Luke Kjelland, the new K-12 principal at Spring Grove Public Schools, arrived at school Wednesday, July 1, for his first day as the new K-12 Principal with a wide smile on his face.
So who is Luke Kjelland?
With the last name Kjelland, it is no surprise to Spring Grove residents that Kjelland is 75% Norwegian. Kjelland grew up in Coon Valley, Wis., and is a graduate of Westby Area High School. Kjelland and his wife of 18 years, Sara, are the proud parents of a two, almost-three-year-old, little girl, Silje.
Kjelland parents reside in Coon Valley and are excited that Kjelland and his family are now only 30 minutes away. He has already mowed their lawn once. Kjelland’s sister inspired his career in education as she has a lengthy career as a teacher. One brother is a diplomat with the U.S. State Department, and his other brother Brandon, lives in the Twin Cities with his family, working as a financier.
He earned his elementary education certification and middle school licensure from EW Rivers Fall. He finished his Masters for Educational Leadership at Viterbo University in 2012.
Kjelland served as the assistant principal and activities director at Cochrane-Fountain City School District in Fountain City, Wis., for the last six years. Before that, he taught fourth grade in Prescott, Wis., for seven years.
Why Spring Grove Public Schools?
Smaller schools have a small-town feeling. Kjelland mentioned that he coached with a former Spring Grove teacher that had nothing but good things to say about the school district and the community.
Asked if he planned on breaking the former principal’s record, Kjelland shared that “Everyone is looking for a place to call home and a place to fit in.”
The interview process for the position of principal was one of the most thorough processes he has experienced. During the community portion of the interview, he was asked by a resident what he liked best about the community so far. Not surprisingly, Kjelland answered that he liked the feel of the community. He went on to explain that “everyone in Spring Grove is so nice, supportive, and will talk with you about everything, and everyone has a smile on their face. And it is not like that everywhere. For me, it will be a very easy place to become home.”
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, what are your plans for getting involved in the community?
Former principal, Nancy Gulbranson, and Kjelland had discussed plans on meeting families and the community before COVID-19, where normally you can go out and meet people. Because of COVID-19, it is going to be different. The two discussed holding Zoom “Meet the Principal” sessions as well as meeting face-to-face with small groups as long as you maintain social distancing and don’t shake hands. He stressed that a “school is only as strong as its community,” and encourages community members to give him a call or send an email and introduce themselves.
What positive outcomes in education do you see as a result of COVID-19?
A topic of discussion on Kjelland’s first day was how to reach out to students, given the COVID-19 regulations and guidelines. The school will be implementing activities to make sure students and parents will know what to expect on day one. Kjelland expects that distant learning will become a functional component in the regular K-12 setting and will be utilized in the future. Student ownership in the choice of learning was important during the spring semester and will move to the forefront in the years to come.
What would you like the community to know?
Under his leadership, Kjelland plans to focus on strengthening the foundation of one-on-one relationships with students, parents, and the community that was implement by his predecessor. Dr. Tom Cavanagh, Walden University, explains that “a Culture of Care is a theory that says schools and workplaces should put more importance on relationships than curriculum when determining their institutional purpose. It encourages one-on-one relationships.” Kjelland explained that the school is about creating individuals that care about each other.
Kjelland also wants the community to know that over the last four to five years, he had experience developing a mental health program for his previous school. These schools are known as trauma-informed or sensitive schools. He explained that kids experience trauma and how we react either increases or decreases that trauma, and it is important to build resiliency for trauma. Mental health programs not only help children while in school but for the rest of their lives.
What is your message for your students?
The new principal wants the students to know that he will do what is best for them. Kjelland has advise for the students regarding the pandemic. “Stay the course; this is not going to last forever.”
Any last words?
“Thank you to Mrs. Gulbranson. Nancy has been nothing but graceful in the handoff of all this. She has been helpful and given me her contact information in case I have any questions. This morning when I walked in, these flowers were sitting on my desk from her. I also found a note that I will keep forever. She has left big shoes to fill. She is a person that is willing to help you out. She is dedicated to what she considers her home and will gladly give input and provide help in the future as well.”
Kjelland ended by expressing his gratitude. “I am excited to be here. It is a good fit, a great place to be. The atmosphere here is welcoming and kind. It is refreshing to walk in the door. You walk in the door with a smile.”