Barrington Unit District 220 Superintendent Tom Leonard is leaving the district in June to take the same post with the Eanes Independent School District in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, school officials announced Tuesday.
In 2012, the District 220 school board extended his contract until 2017, but Brian Battle, president of the board, said either side could terminate it at the end of a school year.
"I thought I was staying in Barrington," Leonard said, "but a recruiting firm started talking to me maybe a month and a half ago and told me about this district in Texas. It has a lot of similarities to Barrington. It seemed like the right time to turn the page. You have to turn it some time, and Barrington is in a real good place right now."
The Texas district is on national top 100 lists academically, and Westlake High School is a football power and the inspiration for the television series "Friday Night Lights," he said.
The 57-year-old Leonard also mentioned the Texas weather as a draw, saying he was "getting tired of calling all these snow days."
Leonard started in Barrington in 2007, and his current salary is $246,016. He did not want to comment on what the Texas job would pay until the details of his new contract are made public.
Battle said he was disappointed that Leonard is leaving, but the board plans to find a replacement before the end of the school year.
"Tom has provided excellent leadership and done a fantastic job recruiting and retaining outstanding staff members," Battle said. "We are grateful for his time here. I think Tom is looking forward to some new challenges, and so are we."
Battle said based on their conversations, he knew Leonard struggled with the decision.
District 220 school board members said in a news release posted on the district's website they will immediately begin "an accelerated but thorough process" to find Leonard's replacement. "We are committed to finding the best possible candidate. We hope to identify a new superintendent who is immediately committed to long-term leadership."
Among the milestones achieved during Leonard's tenure, according to the board, are the creation of a new Early Learning Center and other innovative programs, curricula and technologies; unparalleled partnership with stakeholders; reasonable class sizes; a strategic plan with lofty strides toward the next decade; successive years of fiscal responsibility; and the maximum bond rating from Standard & Poor's.
The Eanes district serves approximately 8,000 students at six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. District 220, with 9,000 students, has one high school, two middle schools, eight elementary schools and one early childhood center.