Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Engaging Collaboration to Improve Achievement

In August of 2015 the New London-Spicer School District embarked on a journey to embed professional learning teams (PLTs) into their practice in an effort to positively impact student achievement. This journey commenced with a three day training for staff conducted by Solution Tree, Inc. Throughout time the yearning for additional PLT time has grown to our current reality of 2-hour late starts built into our district calendar. It is with this communication I hope to explain our PLT process.

In a traditional school setting, teachers work in isolation with minimal collaboration taking place. In isolation, teachers work within the four walls of their own classroom with minimal interaction with colleagues. The outstanding practices of the best teachers are rarely shared in a building engaged in isolationism. A PLT shifts mindsets from that of isolationism to collaboration. 

In a PLT, professionals work collectively to develop responses to student learning. The adults engage in collaborative conversations that enrich their professional practice and improve student learning. Collaborative conversations are conversations in which professionals work interdependently to make progress toward meeting student needs.  These collaborative conversations typically focus around four guiding questions and three big ideas.

Four guiding questions:

1. What is it all students must learn?
2. How will we know they have learned it?
3. How will we respond if they have learned it?
4. How will we respond if they have not learned it?

Three Big Ideas:

1. A focus on learning.
2. A focus on results.
3. A focus on collaboration.

Staff members at New London-Spicer are committed to this work by setting aside, at a minimum, 30-minutes weekly to engage in collaborative conversations focused on the four guiding questions and the three big ideas. The 2-hour late starts are being utilized to dive deeper into conversation and develop ongoing, sustainable responses to student assessment outcomes. We are proud of the commitment of our staff in ensuring our students meet their full potential in pursuit of college, career, and life readiness!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

"When you have more, you have less."

"When you have more, you have less." ~ New London-Spicer 2nd Grade Student

Today I had the opportunity to read a story to Mrs. Gramstad's second grade students. The book I chose was one of my all time personal favorites, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. This book has been interpreted to teach many different lessons throughout the years. Today's experience opened my eyes to a new interpretation, one I found to be pretty profound.

When I finished reading The Giving Tree today, I asked the students, "What lesson does this story teach us?" They were informed that there was no wrong answer as their interpretation was the correct interpretation. The first second grader I called on said, "When you have more, you have less." For those of you that have read the book, you probably understand the correlation. For those of you that have not, I'll attempt to explain.

In the story, Shel Silverstein follows a young boy and his relationship with a tree. Throughout the boy's life, he has many interactions with the tree in which he asks for various gifts and the tree obliges. In the end, the tree is reduced to just a stump as it provides it's one final gift to the boy, a resting place.

The correlation that I drew from this second grader's perceived meaning was that as each gift was provided, there was less to receive upon his return. When the apples were gone, they were gone. When the branches were gone, they were gone. When the trunk was gone, it was gone. Each of those gifts were never to be received again as they no longer existed. 

Now you might ask, "What is so profound about that?" Well, here's my attempt to explain it. The boy in the story felt the material gifts were of great value throughout the time with the tree until the end.  It is then he realizes that the one constant in each return was the relationship with the tree. In essence, when he took a moment to reflect, he recognizes, "when you have more, you have less." In this case it was a positive and lasting relationship. Sometimes it takes a journey and reflection to know what you're looking for. You can learn a lot from a second grader!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Rain, Snow, or Shine...

We've had a great first month of school here at New London-Spicer and I've had the opportunity to walk around our campuses and interact with our students and staff. In my encounters it became quite clear that we have tremendous learners, leaders, teachers, staffers, and supporters in our school district's communities!

In my explorations around campus I came across a soccer match between the Willmar Cardinals and Brainerd Warriors. The field conditions in Willmar were not favorable so they contacted our school district to utilize our turf field. This got me thinking about how often our turf field is used in comparison to the former grass field. So, John Vraa, our activities director, pulled together a variety of information for me and this article is being dedicated to sharing our findings.

Over the past two years we have rented our facility to the following entities (number of occasions):

Ridgewater Football (3)
Muddawg Football (6)
Willmar HS Football (5)
Birthday Party (1)
Adult Soccer (3)
HS Soccer (1)
Baseball (1)
Softball (1)

In all we have charged $9,805 in fees. Although that may not seem like much income, the byproduct of utilization has been the amount of traffic we have experienced in our communities and the potential of those visitors supporting our local businesses and returning. Although we realize the Ridgewater Football program has been eliminated, we will continue to seek additional ways to increase utilization.

Although the renting of the facility and visitors to our communities is excellent, the greatest impact of this facility has been on the academic side. Our physical education classes frequently use this facility in conducting classes. When speaking to our physical education teachers it was discovered that someone is utilizing the facility most hours of the day while conducting classes. This additional space for learning is outstanding! 

Since my time here I have personally witnessed the facility being used in generally all conditions, rain or shine. Practices and competitions have been conducted in times of rain. In the past, with a grass field, utilization during rain and after rain was limited to keep the turf in good shape throughout the competitive season. With the new turf field, the facility can be used in nearly all weather conditions.

We are fortunate to live in such a supportive community that rallies behind our students! Thank you for all you do to make the New London-Spicer School District experience positive for our students. This is truly a great place!

Future Topics: KCEO, Performing Arts Center, Policy Development, and others.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Hello New London-Spicer!

"The beginning is the most important part of the work." ~ Plato

It is with great excitement that I introduce myself as your new superintendent of the New London-Spicer School District. My name is Bill Adams and I join the ranks of Wildcat Country from the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District. My first official day in the district was July 1, 2019. I have met several fine folks that make up this school district and look forward to meeting the rest of you.

