Pete Sullivan knows he has some big shoes to fill.
It's not exactly Mickey Mantle taking over for Joe DiMaggio in center field for the Yankees, but when you're the guy preparing to replace Ron Logeman, who's retiring this summer after 26 years as principal of Lisle High School, it's understandable if it feels just a bit daunting.
The two men have talked, by phone and in person, and Sullivan says he's already looking forward to learning from Logeman and benefiting from his experience before officially taking the school's reins July 1.
More important, Sullivan says, he's been impressed by the spirit of cooperation and togetherness he's found at the high school and throughout Lisle Unit District 202.
"Lisle's a very special place," he said Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the school board approved his appointment to the $135,000-a-year post. "It's a remarkable environment."
The high school, he says, is a perfect size to allow a principal to develop relationships with both students and faculty.
Sullivan was selected after a search that began in September, Superintendent Patricia Wernet said. Officials sifted through more than 100 applications and talked to 21 candidates before deciding Sullivan was their man.
Sullivan, 44, comes to Lisle after spending 13 years in the Lockport Township High School District, including the past six as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Wernet was familiar with his work - her husband, Todd, also is an assistant superintendent in Lockport - and said she admires his ability to focus on students and work collaboratively with parents.
As a former principal at Lockport Township High School, Sullivan says he's eager to get back to daily interaction with students and staff.
"Being part of that school community is what draws me to be a high school principal," he said.
He says he believes strong relationships promote success in schools, and during his conversations with people in Lisle "it's obvious people here know and care about each other."
Lockport Superintendent Garry Raymond says Sullivan is one of the best administrators he's worked with and isn't surprised he was attracted by the Lisle post.
"Pete's heart is in the principalship," he said, "and he's always treasured that."
Whatever role he's in, Raymond says Sullivan has the ability to see the big picture while focusing on what's best for students.
Sullivan didn't start out to be an educator, although his father was in the profession and the thought always lingered somewhere at the back of his mind.
He majored in political science and minored in English at Loyola University of Chicago before receiving his master's degree in education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He's currently working on a Ph.D. in public policy analysis.
Wernet says she recommended him, in part, because he brings "a wealth of experience from teaching, building-level administration and central office administration. His leadership strengths matched the goals and objectives of the district."
Sullivan says he'll miss the Lockport district and will continue to live there with his wife and four children, ages 16 to 7. But he says he's just 20 minutes away from his new school and "thrilled beyond belief" to get started.
For now, he says, he aims to be the best student possible, to learn as much about his new school and district as possible and then, with Logeman's help, be ready to hit the ground running come July 1.
He promises to be the kind of principal you frequently see in hallways and in classrooms, the kind of guy who's at the basketball games and school plays - always working on those relationships that are so important to him.
He knows you don't just step in and replace someone like Ron Logeman. It takes a while to wiggle your toes all the way to the front of those big shoes. But he's ready to try.
"I'm someone who cares deeply about students and works very hard to promote opportunities," he said. "I'm someone who values the people he works with."