Columbia Superintendent of Schools Gina Segobiano announced last week she will be retiring from the school district a few months earlier than expected.
In an email to parents and guardians, Segobiano, who planned to retire at the end of this school year, announced she has accepted the position of Chief Academic Officer at Southwestern Illinois College.
Her first day in that job is Dec. 2. Her last day in public education will be Nov. 30.
“To be able to continue in the field of education, but in a new arena of higher education where I will be able to learn new systems, programs, expand my network with educators and be able to be involved with bringing opportunities for students, is the ultimate ‘next’ and ‘last’ career before officially retiring from the field of education,” Segobiano wrote in her email.
Segobiano has been working in education since she graduated from Western Illinois University with an elementary degree in 1987.
Later that same year, she got a job as a fifth grade teacher at Signal Hill School in Belleville.
In 1993, she moved up to principal of that school, a role she served in while also getting her doctorate degree from Saint Louis University in 1996.
She earned her master’s from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
By 2003, Segobiano was superintendent a Signal Hill, a job she stayed in for three years.
She then became superintendent in the Harmony Emge school district in Belleville, working in that position until she became superintendent in Columbia in 2010.
“I was excited to be the leader of a K-12 school district,” Segobiano said. “With my two prior school districts, K-8, expanding my experience to a unit district was appealing.”
Segobiano said her time in Columbia has been “very gratifying,” despite the last couple years being filled with contentious and controversial school board meetings.
She praised staff and students, talked about how the district improved during changes in standardized testing and highlighted Columbia’s multi-purpose field, the return of the FFA/ag science program, community support of the facility sales tax and having stable budgets as noteworthy accomplishments.
“I could not go without mentioning how proud I am of our students and being able to be part of student and program successes over the years ,” Segobiano said, mentioning accolades for sports, academic and extracurricular activities. “I will truly miss my school family in Columbia, but will always ‘Bleed Blue.’
In her email, Segobiano explained she was exploring “post-retirement opportunities outside the realm of public education” this summer when she learned of the SWIC job.
“The Chief Academic Officer position at SWIC will allow me to expand my experience by continuing to work with students and educators,” Segobiano said. “I am looking forward to a new experience at the next level in higher education. I am excited about being part of a large organization and familiarizing myself with the academic divisions, teachers, staff and students.”
The position has been vacant since July after the previous CAO retired, so Segobiano worked with the college to stay at Columbia as long as she could before taking over.
“The downside of this decision is leaving the people and students who make up such a wonderful school district six months prior than planned,” she said.
Segobiano’s accelerated departure will affect the school board’s search for a new superintendent.
School board president Scott Middelkamp said the board will discuss its options at the September meeting.
“All those things are in play: whether we accelerate the search, whether we have (Assistant Superintendent) Dr. (Courtney) Castelli be interim while the search is complete, whether we actually have an interim superintendent come in on a part-time basis,” Middelkamp said.
Middelkamp also said he is thankful Segobiano gave the board a couple months to develop a plan.
For her part, Segobiano said she is looking forward to her last weeks in Columbia.
“I am looking forward to treasuring every remaining day at Columbia and want to end my Columbia career on a high note – working with the best administrators, teachers, staff and students a superintendent could ever have,” she said. “I hope that you understand my decision and will help make this ‘last first semester’ the best!”