After five years as Cape High’s first female principal, Nikki Miller is returning to Seaford School District to serve as the district supervisor of instruction and gain experience at the elementary level.
Miller began her career as a Seaford Middle social studies teacher. She later became an International Baccalaureate coordinator and instructional coach in English, science and social studies for grades six through 12, before being named assistant principal, splitting her time between middle and high schools.
She was named Cape High assistant principal in 2014, when she implemented the iPad program to provide every student a device for the school year. She took over as principal in 2017. In an Aug. 26 Facebook post, the Cape Henlopen School District announced that Cape High Assistant Principal Kristin DeGregory will succeed Miller.
“I still might retire from Cape, you never know,” she said, recalling her first day in the building, when she marveled that all students arrived and went directly to class. “That was the culture.”
Miller said her goal as an educator has always been to build relationships with students.
“They’re not going to want to just go to math class,” she said as an example, “but they’ll want to go to math class when they have a teacher they respect.”
Students want to have a good school, said Miller, who was instrumental in creating a culture of excellence and inclusion at Cape High.
“This is their school,” she said. “If you have leadership in students, and you listen to their needs, you’re going to have a great school.”
Miller said Cape High has a great administrative team in place. She said she hired all current assistant principals, and at least 70% of the current staff.
“The most important thing you can do as a leader is hire the right people to project your vision,” she said. “You can teach someone how to teach, but you can’t teach someone how to be a good person.”
Miller said she attended Seaford School District’s opening-day celebrations, and met with staff who were excited to see her return. The new position will give her experience in the foundational elementary instructional years, she said, noting she last spent time in an elementary school as a student herself.
“My goal one day is to be a superintendent or assistant superintendent,” she said. “To have the biggest impact that I can means I have to leave the building.”
Gaining experience in K-5 instruction will help her meet that goal, Miller said, noting she plans to be visible in Seaford schools to support administrators and staff. She has already told school leaders that she can cover lunch duty, traffic or dismissal when needed.
“You can’t know what’s happening in a school without being in it,” she said.
Seaford elementary schools are performing well on the Smarter Balanced assessments, she said, but secondary schools are under review.
“I want that challenge and to be part of turning that district around,” she said. “As a leader, I’m always pushing myself to grow, not like it’s gotten stagnant here, but I’m ready for the next step and ready to make a greater impact.”
While Miller has long strived to feature her students in the spotlight, her own recent achievements include earning her doctorate in May and receiving the Pathways to Success Pay It Forward Award in July.
During her tenure as principal, student Advanced Placement exam scores of 3+ have more than doubled, and the number of students taking AP classes continues to grow. The school earned National Blue Ribbon status in 2015, and has earned mention on regional and national school ratings, she said.
Although she is leaving Cape, Miller, who lives in Milton, said she is still tied to the community.
“I’m going somewhere, but I’m not going anywhere,” she said.
Miller said she will miss the students, celebrations, Homecoming events and pep rallies, and connecting with staff members who have become friends.
“I will miss giving my son his diploma,” she said, pausing as her voice faltered. “I will miss being in a school. I’ll miss being principal. There’s a lot of pride being principal at Cape Henlopen High School. I hope by making this change, I’ll get the experience to come back.”