An Independent School • Grades 5-12
A commitment to teach skills that lead to success
A commitment to teach skills that lead to success

by Bert Valdman, chair of Lakeside's Board of Trustees

In their recent book "Meltdown: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It," Chris Clearfield and Andras Tilcsik introduce the notion of tight coupling: how failure of one component in a complex system of high interdependencies can quickly impact other parts, escalating into a total system failure. As cloud-based applications gather, analyze, and store data and use this information to direct mechanical systems without human oversight or intervention, there is less slack to recover when single components crash. One individual acting alone cannot troubleshoot and restore these complex systems to normal working order. Expertise must come from a diverse group working seamlessly together. A collaborative mindset, rapid and close communication, and the ability to draw on disparate disciplines are all critical to success.

As you may have read in Bernie Noe's recent article,  Lakeside School is undertaking a full re-envisioning of the educational program. The guiding question – how best to equip students for the future – reflects Lakeside School's pioneering spirit that continually puts the status quo to the test. For me, this is the most energizing and exciting aspect of being part of the Lakeside community.

During Lakeside School's professional development day in November, faculty and staff met with leaders in the business, not-for-profit, and government sectors to better understand how their organizations are likely to evolve in the future and what skills are necessary to be successful. This exercise prompted me to reflect on my own workplace: What are the constants that will always hold true; what are the skills and experiences that will be valued in the years to come?

The importance of communication and collaboration, the bedrock of successful organizations, immediately comes to mind. Looking to the future, communication and collaboration will be even more vital as relationships between people and machines continue to evolve in new ways and become more tightly coupled. I am fortunate to have recent Lakeside School graduates at my company who are incorporating cloud-based and machine-learning tools. These tools increase how information is shared and how we work together. The result is better engagement, alignment with achieving business goals, and productivity.

Lakeside continues to evolve in how it teaches and models communication and collaboration. For example, in my role as the Lakeside trustee serving on the advisory board of The Downtown School (a micro-school launched by Lakeside), I observed how the new school's distributed leadership model and interdisciplinary curriculum is reshaping communication and collaboration. Each faculty member assumes administrative responsibilities alongside their teaching responsibilities (e.g., teaching history and managing the facility). Teaching is organized around solving practical problems (e.g., math and its application in the field of epidemiology). Teachers and students are solving problems in new ways using new tools, breaking down traditional silos. In some ways, the school is a testing ground for approaches we might try at Lakeside.

One of my company's core values is cohesion, the ultimate form of effective communication and collaboration. Cohesiveness is not about adhering to tradition. Rather, it is creating an environment where everyone steps in to meet commitments, manage through challenges, and build the organization. It is this spirit that will be valued by organizations in the future regardless of technology's impact. And it's a quality that I see among Lakeside faculty, staff, and students as they continually strive to make the school the best it can be.

It will be exciting to see what form the re-envisioned curriculum takes. The constant: Lakeside School's commitment to prepare students to find success, joy, and meaning in their future lives.

Bert Valdman is the chair of Lakeside's Board of Trustees. To contact the him, email the board secretary at or call 206-440-2723.