Thursday, October 5, 2017

Cultivating Passion


Over the past two weeks I have spent a lot of time in hospitals tending to my mother. Recently, I spent a day waiting for her open heart surgery and thought I would meander down to the gift shop to pass time. While there, I stumbled upon the book, The Mayo Brothers' Heritage: Quotes and Pictures. In the waiting room my sister was looking through the book and stumbled upon three quotes provided by the doctors William J. Mayo and Charles H. Mayo.

"Probably in the not far distant future we will crawl out of our old methods of education, as a snake sheds its skin, and reorganize a new plan." (Mayo, 1928)

Here we are, 89 years later, and we are finally reorganizing a new plan for educating our students. The JWP School District is well along its way in creating a personalized learning environment to ensure all students are learning at high levels. Specifically, we define personalized learning as an individualized learner-centered, teacher-guided partnership designed to reach intended learning goals. Although it has taken quite some time to shed the proverbial snake skin, we are making great progress.

"One of the chief defects in our plan of education in this country is that we give too much attention to developing the memory and too little to developing the mind; we lay too much stress on acquiring knowledge and too little on the wise application of knowledge." (Mayo, 1933)

With the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal government missed the boat. Our elected officials had a great opportunity to steer accountability away from standardized tests and to create a new system that fostered creativity and innovation. 

In 1933 William J. Mayo understood that the educational system at the time cared more about the student's ability to fill in bubbles on an assessment and recall knowledge. At the time, he was urging a change in the world of education. The desire was to allow students to apply their learning and pursue passions. It is now 2017 and the system as a whole puts more value on rote memorization than the application of knowledge. At JWP, we believe students should pursue passions and apply learning.

"Instruction from teachers and books teaches a man what to think, but the great need is that he should learn how to think." (Mayo, 1938)

At JWP we work hard to ensure our students possess a mastery of learning. It is our goal that students leave our schoolhouse gate college, career, and life ready. A great measuring stick for our educational effectiveness is if our students are contributing to and improving our society. It is imperative that our students are able to think critically, apply learning, and inspire growth and development. This success is fostered at JWP!

In closing, JWP is committed to ensuring our students are provided an outstanding educational experience, an experience in which they develop into outstanding contributors to our society and have the ability to cultivate their passions!





Monday, June 5, 2017

We are Lucky!

In April our teaching staff engaged in a discussion of personalized learning for our students. Our current definition of personalized learning remains the same, "Providing students with what they need, when they need it, and how they need it." It is clear this definition may change over time but the impetus of it will remain the same.

We started the day with an overview of personalized learning and how it impacts students, teachers, and the school community as a whole. From there we went into a panel discussion with teachers that have visited learning organizations that have implemented personalized learning. To put it bluntly, this discussion was powerful. Staff members shared highlights and wonderings from their experiences. In addition, solid questions were asked that created organic conversations. This process was a great segue to the rest of our learning on personalized learning for the day.

During the morning and afternoon sessions our teachers disaggregated data compiled from surveys of students and staff. The survey administrated included the following questions:
  1. What new things would you like to see in our school?
  2. What things are in our school that you would like to keep?
  3. What things should we get rid of in our school?
By simply asking those three questions of our students and staff we learned valuable information. In both of our buildings it became clear that a common language should be developed so that students from PreK through senior high have a clear understanding of what is being communicated by all adults. In the high school is was discovered that the elimination of a bell schedule would be welcomed. In addition, participants in the survey communicated that there should be further conversation about the loosening of the hat/cell phone policy and more flexible learning opportunities provided. All of this learning was discussed by our staff and an action plan has been created to develop responses to the survey results.

If one piece was gleaned from April's work it was the fact that we have amazing individuals on staff filled with knowledge and a solid understanding of education. Combining all of their knowledge was nothing short of remarkable. I enthusiastically tell you that we are all lucky to have these individuals providing education to students of our outstanding school district. We are lucky!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Enjoying the PL Journey!


On April 5, 2017 several staff members visited the Eastern Carver County Public School District to see their personalized learning in action. As we continue our own journey for creating a system where personalized learning is created, we felt it would be best to see it in action. The day was filled with rich learning that has informed our journey.

Before we get too far, let's define personalized learning with a Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton twist. We believe that personalized learning in our district is defined in the following way: Providing students with what they need, when they need it and how they need it. Although that may seem like a logical practice, systemically it has not been possible.

In the the mid eighteen hundreds, Horace Mann brought our current system of education to the United States from Prussia. During the Industrial Revolution, this system made a lot of sense. The educational system has not evolved with the times because we were all simply used to "doing school" and were comfortable.

Enter the sense of urgency! Our world is changing at a much faster pace than what we are used to or comfortable with. If we are going to prepare our students for their futures, we need to begin changing the way we do business in education. Historically speaking, personalized learning was not possible due to the inability to scale it. With the access to the technology we have today, we can make this happen for our students.

