Nelson retirement open house

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Community members are invited to honor Superintendent Allan Nelson at an open house on Thursday, May 28. Nelson is retiring after serving as the Clayton Ridge superintendent for 13 years. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

The Clayton Ridge School District will hold a public open house in honor of retiring Superintendent Allan Nelson on Thursday, May 28, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the elementary multi-purpose room. Nelson served as Clayton Ridge superintendent for 13 years, beginning July 1 of 2002 with his retirement becoming final this year on June 30. 

Nelson was born in DeKalb, Ill., and raised on a farm near the community of Sandwich. He graduated from Sandwich High School and attended Joliet Junior College while working on the family farm, then earned both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in agricultural education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  

After working for 15 years as an agricultural education and FFA teacher, Nelson  decided to earn administrative endorsements. For over two decades following those endorsements, he served as a principal and superintendent in three rural school districts, including Clayton Ridge.  

“During those years, my wife, Sheryl, and I raised two children, Matthew and Kimberly,” said Nelson. Sheryl is a high school English teacher in the Starmont Community School District, and both of the Nelson children graduated from Clayton Ridge High School.  “Matthew lives in Elkader and works for RISE Ltd. Kimberly completed her Bachelor of Arts in English at Buena Vista University and works for Stelter Company in Des Moines,” the superintendent told The Press. 

Challenges throughout Nelson’s tenure at Clayton Ridge include the declining enrollments and statewide budget cuts experienced by many rural Iowa schools, as well as the merger between Guttenberg and Garnavillo school districts, the closing of the Garnavillo elementary school building, and the recent defeat of a bond referendum to address the deteriorating 1903 school building and outdated facilities at the Guttenberg site.  

Nelson is hopeful that the current struggles of school facility planning will someday be listed among the triumphs of the district. He counts the school merger, effective in July of 2005, as one such example of a challenge turned success story. 

Other district accomplishments he’s proud of include the school’s 1:1 computing program, which allows middle and high school students access to their own personal computers; the construction of the Stephen D. Shannon Athletic Complex that now allows previously inaccessible events, like track meets, to be held on Clayton Ridge turf; the launch of the Iowa Virtual Academy, the premiere statewide online educational program in Iowa offering students K-12 an online learning experience; and the Response to Intervention program that has improved students’ reading and math abilities. 

That list of achievements may be long, but Nelson says, “The greatest joy I have is working with the students, parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, and board members over the years.”

Following his retirement this month, Nelson will continue to reside in Garnavillo – and will continue to follow his passion in education. He’ll spend the next few months completing his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Northern Iowa. “I have learned many skills from my past experiences and plan to help others be successful in education,” he said. The superintendent also looks forward to traveling and spending more time outdoors in retirement. 

“I will always cherish my memories as serving the Clayton Ridge Community School District.  We can be proud of our students, school, and community.  I will miss the people I worked with and the vibrant atmosphere within our school buildings,” said Nelson. “Clayton Ridge is a great place where everybody is a learner.”

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