After 11 years with the School District of La Crosse, including the past eight as superintendent, Randy Nelson is calling it quits.

Nelson announced Thursday that he is retiring at the end of the school year, closing the book on his nearly four decades as an educator.

“I’m so proud to serve this community, the students and families, and this amazing group of co-workers, and frankly our family here at the School District of La Crosse,” Nelson, who was not available for an interview, said in a release. “La Crosse is a special place. This community and our district share a belief in the values of relationship-building, empathy and compassion for others, and a focus on the importance of every individual. Those values were clear to me when I first came to La Crosse and are even clearer now.”

Randy Nelson


Nelson came to the district in 2008 and spent three years as the associate superintendent of instruction. In 2011, the school board selected him to succeed Jerry Kember as superintendent of schools.

Nelson’s tenure included the construction of La Crosse’s first new school in 20 years. Northside Elementary, completed in 2014 after a successful $15.7 million referendum, absorbed students from the old Roosevelt and Franklin elementaries.

More recently, the district purchased The Brickhouse, a downtown bar and music venue, intending for it to be the new home of the La Crosse Design Institute and 7 Rivers Community High School.

Nelson also had to contend with a years-long trend of declining enrollment in the city’s public schools. Earlier this month, the district reported its steepest enrollment drop in recent history.

But district officials say Nelson’s focus has never deviated from doing what is best for students and families. He led students, staff and community members on a path toward school improvement by building relationships and establishing trust, officials said.

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

Register for more free articles.
Stay logged in to skip the surveys.

It was that same kind of leadership that first convinced Nelson, a native of Cambridge, Minn., to work in education.

“Becoming a superintendent of schools was not a path I anticipated when I first started teaching,” he said. “It evolved into an opportunity through the support I’ve received from so many people in my lifetime. The seed to become an educator was first planted by my teachers when I was a K-12 student. They refused to let me slip through the cracks, shared with me so much of their time and talents, and modeled for me what I knew I wanted to be when I grew up — a teacher.”

Before coming to La Crosse, Nelson was the director of curriculum and instruction for the Rochester Public School District. He began his career as an English, speech and theater teacher at Granite Falls High School in west-central Minnesota.

His impact on the Coulee Region reaches beyond the school district.

Nelson has served as a board member for a host of local organizations: La Crosse Promise, the La Crosse Public Education Foundation, the La Crosse Health Science Consortium, Great Rivers United Way and the La Crosse Community Theater.

“Thank you to everyone who continues to support children and families in this area,” he said. “I am honored to have been a part of the amazing and transformative work happening in every corner, nook and cranny of this wonderful district — every minute of every day.”

Kyle Farris can be reached at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Kyle_A_Farris.


(1) comment


I never taught in the LaCrosse school system but I was a student there many years ago. The schools I attended there gave me insight into what I was capable of. I have admiration for people who spend their lives trying to do their best for students. Unless you've been involved in education (especially at a public school which is for everybody) you can't imagine the responsibility and dedication it takes to do it. Thanks for your years of service. Enjoy your retirement.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.