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updated: 8/7/2014 2:42 PM

Jon Guillaume promises to be "a visible principal" at Vernon Hills High

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  • Video: Principal shares plans

  • Vernon Hills High School Principal Jon Guillaume, left, signs paperwork for teacher and coach Ross Caton. Guillaume started as principal July 1.

       Vernon Hills High School Principal Jon Guillaume, left, signs paperwork for teacher and coach Ross Caton. Guillaume started as principal July 1.
    Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

  • Jon Guillaume took over as Vernon Hills High School's principal July 1.

       Jon Guillaume took over as Vernon Hills High School's principal July 1.
    Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 

As excited as Jon Guillaume is to be starting his first year as Vernon Hills High School's principal, the veteran educator knows the job is a huge responsibility.

It's not just that he's taking the reins of one of the nation's top high schools. He also was the only candidate considered for the post.

So there's just a little pressure to perform.

Fortunately for the school's roughly 1,330 students and 190 staffers, Guillaume is up for the challenge.

"I am committed 100 percent to Vernon Hills High School," said Guillaume, the third principal in the school's 15-year history. "I love this place. I love the kids at this place, I love the staff at this place, and together we're going to do great things."

Guillaume, 44, replaced Ellen Cwick as principal July 1 after she retired. He's been with Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 since 1994, most recently serving as Vernon Hills' associate principal.

Guillaume isn't kidding when he says he's committed to Vernon Hills. He and his family live in town, and his kids, Maddi, 17, and Cole, 15, attend the school.

"I think they probably feel like they're under a little more of a microscope (now) ... but I don't think they worry about it," he said. "I think they're comfortable with me (as principal). It's actually a lot of fun."

Guillaume's teaching career began in 1992 at Niles North High School. Two years later, he jumped to Libertyville High, where he served as a teacher and athletic coach and then head of the mathematics department.

When Vernon Hills High opened in 1999 as Libertyville's freshman campus, he transferred to the newer school. He's among about 30 original staffers still working at Vernon Hills High.

When teachers gather for a day-before-school-starts meeting Aug. 19, Guillaume will host a trivia competition for those remaining original employees. The winning teacher's department will get a free lunch.

Asked to name the best thing about Vernon Hills High, he quickly praised its teaching staff.

"We got a group of teachers (in 1999) who wanted to come to a new place and start a new tradition and start a new excellence," he said. "And that caught like wildfire."

District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea acknowledged Guillaume has been recruited by other Chicago-area districts seeking principals. Officials are ecstatic he chose to stay and wait for a promotion opportunity at Vernon Hills High, Lea said.

"We are very fortunate and excited to have an educational leader of Jon's caliber, passion and proven abilities assume the VHHS principalship," Lea said in an email.

Guillaume was selected to be Cwick's replacement in February 2013. He called his predecessor a mentor who helped prepare him for the job.

"I had her cheerleading along the way," said Guillaume, who will collect a $176,924 annual salary as principal.

Don't expect Guillaume to announce any major policy changes now that he's principal. He insisted he doesn't have a personal agenda for the post.

"All of our ideas have been in concert with the vision (for) this place," he said of the work he and Cwick did at Vernon Hills High.

As for his approach to the job, Guillaume said he'll be a visible principal, "one who is interacting with the kids on a daily basis and (who is) out in the halls."

"As you move through administration positions, you lose a little bit of connectiveness with kids," he said. "But I think the office of principal has a unique ability to connect with the student body. For me it's a reconnection, because it takes me back to my years of teaching."

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