Niles Community Schools names new superintendent

Published 11:40 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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NILES — Niles’ next superintendent is no stranger to the community.

The Niles Community Schools Board of Education announced it has offered the position to Dr. Adam Burtsfield, Assistant Superintendent of Niles Community Schools, contingent upon successful contract negotiations. 

Dr. Burtsfield will take over for Dr. Dan Applegate, who will conclude his tenure as superintendent in January 2025. Next fall, Dr. Burtsfield will work closely with Dr. Applegate throughout the transition process, slowly taking on duties until he fully assumes the role in 2025. Raphael Rittenhouse, former Gull Lake Superintendent, was the other final candidate.

“Adam’s passion blew me absolutely away tonight,” said NCS Board President Kyle Zelmer. “I love the interaction. I do feel that there is a lot of support that Adam is going to need still and I know that with the board that we have here now that he is going to be able to get that support. We have a great administrative team that is going to give him that support to continue to push Niles in the right direction.” 

An Elkhart, Ind. native, Dr. Burtsfield expressed a lifelong interest in education, arising first in high school through participation in a cadet teaching program. He received his undergraduate degree in Elementary Education at Purdue University. He worked in a variety of capacities in education, including substitute teaching, before acquiring his first full time teaching job. After years of working at a variety of at-risk schools, he got what he described as “the itch for administration”. He returned to college, achieving an Education Leadership degree at Indiana University South Bend.

Dr. Burtsfield served as an assistant principal in Frankfort, Indiana for two years before choosing to move closer to home. He held administrative roles at Ballard Elementary, Oak Manor Sixth Grade Center, and Ring Lardner Middle School, including during the merger of the latter two. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked in the central office for the Special Education department at Niles, before eventually becoming the Assistant Superintendent for the district.

“I’ve been here,” Dr. Burtsfield said. “I’ve worked in various capacities in the district. I understand various things, I understand the needs, I’m a quick learner. I love Dr. Applegate, but I feel like I’m in a better spot to start now than he was when he started. He and I had that conversation so I’m not saying anything that we haven’t already talked about… I have connections, I have resources. I’m not scared to ask; I can admit that I don’t know it all but I will find an answer and I will make a good decision based off data, that’s based off conversations and obviously collaboration with you folks, as well.”

Dr. Burtsfield’s interview Wednesday lasted just over one hour. After asking standard questions at the first-round interview last week, the board was able to query Dr. Burtsfield on more in-depth topics, such as what his strengths, weaknesses and areas of improvement are as well as how he plans to attract students and retain staff. During his presentation, he discussed five areas of focus with action steps and goals. Each of these areas will be evaluated every 30 days:

Governance Team

  • Superintendent and Board


  • Capacity and Alignment of Leadership and Staff

Operations and Finance 

  • Facilities, Technology and Budgets

Community and Public Relations 

Student Achievement

  • Data and instructional practices

“The open dialogue, those open conversations I think would be crucial throughout those 90 days just to make sure that I’m making the impact that you guys believe I can make,” Dr. Burtsfield said.

While the school board acknowledged Dr. Burtsfield’s lack of superintendent experience, the  board also acknowledged his ties to the district, his passion for student growth and their goal to provide him with the support he needs to succeed.

“What I did see in Adam tonight is that passion for kids and it’s not just because he’s been here, that’s who he is,” said Trustee Kelly Gaideski. I also know that the known entity is easier on the change process but that passion completely won me over.”

“I wrote down one word for each candidate – experience (Rittenhouse) and passion (Dr. Burtsfield) and I’m going to join the group (and choose Dr. Burtsfield),” added Trustee Mark Wortham.

Dr. Burtsfield is eager to keep the district moving forward.

I hope you guys understand how passionate I am about our students and staff in our district,” Dr. Burtsfield said. “I do feel like I’m the best person for this position. I have a commitment to the district, I have longevity here and I have an extremely deep knowledge of things that are happening here and areas we can approve. I have good thoughts on how we can move the district – not in a different direction but a continued direction.”

In his closing statement, Dr. Burtsfield shared with the board a candidate feedback form filled out by his young daughter.

“‘My dad will do good because he will move your district in the right direction, he has great experience with students and he has so many committed years to Niles,’” an emotional Dr. Burtsfield read. “If that’s the image my daughter and my family has of me, I’m a winner at this point.”