History of the Southland School District
History of the Southland Independent School District 500 consolidation process written by the District’s Administrative Team – Superintendent James F. Roberts, Rose Creek Principal Curtis Wilkinson, Elkton Principal, Clarence Olsen, and Adams Principal David H. Peterson:
The present Southland Independent School District #500 consolidation is a result of many influences. In May, 1969, the Bureau of Field Studies and Surveys of the University of Minnesota completed an educational survey of School Districts 491, 494, 495, and 498 (Adams, Elkton, Grand Meadow, and Rose Creek, respectively). It was the recommendation of the Bureau that these four districts join together on an equal basis to form a new school district. It was felt, at that time that the area was not providing education commensurate to levels found elsewhere in the State. Deficiencies in curriculum, elementary administration, facilities, special services, and general staffing, to name a few, were found and documented.
As a result of this Bureau survey, the area superintendents, leading their Boards of Education, began to submit data on the pros and cons of a consolidated school district. At this point, Grand Meadow District 495 discontinued support of the proposal and built new additions to their present facilities. Adams, Elkton, and Rose Creek continued to work together toward a consolidation. During this period, a new high school facility was frequently cited need in newspaper articles. On October 6, 1970, in an election, Rose Creek and Elkton patrons overwhelmingly voted to enter into the proposed consolidation. The Adams District accepted the proposed consolidation unanimously through the fact that no election was requested by any taxpayer; the consolidation process in Adams passed by consent.
The three old school districts; Adams, Elkton, and Rose Creek; operated during the 1970-1971 school year with their superintendents; no significant changes were instituted even though the consolidation had been accepted. On November 3, 1970, the first new district school board election was held. The consolidated District #500 hired a superintendent on March 12, 1971. At this point the new superintendent began exerting leadership in many fields. Up to that date little leadership was given to the District#500 School Board by any of the three old district superintendents due to political, legal, and personal factors.
On July 1, 1971, the District #500 Superintendent and Board of Education assumed complete legal responsibility for the new district. The three former superintendents and boards of education became historical. The District #500 Superintendent moved quickly to ensure that all schools would open and function smoothly in the fall. All administrators worked the entire summer of 1971, to develop policies that would bring uniformity to every conceivable practice in the three existing high schools. Each high school principal was given complete responsibility for the educational and physical operation of his respective school. The entire period from July 1, 1971, until October 1, 1971, was consumed in developing a firm educational, fiscal, and political foundation from which to build the consolidated school’s structure.
The period from October 1971, to February, 1972, has been spent in public, staff, and administrative involvement in attempting to develop and define future objectives of the district.
From “A Three-Year Consolidation: A Study presented to Dr. Wakefield and Dr. Swanson, University of Minnesota” by David H. Peterson, February, 1972:
On October 6, 1970, the people of the Adams, Elkton, and Rose Creek area made the decision to merge. Few districts have had to vision to do this before they had their “backs to the wall” in their efforts to educate their children. The reasons for a merger and for a building program must be for the reason of improving education. Of course, there may be many other benefits.
On July 1, 1971, our merger was complete. We are one district. Although we are in many respects the same as when we merged, many things have been done to improve our programs.
This history of the Southland School District was taken from the "History of the Adams Public School, from the "Southland Schools: An Update on the Adams High School Alumni Manual), printed in 1990. The information was compiled by Harriet Weness, an Adams High School alumnus. Information was taken from the first alumni manual, school records, friends, neighbors, school yearbooks, interviews, Southland staff members, and secretaries. Amy Weimer, a Business Professionals of America student at Southland High School, prepared the booklet for publication. Amy was advised by Dean Tipton.
Consolidation of schools was discussed for several years. One proposal, about 1967, was that Adams, Elkton, Grand Meadow, Leroy, and Rose Creek merge. Shortly thereafter, LeRoy dropped out; and later Grand Meadow passed a bond issue for a school addition and decided to go on their own.
On March 16, 1970, the school boards of Adams, Elkton, and Rose Creek met for an informal discussion on the possibility of consolidation. The next month they drew up a resolution favoring consolidation. A plan was drawn up and presented to the State Board of the Department of Education. Under the plan, all three districts would be dissolved and a new district formed. Voters in all the districts would have a chance to vote on the proposal.
If the consolidation was approved, a new district number would then be assigned by the state and a board election for the new district would have to be held 30 to 60 days after such a number was assigned. The old boards would continue to run their own districts until July 1, 1971, following the election of the board of the consolidated district. Thus, for a time, there would be four boards in operation. Complete control by the new board would only be assumed after July 1, 1971. Present board members could run for the new board and thus serve on both boards.
Educational advantages, building needs, declining enrollment, and possibly mandatory state legislation forcing consolidation of smaller schools were the prime reasons listed for consolidation of Rose Creek, Elkton, and Adams.
On October 6, 1970, the vote for consolidation was held. Results were: Rose Creek (Dist. 498) -- Yes-260 and No-95; Elkton (Dist. 494) -- Yes-251 and No-120; Adams (Dist. 491) did not vote, as they did not request a vote on the merger question. The vote for both schools was a record breaker.
The new district was given the number 500. Election for the new school board members was held December 8, 1970 at each of the three schools. On December 16, the first school board, elected by the entire district, had its first organizational meeting. Members were: Gayle Bergstrom (1971-1987), who was chosen Chairman; Vance Torgerson (1971-1975), Clerk; Henry Knutson (1971-1977), Treasurer; Kenneth Sprau (1971-1973); Wilfred Bissen (1971- ); and Myles Bendtsen (1971-1973), as Directors.
