District 64 formally hires new superintendent; Collins will start July 1

Moments after his hiring became official, incoming Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Superintendent Ben Collins on Wednesday said he's excited for the opportunity.

"I'm going to work as hard as possible to make sure that our children have the best education possible and to make sure that all of our staff and administration are supported every day," Collins said during a special school board meeting at the Jefferson Early Childhood Center in Niles.

Collins will succeed Superintendent Eric Olson, whose controversy-filled tenure is set to end June 30.

Collins - currently principal at Maine South High School in Park Ridge - had been announced as the board's choice for the big chair late last week. A public vote was needed to seal the deal, as was a separate vote on a three-year contract that will calls for a $225,000 base salary his first year.

The District 64 board agreed to hire Collins without objection Wednesday, and it approved the contract just as easily. Board member Demetri Touzios was absent.

Board President Denise Pearl thanked the BWP & Associates search firm for its work in the process, as well as the board members, staffers and trustees-elect who contributed.

"We really value their collaboration and input," Pearl said of the trustees-elect, who will take office May 11.

Other board members thanked the search participants, too. Larry Ryles thanked the Maine Township High School District 207 community for preparing Collins for his new role.

"Tough break, Ken Wallace," Ryles joked, referring to District 207's superintendent.

Olson, the superintendent since 2019, blamed "irreconcilable differences" with community members when he announced his early departure in January. He was the target of critics who were upset about an aborted plan to reschedule a winter holiday concert, the district's COVID-19 prevention efforts and the plans that led to all-day kindergarten classes in the district.

Olson's contract was scheduled to expire in 2025. He is being paid $236,900 this year.

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