Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Living the Mission

In July 2022 Aaron Pilarski, Willmar’s Director of Buildings and Grounds earned his Building Operator Certification. The initial certification earned is classified as Level I which consisted of 74 hours of classroom training in buildings and operations, seven open-book tests, and five project assignments.

Continuing education is a critical function of all our positions here at Willmar Public Schools. We are proud of Aaron's accomplishment and sincerely appreciate his modeling of a commitment to lifelong learning. The mission of the Willmar Public School District is to inspire and prepare all learners for their future in our community and the world. Aaron's accomplishment is a true example of living our district's mission. Congratulations Aaron!



Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The wheels on the bus...

Student transportation is an important service that school districts offer to families. Some districts in the state of Minnesota operate their own transportation services while others contract for their services. The New London-Spicer School District contracts with Palmer Bus Service out of Mankato, MN. 

Our current scope of services with Palmer Bus Service currently includes the following:
  • Palmer Bus Service provides student transportation services within our geographical boundaries or as otherwise designated for students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 including:
    • regular routes approved by the District for one round trip per school day to and from the school, including out-of-district stops for open-enrolled students as authorized by the district.
    • special needs transportation for students on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
    • field, athletics, and activities trips as authorized by the District, and
    • other services as needed and authorized by the District, including but not limited to between schools and education sites, late afternoon, and midday busing.
  • Regular to and from route times for resident students will not exceed sixty (60) minutes each morning and afternoon. Routing is the responsibility of the service provider subject to the superintendent's approval.
The New London-Spicer School District is unique in that it is surrounded by "hazardous crossings" including State Highway 9 and County Road 40. As a result, transportation to and from school is offered to all resident students. In most cases throughout the state, school districts offer transportation to only those students who live outside a one to two-mile distance from the school building in which they attend. Families living within that distance can choose to have their children walk to school or seek alternative transportation options. Our district's current transportation arrangement is a nice amenity for our students and families.

We believe it is in the best interest of our students and families to keep bus route times under sixty (60) minutes as much as possible. As a result of the referendum not passing in the fall of 2020, the school district made the difficult decision to eliminate one bus route which caused several bus routes to exceed sixty (60) minutes. Due to the referendum passing this past fall, we'll be adding the route back which will decrease the amount of time our students are on the bus during normal route times.

Another strategy in reducing the amount of time students are on the bus is to add neutral bus stop locations when conducting stops within the premises of a city. This strategy is utilized in most school districts and will continue to be developed and improved here in the New London-Spicer School District.

Although the New London-Spicer School District contracts for transportation services, we are responsible for the safety of our students and that remains our number one priority. Should you have transportation questions or concerns, they first should be addressed by calling the New London-Spicer Palmer Transportation Hub at 320.354.2414. If you need to further address those questions or concerns, you can communicate directly with your child's building principal who will determine the next steps. If the issue is not related to a child and is a community concern, those can be communicated directly to me by calling 320.354.2252 or via email at AdamsW@nls.k12.mn.us.



Our Role(s) in Educator Burnout, Recruitment, and Retention

 "Life is short, it is up to you to make it sweet." ~ Sarah Louise Delaney

Over the past 20 months leadership has been a challenge throughout the country. Some leadership positions are elected while others are selected. In most cases throughout the United States, new superintendents during this time were selected based on a districts' leadership profile. Others were in their respective position prior to the pandemic. In the end, we all chose to pursue the positions in which we occupy. Many of us have faced extreme pressures over the last 20 months and each of us has responded differently. I am using this platform to make a plea to my fellow colleagues and other educators to make this life of service sweet.

I am calling on all educators to be the greatest promotors of our service and we need to take that calling seriously. We all need to make a valiant effort to talk positively about our work. I have encountered a series of questions and statements over the past 20 months about my position and the positions of all educators in my organization, in the state, and throughout the country. In each of those exchanges I found myself thinking about how to paint a positive picture of the work we all do. Some of those questions and responses are provided below.

How are things going at school?
Each day presents new challenges but we have a tremendous team willing to meet those challenges head on and turn them into successes. 

I can't imagine what you're going though at school.
There is certainly a lot to juggle but many of us chose this profession because each new day presents new experiences. You never know what the day will bring which makes our work exciting.

Boy, I bet you're putting a lot of time in lately.
We, just like all professional positions, put in the time needed to get the job done. The difference between our positions and other positions is that we have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of others. This work is important and we're happy to serve!

Aren't you stressed?
I relieve any stress in positive and healthy ways so that it does not have a negative impact on my work. I take things in stride and rise to the new challenge. In education, we work collaboratively to keep stress at lows levels and to help each other get through challenging times.