One of the first decisions was to hire a superintendent. Many felt that one of the acting superintendents should be hired; but after much discussion and negotiating, it was agreed that all three should resign and a new one be hired. James F. Roberts was hired and took up his duties for the school in 1971 and served for three years, until 1974. Dr. Dennis Peterson came as Superintendent in 1974 and stayed five years, until 1979. Mr. Larry Tompkins was hired in 1979 and is the present (1989-1990) Superintendent.
A contest was held among the students at Adams, Elkton, and Rose Creek schools, with the name "Southland" submitted by several students. Louise Prescott's entry was selected because of the reasons she offered: (1) The three schools were once members of the Southland Athletic Conference, (2) It would apply if any other schools in the area would eventually join the district, (3) It is located in the southernmost area of the state, and (4) The name would in no way involved the names of the villages in the school district and thus eliminate any antagonism. Louise was a junior at Adams High School and a daughter of George and Florence Prescott.
A District Student Council Committee of 12 members was selected to have the responsibility of developing an overall structure for administering student activities of a district-wide nature. Members were: Lori Nelson, Lowell Larson, Scott Anderson, Dean Vermilyea, Jon Sprau, Garry Heard, Jean Jech, Vicky Wagner, Brad Bergene, Lon Gladitsch, John Schlichter, and Brenda Kilgore.
After consulting with their individual schools, they decided on "Rebels" for their mascot. Colors would be red, white and blue, and the school song would alternate between "Go You Northwestern," and, "On Wisconsin."
It took several years before classes were arranged most effectively. By the 1973-1974 school year, extracurricular activities were combined and all district grades nine through twelve were meeting in Adams (plus Kindergarten and special education). By 1975-1976, all of the district sixth through eighth grades were in the middle school at Elkton and grades one through five met at the elementary school in Rose Creek. Kindergarten was moved to Rose Creek for the 1977-1978 school year.
The class of 1974 was the first graduation from Southland. One Thousand three hundred seventy-eight students have graduated in the last 16 years (1974-1989). In comparison, 1535 students graduated from Adams High School during the years 1918-1973 (55 years).
A bond issue was presented to the voters of the district in November 1972, for $3,500,000, for acquiring a site two and a half miles north of Adams on County Road seven and constructing, furnishing, and equipping a new junior-senior high school for the district. It was defeated -- Yes-217, and No-1816.
Another bond issue was presented in April 1973, for $1,900,000, for remodeling the Elkton School and if that bond passed to add another for $495,000 to build a gymnasium. The first one was defeated -- Yes-547, and No-1299, as was the second -- Yes-440, and No-1361.
During the next few years, there have been repairs and remodeling projects at each of the schools. Class rooms were added to Rose Creek in about 1976. In the spring of 1974, the Miller building on Main Street in Adams was auctioned. District #500 purchased it. Hendrix Associates, Inc., of Minneapolis drew up plans for remodeling. By September 1974 it was ready to serve as a vocational center for the district.
Southland in 1988
The Southland School Board was asked to be on a panel at the National School Board Convention in San Francisco, California, in the fall of 1987. They were to discuss consolidation of school districts and how well it had worked for Southland. Following is a description of the present district.
December 16, 1970, is the birthday of Southland Independent School District #500.
Southland is currently a district of 200 square miles; 22 miles long and 17 miles wide at the extreme points of the boundary. There is a student population of almost 800. This compares to the peak population of 1,360 students during the early years of consolidation.
There are five towns in the district ranging in size from 100 to 900. Those five being: Adams, Elkton, Rose Creek, Taopi, and Dexter.
The building facilities are comprised of an elementary school, located in Rose Creek, a middle school in Elkton, and the high school and vocational center in Adams.
There is also a Catholic school spanning grades one through eight in Adams with about 110 students.
The communities form a triangle in location to each other with about seven miles between each town with a school. Paved roads connect the towns.
The southern boundary of the district is the state of Iowa.
1970 - Elkton and Rose Creek vote to enter into proposed consolidation. Adams did not require a vote. First school board was elected.
1971 - District #500 is officially consolidated, although physically all three schools operate from their separate buildings.
1971 - Superintendent James F. Roberts was hired and took up his duties for the school
1972 - Bond issue for building a new school was overwhelmingly defeated
1973 - A two part bond issue for renovating the Elkton building and then adding a gymnasium were both defeated.
1973 - Extracurricular activities were combined and all district grades nine through twelve were meeting in Adams (plus Kindergarten and special education).
1974 - Dr. Dennis Peterson became superintendent
1974 - The Miller building in downtown Adams was purchased by the district and used as a vocational center.
1974 - First graduating class of Southland
1975 - All sixth through eighth grades are in the middle school at Elkton and grades one through five meet at the elementary school in Rose Creek.
1976 - Classrooms are added to the Rose Creek building
1977 - Kindergarten moves to Rose Creek.
1979 - Larry Tompkins is hired as superintendent
1982 - Southland student Todd Nelson's science experiment is the first to be flown in the Space Shuttle Student Involvement Project. He was one of 10 finalists in the first national competition among students to design experiments for a space shuttle mission.
1983 - Southland football team wins the Class C State Championship. Richard Strand, coach.
1987 - Southland School board adopts a tobacco-free policy for all school property.
1988 - Southland softball team wins the Class C State Championship. JoEllen Strand, coach.
1992 - Media Center added to the Southland school building in Adams
1994 - New gymnasium and music rooms were added to the Southland school building in Adams
1995 - Elkton building closes and middle school moves to Adams.
2019 - Referendum passes to renovate and expand the Adams building
2020 - Rose Creek building closes and the elementary moves to Adams.