Experienced and Licensed

Our educational case managers (teachers) hold special education licenses with LBS1 approval. They deliver the curriculum and instruction based on Common Core Standards and the Illinois State Standards and Descriptors. They also integrate curriculum frameworks from the student’s previous school.

We provide a safe, nurturing therapeutic environment for children grades 5-12 who face various challenges, such as emotional disturbances, learning disabilities, autism, and other health impairments. We foster academic, emotional, and social growth to help each child reach their potential.

We offer a rigorous curriculum to keep students engaged with learning, recover credits/content and meet academic standards. 

Each of our therapists (clinical case manager) is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Students receive a variety of therapeutic services depending on student preferences and needs. Each student receives individual social work support. We also provide group social work sessions, art therapy, music therapy, and pet therapy. Social Workers are also available to meet with students when a student requests more time because they are is feeling overwhelmed or need a break from the classroom. Therapists observe classes and check-in with teaching staff. They also engage students during planned unstructured time.

Administrative Staff


Sheila Deal

Executive Director

Sheila Deal has been in the education field since 1986. She began her career working with students with Emotional Disabilities in a Public Junior High School. Three years later she moved to the private sector and worked with students in a residential/day treatment setting. Obtaining a Master’s in education in 1998 and an Administrative Endorsement in 2002, she moved into an administrative role. She took on the challenge of Principal for a private therapeutic day school in 2006 working with students with Emotional Disabilities, Multiple Disabilities, Autism, and Developmental delays.  She joined Safe Haven School in June of 2015 as the Director of Educational Services for both Safe Haven School campuses. Sheila Assumed the role of Executive Director on July 1st, 2021.



Sherry Smith

Director of Clinical Services

Sherry became our Director of Clinical Services for both Safe Haven School campuses in August 2014. She graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana with her Master’s degree in Social Work. Prior to joining Safe Haven School, she was the Social Work Coordinator at Stevenson High School for eighteen years. She retired from Stevenson High School after working with thousands of students. Before Stevenson, Sherry worked for Kenneth Young Mental Health as a SASS (Screening, Assessment, and Support Services) Coordinator and for the Illinois State Board of Education for two years developing services for at-risk students. Sherry was also a school social worker at Lincoln Junior High School for thirteen years.



Shawne Greney

Shawne Greeney

Administrative Assistant

Shawne is honored to have joined the Safe Haven School family in 2016 as an administrative assistant.  She has worked for many years in alternative schools.  Shawne enjoys her interactions with students and forming relationships with the outstanding staff at Safe Haven School.

She has two sons, loves family, good friends, travel, and animals.



Teaching Staff


Jane Conley

Educational Case Manager

Jane is thrilled to be teaching in the middle school at Safe Haven School Lake Bluff.  Her educational background is in science, and she loves sparking her students’ curiosity and seeing where it leads them.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in genetics from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in genetics from the University of Chicago. She also holds master’s degrees in special education and reading and literacy education. Jane has been teaching students with special needs for six years in therapeutic and general education settings. She loves to watch her students grow and thrive at Safe Haven School and looks forward to their future success.




Susan Cox

Educational Case Manager

Susan is a middle school teacher at Safe Haven School. She started her teaching career in 1996, which has spanned all grade levels from kindergarten to high school as well as public and therapeutic settings. She enjoys teaching middle school the most. In 2014, Susan was honored to receive the “Certificate of Excellence in Education Award,” an annual award given to one teacher nationally. Susan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Masters of  Science in Special Education from Quincy University. She is endorsed as a Learning Behavior Specialist, a secondary school teacher in Psychology and English, and a general education middle school teacher in English Language Arts and Social Sciences. Susan is an area native and belongs to a number of local historical societies and groups. She enjoys teaching students about the part Lake County played in history. When not teaching, she enjoys gardening and hunting antiques.



Laura Gross

Educational Case Manager/Science Teacher

Laura Gross is a passionate educator and science geek. She has been teaching for 16 years and is always attending science training, activities, lectures, and conventions because she enjoys it immensely and loves to bring back first-hand information and activities to her students. She is part of the Argonne National Laboratory teachers’ network and has created and published a curriculum in conjunction with scientists and workshops at Argonne. As part of the Illinois Science Teachers Association Laura is always in active communication with leaders in science education as they continue to update the best practices for implementing the NGSS- Next Generation Science Standards. In addition to her Safe Haven students and science, Laura also loves roller derby and baby sloths.




Cassie Loyo

Educational Case Manager

Cassie Loyo joined Safe Haven in October 2017 and enjoys being part of the Safe Haven team. She holds a Bachelors in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University and a Masters in Education from Quincy University with an LBS1 endorsement. Cassie has worked in therapeutic school settings for 10 years, primarily with students who have autism and behavioral disorders. She has taught a variety of students with a range of disabilities from middle school age to high school. When she is not teaching, Cassie enjoys reading, rooting for the Cubs, and spending time with her 2 sons and husband. 





