As we mark the school year’s close with graduation and classroom celebrations, we also pause to honor Cambridge Superintendent Bernie Nikolay, who will retire at the end of June.
Nikolay was recognized at events across the district this week, including a special goodbye at Cambridge Elementary School and at CHS graduation.
His tenure was a milestone in itself, the first Cambridge High School graduate to return to the district as superintendent. He followed his father, George Nikolay, who previously was superintendent.
Nikolay has been superintendent since 2011 and spent his 30-year career in education.
During his tenure, there were both difficulties and successes to be proud of.
The Cambridge School District opened a long-envisioned project-based charter school, Koshkonong Trails, giving middle and high school students a place to be challenged in ways that work best for their learning styles and academic ambitions.
The district won community support for two referendums in 2012 and 2016, to fund building improvements. It created a capital projects fund and started working toward a more secure financial future. Open enrollment increased, as did state report card scores, and community partnerships continued to strengthen.
In his final year, Nikolay navigated the school district through a global pandemic. Amid emergency board meetings, shifting public health guidance and widespread uncertainty caused by COVID-19, Chromebooks and hotspots got into student hands, and meals arrived on doorsteps.
Under Nikolay’s leadership, the school district pivoted multiple times over and continue to support students and families.
Nikolay also brought warmth and soul to the role. His staff and school board colleagues called him passionate, grounded and proud to be a Blue Jay. They said he put students first.
He pedaled alongside students on Bike-to-School days, gave high fives to new kindergarteners on their first day, and cheered in the stands.
He joined in marches to push for more state education funding, worked with the school board on racial equity and continued to push Cambridge to strive for better.
His commitment to the community and its youngest members was evident in every action.
Thank you, Bernie, for your steady leadership and radical compassion. You will be missed.