Search is on for next Dist. 56 superintendent

After serving 22 years in Gurnee Elementary School District 56, the final five as superintendent, Colleen Pacatte is retiring at the end of the school year.

"She is leaving hard shoes to fill," board President Jim Blockinger said. "She's done an outstanding job."

Blockinger praised Pacatte's leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He cited the district's programs delivering library books and free meals to children as some of the efforts Pacatte made to keep the school community going.

Pacatte was born and raised on the west side of Gurnee and attended Woodland Elementary District 50 schools. She said she's pleased to have been able to spend her career in the community where she grew up.

"It's been really nice to represent my hometown and to know the kids here are well taken care of," Pacatte said.

The task of replacing her as the district's top administrator falls to the school board.

The board hired Oak Park-based consultant firm School Exec Connect to help with the search for Pacatte's replacement and solicit input from the staff and community members. The first community input meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Viking Middle School in Gurnee. There also will be an online survey Sept. 19-30.

Blockinger, who first joined the school board in 2003, said this is the third time he's been part of the superintendent search.

"As a board of education, it is one of our most important functions," Blockinger said. "The superintendent sets the tone for the district. We're taking it very seriously and are putting in the time to make sure it is done properly."

Pacatte, who is not part of the superintendent search process, agreed on how important it is for the board to select the right person.

"Based on what we've just gone through, I think the best person is the one you feel most comfortable with making tough decisions," Pacatte said.

Pacatte says she's already decided to stay in Gurnee for a while.

"I don't want to move. I don't want to downsize," Pacatte said. "I want to know what it's like to live in my house. As a superintendent, it feels like you're just visiting sometimes."

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