New school board president brings a new perspective


Laura Mullen Photography

Pictured (left to right) Rishi Wagle, Nikhil Wagle, Archana Wagle, Keshav Wagle. Wagle poses for a photo with his wife and two sons (who are both PV alumni).

Shreya Khurjekar, Copy Editor

After Pleasant Valley school board president Chris Cournoyer resigned to pursue a position in the Iowa State Senate, Nikhil Wagle stepped up to the challenge of the role.

While Wagle is a practicing eye surgeon, he is also an advocate for education. Wagle attended Homestead High School in Mequon, Wisconsin (north of Milwaukee) and thoroughly enjoyed his four years there. His experience at Homestead caused him to become a proponent of the public school system. When he first moved to Quad Cities, he remembered saying, “I want this district [Pleasant Valley] to be just like the one I grew up in.”

However, Wagle has big shoes to fill. Previous school board president, Chris Cournoyer, left a tremendous impact on the Pleasant Valley community before her departure. Brian Strusz, assistant superintendent (soon-to-be superintendent) of PV, reflected on the importance of Cournoyer’s presence on the school board. “It was amazing having her in that role. I mean, just what a great person for young women to look up to,” he said.  

Wagle commented, “She’s a very gregarious person. She’s very approachable and always has so much enthusiasm; it’s palpable, and it’s contagious. Those are just a few of the things that I won’t be able to replace, but hopefully, I’ll be able to bring some of my own personality.”

Along with his light-hearted personality, Wagle offers several different perspectives to the school board. Unlike many other school board members, Wagle no longer has children attending PV schools– both are now at out-of-state universities. Wagle’s children, who have both attended Pleasant Valley schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade, allow him to offer insight into how a PV education impacts students at the post-secondary level.  

Furthermore, while demographic statistics are not readily available, administrators and school board members speculate that Wagle is the first Indian school board president in the state of Iowa. Wagle, who represents a growing minority within the district, said, “It makes me feel proud to, not just represent a minority, but know that we are a part of this community and just as important as everyone else.”

Diversity–of any kind– within a school board allows for a more conscientious decision-making body. Cournoyer said, “It is important to have this type of diversity of thought because it leads to thorough discussions which ultimately creates good policy for the district.” The Pleasant Valley community is fortunate to have school board members from a variety of ethnicities, occupations, and age groups.

Cournoyer assured that the school board is in great hands. “I have always found him [Wagle] to be an honest, friendly person who cares deeply about education…His most important quality that I believe will make him a great school board president is his moral compass. Dr. Wagle is a person of high character and ethics, and I left the position knowing that Pleasant Valley’s school board was being led by a great leader,” she said.

Strusz, who will be working hand-in-hand with Wagle starting next year, offered insight into what Wagle’s position means for the entire Indian community. “I think with anyone, when you look at people who are older than you, they’re role models; they’re people you should aspire to be. Him [Wagle] being on the school board and being a minority, hopefully kids are saying ‘That could be me someday. I can be just as successful in making an impact on our community,’” he said.

Most importantly, Wagle enjoys being on the school board and is passionate about the impact it creates. “If most kids can graduate from PV and say they loved their time there, then we’re doing something right…we really are. That’s when, as a school board member, I smile,” he said.

Cournoyer and Strusz agree that Wagle is a person of high character who is truly devoted to student achievement–both characteristics of the ideal school board president. Wagle is currently flourishing in the position and looks forward to re-election this fall.