JJ Vold, Onamia School superintendent and high school principal

Onamia Schools Superintendent/High School Principal JJ Vold was recently recognized by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) for his third Star of Innovation award in three years based upon exemplary and innovative education programming. Vold has received the award in 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and now again in 2018-2019. Other criteria for the awards was demonstrating a positive impact on education and the advocacy of children, having clear principal leadership in the development and/or implementation of innovative programming, having creativity and imagination while bringing out positive school change, and determining how easily the programming can be replicated at other schools.

Vold was selected from a panel of secondary principals to receive the award for three years running now.

Specifically, the awards were for the school’s Inclusive Education initiatives at Onamia in 2016-2017, the Alternative to Suspension (or A2S) program in 2017-2018, and for the OHS Talent Show that was launched at the school five years ago, but recognized in 2018-2019.

Vold said that, “I am more of a visionary, I like to come up with creative ideas that may solve a problem or may work to enhance our schools in some way, but I give all the credit to my staff and my leadership team for making these ideas stick and become successful. I have the best staff and leadership team, they are so dedicated and committed, they are always open to new ideas, they meet often, they plan, they care deeply about our students and our schools, and they have the incredible ability to execute ideas and make things happen. Without them, none of these amazing recognitions would have happened, they get all the credit.”

“The Inclusive Education initiative was a committee that we put together to boost our Inclusive efforts at Onamia a few years ago, the A2S program was an idea / concept to reduce out of school suspensions in schools and keep students learning, growing, and receiving any needed social/emotional support even during any sort of out-of-school suspensions, and the Talent Show was something that I had the opportunity to launch when I first started as principal back in 2014. It has since grown every year and I give the credit to Brady for building the Talent Show up more and more every year and making it a success and a tradition that I never see going away at Onamia Schools! The Talent Show is a great all-inclusive fun day for our kids.

All these innovations are also fairly simple ideas and programs for other schools to replicate and make their own if they wish, so it’s fun to share ideas that have worked with other schools, and vice versa.”

A designated amount of bronze, silver and gold star of innovation awards are given out by MASSP each year. About 25 awards were given out this year across all of the secondary schools across the state.

“Onamia High School has set the achievement bar very high in the state of Minnesota,” said Executive Director of MASSP Dave Adney. “JJ Vold and his staff have won three consecutive Star of Innovation Awards, and their unique ideas have had a great impact on other schools across the state. It is truly amazing how Onamia has studied emerging research and turned promising trends into high impact programs for all learners at Onamia High School.”

“Innovation is very important in public education, and I believe it’s essential to find that perfect balance of innovation,” said Vold. “If we select one collaborative innovative initiative per year, then perhaps that initiative can be successful and stick. If we have too many innovations at once, then it can be difficult to get real traction. However, with little innovation, our schools can get stagnant. So I think it’s important to bring creative and innovative ideas to public education, and anyone can come up with these ideas and concepts. In fact, most of the greatest innovations I have seen come directly from those on the front lines teaching every day. One of the keys to school leadership, is then to have the ability to put time and resources behind the right innovative concepts. We are committed to this ongoing creativity and innovation at Onamia Public Schools.”

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