PVPA appoints Nielsen head of school


Staff Writer
Monday, May 09, 2022

SOUTH HADLEY — The Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School has named a familiar figure to become its next head of school.

On Tuesday, PVPA board of trustees president David Potter announced that the school has named Brent Nielsen, the current interim executive director, as its next “head of school.” Nielsen has worked as director of student services since 2013, taking over as interim executive director in January 2021 after Marc Kenen stepped down. Prior to his work at PVPA, Nielsen was a special education teacher in Deerfield and Amherst public schools.

“I’m honored to be given the opportunity to lead the school in the next chapter,” Nielsen said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Nielsen, 55, was one of three finalists for the job, together with Brett Gottheimer, an assistant principal at Keene High School in New Hampshire, and Erica Manville, a visual arts teacher at Drury High School in North Adams. He said that the school is returning to calling the position “head of school.”

“What that means is to have a leader who is a little more hands-on and present in the building, with students and teachers,” Nielsen said.

Looking forward, Nielsen said that he is excited to work toward accomplishing the goals set out in the school’s new five-year strategic action plan. He said PVPA is looking to build on the deep engagement in the arts that it has offered for the past quarter-century. That work begins on July 1, he said.

In a message to the school community on April 29, Nielsen said that in the interim role, he has been focused on keeping people safe during the pandemic. He said he hasn’t been perfect in that work and that it has been difficult to “deliver the level of communication needed by everyone in the community.”

“In the permanent role of Head of School, I hope to begin the work of bringing our community back together, shoring up the things that make our school special, and finding ways to provide even better experiences for our students and staff,” he wrote. “I thank each and every one of you for your patience and I hope to use what I have learned from this experience to better support the full community as we move forward.”

Efforts to reach Potter on Tuesday were unsuccessful. School enrollment and communications coordinator Sandra Courtney did not respond to an email Tuesday asking for details about Nielsen’s contract. PVPA enrolls some 400 students in Grades 7 through 12, according to the state’s education department.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.