Erica Smolinski began her teaching career at the age of 5 when she asked her parents to take her to the “teaching store,” so she could start her own classroom. “I taught my stuffed animals for years,” she said.
The next stage of her distinguished career will begin July 1, 2018, when she officially takes over from Peggie Maniscalco as principal of Culver School.
“From kindergarten on, I have been preparing for the upcoming opportunity at Culver Elementary,” Dr. Smolinski said. “I am so looking forward to this new challenge and adventure.”
The announcement came at the March 18 school board meeting. It culminated a search that began in November 2017, when Mrs. Maniscalco announced her retirement at the end of the current school year.
Three schoolwide committees narrowed the field of applicants to three strong candidates, who were interviewed in March. “The parent, student and staff committees all commented on Dr. Smolinski’s ability to communicate a student-centered vision of excellence based on collaboration and relationship-building,” said District 71 Supt. John Kosirog.
Dr. Smolinski has 12 years of experience as a school administrator with expertise in curriculum and instruction, parent and community involvement, and childhood development. She comes to Culver after 10 years in Indian Prairie District 204, where she is currently assistant principal at Crone Middle School in Naperville.
Following graduation from Illinois State University, where she majored in education, she began her career as an 8th grade English teacher in Hanover Park. “Being in the classroom is magical, and I loved every second of it,” Dr. Smolinski said. “As I was teaching, however, I felt the urge to move on in my career and lead both students and adults. I believe in a shared-leadership model, and I was excited to lead others in concert with young people and staff.”
She completed master’s programs at St. Xavier University and Aurora University, and gained a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Lewis University. She served as a school administrator in Dixon, Ill., before moving to District 204.
Dr. Smolinski noted that coming from a large district with more than 30 schools in the western suburbs to a one-school district in Niles “will definitely be a shift. But I am so looking forward to working in a small setting with a close school community. Working in the classroom and as an administrator has provided me with great experience in building bonds with students, staff and parents. At the core of great work, we often find trusting relationships. I am thrilled to continue this good work at Culver.”
Dr. Kosirog said, “Over the past several years, we have accomplished so much for our students and community by working together and learning from each other. I anticipate that this will continue as Dr. Smolinski brings new ideas to our great school.”
Dr. Smolinski added, “I was energized by learning about Culver School. Culver offers the outstanding opportunity of a pre-K through 8th grade experience in a family-type school atmosphere. Having attended a pre-K through 8 building myself as a student, it is easy to recognize the wonderful community and culture enhanced by this type of school model. I look forward to continuing to cultivate Culver Pride through my work with the school community.”