Willmar superintendent talks to staff about maintaining work-life balance in annual welcome

The staff of Willmar Public Schools gathered Thursday morning for the annual kickoff to the school year. Superintendent Jeff Holm talked to them about staying healthy, and also about his plans to retire in two years. Staff also met new Assistant Superintendent Bill Adams.

Employees of Willmar Public Schools packed the auditorium at the Willmar Education and Arts Center Thursday morning. The traditional gathering kicks off the school year. The district has more than 900 employees. Classes for its more than 4,000 students begin next week.
Employees of Willmar Public Schools packed the auditorium Thursday morning at the Willmar Education and Arts Center. The traditional gathering kicks off the school year. The district has more than 900 employees. Classes for its more than 4,000 students begin next week.
Linda Vanderwerf / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Superintendent Jeff Holm on Thursday talked to Willmar Public Schools employees about maintaining balance in their lives and told them about his plans to retire in two years.

Most of the district’s employees packed the auditorium at the Willmar Education and Arts Center for the district’s annual staff welcome gathering. Willmar Public Schools employs more than 900 people, about 340 of them teachers, according to the district website.

The Willmar Senior High School choir 2701 opened the program with "Lovely Day," by Bill Withers. The refrain says, “Just one look at you, and I know it’s gonna be a lovely day.”

Willmar Superintendent Jeff Holm
Contributed / Willmar Public Schools

Holm and Assistant Superintendent Bill Adams spoke to the staff members and thanked them all for being there.

“It’s incredibly hard to find good people, and you are good people,” Holm said.


He thanked them for the work they’ve done to prepare for students’ arrival next week and for their work to come during the school year.

Willmar Assistant Superintendent Bill Adams
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“I want you to set some boundaries and be healthy,” Holm said in his annual talk about work-life balance.

People need rest, exercise and relationships outside of work, he said.

“If we don’t create some boundaries that allow us to have those things in our life, I’m convinced you can’t give your students your very best,” he said. “When you’re at work, I need you to be your best ... to be well.”
It’s OK to not answer work messages that arrive after work hours, he said, adding, “You are not expected to be checking messages around the clock.”

Holm spoke to the staff about staying home when they are sick, something that can be difficult for dedicated people.

Holm thanked the staff members who willingly filled in for ill co-workers in the last year when substitute teachers were scarce. He asked them to do everything they could to prevent absences that were not related to illness, because it’s still difficult to find subs.
Holm also talked about his plan to retire in June 2024.

“I know I look much too young for it,” he said to chuckles from the staff. When he retires, he will have worked in Willmar nine years and have worked in education 39 years.

“That presents new opportunities for the district with fresh leadership,” he said.


To avoid abrupt changes in a transition, the School Board approved hiring an assistant superintendent, he said.

Adams introduced himself to the group with a slideshow about his childhood in Janesville and his path to Willmar. Adams is a former superintendent at New London-Spicer Schools, and he was hired to serve two years in the new position.

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If the board and Adams are pleased with the arrangement, he may be the next superintendent when Holm retires.

Adams’ parents were farmers and later owned a video store and a restaurant. His father was a carpenter, too. Adams worked in all those businesses and realized they weren’t for him, though he was grateful for the experience, he said.

His parents taught him that “hard work and dedication are what you need to get the job done,” he said. Other opportunities in his teen years showed him that he wanted to be an educator.

Adams said he was grateful for the staff members at the gathering.

“Without each and every one of you in this room, regardless of your role, the relationships you build with students and the impact you have on kids on a daily basis is something I truly admire and appreciate,” he said.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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