The San Juan School Board made the announcement at their January 17 board meeting in Monument Valley.
In a brief statement, school board president Steven Black said, “The Board of Education of San Juan School District is pleased to announce the appointment of Ron Nielson as superintendent.
“During his tenure as interim superintendent, he has demonstrated strong academic leadership with a clear vision for improving the quality of education in San Juan County.
“We look forward to working with Nielson, district staff, and the community for the success of our youth.”
Nielson will complete his interim appointment through the end of June and then begin a two-year contract on July 1, 2018.
Nielson has spent the majority of his life in the San Juan School District, as a student, teacher, and administrator.
He was born in Monument Valley and went to elementary school in Bluff. He attended junior high and high school in Blanding and graduated from San Juan High School.
After completing his education, Nielson taught at Monticello High School and served as principal at Monticello Elementary.
In 2005, he moved to the district office, where he worked as a supervisor for the past twelve years.
In July, 2017, he became interim superintendent, replacing Dr. Ed Lyman, who resigned just one year into his two-year contract.
“I understand district dynamics, the culture, and the history fairly well,” understated Nielsen.
The superintendent said he has thoroughly enjoyed his prior months as the interim superintendent.
“There is something about seeing the dedicated and professional people in the San Juan School District,” said Nielsen. “It is inspiring.”
Nielson said his work as interim superintendent has been very collaborative. “We have been very fortunate, with cutting-edge in-service and consultants, including the State of Utah and University of Virginia,” said Nielson. “They have helped us put everything together.”
Nielson said the district will continue along the same path. “We are committed to providing a first-class education in all of our schools,” said Nielson. “We need to be unified in purpose and work together in all communities and areas of the county. Students will learn at higher levels if we do what we should.”
The school district has embraced the San Juan Quest model, which outlines a series of initiatives for schools throughout the sprawling school district.
Nielson states that three of the four schools that had failing grades are no longer failing. They are Monument Valley and Whitehorse high schools and Bluff Elementary School.
He adds that the fourth school, Tse’bii’nidzisgai Elementary in Monument Valley, shows tremendous progress in preliminary testing measures.
Nielson said the district is making progress on securing a site for a new Bluff Elementary School on 23.5 acres of ground at the Bluff Fairgrounds.
The district and the Utah Navajo Trust Fund have signed a non-binding contract agreement that allows the school district to test the Bluff property.
Nielson said that preliminary archaeology and soil tests are positive. In addition, geothermal tests will be run on the site.
The San Juan School District serves approximately 3,000 students in twelve schools.