D-156 chief closing book on 33-year career

McHENRY – This school year will be bittersweet for Gina Swinney, the top administrator in School District 156.

Swinney plans to retire at the end of the school year, capping a teaching and administrative career that spans three decades. She’s held administrative positions in District 156 and in District 15, the elementary and middle school district in McHenry.

“I’m 33 years into my career,” Swinney said. “I’ve had conversations with my family, and I just decided it was the right time.”

Swinney, who is in her first year as superintendent, announced her retirement Tuesday during the District 156 school board meeting. Her contract expires June 30.

Swinney was assistant superintendent and in December succeeded Teresa Lane, with an annual salary of $149,901. Lane retired.

The board “feels that Dr. Swinney has done an excellent job as superintendent for McHenry high schools,” President Chad Mihevc. “We appreciate her 33 years of dedicated service to the students and community of McHenry and wish her many years of health and happiness in her retirement.”

Swinney started her education career in McHenry in 1980, when she was hired to teach English at McHenry High School East Campus. She also taught speech and theater at the school. She went on to serve as a dean at the West Campus, an assistant principal at Valley View School and at Parkland Middle School, and director of learning and assistant superintendent at District 15.

“I have had the opportunity to spend my entire career in one community, even though they’re two different districts,” Swinney said.

She’s seen some of her former students become parents and teachers, which she called a rare opportunity that is “very gratifying.”

Swinney said she has no concrete plans for retirement.

“There’s a lot of work to do around here,” she said. “I’m not retiring yet, still focusing on the job at hand.”

The district is in the process of restructuring its technology department to boost its efficiency. The board Tuesday approved the department’s $49,000 staffing request for two technology system administrators and a help desk position to handle the growing technology support workload at the schools.

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