Hollinger retiring with 3 decades of school memories
Published: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
Sandy Hollinger couldn't even find Gainesville on the map when her husband got a job at the University of Florida in 1976 and the whole family moved from Illinois.
With three young children and a packed U-Haul, the Hollingers started their lives in Gainesville, and Sandy eventually pursued a career as an educator in Alachua County's public schools.
She took her first teaching job at J.J. Finley Elementary in 1979. More than three decades and several teaching and administrative positions later, she is retiring as deputy superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools.
“I have loved every job,” she said.
Hollinger has turned over her duties to Herschel Lyons, after the School Board tapped him to move from assistant superintendent to deputy.
Superintendent Dan Boyd said Hollinger's retirement is a great loss to the school district because of her experience. Having come up through the ranks, from teacher, to principal and finally to administrator at the Kirby-Smith Center, Hollinger brought a well-rounded perspective to her leadership, Boyd said.
“She was uniquely qualified for the position because she can speak to any level,” he said.
Lyons has spent the last few weeks working closely with Hollinger as he transitions into his new role, and said he hopes to continue in her footsteps.
“Sandy has established a great legacy of very strong and effective leadership,” he said. “It's my hope to at least maintain that.”
Growing up surrounded by teachers, Hollinger thought she might try something other than the profession of her mother, grandmother and two aunts.
“I thought, ‘Well I'll just do something different and go into the foreign service,'” she said with a laugh.
She ended up studying English and elementary education at Northern Illinois University and teaching in Illinois classrooms by 1967.
After following her husband to Gainesville, she completed a master's degree in reading instruction at UF in 1979, around the same time she started at Finley.
Reading has remained her passion throughout the years.
“I'm still intrigued by reading, why some kids can attack it and get it so quickly and why some cannot,” she said.
Hollinger was appointed principal at Finley in 1992 and at Eastside High School in 2000.
Coming from an exclusively elementary background, Hollinger said she relished a different experience when she took over at Eastside.
For her, the highlights of her job were her encounters with students. “I was so surprised with the number of conversations I had with teenagers,” she said.
She was appointed deputy superintendent in 2003. Working with several School Boards, her administrative philosophy has never changed.
“We need to all be on the same page,” she said. “We're dealing with — and I don't take this lightly — we're dealing with kids.”
Hollinger said she volunteered to finish the strategic planning process she started with the School Board, which will wrap up in January.
After that she plans to stay in Gainesville and be involved in the community through volunteering.
No matter what, she wants to work with children. Some principals have already started calling to ask her for reading help.
She said she'd like to rest easy for a bit before jumping in.
“I said I have no schedule now, but I certainly will consider it,” she said with a smile.
Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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