A Salute to Rick Neilson, Director of Assessment and Data
Rick Neilson took a while to join the education field. His father, an elementary school teacher and principal, wanted his children to take other professions and not follow in his footsteps. Therefore, Mr. Neilson started his professional career in the airline and corporate travel industry right out of college. He succeeded in that industry and became president of his own company.
In 2002, Mr. Neilson sold his company and after some soul-searching realized that he found joy in teaching. Ignoring his father’s advice, Mr. Neilson decided to become an educator. At that time, North Carolina had a program called NC Teach which provided an accelerated pathway to certification and much needed mentoring. During the next several years, Mr. Neilson found enjoyment in the famous “aha moments” we see in students when they finally grasp a concept.
Mr. Neilson has held various positions in the education field with his most recent role being the Director of Assessment and Data for his district. The district uses Galileo for local assessments and data reporting to determine student growth as measured on pretests to posttests (reports such as Student Growth and Achievement), to plan interventions based on information from Benchmark reporting (Risk Level Summary) as well as from formative assessments (often built using Quiz Builder and Test Builder) to identify standards mastery (Intervention Alert) and remediation suggestions. Mr. Neilson has already started training a successor to ensure a smooth transition. He has also been part of the district’s next step in partnership with ATI, implementing Galileo’s Digital Curriculum Platform, an integration of existing and new curriculum content, instructional materials, and assessments.
Mr. Neilson starts the next chapter of his life at the end of this school year: sailing the coastal waters of the United States and the Caribbean. Bon voyage!
“The object of teaching a child is to enable
him to get along without his teacher.”
- Elbert Hubbard, n.d.
Dr. Vicki French began her work in education 30 years ago, attaining various degrees and holding numerous roles. Her education experience includes a Bachelor’s degree in Education, Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership. Her professional experience is no less impressive. She has held varied positions including Primary Teacher, Reading Specialist, Mentor Coach, Curriculum Director, Assistant Superintendent, and Assessment Specialist.
It was during her first position as a District Office Budget Coordinator that she decided to return to school and become an educator. Her decision was fueled by her love of working with children and by a schedule which would provide balance in her personal life. In education, she learned how change can fill every day with multiple opportunities to stretch and grow personally and support children on their personal learning journey.
Dr. French is currently an Assessment Specialist, heavily involved in the construction, administration, and data analysis for district-wide and state assessments. Dr. French is well acquainted with the Galileo system and has been using it for the past five years. Her district uses Galileo to create their interim benchmarks, pre/posttests, and as a resource for teachers to construct their own formatives (Test Builder). They have found value in the data collected from each of these assessments to incorporate in their “data chats” for progress monitoring and further instruction, and to prepare students for the state online testing.
Dr. French is now ready to embark on her new endeavor. She and her husband plan to travel the countryside in their fifth-wheel trailer, and enjoy priceless time with their grandchildren. They also plan to volunteer for other organizations and spend time working with children.
ATI wishes Mr. Neilson and Dr. French well in their retirement and are thankful for the work and contribution they have provided to the education of students.
“If you want to plan for a year, plant rice.
If you want to plan for ten years, plant a tree.
If you want to plan for a lifetime-
Educate a child.”
- Confucius, n.d.
Hubbard, E. ( n.d.). Goodreads. Retrieved from
Confucius, (n.d.) Goodreads. Retrieved from