Retiring Round Lake 116 superintendent earns top honors from Lake County peers
Round Lake District 116 Superintendent Constance Collins, who retires at the end of June, was named Superintendent of the Year by her peers Wednesday night.
The honor came as a shock to Collins who gave a speech earlier during the Lake County Superintendents End-of-the-Year Recognition Dinner as one of four soon-to-be retirees.
"I was humbled to be identified from a group of such fine superintendents," Collins said. "The candidates for the award are legends in their own right."
The group's president, Ellen Correll, Grayslake Elementary District 46 superintendent, said there were five or six superintendents who received nominations but the voting wasn't close.
"It was almost unanimous," Correll said.
Collins has had a distinguished run of success since she took the lead at Round Lake 116 in 2011.
From the beginning Collins set high goals for the district and changed expectation for what the district could accomplish. Round Lake 116 had been struggling in the '90s so much that it was run by the state from 2001 through 2011.
Collins oversaw the $29 million Round Lake High renovation that created STEM classrooms and labs, new athletic facilities and a business incubator program. She implemented the district's celebrations of Hispanic heritage, something the district had previously lacked despite a more than 70 percent Hispanic student population.
The high school's graduation rate increased from 72 percent to 90 percent in the last three years. And the high school was named one of Illinois' top schools in 2017 by U.S. News and World Report.
Correll said superintendents who stayed in their own districts wouldn't be nominated for the award, that it was for people like Collins who was part of other education organizations.
One such endeavor is the HWC Executive Leadership Institute she co-founded that provides mentorship for aspiring superintendents, and focuses on candidates of color.
Collins said only 4 percent of superintendents in America are black and fewer than 2 percent are Hispanic. In 11 years she's worked with 240 candidates and 31 have become superintendents.
Collins has just six weeks left as Round Lake 116's top administrator but she said she hasn't been counting down the days.
"I've got a pretty full schedule from now until then," said Collins, who spent all day Thursday at district meetings. "I don't even have time to think about the last day. It's not over until it's over, then I'll have to deal with a big portion of my life no longer being the way it has been."