Although it will be difficult to fill the shoes of Mr. Paul Carlson, I look forward to the challenge. You will find that I have an unswerving commitment to providing exceptional educational opportunities to the youth and adults that make up our school district. It is my goal to ensure all students leave our district college, career, and/or life ready.

My intention is to work with the Lakes Area Review to include a monthly column highlighting various aspects of the school district. Communication is key in developing a strong sense of community and I look forward to sharing more about the New London-Spicer School District with its community members. Should you ever have an idea for an article or would like additional information on anything, please consider making that suggestion.

Over the next year it is my goal to develop strong relationships and partnerships with our communities. I have personally reached out to various community leaders and civic organizations in an effort to build a strong foundation. If you would like to meet or can think of an event for me to attend, please feel free to contact me directly. I look forward to living and leading in the New London-Spicer school district! Go Wildcats!

In closing, you can follow me on these social media platforms:

Twitter - @supt_adams
Instagram - @supt_adams
Facebook -
LinkedIn -
Snapchat - supt_adams

Or, you can scan this QR code:

Thank You!

As you have likely heard by now, the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton operating levy renewal passed with 1,419 "yes" votes and 756 "no" votes. We are excited and humbled that the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton community voted in favor of the 2018 Zero-Tax Increase, Big Benefits Operating Levy renewal referendum. We are eternally grateful to you for this affirmation of our needs. Students in our district will benefit from this investment for years. We recognized that not everyone voted yes and want to express that we care deeply about all the people in our communities.

Thank you for supporting our students and families and our hard-working staff!
Thank you for believing in the continued success of our schools as a reflection of our thriving school community!
Thank you for being informed voters and for voting!

We look forward to maintaining small class sizes, college in the schools, career certification programming, innovative programming (such as personalizing learning), personalizing staff development, and ensuring an effective continuous improvement learning organization. This is a great time to unite on behalf of our learners!

The school board also had an election with four seats available. Candidates for these openings were as follows:

Tim Burke
Katie Cahill
Kendra Hoehn
Tim Johnson
Tracy Peed
Jon Wheelock

We are thankful for all of those that filed to fill the role as a school board member. Congratulations to those elected to office, Tim Burke, Katie Cahill, Kendra Hoehn, and Tim Johnson.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A lesson learned...

What an experience! The author of The Trust Edge, David Horsager, made an appearance at the Minnesota School Boards Association annual Leadership Conference this year. During his time with board members and superintendents throughout the State of Minnesota he touched on a variety of ways to improve organizational health. There is one piece of his presentation I felt compelled to share in this blog entry, it is a lesson learned years ago from a very wise woman, my mother.

Mr. Horsager asked the audience how we tend to say goodbye to our children as they are about to leave for an adventure with friends. Most folks responded with some version of "have fun." He then asked the crowd how our parents confronted this situation. Many responded with things, such as, "be good," "behave," and "be on time." Well, this sparked a memory for me immediately as my mother would always say, "love and like everyone" regardless of what adventure I was about to embark on. That simple statement holds true in many of our workings in schools and can be applied to all facets of life.

Each and every one of us have been faced with difficult interactions with others at some point in our lives and/or careers. In these times, many emotions are experienced by all parties. Some of those emotions are anger, frustration, disdain, and others. At the end of the day, it is my belief that we should all assume positive intent of every interaction and strive to "love and like everyone." By practicing this, we can all have a positive impact on relationships, organizational culture, and humanity as a whole!

Let's not kid ourselves, this is something that is difficult to put into action as we all have various situations we are dealing with. I'll be the first to raise my hand to say that this is something I forget from time to time. Human nature prevents us from practicing this skill. However, I have come to realize that if we continue to practice the idea to "love and like everyone," we will become better at the skill. Mr. Horsager provided a road map to accomplishing such a feat in asking three very important questions...How? How? How?

How will you begin to "love and like everyone"? By listening empathetically more and talking less.
How will you begin listening empathetically more and talking less? Taking notes and asking clarifying questions.
How will you apply the notes and the answers to the clarifying questions? I will analyze the information, identify the positive intent, and utilize the information to make informed decisions and responses.

Although there may be flaws in this logic, it is a start. Thank you mom for instilling this in Billy at a young age. You're a wise woman and I love you lots!

Mom's First Golf Outing at 71

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Innovation = Advanced Metal Sculpture Class

In the spring of 2017 Aidan Demarais, Industrial Technology Teacher and Tim James, Art Teacher came to the district administration with an innovative request. The two of them came up with the idea to combine their expertise to create a new course entitled, Advanced Metal Sculpture. They wanted to provide a class for students that allowed them to combine the elements and skills of both subjects. One of the main goals of the class was to create art for public spaces. The Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Public School District embraces innovation and immediately supported the idea and students are benefiting from their innovation.

Last school year the inaugural class submitted their proposed whole class sculpture, New Life, to be included in the Mankato Sculpture Walk of 2018 and were accepted! Fast forward to November 13, 2018 and the JWP Advanced Metal Sculpture class of 2018 has been selected as the People's Choice Award and will be permanently displayed in Mankato! As a bonus, the sculpture has been purchased for $6,000 which will continue to support and enhance the program. Congratulations to the students, Mr. Demarais, and Mr. James. We are so proud of you!

New Life Sculpture

Here is a sneak peek at this years class sculpture, Arc Angel.