Round Lake High celebrates addition to U.S. News top schools list
Donn Mendoza had the honor of sharing very good news Thursday afternoon with his staff at Round Lake High School.
The school, which from 2001 through 2011 was run by the state because of severe financial problems, has been named by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best schools in Illinois and the nation.
Mendoza, the school's principal and the district's deputy superintendent, has been sitting on the information since Monday. On Thursday, he told the school's teachers who helped make it possible.
The big reveal came as he showed teachers PowerPoint slides of prestigious suburban high schools -- Stevenson, Hinsdale Central and Schaumburg among them -- and asked the teachers what they had in common.
"Money," one teacher shouted. "Excellence," shouted another. "Not diverse," which drew some laughs.
"Now what if I did this?" Mendoza asked, adding Round Lake High School to the list. "What do they have in common now?"
That stumped the room of educators, until Mendoza smiled and told the crowd their school ranked 76th out of 658 Illinois high schools on the U.S. News & World Report list, placing it in the top 12 percent of the state and earning a silver medal.
It is the first time the school has received such an honor and is emblematic of the strides the district has made since the turn of the century.
"I'm not joking," Mendoza said to the bewildered faces. "I hope you all take a moment to let this soak in. This is real."
The school ranked 2,267th in the country, which puts it in the top 10 percentile.
Judy Armstrong, a longtime community advocate for Round Lake Area Unit District 116, said the district has been getting better and better.
"We always had a great staff here, now that we have the equipment, the sky is the limit," Armstrong said. "This is a school that's on fire."
Superintendent Constance Collins, who was the district's first top administrator hired by the board of education when the state's supervision stopped, told the teachers how proud she was of their accomplishment.
"We know we will not stop, this is only the beginning of the beginning," Collins said. "People need to keep their eyes on us because we are going even farther."