After 12 years as principal of Rolling Meadows High School, it takes a lot to surprise Eileen Hart. But at Friday’s annual Salute to Staff recognition ceremony, she got just that, when officials from the Illinois Principals’ Association appeared at the end.
With balloons and a proclamation in hand, they announced Hart had been named Illinois Principal of the Year.
“I’m absolutely stunned, I’m incredibly humbled.” Hart said at the outset.
The Illinois Principals’ Association serves more than 6,000 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois. Hart was selected from a pool of nominees provided by its 21 regions. Criteria for the annual Horace Mann/IPA High School Principal of the Year Award include many attributes, including working collaboratively with teachers and other staff to improve the educational program and student achievement.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with the Rolling Meadows High School and District 214 staff,” Hart said. “It’s given me opportunities to build college and career pathways, and work with teachers directly on dreams that they have and work to make happen.”
Hart is retiring at the end of this school year after 12 years as principal of the school. She has had an incredible year, highlighted by a November visit by First Lady Jill Biden and three U.S. cabinet secretaries, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
“It’s been an amazing year with Dr. Biden coming in the fall and now to receive this, it’s an absolutely incredible way to end my capstone year,” Hart added. “All this great work that we’ve done collectively.”
Hart has won other awards in the IPA, but an important one came in 2018, when she was named the Community Leader of the Year by the Rolling Meadows Chamber of Commerce. The award reflected her leadership in helping to start the Rotary Interact Club at Rolling Meadows High School, that conducts a Thanksgiving food drive, a Christmas basket collection and multiple fundraisers for families in need in the local community.
Her statewide leadership award was recognized by administrators within her building as well as within Northwest Suburban High School District 214, including Lazaro Lopez, Associate Superintendent.
“During her tenure as Principal, Eileen has led with courage and conviction,” Lopez said, “turning around years of
stagnant academic growth, expanding access to early college opportunities, and leading early implementation of career pathways.”