NEW LONDON - Preparations are being made for a changing of the guard in the New London-Spicer School District.

After 34 years in education, including 23 years as NLS superintendent, Paul Carlson is retiring at the end of June.

His replacement, Bill Adams, takes over July 1 as NLS superintendent.

Adams, who is currently the superintendent in the Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District, has already spent several days in the district working alongside Carlson, meeting staff and students. Last week Adams oversaw the interview process to hire a new high school principal to replace Kevin Acquard, who is retiring after spending 34 years working at NLS.

"I'm excited to be part of the NLS community. To be given an opportunity to work in a district that has the reputation that it does," Adams said.

"It's very clear there's a strong commitment to doing what's best for kids. There's a lot of passion and excitement in the staff," he said. "And being around the kids - their energy is contagious and you can tell they are big fans of the Wildcat community."

Carlson, 56, announced his retirement in September. During an interview last week, he said that as the time creeps closer to the end of his tenure at NLS, he's realizing that it will be a "bittersweet" experience to say goodbye.

"It'll be a sad day when I turn in the keys," he said.

Carlson said there are things he will definitely miss - and things that he won't.

"I love the kids and love the teachers and all the staff people I've had the opportunity to work with over the years," he said. "I will miss the people. ...The kids have been awesome."

Carlson said he won't miss the "difficult conversations" over the years.

One of the more challenging experiences during his 23 years at NLS was a proposed policy regarding use of bathrooms by transgender students that drew strong public reaction.

Among the many accomplishments is the completion of a major construction project last year that included a long-sought-after performing arts auditorium.

Carlson spent a lot of time in that auditorium last week watching the last choir and band concert, the last honors ceremony and the last FFA awards event that he will experience as a superintendent.

Carlson said getting through the challenges and accomplishments is a testament to the strong leaders with whom he's worked in the district and the support for education in the NLS community.

Carlson said he's leaving knowing that the district will be in good hands with Adams.

"The transition will be very smooth," Carlson said. "He (Adams) will be an excellent fit for NLS."

Adams, who calls himself an "innovative leader" with good foresight and a vision for where education is today and where it should be in the future for students, said he brings "a lot of energy" to the game.

Adams said the major challenges he'll have as he takes over the lead position in the district is learning the NLS system, getting to know staff and families and identifying the district's strengths and how to enhance and improve them.

Keeping the budget in line and managing the district's strategic plan will be other major items on the agenda.

Carlson said Adams' ability to embrace technology and social media will be another asset to the district. He said the staff is eager to work with Adams and they are looking forward to experiencing a new way of doing things under Adams.

"He'll be a breath of fresh air," Carlson said.

Carlson said he had initially thought he would spend retirement relaxing and doing home improvement projects, but he recently accepted a part-time job as superintendent at the Hancock School District, which will require a 100-mile round trip several days a week.

He will also be working with the Minnesota School Boards Association to help districts who are writing strategic plans or conducting superintendent searches.

He confessed that working in a new school district may be easier than the long list of home improvement projects.

A retirement open house for Carlson will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. June 13 at the NLS Performing Arts Center.