Dist. 116 superintendent to retire Friday

  • Round Lake Area School District 116 Superintendent Constance Collins poses with a portrait made by Round Lake High School custodian Terry Cagle. The portrait was a gift from the school board.

    Round Lake Area School District 116 Superintendent Constance Collins poses with a portrait made by Round Lake High School custodian Terry Cagle. The portrait was a gift from the school board. Courtesy of Round Lake Area School District 116

  • Round Lake Area School District 116 Superintendent Constance Collins stands with her successor, Assistant Superintendent Donn Mendoza. Her last day is Friday.

    Round Lake Area School District 116 Superintendent Constance Collins stands with her successor, Assistant Superintendent Donn Mendoza. Her last day is Friday. Courtesy of Round Lake Area School District 116

 
 

Friday is the last day at the office for Round Lake Area Unit District 116 Superintendent Constance Collins, who led the district's dramatic turnaround.

When Collins started in 2010 the district was run by the state, a consequence of severe financial mismanagement in the 1990s. When the state's 10 years of control were up in 2011, Collins went to work to improve the district.

Donn Mendoza, the district's assistant superintendent who moves to the top job Monday, said he the No. 1 lesson he's learned from Collins is the impact a relentless pursuit of excellence can have on a community.

"She was tenacious in her advocacy for and belief in the district," Mendoza said. "She's always pushed the envelope and has had high expectations for the district."

U.S. News & World Report last year named Round Lake High School one of the state's top schools for the first time, which was a Collins goal.

She said retiring hasn't sunk in yet.

"My body is accustomed to going nonstop," Collins said. "I think my body has to catch up with where my mind is at."

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Collins said the district is in good hands with Mendoza, who was announced as her successor in November.

"Donn knows what the next step is," Collins said. "I'm excited to have someone of his caliber to lead the district to the next level."

Collins is experienced at preparing people to lead a district. She is the co-founder of HWC Executive Leadership Institute, which provides mentorship for aspiring superintendents.

Mendoza said he couldn't have asked for a better job transition and it seems like it went by so quickly.

"It hasn't really hit me yet," Mendoza said.

He said he has a 90-day plan to meet district stakeholders and parent groups.

"I know I have huge shoes to fill and wouldn't want to be any other place," Mendoza said. "I'm going to work hard every minute of every day to reinforce the board made the right decision in hiring me."

Collins will remain busy. She will attend several conferences associated with her leadership institution this summer. She also said she has three bucket lists to work through -- personal goals, professional goals and skills development.

And she'll make time for something people in education don't typically do until retiring -- take a fall vacation.

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