Lesniak leaves classroom, steps into new role as dean


Photo by Alex Para

Alex Para, Sectional Editor

In October, social studies teacher Steven Lesniak was named Elk Grove’s division head for student success, safety and wellness (DHSSSW), which is known informally as the dean position. 

Lesniak said he had shown interest in dean positions within the district in the past. He said Elk Grove Principal Paul Kelly knew he might one day be interested in the dean position, and when certain spots had to be filled within Township High School District 214, the dominoes started to fall. 

Former assistant principal for student services Valerie Norris was promoted to principal at the Forest View Educational Center, vacating the student services assistant principal position at Elk Grove. This led Stephen Kolodziej, a dean at Buffalo Grove, to fill in Norris’s spot at Elk Grove. 

A few promotions later, Lesniak said Kelly had a conversation with him about the possibility of Lesniak filling in the dean role.

“I feel ready for it because I’m driven to do well,” Lesniak said. “I’m ready to give everything I have.”

Lesniak said it was tough telling his classes about his promotion. 

“I love teaching and it was not an easy decision to make, considering I was doing this promotion during the year,” Lesniak said. “Some students expressed they were upset, maybe some were happy. Overall it was not an easy decision to make because I love teaching.”

In Lesniak’s first week on the job, he compared the new role to being a firefighter. 

“I put out ‘fires’ every day, because a lot goes on at EG,” Lesniak said. “My priority is to keep students safe and give them a positive environment to learn.”

Edgar Rivera, Lesniak’s counterpart in the dean’s office, said he was surprised at the sudden change in personnel. 

“I got the email saying Penio is moving on and Lesniak is in on Oct. 24,” Rivera said. 

Rivera, who has worked as a dean in a few schools, said he thinks Lesniak is the right fit to fill in Penio’s shoes. 

“There’s no handbook, no degrees, nothing that can prepare you for being a dean at any school, but I think Lesniak’s absolutely ready to take on the job of dean,” Rivera said.