When Fred Heid takes the helm of Community Unit District 300 in early June, he will become the district's first superintendent of Latino descent.
Heid, 43, is bilingual and was born in Miami to a Colombian mother and a German-American father. He speaks Spanish fluently and can read and write it as well.
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He comes to the state's sixth-largest district from Duval County Public Schools in Jacksonville, Florida, where he is chief academic officer. He had no connection to Illinois before.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Herald, Heid said he was looking to leave Florida for the right opportunity and a fresh start.
District 300, he said, is the perfect fit for him because it's a diverse district that's also small enough for him to have an impact. He can be highly visible at the schools and actively engaged in what's going on.
Heid also said he wants to support teachers and the staff while grooming new leadership.
As chief academic officer of a school system much larger than District 300, his day-to-day interaction with students and teachers is minimal, he said. And he misses that.
"The opportunity to be hired as a superintendent to lead a district as an instructional leader is first and foremost what I'm passionate about," Heid said. "Anybody who knows me knows that I'm truly passionate about teaching and learning. I'm not an office person."
Heid acknowledges he's been a bit of a job hopper in the past -- he's held his current job since late 2012 -- but said that's because he was recruited frequently.
He was in demand this time around; as recently as Monday he interviewed for the superintendent's job in Alachua County in Florida. The job pays between $140,000 and $170,000 a year, according to its website.
Days later, Heid signed a three-year contract with District 300, where he will make $210,000 a year.
"At the end of the day, you have to make a decision, and personally for me, with a young son, we were looking to make a commitment and not a short-term commitment," Heid said, noting that he and his wife, Patty, have moved several times since their 7-year-old son was born.
Heid returns to the Algonquin-based district May 28, the day the board votes on his contract. He also will meet the public at a reception that follows.
He'll return to Jacksonville the next morning, pack up a few essentials and drive to Illinois for his first day in the district, June 2. His family is expected to join him a month later. The Heids have been house hunting in the area but haven't decided on a place.
As to whether the Miami native can survive a Midwest winter, the topic has already come up with District 300 officials.
"I was concerned about that myself when we were interviewing him: 'Why in the world would you want to come to Illinois with the winter we just had?'" board member Joe Stevens said.
Heid's wife is from New York City, so he's familiar with cold weather.