Tony Pontrelli

Educational Case Manager

Tony Pontrelli joined Safe Haven in January of 2018. He graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and English. He recently moved back to Illinois from Florida where he taught AP English for 9th and 12th grade. He is excited to be back in his home state to be closer to his family and to continue his educational career. While Tony has primarily worked for the public school system, he has found Safe Haven to be an amazing and supportive environment for both the students and its staff. 



Social Work Staff


Sarah Matchen

Clinical Case Manager

Sarah Matchen graduated with her Master’s in Social Work in 2007 and has focused on working with children, adolescents and families throughout her career.  Outside of school, Ms. Matchen serves on the Board of Directors for the Tourette Syndrome Camping Organization and loves kayaking and crafting.





Nancy Pieroni

Educational Case Manager

Nancy Pieroni joined the Safe Haven staff in January 2019.  She earned her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work.  She has focused on children, adolescents, and families throughout her career working in a variety of settings. When not at school, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, and the outdoors.  





Joanne Ramseyer

Art Therapist

Joanne Ramseyer, MA, ATR-BC, LCPC is excited to offer the students at Safe Haven School her passionate belief in the power of creativity to promote resilience and growth and to join such a highly dedicated, caring, and professional team. Joanne is a Board Certified, Registered Art Therapist and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has practiced, taught, and contributed extensively to the growth of art therapy services in the Chicago area for over 25 years. She is the former Director of an extensive art therapy program she created for all ages at Community Counseling Centers of Chicago and is currently on the adjunct faculty of the graduate art therapy program at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she has taught for 20 years. Joanne is highly skilled in working with children and adolescents who present with trauma and other serious mental health and behavioral issues through her lively, enthusiastic, and nurturing approach.


Art Therapist

Stephanie Reyes

Art Therapist

Stephanie Reyes, MA, from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has completed a degree in Art Therapy and Counseling. Previously working at Rush Day School and Little City School, Stephanie has worked with children and adolescents along the autism spectrum, emotionally disabled students, as well as individuals presenting intellectual and developmental disabilities. While in graduate school, Stephanie also completed an internship at Advocate Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, providing art therapy for clients with various disabilities. Art therapy has been a lifelong passion of hers, and she is excited to join the staff of Safe Haven School. She aims to inspire and encourage young students to explore their minds and expand their imagination through the art process.


Paraprofessional Staff

Kelly Bruchert

Kelly Bruchert


Kelly is a paraprofessional at Safe Haven School Lake Bluff. Her passion for Special Education began at a young age and has been working with students with special needs ever since. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois. Kelly has over ten years of experience in both residential and therapeutic day school settings. She enjoys spending most of my free time loving her two dogs (and sometimes her cat), babysitting, doing respite work with children with special needs, baking and making crafty things, and seeing my favorite musicians in concert as often as possible. 




Johnny Guarnieri


Johnny Guarnieri comes to Safe Haven School from the public school system where he spent two years working in various special education classrooms.  Mr. Guarnieri has three boys of his own at home who keep him very busy. He also works as a professional musician: writing, performing, and recording music. He is excited to be a part of the team at Safe Haven School!






Lucia Perez


Lucia Perez is excited to have joined the Safe Haven team! She has been working at Safe Haven since May 2016. She brings 9 years of experience in working at a therapeutic day school. Prior to Safe Haven, Ms. Perez was working at a therapeutic day school in Mt.Prospect. She graduated from National-Louis University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science, and A.A.S in Human Services. Ms.Perez enjoys playing sports and spending time with the family.                                                     





Benjamin Seidman

Ben transitioned to Safe Haven School from Waukegan, previously working as a crisis intervention specialist. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from National Louis University, Ben became very involved at his previous school in crisis intervention, sports coaching, and working with students of all ages and grade levels. With an interesting turn of events, Ben decided he wanted to work closely with students and their classwork. Ben’s passion for working in special education led him to Safe Haven School where he has found his niche working with the students there as well as the wonderful staff. In his free time, Ben competes in weightlifting competitions, records his own music, and spends time with his registered emotional support cat.





Monique Summerhill

Monique Summerhill holds a Bachelor’s in Counseling Psychology from North Park University. She is also a member of Psi Chi the International Honors Society in Psychology. She has several years of experience working with a diverse group of individuals including those diagnosed with intellectual disabilities, behavior disorders, and trauma/stress-related disorders. When not at Safe Haven she spends her time emerging in ABA Therapy working with children on the Autism spectrum; as a Behavioral Technician while furthering her education. In her spare time, she enjoys frequenting concert venues listening to the musical sounds of her favorite artist and traveling.




Safe Haven School Founder

Holly Schaefer


Holly Schaefer


As Founder of Safe Haven School, Holly Schaefer draws upon deep educational and practical experience in the field of special education as well as a strong personal commitment to children with special needs. This commitment and experience have combined to fill the need that has been expressed by special education professionals, parents, and the students themselves. Over the course of her career, Holly has had hands-on experience across all grade levels in both public and private therapeutic day schools. She began her career as a classroom assistant, became a teacher, a department head, a supervisor, a curriculum director, and an educational director. Holly received her Bachelor’s Degree in special education and her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Northeastern Illinois University. Holly Retired July 1st, 2021.