Elk Grove High School leader named Illinois Principal of the Year
Elk Grove High School Principal Paul Kelly was named 2018 Illinois High School Principal of the Year Thursday.
Kelly, in his fifth year at Elk Grove, was recognized by the Illinois Principals Association for his engagement in the school community and leading a professional development program for teachers, officials said.
He learned the news Thursday morning when an associate principal led him to the library for a "meeting."
"I saw some faces that are not usually in the library. I knew something was up," said Kelly, who admits being "shocked" when he found out.
The honor comes a year after Ricky Castro, an Elk Grove World Languages instructor, was named Teacher of the Year by the Illinois State Board of Education.
And Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Superintendent David Schuler in November was named 2018 Illinois Superintendent of the Year by the Illinois Association of School Administrators. He is one of four finalists for the national recognition, with a winner to be announced next month.
"There's so many things Paul has done so well in Elk Grove," Schuler said of Kelly, calling him "innovative" and "creative."
Schuler noted Kelly's outreach to students and families living in mobile home parks within the school's attendance boundaries -- for instance, bringing the soccer team to play a game there.
The school's Freshman First Days orientation program -- in which students don't attend courses the first two days of the school year -- is intended to ease their transition to high school.
And Elk Grove's Collab Lab is a community of teachers engaged in daily instructional coaching, lesson studies, learning labs, lesson demos and book chats.
"What I'm most proud of is the collaborative spirit of this school," Kelly said. "I'm in the amazing position of getting to say yes to other people's great ideas all the time."
Kelly beat out 20 other principals for the state award. He will be recognized at a banquet in October, and his name will be considered for the national honor.
Before Elk Grove, Kelly spent six years as division head for social science/world languages at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, also a District 214 school. He was a social studies teacher for five years at Hinsdale South and for four years at Carl Sandburg high schools.
Kelly attended Chicago Public Schools and graduated from Norris City-Omaha-Enfield High School in downstate Illinois as part of a class of fewer than 60.
"I have an attachment to all parts of the state," Kelly said. "I wouldn't be in a situation like this had it not been for the amazing professionals I had at a school of 240 kids."
District 214's Lazaro Lopez, now associate superintendent for teaching and learning, was named 2013 Illinois Principal of the Year when he was principal of Wheeling High School.
In nearby District 211, Palatine High School Principal Gary Steiger received the award in 2015.