D128 Superintendent Stepping Down After 13 Years


Photo Courtesy of D128

After 13 years as District 128’s superintendent, Prentiss Lea is retiring on June 30.

After 41 years in education, including 13 years as District 128’s superintendent, Prentiss Lea is retiring at the end of this fiscal year, on June 30.

Prior to joining D128, Dr. Lea spent time as a teacher, coach, dean, assistant principal and principal at various districts. Board of Education President Pat Groody was a board member when Dr. Lea first joined the district in 2005 as associate superintendent.

“When we hired [Dr. Lea], we were hoping to groom him to ultimately replace Dr. Clough (the prior D128 superintendent),” Groody said. In 2008, Dr. Lea was hired as the district’s new superintendent.

Mr. Briant Kelly, the D128 associate superintendent, works closely with Dr. Lea on a daily basis. What Mr. Kelly said stands out most to him is Dr. Lea’s dedication to students.

“He really has a passion and energy for teaching high school students,” Kelly said.

Dr. Groody also observed Dr. Lea’s dedication to students. “He wants to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our students no matter who they are,” Dr. Groody said.

During his time as superintendent, Dr. Lea said he has prioritized creating a safe learning environment. “The health and safety of staff and students is always the number one priority,” Dr. Lea said, citing a $4 million investment into security upgrades.

Student achievement has been another of Dr. Lea’s priorities. He believes the district has continued a 50-year tradition of continuous improvement during his tenure. The standard student achievement metrics — percent of students taking at least one AP class; percent of students earning a passing score on AP exams; average SAT and ACT scores — have improved in the past decade and a half.

Dr. Lea also touted the district’s capital investments and fiscal responsibility. A new pool, wrestling gym, and dance studio have been constructed at LHS, while VHHS saw the construction of a new West Gym and STEM Lab. The district also approved $18 million in tax abatements during Dr. Lea’s tenure, a measure he supported.

Dr. Groody believes that Dr. Lea’s leadership is a major reason for the district’s success. He cited Dr. Lea’s ability to create a great team. “He’s been able to recruit excellent people. He’s been able to retain excellent people,” Dr. Groody said. “And he’s been able to further develop them into the true professionals that they are.”

In part because of the excellent staff surrounding him, Dr. Lea described his leadership style as collaborative: “The power of great decision making lies in the people that you’re making the decision with because then you’re able to leverage the strengths and abilities of everyone on the team.”

Mr. Kelly agreed with Dr. Lea’s assessment of his leadership style: “He really will listen to other people’s ideas and involve everyone in the decision-making process.”

Dr. Lea has lived in the district for many years. He stated that he’s developed friendly relationships with staff members, parents, community members and village officials. “I’ll miss the people, and I’ll miss creating the conditions for [students] to be more successful and thriving and healthy and well,” Dr. Lea said.

Dr. Lea and the school board have discussed tentative plans for his retirement ever since he signed his most recent contract in 2017. In September , Lea informed the school board of his intention to retire at the end of the fiscal year. He is confident the district will continue to thrive under the leadership of Dr. Denise Herrmann, who was hired as the district’s next superintendent.

“It’s been a blessing and an honor to be the superintendent in what I believe is the best high school district in the nation,” Dr. Lea said.