New Eanes ISD superintendent

Dr. Tom Leonard was appointed to the Eanes ISD superintendent position by the EISD board of trustees April 30. Leonard will replace Dr. Nola Wellman, who is retiring at the end of the 2014 school year. Leonard has served as superintendent of the Barrington 220 School District in Illinois for seven years.

Prior to his time as superintendent, Leonard spent 20 years as a teacher, coach, math department chair, assistant principal, high school principal and assistant superintendent in several school districts.

The district, located in a suburb of Chicago, had an enrollment of 9,200 and a budget of $130 million. Barrington 220 is one of only a few school districts in the nation to achieve the Strong AAA bond rating from financial ratings agency Standard & Poor's.

What attracted you to Eanes ISD?

It has a great reputation, but the honest truth is that I wasn't looking for another position. I was very happy [in Illinois], but I was at a superintendent conference in Nashville in February when I was contacted by a couple of people from the superintendent search firm. They knew me and they knew Eanes, and they thought it would be a good match.

The firm started probing me on my thoughts on the district and I started doing my homework, and it was a relationship that seemed to develop quickly.

What can you bring to EISD that it may be missing?

I'm not sure a lot is missing, to be honest. From everything I can tell from looking in from the outside, it is a well-run, high-performing school district in all areas. The athletics, the arts, academics—it's a high-performing district.

I think that ... I am the type of person who has had success going into high-performing school districts and keeping them on track and in some ways asking certain questions that may have them explore other domains. I think we are doing a few things up here [in Barrington] that they aren't doing [in Eanes], and I'm sure there are some things [Eanes is] doing that we aren't doing. Hopefully I will learn some things from Eanes, and they will learn some things from me.

Have you looked at the May 10 EISD bond proposal?

I have looked at it, probably not in as much depth as the people down there, but I have looked at it. Reading from afar it looks like they have done some community engagement as far as putting the proposal together, and it looks like they have a plan.

Do you have goals you would like to accomplish in the district?

I don't determine goals for a great district by reading website and newspaper articles. I do it by getting on the ground level and talking to people. That includes all the people in the district, staff, students, administrators and board members. I really want to hear what is going on, see what is going on, live what is going on. Then I could give my thoughts on where, collectively, I think we need to go.

You have a ship here running very well from what I can tell. Nola [Wellman]'s reputation [is good] and from everything I've seen [she] has been a great captain of that ship. There will be some overlap between us, so I will have some time to spend with her and see how she does things.

My first thing will be listening to people and building relationships. I'm hoping—and I think the board who came up and did a site visit with me thinks—there are some things I can add. But I'd really like to get in there and look around. I'm looking forward to it.

How would you compare the Barrington 220 School District to EISD?

They are very similar, and I think that is what the search firm and the school board were thinking when they chose me. When you look at Barrington and you look at Eanes they are very similar in terms of size, number of schools, academic performance and appreciation for the arts.

I don't know if [Barrington] is as good in athletics as Westlake, but it has won its share of state championships. I think there are truly a lot of similarities. Barrington is probably a little more diverse, but it has challenges just as Eanes might have with state funding and navigating common core [curriculum]. There are probably more similarities than


I've also worked in other Chicago suburbs that are also very similar to Austin suburbs. [Both] communities expect a lot from their public schools, and I think it will in some ways be very similar and in other ways very different, and that is OK.