Segobiano bids Columbia farewell

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Pictured is retiring Columbia Superintendent Gina Segobiano with two quilts made for her by special services secretary Elysia Sepich. The quilts are made of old Columbia T-shirts people donated. 

For 27 consecutive years, Columbia Superintendent of Schools Gina Segobiano has attended monthly school board meetings. 

She has ran 200 of those as superintendent. 

Last Wednesday marked the last time she would attend such a meeting as anything other than a member of the audience, as it was Segobiano’s last meeting before she retires from public education at the end of November to take a job at Southwestern Illinois College. 

Segobiano’s farewell started with school board president Scott Middelkamp presenting her a plaque for her almost 10 years of serving as Columbia’s superintendent. 

Shortly thereafter, Segobiano gave a goodbye speech, starting by thanking friends, faculty members and her husband, Tony, for coming to her final meeting. 

She said that shows the kind of place the Columbia school district is. 

“I felt from day one I’ve been accepted as part of this family,” Segobiano said. “I’ve never felt like I’m the superintendent… I’ve felt like I’m one of you, and I appreciate that because that’s how it should be.” 

Segobiano continued by thanking many individuals including district administrators, former Assistant Superintendent Beth Horner – who was in attendance – and Tony for their roles in her career.

Her gratitude included the school board. 

“I want to thank the board members who have trusted me to lead this school district for almost a decade,” Segobiano said. “The board members in this school district from day one have always given me the opportunity to explore ideas and initiatives and the freedom to really pursue different avenues of improvements.” 

Segobiano specifically thanked Middelkamp and board member Karen Anderson, who are the longest-serving board members. 

She then spoke about the highlights of her time in Columbia.

Those included upgrading the baseball field, creating the multi-purpose field at Columbia High School, reviving the FFA program, becoming a standalone special education district, constructing the CHS concession stand, updating the CHS culinary classroom and completing the new bleachers at the multi-purpose field. 

Segobiano thanked all those who had roles in those projects.

“It takes a village to get some of these projects completed, but look at the outcome and how proud we are,” she said. 

She also spoke about accomplishments from students and staff she was proud of, such as Parkview Elementary being named a Blue Ribbon School, numerous state championships and numerous academic accolades.

In the latter part of her speech, Segobiano gave advice to the board as it moves forward with whoever replaces Segobiano. 

That advice included allowing the superintendent enough room to succeed, holding district personnel and board members accountable to policy, using mistakes to learn, remembering there are multiple sides to every story, not letting bad things outweigh good things and “keep(ing) your business that’s negative in-house.”

She said the points about policies and viewing mistakes as learning opportunities are especially salient. 

“If we all followed the policies that are basically the rules of how we run our schools, we probably would have prevented the last two years of a lot of hardship and turmoil,” Segobiano said. 

She concluded her speech by thanking those in attendance for giving her the chance to be Columbia’s superintendent. 

“I wish all of you in the district the best,” she said before the audience gave her a standing ovation.

In addition to Segobiano’s farewell, the board discussed its tax levy for next school year. 

It will not have a public hearing on the levy because it is not upping its request by five percent. 

Board member Tammy Hines questioned why the district was looking to levy its nickel tax in the health/life safety fund, given that it has completed all those projects. 

Hines said her understanding was that state law only allows districts to levy the tax if they have outstanding HLS projects. 

“We have projected and proposed health/life safety needs, but on our health/life safety survey they are completed,” Segobiano agreed. “So that allows us to pursue any other health/life safety projects we want.”

Segobiano said the levy, which generates about $170,000 annually, can be used even when there are no projects on the survey to save up for future work, according to conversations she had with the Illinois State Board of Education and the school district’s attorney. 

Segobiano said the law gives districts “wiggle room.” 

Hines requested the district not levy the funds until it finishes its 10-year HLS surveys later this school year, at which point the district could amend its levy request. 

Hines voted against the levy, but every other school board member voted for it. 

The final vote on the matter will occur at the December board meeting.

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