Dr. Constance Collins is coming up on her five-year anniversary as superintendent of Oak Park Elementary School District 97. Before investing in a lapel pin or gift card, the school board may want to hold off and see if she gets that new job in exurban Round Lake, where Collins is a finalist for superintendent.
The school board may want to hold off even if she doesn’t get the job. After all, it says something about a superintendent’s loyalty and dedication when, for the second time – that we know about – in four-and-a-half years, a person is out actively looking for a job. In the fall of 2008, Dr. Collins was a finalist for the top spot in nearby LaGrange.
It’s normally our unofficial policy to grant each high-ranking public official one out-of-town job search before we lose faith in their faith in our community. We’ll allow as to how they were “flattered to be asked” to apply for such a wonderful and intriguing position (LaGrange, yes. But Round Lake?). Or, maybe, after two years of too-long meetings in Oak Park, they’ve bowed to a spouse who wants their connected lives back.
But, honestly, the second time a village manager or school chief turns up on a finalists list, we’re ready to give them a polite shove.
They have complex jobs for which they are well compensated. (Collins is making a base salary of $201,000 this year.) Part of that complexity is the steering of mid- and long-term initiatives.
At District 97, Dr. Collins, working with the school board, has brought success through her emphasis on data-based decisions, in guiding a long-overdue strategic planning process, in stretching funding further than thought possible by making a series of challenging budget reductions.
Still ahead, though, is the tax hike referendum the school board has penciled in for next April. For many obvious reasons, this is the worst time imaginable to run a referendum. Having your superintendent actively trying to bail isn’t going to help persuade voters to spend more. And if voters say no, having an experienced superintendent in charge of necessary cuts would be a plus.
We’ll know soon enough if Dr. Collins is Round Lake’s superintendent. If she isn’t, it might take a while longer to divine how long she’ll be ours.
Short-timer. Big legacy
It isn’t a surprise that Frank Limon, River Forest’s police chief for the past 18 months, is headed to a much bigger job. From the start, Limon’s résumé was too big for the job. Given the multidimensional mess he inherited, though, his range of talent and experience was put to good use.
After 30 years of rising through the ranks of the Chicago police department, Limon knew how to quickly tackle the raft of issues he found in the fundamentally dysfunctional department in River Forest.
He rapidly remade and simplified the command structure of the department by jettisoning leaders who were at the center of the shattered morale. He also made strong strides in two areas that are transforming the department. He focused a backward department on technology, and he aggressively built River Forest’s connections with neighboring police departments in ways informal and highly organized.
If the village board makes the right choice in his successor, and that will require an open search process, Frank Limon will have a notable legacy as the village’s short-term top cop.