Those of us in the world of education and those serving our communities are responsible for recruiting people to this calling. We all need to do a better job of speaking positively about our profession to ensure people choose this as a vocation and change the trajectory of educator burnout, recruitment, and retention. Are you willing to embrace the fact that life is short, and it is up to each of us to make it sweet?

For me, challenge accepted!





Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Congratulations Board Member Mark Peterson!

The Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA) is a private, nonprofit organization. The MSBA is a leading advocate for public education and they support, promote, and strengthen the work of Minnesota school boards in all their functions. MSBA provides training annually for school board members to improve their skillset and knowledge of school board operations. The New London-Spicer School District is lucky to have all seven of its elected school board members committed to improving their practice.

Photo Credit: MSBA
Photo Credit: MSBA

The MSBA has developed an awards program to recognize those people who have completed 100 or more hours of attendance at MSBA sponsored meetings and activities within a four-year period of time. We are proud to announce that Mark Peterson, current school board member, has attained the Directors' Award for 2021-2022. Mark will be formally recognized at the 2022 MSBA Leadership Conference.

Mark has completed all four phase trainings, attended the free annual leadership conferences, participated in the MSBA delegate assembly, legislative political advocacy tours, and many others. Being involved and committed to development are key contributions to high-functioning school boards. Congratulations Mark Peterson!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Help Needed!


This communication is to ask for your assistance. The New London-Spicer School District is in desperate need of substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians, food service workers, and clerical staff. We also have permanent positions unfilled and available. Each day substitute positions and these permanent positions go unfilled which creates unique challenges for our staff and students.

When food service positions go unfilled…
It takes a longer amount of time to get our students through the lunch line causing delays and shortened periods of time for our students to eat. 

When custodian positions go unfilled…
Proper cleaning is not able to be completed leaving some classrooms and hallways not being vacuumed and other areas in our buildings are left uncleaned.

When paraprofessional positions go unfilled…
Our students do not receive the proper support they need and there is a lack of supervision before school, after school, at recess, and at lunch.

When clerical positions go unfilled…
Phones go unanswered and response times are lengthened.

When teacher positions go unfilled…
Our teaching staff and other staff are pulled from other duties and preparation time. In addition, specialist (Title I, Physical Education, Music, Art, Spanish, etc.) times are canceled.

As a result, our staff is being spread thin and it is wearing us out. This is not good for students. We are getting to the point where we may need to consider alternative methods of delivering instruction in which we all want to avoid. This is not due to COVID-19 cases or excessive absences with our staff members but instead can be attributed to a simple lack of available substitutes and permanent employees. 

This is where you can all come in to assist. If you are willing to consider substituting in any of these roles or know of anyone looking for part-time and a flexible work schedule, we’d be happy to assist in getting all involved. Even if it is only for one day per week, we’ll take it! If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a substitute in any role please contact Superintendent Adams directly at 320.354.1401 or via email at AdamsW@nls.k12.mn.us.

Thank you for your consideration!


Thursday, November 11, 2021

School Related Cancelations and eLearning Decision Making Process

Well, here we are, another winter may soon welcome us with a grand entrance. Every year I receive questions from staff, students, parents, and community members regarding the decision making process for making weather related decisions so I've created this blog entry that I update annually. Please read through this information carefully and be sure to contact me should you have any further questions.

eLearning Days

To begin, the New London-Spicer School District will utilize eLearning Days when school is closed due to inclement weather. This communication will cover the decision making process in calling eLearning Days.

Plans Prairie Meadows - When an eLearning Day is called, school is canceled. Prairie Woods - https://www.nls.k12.mn.us/Page/3370 Middle School - https://www.nls.k12.mn.us/Page/3371 High School - https://www.nls.k12.mn.us/Page/3372

Cold Weather Related

In the past we have had several school days closed due to excessively cold weather. I am hopeful that we will not experience those extreme temperatures this year. With that said, I would like to remind our constituents of guiding principles for closing school due to extreme temperatures.

  • Our school buses are housed indoors and are in excellent condition. In the unlikely event that mechanical failure would occur during cold weather, there are backup buses that can respond to lend assistance in short order.
  • Wind chill temperature, actual temperature and frostbite time frames are taken into consideration when making a decision to stay open or closed. I utilize the NWS Wind Chill Chart as my guide. If frostbite times are in the 30 minutes range, it will be my recommendation to hold school as planned provided other issues such as snowfall, visibility, and road conditions are acceptable.
  • I believe that if we operate within the wind chill parameters set forth above, we are putting the safety of students first, but also providing opportunities to continue school on regularly scheduled days.
  • I ask that parents pay special attention to proper clothing for their children during the winter season and especially during these very cold conditions. Whether a child is in Kindergarten or in 12th grade, all students should have proper winter apparel including mittens and hat before venturing out.
  • If the decision is made to hold school on days of negative wind chills, it is the parent's final responsibility to determine whether it is safe for their child to go to school. Throughout our district, we have so many different circumstances with different families that a single decision by the superintendent may not properly respond to the consideration of a particular family. If parents elect to hold their children home due to inclement weather, the absence will be considered an excused absence.


