STERLING – After nearly a decade as top education administrator for Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties, Bob Sondgeroth is retiring as Regional Superintendent of Schools on June 30.
Assistant Regional Superintendent Chris Tennyson will move to the top spot upon Sondgeroth’s retirement, pending approval by each of the three county boards this month.
Tennyson has been Sondgeroth’s deputy since 2018, having joined the regional office after 5 years as principal at Fulton High School.
Sondgeroth, 64, a Republican from Rock Falls, first was elected in 2011 as Whiteside County’s chief administrator after the retirement of longtime superintendent Gary Steinert. Whiteside’s office merged with Lee and Ogle counties in 2015. He was re-elected in 2014 and 2018, and is among the state’s most senior regional chiefs.
One of Sondgeroth’s goals in recent years was to find an assistant regional superintendent that he felt could take over for him one day.
“I have one in Chris Tennyson,” Sondgeroth said. “He’s going to do a great job in now his third year. I’m comfortable now stepping down and letting him take over and take this region to the next level.”
Sondgeroth’s retirement comes as the region’s schools continue to deal with change brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. Navigating through the pandemic and maintaining operations is something Sondgeroth will remember most about his time in office, he said.
The Regional Office has expanded its truancy department, regional safe school, education outreach program and alternative education programs during Sondgeroth’s tenure.
Leading a team of dedicated problem solvers at the Regional Office, and developing future educators, are responsibilities Sondgeroth will most most about his job.
“I think we’ve done some really, really good stuff, especially in this pandemic year,” Sondgeroth said. “We’re problem solvers here. The thing that I love the most is how we can make an impact on kids lives, and teachers. When I have someone coming in and they’re thinking about going into education, and then I see them go into education, help them get their license, and see them thrive, it’s just so rewarding.”
Education was Sondgeroth’s career path out of school, but he wound up taking a job with the Sterling Fire Department. In that role, he became the department’s fire inspector for the city’s schools. After an injury suffered during a house fire ended that career, he embarked on a teaching career at East Coloma School in Rock Falls. After a few years on the job, Steinert appointed him as Assistant Regional Superintendent in 2002.
In retirement, Sondgeroth and his wife, Cindy, a retired preschool teacher with the Coloma Township Park District, is looking forward to spending more time with their two grown children and two young grandchildren.
“Having grandchildren and my wife having retired, and knowing that when I leave the office will be in good hands, made me decide that it was time,” Sondgeroth said.
An open house to honor Sondgeroth will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday at Candlelight Inn in Rock Falls.