August 14, 2019LITTLETON — On Aug. 6, teachers and staff members of the Littleton School District received notice that Dr. Steven Nilhas has decided to end his tenure as the Superintendent of SAU 84. Nilhas said he intends to honor the 90-day requirement of his contract and give the school district time to locate a new Superintendent.
"When these things happen, people try to find meaning. This was my decision alone; there was nothing from the board," said Nilhas. "People worry that the school district will take a financial hit from a buyout, and that's just not the case."
When asked why he chose to end his tenure, Nilhas said, "We all have goals for our careers and our lives. Now seemed to be a good time for me to go after other goals."
When asked about his goals, Nilhas said, "The next goal is to look at opportunities that focus more on my strengths and challenges. I like challenges."
Nilhas became the Superintendent of Schools for SAU 84 in 2016. A Kansas native, he was an administrator in Asunción, Paraguay and Cartagena, Columbia before coming to New Hampshire. Before that, he was the principal of a high school in Lawrence, Kan.
Nilhas says he is most proud of the fact that the Littleton schools have found direction and focus during his tenure. He cites the migration towards competency-based education, universal design for learning and an increase of work in social-emotional learning as three areas of measurable improvement for the SAU.
"Our work in social-emotional learning has been compelling. We have moved away from the tried and true, yet failed methods that rely on reward and punishment," explained Nilhas. "We have moved towards understanding trauma and the students' experiences. Now, when we have a student incident, it's not 'why are you doing this' but 'what has happened to you.'"
"I think our community at large has embraced that," continued Nilhas. "I am proud of the leadership that we have in key positions in the schools. I am proud of the work of the school board. They've worked hard to open up the process."
According to Nilhas, working with the town budget committee has been tremendously valuable.
"What we did with the facility needs at Lakeway Elementary this year has been a huge step forward," he commented.
"The board has appreciated working with Dr. Nihlas because he has brought the school district to a whole new level in moving us forward," said Littleton School Board Vice-Chair, Kim Woodson. "We definitely want to continue that work."
According to Woodson, the school board faces a highly condensed period of time to execute their search for a new superintendent.
"Because we will be in the school year, we may need to work with someone on an interim basis," she said.
"The past couple of years have been such an entrenchment process," said Woodson. "Making sure our staff is comfortable as we grow and move forward in important. Keeping that momentum and not getting comfortable in the process is also important."
"We've seen growth in student achievement, and continuing that is important," added Nilhas. "Our latest state assessment data was good in some grades and not so good in other grades. We want all students proficient, and that's got to be a goal. I think that's a critical piece going forward."
Both Woodson and Nilhas encourage community members to attend two upcoming public input sessions about Lakeway Elementary School. The events are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 and Sept. 18, and will be held at the elementary school gymnasium.
Nilhas summarized his Littleton experience by saying, "This is the best place I have ever lived. If everything works out, we will stay right here."
According to Woodson, the superintendent position will soon be listed on the schoolspring.com Web site.