The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

Big shoes to fill: Dr. K says goodbye to seven years at LHS

As he finishes up his seventh year, Dr. Thomas Koulentes, known to the students as Dr. K, recently announced that he will be stepping down from his position as principal and moving into the position of Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning.

Dr. K has been a familiar face at Libertyville, often interacting with students and leading by example for them, rather than over them. 

Senior Molly Neary, president of the National Honor Society, said that Dr. K is well-liked for making connections with the students.

“He knew I did soccer,” Neary said, “so he’d ask about that. He’d ask about my cross country season or anything that was going on in my life, just making those personal connections.” 

Dr. K’s career in education began after he graduated from the University of Illinois and started teaching at Highland Park High School in 1995. This created a pathway that led to him becoming an administrator, an assistant principal and ultimately, principal of Highland Park High School.

“One thing that was surprising to me and was very helpful to me was that he was a great listener,” junior Alex Gourley, a member of the Principal’s Advisory Board, said. “I feel like a lot of people would listen to problems that students have and brush them aside and treat them like they’re not real issues that the school has to face. Dr. K took what everybody said to heart and tried to make things better for everyone.”

In 2017, when a position for a new principal at LHS opened, Dr. K was immediately interested in the possibility. 

“I didn’t know much about Libertyville,” Dr. K said, “but I had always been intrigued by this school. I thought it was a really awesome school in a really cool town. When the job became open here, I looked into it and just fell in love with the school and got lucky enough to be hired as principal.”

In his seven years as principal, Dr. K has had many great moments and experiences, saying that LHS “is a place that has a strong feeling of community and that is something that I think is pretty amazing about this place.”

Gourley, who will be a senior in time for the new principal to begin, said that he hopes the school will select a candidate with Dr. K’s level of outreach.

“Hopefully, they’ll find someone who’s as good with students as Dr. K,” Gourley said. “Hopefully, they find someone that has that passion.”

Dr. K said that he would advise his successor that the power of this school is in the students.

“We are at our best when we give our students a lot of responsibility to make this place great,” Dr. K said. “Our students have always risen to that occasion. Whenever things are going great, it’s because our students are involved and helping lead it. When there’s conflict, the students have very sophisticated thoughts and ideas and we want to talk to our students to try and solve those conflicts, rather than just make the decisions for the students.”

Dr. K, before his administrative career, was a teacher, starting with classes in social studies and English as a second language at Highland Park, classes that gave him values he holds to this day.

“The real work of making the school great happens in the classrooms,” Dr. K said. “[You] need to, as a principal, support your teachers and help them have everything they need to do their best work. Our teachers are some of the best teachers in the country and when they get the resources that they need, they do amazing things.”

Neary said that something about Dr. K that sticks with people is his involvement with the school and the people there.

“I know that in sports and activities, he always makes an effort to really show up to all of those events and include all the students in decisions,” Neary said. “I think that his involvement with students and ability to connect with them was really important.”

Dr. K, while leaving the role of principal, will remain in the district, taking on the assistant superintendent position. Although remaining in the district, he said that he will miss the relationships with the students and staff.

“I love being principal of Libertyville High School because I am so proud to represent our students and to be their advocate,” Dr. K said. “I will miss those relationships with students. When you guys come in and you tell me something that’s going really well, or you tell me something really funny that happened with a teacher in a class, or you tell me something that’s really frustrating and we work together to try to make it better, those are my most proud moments.”

Dr. K also acknowledged that he will miss the teachers and staff members he has worked alongside.

“I’ve always felt that they have supported me and tried to help in the work that we’re doing to make this the best school possible,” Dr. K said. “Not every principal has that from their staff. I know I’m fortunate for that and I will miss that a lot.”

In addition to his principal duties, Dr. K is known for his Nike gym shoe collection. Although he started wearing Nikes in the 80s, he started his collection in 2017, which now features 20 collectible pairs of shoes.

“I’m by no means a fashion icon,” Dr. K said, “but they’re fashionable. I think they’re cool and they bring me back good memories of growing up.”

As Dr. K moves to a new position, many students wonder about his replacement.

“I wish Dr. K well in his journey into the administrator’s office,” Gourley said. “Hopefully, the next principal will be able to fill his shoes.”

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