Cambridge Superintendent Bernie Nikolay says he’ll retire at the end of the 2020-21 school year.
He shared his decision, effective July 1, 2021, in a letter he read during a Nov. 16 Cambridge School Board meeting.
“I know how hard that must have been for you Bernie,” School Board President Tracy Smithback-Travis said when Nikolay had finished. “You have greatly touched each and every one of us.
“It is truly a time like no other and you are a superintendent like no other,” Smithback-Travis continued. “We cannot thank you enough.”
Nikolay has been superintendent in Cambridge since 2011. He had previously spent three years as superintendent in Milton and prior to that was a principal in Oak Creek and Marshall.
Nikolay grew up in Cambridge, graduating from CHS in 1983. His father, George Nikolay, is a former Cambridge superintendent.
Here is the text of Nikolay’s letter:
It is with mixed emotions that after 10 years as your superintendent, I pen this letter of retirement from the School District of Cambridge effective July 1, 2021. Each and every day I have come to work with pride and honor to be serving such a wonderful school system. I feel proud to be the first graduate of Cambridge High School to hold the position of superintendent!
In addition to my own graduation from Cambridge High School, my three siblings all did the same and my wife and three children did as well. It is a very special place for the Nikolay family.
My pride is enhanced knowing that the chair I sit in was occupied for 19 years by my father, George Nikolay. In addition, other family members have also served the district with pride. My two mothers, Sonja and Pauli, and my wife Karen all were teachers here. In all, our family has over 75 years of service to the School District of Cambridge.
I have worked with some incredibly dedicated and talented people here in Cambridge, too numerous to mention in their entirety. We have a community, parents and residents both, that have a deep and abiding love for the Cambridge Schools. Without their full support our efforts would be in vain. There are amazing teachers and support staff who give it their all each and every day and, together, make this one of the very best school districts in the state of Wisconsin. The hardworking students in this district are very fortunate to have this special collection of teachers and support staff in their lives.
My current administrative team is truly a remarkable ensemble of progressive thinkers with decades of experience in education. They have hearts full of love and compassion and in the case of Keith and Krista, they have been bedrocks of support and close confidants to me for most of the 13 years in my role as superintendent. Chris has skills as an elementary principal that I certainly envy and make him one of the best there is in his position. Pete Moe is so eager to learn and grow, he will be asset to this district for years to come. I am so grateful to this group, and past team members, for their wise counsel and support these many years.
I’d like to thank the district office team: Mary Kay, Karen, Steven, Mark and Ann for their support and good work in my time in Cambridge. Any success that I may have had certainly would not have happened without them. I must single out Mary Kay for her incredible support and patience with my unique style of getting the job done. She is a district gem and the heart and soul of many of the good things that are accomplished at the district level.
The school boards I have worked for, past and present, have been comprised of dedicated and caring public servants who deserve much credit for the district’s successes over time. I must make special mention and give thanks to the school board presidents I have worked so closely with. First, I thank Mark Cook for giving me a chance to return to the district that I love. I thank Joe Pleshek for his support and wisdom in my first years in the district. And now, Tracy Smithback-Travis is a steady hand and has given her unwavering support throughout our many years working together.
I could not have taken on this important role with the support of my wife Karen and children: Anna, Jay and Jack. My family has been my guiding light and my source of unwavering and unconditional love and support.
Every person who works in our district, a lot is expected of them. Working in a school district is very challenging but, at the same time, the rewards are innumerable. The job of superintendent is no different. I have given it my best every day.
I am most proud of: passing three referendum questions, the renovations at the high school, our work at the Severson Learning Center, helping to make Koshkonong Trails a reality, hiring phenomenal administrators, improving the district’s financial position, implementing Professional Learning Communities with fidelity, technology enhancements, representing Cambridge on the WIAA Board of Control, our stewardship of our building and grounds and maintaining the positive support of our community partners. I hope most will agree that I, like my predecessors before me, have taken an excellent district and made it just a little better.
I will miss all of you and will be rooting for the continued success of this district. Cambridge will always be my home and I will always be a Blue Jay. Carry on all!