IL Superintendent Summer Spotlight: Dr. Donn P. Mendoza, Round Lake Area School District #116

This summer, we will get to know more about our Equity First superintendents; many of whom are active in our FIF coalition. Advance Illinois’s Equity First coalition is an alliance of superintendents across Illinois that advocate for public policy that promotes equity in public education for students. The group gathers to discuss education policy and school community issues to help inform Advance Illinois’ education policy agenda and statewide policy broadly.

In this week’s blog we converse with Round Lake, Illinois superintendent Dr. Donn P. Mendoza from school district #116. 

Why did you go into the education field? 

I remember my second-grade teacher having a profound impact on my disposition toward school. As a result of her belief in me, I was able to imagine achieving success in whatever I decided to pursue in life. I went into education so that I could have that very same impact on others around me. 


How does EBF funding play a role in the success of the students you serve or the school district? 

Round Lake School District #116 has benefitted significantly from the new evidencebased funding model such that we have been able to expand educational services at a level the likes of which could not have been achieved absent the new funding model. We have been able to add student support positions in the form of interventionists, specialists, counselors, and more. In addition, we have significantly expanded support structures for staff members in the form of mentoring, orientation and professional development/learning opportunities in areas of need determined by the school district and the staff members themselves. I would rank the school district’s professional development program among the best in the state and even the Midwest. EBF has also allowed us to improve the quality of the total educational experience in Round Lake, which includes the fine arts as well as STEAM opportunities. 


Tell us about your school district. What are some accomplishments you want to highlight from your school district? What have been some of the challenges you’ve had or are addressing in your school district? 

Round Lake Area School District #116 is innovative in how we provide educational opportunities to our students. We were one of the very first CompetencyBased Education (CBE) pilot school districts throughout the entire state. Supporting and implementing CBE practices provides the district with greater flexibility in enabling students to demonstrate learning. In addition to implementing Competency Based Educational practices, the school district employs a standards-based grading system district-wide, including at the high school level. We are also very proud to be only one of eight recipients in the entire state of a grant by the Capital Development Board recently, which will enable District#116 to significantly expand early childhood opportunities for families of the greater Round Lake Area. Challenges in our community continue to include closing the equity gap for students in our school community. 


What resources and supports can further benefit your school? Or what resources/supports have made a positive difference? 

Continuation of funding the new EBF model on an annual basis is the most critical need in terms of available resources. 


 Fun fact about yourself: 

During my first principalship in the late 1990’s, one of the second-grade teachers in the school was my actual second grade teacher. This was the individual I referenced in the previous question above about why I chose the education profession.