Please make certain that your alert system information (Parent Portal) is up to date as we rely on this system to communicate messages regarding school closures.

Precipitation Related
Whenever extreme precipitation events are in the forecast or under way, the Superintendent works directly with the transportation company, county road officials, and area school districts to determine what action needs to take place to ensure student safety. Although, area school districts are consulted, each district comes to their own conclusions based on local road conditions and visibility.

When possible, these decisions will be made in the evening prior to 10:00 pm. However, often times this cannot take place due to a variety of reasons. If decisions cannot be made the prior evening, we will strive to make the call by 6:00 am.

Weather announcements are delivered in the following formats listed in order of priority:
  1. Parent Portal Messenger System (Please make certain that your contact information and contact preferences are up to date. We ask that you elect to receive voice, text, and email alerts for priority and emergency messages.)
  2. Social Media Networks (Facebook and Instagram)
  3. District Website
  4. Television News Stations
  5. Radio Stations

Those are the general guidelines I use in determining school closures. As stated above, if the decision is made to hold school on days of negative wind chills or inclement weather, it is the parent's final responsibility to determine whether it is safe for their child to go to school. Throughout our district, we have so many different circumstances with different families that a single decision by the superintendent may not properly respond to the consideration of a particular family. If parents elect to hold their children home due to inclement weather, the absence will be considered an excused absence.

It is my hope that this information has been helpful. Enjoy the upcoming weather!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

What is the cause of New London-Spicer's Financial Challenges?

I have talked to several people in the community about the challenges facing our school district. Questions that continue to arise are: Can you simplify the challenges you face as a district? What is causing you to need additional revenue? Why is the New London-Spicer School District in this spot financially? The answers to these questions are related and a bit complicated. To simplify the complexities of our situation, I have organized the need into four general categories.

1. Funding from the state of Minnesota has not kept pace with inflation.

If state aid had increased at the rate of inflation, schools would have received $7,461 per student this year. Instead, schools will receive $6,863 per student, a difference of $598 per student. New London-Spicer has about 1,530 students. If state aid kept pace with inflation, that would result in nearly $1 million in additional state funding in one year, and many millions over previous years, eliminating the need for constant budget reductions.

2. The federal government has not kept their funding promises.

In 1975 the federal government passed the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which provides education and support services for students with disabilities. During that time, the federal government promised to provide 40% of the excess costs of providing these services. The federal government has not kept this promise as they have generally provided only 17% of these costs. This lack of promised support from the federal government has caused the district to spend an average of over $1 million annually from its general fund to supplement the rising costs in special education. These are critical services and the federal government must keep their promise.

3. Our school district falls into the "donut hole" as we are considered property rich but tax poor.

The New London-Spicer School District has a unique tax base. Specifically, our tax base is as follows:

Residential: 56.8%

Commercial/Industrial: 5.2%

Agricultural: 14.5%

Seasonal/Recreation: 23.5%

This means that our homeowners carry the greatest tax responsibility as some seasonal/recreation and agricultural land is not taxed based on different tax mechanisms. The New London-Spicer administration and school board work hard in advocacy efforts with legislators to bring equalization funding to schools in Minnesota. Currently, New London-Spicer ranks 230th out of 327 for public schools in revenue received from the state through their current system of financing education. This is not sustainable!

4. Inequities in funding formulas.

Various funding formulas are tied to free and reduced lunch numbers in school districts. A couple of these programs are Title I and compensatory education. The higher a district's free and reduced population is, the more revenue they receive. New London-Spicer has a lower free and reduced lunch population which means we generate less funding than most of our neighbors. 

ACGC - 36.6% Albany - 17.8% BBE - 30.0% KMS - 33.0% Litchfield - 32.6% MACCRAY - 36.1% New London-Spicer - 20.5% Willmar - 56.3%

In summary, New London-Spicer faces unique challenges due to its complex situation that have a major impact on the students, families, and communities within our school district. All of these factors have contributed to our current situation and we are working diligently to turn this ship around and get our financial house in order to be able to continue to provide excellent educational opportunities for our students.