Elk Grove High School Principal Paul Kelly on Monday was named a finalist for the 2019 NASSP National Principal of the Year.
The other finalists hail from South Carolina and Montana, according to NASSP, the National Association of Secondary School Principals. In January, Kelly was named the 2018 Illinois High School Principal of the Year.
In NASSP’s announcement, the organization stated Kelly has created a positive school culture based on his mantra of “challenge, support, and patience” in a majority-minority school where a significant portion of students live in poverty.
During his tenure as principal, nearly half of economically disadvantaged students were proficient or advanced in reading/ELA, despite 500 students living in densely populated mobile home parks that lack a park area or library. Nearly 60 percent were proficient in math.
While the Latino population and poverty rate both tripled, AP participation quadrupled, with more than 50 percent of the Class of 2017 receiving a passing score on an AP exam.
His focus on giving everyone a voice and being what one staff member referred to as “a champion of bold ideas,” has led to high levels of student success at his school, with graduates now at colleges like Stanford, UPenn, and Northwestern.
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.