A transition to personalized learning is not for the fainthearted. On the 13th of April our staff will engage in a district wide conversation about implementation. They will also split into elementary and high school teams to discuss relevance and action steps for implementation in their areas. Our hope is that each area comes away with an initial plan of action.

In closing, it is important to note that this will be a journey for our district and that there are sure to be tweaks and adjustments along the way. In education we cannot expect a final product as we are ever evolving as are our students. Let's enjoy the journey!

For one example of what is already taking place at the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Public School District, please check out the video below (https://goo.gl/ZImfZs).


Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Beauty of a Community

Sweet! The title of this article got you to click on it. So, now that you are here, I encourage you to read ahead. While we are talking about community as defined by Merriam-Webster, I shall provide said definition.

"A unified body of individuals: such as, the people of common interests living in a particular area."

It is quite clear the common interest of those living in the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District and beyond is the school district. People from all over donated silent auction items and other outstanding door prizes for our Bulldog Night Out (#bulldognightout). Attendance of supporters at this event was humbling. I, personally, couldn't be more proud to lead this district. In addition, I am thankful my own children attend a district filled full of outstanding educators and supportive adults.

A special shout out goes to the Bulldog Backers. What an amazing group of volunteers lead by President Holly Oliver. As a district, we are overjoyed by the commitment of this group of supporters. These folks put in a lot of time to ensure Bulldog Night Out was an absolute success. To put it boldly the event was a paramount success!

Here is a rundown of all the activities involved in our special Bulldog Night Out.
  • Silent Auction Items
  • Raffle for Jewelry
  • Pick of the Litter Raffle
  • Entertainment - Which many of our staff members provided through music and comedy.
  • Beverage Tasting
  • Appetizers
  • Collection of Monetary Donations
  • Securing a Venue and Date
There are so many people to thank for this event that I won't attempt to do so in fear of forgetting someone. With that said, thank you to those that organized the event, donated in some way, provided entertainment and came to support the event. You are all amazing and make JWP a beautiful community.





Friday, March 24, 2017

Where are we going?

School districts throughout the United States work consistently to develop strategic plans to provide direction for their learning organizations. Typically there are diverse stakeholders involved in the development of said plans. Our district participated in this process about five years ago and we landed on a great product that includes our current mission statement.

"Our district will empower learning, energize achievement and enhance community. Excellence without excuse."

As a result of this work, our school district has made positive progress in several areas. With anything, there are still areas of concern and we are honed in on problem solving. We want to increase our achievement results in all areas and improve graduation rates. This district is full of committed professionals that are improving their professional practice to enhance student learning.

We have this process down and have mastered our oversight of the plan. However, we are missing one important piece of the puzzle and I cannot believe we overlooked it. Thanks to my good friend Dennis Laumeyer, superintendent of the Benson Public School District, the puzzle piece was found. We don't have any strategic directions over our activities programming. This work will begin soon.


Our activities programs allow our students to participate in things they are passionate about and to learn lifelong skills that they do not learn in the academic arena. I firmly believe that we should have a plan in place that works to improve our overall programming in this area. So, what's the game plan?

I recently contacted Bruce Miles of the Big River Group to discuss an effective process to gather input and ideas to develop a plan. He is working on getting me pricing. From that point, we'll give the go ahead to our Activities Director to begin this work with the assistance of the Big River Group. We are excited to provide direction to the overall activities program!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Recent Call to Action


Every now and again you're pitched a curveball with very little time to respond. On Tuesday, March 7th school districts across Minnesota were provided information that recent long-term facilities maintenance (LTFM) legislation could be in jeopardy. Thankfully, this curveball was hit out of the park.

LTFM was provided in recent legislation as a way to equalize facilities funding. This new revenue stream has provided districts like Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton the ability to address ongoing facilities issues. As many of our constituents are aware, we will set out to address major safety concerns on our athletic facilities utilizing this funding source. As you might imagine, talk of eliminating LTFM drew major concerns from this school district.

In a call to action, we are asked to contact our legislatures to explain the impact to our school district. The following communication was sent to local legislatures and legislative leaders.


First and foremost, thank you for the work you do on behalf of Minnesotans each and everyday. I realize you folks have a difficult job ahead of you and appreciate your willingness to listen to the people of Minnesota. Your work is sincerely appreciated.

It has been brought to my attention that House leaders are considering cutting Long Term Facilities Maintenance (LTFM) revenue in preliminary budget plans. This may or may not be accurate. With that said, the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Public School District along with many other districts in rural MN would be negatively impacted by this action.

I can only speak for my school district. We have waited for many years to address maintenance problems in the school district due to the lack of funding for such issues. We were NOT going to cut from the classroom to make repairs and improvements. With the passage of LTFM our district was provided the opportunity to make these repairs and breathe a sigh of relief.

