Tom Leonard, the longtime Barrington Area Unit School District 220 superintendent, received a fond farewell from members of the district at his final school board meeting Tuesday night at Barrington High School.
Board President Brian Battle said Leonard has accomplished above and beyond what is normally asked of a superintendent during his seven years on the job.
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"When we hired Tom we asked him to be the face of 220 within our community, within our state and within our country," Battle said. "The board has always been proud that he is the face of our district."
Jeff Arnett, the district's chief communications officer, said Leonard's engaging personality had become synonymous with the district. He said it was rare to come across a superintendent who communicated as well as Leonard.
"As gregarious as Tom is, he is shy when it comes to attention being focused on him," Arnett said before the meeting. "I think he'd rather like the spotlight be on the students."
As Arnett predicted, Leonard did not take make any grand speech about his departure from the district. Instead, he seemed to prefer letting others do the talking.
Alison Blakeslee, a sixth-grader at Barrington Middle School Station Campus, said Leonard used to entertain her when she was 5 or 6 years old and her mother would take her along to board meetings.
"He would take his tie and make it go up and down, and I thought it was very funny," Alison said as the audience laughed. "He's a really good superintendent and everything, so I guess I'm sad to see him leave."
After Alison returned to her seat Leonard joked that the staff should make sure to raise the young lady's grades.
Throughout the meeting the board surprised Leonard by sneaking old pictures of him into the meeting's slideshow, which prompted some gentle ribbing from the board about how Leonard's appearance has changed over the years.
"What's that on your head?" board member Richard Burkhart said when a shot of Leonard with a full head of hair flashed on the projection screen.
Near the end of the meeting the board presented Leonard with a pair of glass bookends that will be signed by every current and past member of the board who worked with Leonard.
Battle said the board inscribed the bookends with one of Leonard's favorite phrases: You should leave things better off than they were when you found them.
After the meeting, Leonard gave a gift of his own to Alison, the student who had praised him earlier. He gave her the pin of the District 220 mustang that he'd been wearing, telling her he wanted her to have the last one.
Leonard is starting his new job as superintendent of a school district in a suburb of Austin, Texas, at the beginning of July.
Leonard's replacement, Brian Harris, will take over as the district's top administrator on July 1.