Elk Grove High School leader named 2018 Illinois High School Principal of the Year


Elk Grove High School Principal Paul Kelly on Thursday was named the 2018 Illinois High School Principal of the Year. 

The award, given by Horace Mann and the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), recognizes high school principals who have demonstrated a positive impact on their students and learning community.

“I honestly don’t view this as an individual award. I am inspired every day to do the work that I do,” said Kelly, who is in his fifth year as principal at Elk Grove. “When I come here and I see the support we get from our community and the amazing work done by our staff and my very close administrative team together … It’s the togetherness that makes this place special. For me this is just a validation of all that.”

Kelly’s award follows the state recognition of Elk Grove’s Ricardo Castro, who was named the 2017 Illinois Teacher of the Year, and High School District 214’s Superintendent Dr. David R. Schuler, who was named the 2018 Illinois Superintendent of the Year.

Representatives of Horace Mann and IPA, as well as District 214 administrators, surprised Kelly with the news in the school’s library. Students and staff lined the hallways to congratulate Kelly after Dr. Schuler announced the honor on the school’s PA system.

“There are many things I admire about Paul’s leadership. I think he is very down to earth, very humble and a great leader from the side who really encourages and supports individuals to take initiatives, to be innovative and to be creative,” said Schuler. “At the same time, he motivates students and staff, and most importantly, he cares about everyone in the Elk Grove community.”

Kelly joined District 214 in 2007 as a social science/world language division head at John Hersey High School. Prior, he was a teacher leadership coach at the University of Illinois-Chicago for two years where he led instructional reform in the UIC Urban Leadership Department's Curriculum Framework Project. Working closely with teachers, he oversaw the implementation of structural and instructional change in 20 Chicago public high schools.


Kelly began his career as a social science teacher at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park in 1998, and four years later taught at Hinsdale South High School in Darien, where he received the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.

During his career, Kelly has been active in local and national educational activities such as the Mid-Suburban League Board of Control, DuPage Regional Office of Education High School Leader Partnership, Midwest Principals Center Advisory Board, "North Cook Nation" Roundtable, Association of School Administrators (AASA), Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), and the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS).

Kelly has also been active in the local community serving on the Board of Directors for the Kenneth Young Center in Elk Grove Village, Board of Directors for the Elk Grove Village Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary Club of Elk Grove Village.

The High School Principal of the Year winner was selected from a pool of regional nominees provided by the 21 Regions of the IPA. Kelly will be recognized at the IPA’s annual Education Leaders Fall Conference in October 2018 and will receive a $1,000 honorarium.

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