We are one of those districts that have bonded to pay for work that will be completed this spring. The revenue generated from the LTFM would be used to pay off the bond over a period of years. The JWP School District does not receive any equalization aid from the State due to current legislation. All revenue generated comes directly from our local taxpayers. With that said, we had our truth in taxation meeting in December with max authority being approved. Our taxpayers received their statements of the impact of this levy in advance. We had zero constituents in attendance voicing concerns.

I urge all of you to consider the negative impact this will have on school districts and students. Please do not consider eliminating LTFM or capping it. We are thankful for LTFM and our students and community will benefit from our improvements.

In closing, thank you for listening and all that you do for Minnesotans. Best of luck throughout the remainder of this legislative session.

As a result of unified communication from school districts throughout the state, our legislatures have informed advocacy groups that they are no longer considering negative adjustments to LTFM. This Call to Action was a success! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Athletic Facilities Explained

Small communities are great places to live and raise a family. Back in the early 1970's residents of the Janesville Community worked together to develop an athletic complex for the students of the then, Janesville Public School District. These athletic facilities have provided excellent opportunities for our students over the past 45 years. It is now time for the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District to conduct repairs and improvements to this area. There have been several questions asked by district residents over the past few months regarding this. Please review the questions and answers below. Should you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact Bill Adams at the contact information listed at the end of this article.

Drainage Issues
Proposed Concept

How is the district paying for this?

1. With the passage of the operating levy in the fall of 2011, costs of operating the school district were secured. During this time, the school board has worked diligently to be fiscally responsible in expenditure and revenue planning in an effort to pay for repairs and upgrades.

2. The State Legislature came out with a Long Term Facilities Levy (LTFM) recently that allows for school districts to levy dollars to complete repairs on facilities. This authority will be utilized as a way to pay for needed repairs.


3. Lease Purchase for additional learning space is an authority that can be utilized to provide additional learning space. The improved and upgraded facilities can be used for education purposes in physical education, health, outdoor education, and in many other areas.

When does the 1998 bond fall off?

The 1998 bond is set to fall off after the 2017 tax year. Therefore, 2018 tax statements should reflect a decrease in taxes collected from the local school district. With that being said, the impact will be dependent on the value of each property.  

Why are you installing turf?

Several discussions regarding grass or turf took place throughout the past five years. In the end, the school board decided on turf surface for the following reasons:

- The utilization of the football field and softball field was taken into consideration. Due to the outstanding drainage of this surface, the football and softball fields can be used as soon as the ground thaws or when it stops raining. This will allow for fewer events being rescheduled and extreme maintenance needs reduced.
- The utilization of school facilities has increased significantly throughout the years. With the installation of turf, we will be able to allow usage of these facilities on a consistent basis. Physical education courses, junior high football through senior high football, youth football, and so on.
- Cost savings in maintenance, irrigation, weed control, paint, and other areas are realized with a turf surface as opposed to grass.
- Income possibilities are realized as the facility can be rented to other interested parties. We have already received interest from the Region to host a section football final. The district hopes to host conference and section track meets in the future. The possibility of soccer events played on this field is also present. 

If the school is spending this money, why are they in need of renewing the operating levy in the fall of 2018?

The operating levy that was passed in the fall of 2011 is for operating expenses. In essence, this money pays for day to day expenses from teaching and learning to electricity. The school district depends on this allocation of finances to operate. The school board has worked diligently to be fiscally responsible in expenditure and revenue planning in an effort to pay for repairs and upgrades. In addition, we will be utilizing finances from Long Term Facilities Maintenance and Lease Purchase authority provided through the State of Minnesota. These funds are specific to facility repairs and additional classroom space and cannot be utilized for operating expenses. 

Aren't more injuries caused on turf fields than grass fields?

No, that is not true. There have been various studies conducted on this very issue. In some studies, it is stated that turf fields do cause more injuries where in others it is argued the exact opposite. A study conducted by Dr. Michael C. Meyers of the Department of Health and Human Development at Montana State University has confirmed that Field Turf is safer than natural grass sports surfaces. Specific information regarding this study can be found via this link: https://goo.gl/odlMWk

What type of shoes do people have to wear on the turf fields?

Those participating on the turf surface can wear tennis shoes or their normal cleats. If a team that is visiting the new field does not have a turf field, they can wear their normal cleats to play the game. There are no special foot attire required.

Are the soils acceptable to complete work in the designated area?

This is still a work in progress. We have had several soil borings completed over the past month. Some of those borings showed outstanding areas to work on while others did not. The school board will continue to meet to discuss options in this area. At this point, there will be revisions made to ensure we can move forward with the project. What we can positively state is that no additional dollars will be spent beyond what was budgeted. Therefore, changes in scope and scale of the project may be revised.

As stated at this beginning of this Q&A, should you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact Bill Adams at badams@isd2835.org or 507.231.7770.