were closed. Worked w/ a variety of orgs around her area. Several events in the next few weeks. 

Could talk about shifts in the past few years and how we could make it. Dallas is blue in the middle of the red sea. Still haven’t healed from the ‘21 ice storm. Power grid. There’s still pushback, will be always. Ft. Worth-purple county. They need ppl to show up for early voting. Most of Dallas leadership are Democrats. Assist across the political lines when it comes to school budgets, crime, etc.. Do mail-in ballots. Recent legislation has limited voter opportunities, id requirements. 

Key quotes…IS a life-long educator, passion is education. #2 family/community service. Whole family was/is educators. Through HLEG is avail. 

Find Levatta online: Higher Levels Educational Group email alllevels@yahoo.com

Facebook @Higher Levels Educational WebChat Group  

Twitter @3lllevels 

Higher Levels Educational Group – Time to Elevate

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/VOIo1dlW4Ac