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State principal association elects its first Latino president

Raul Gaston is the new president of the Illinois Principals Association
Jefferson Middle School
Raul Gaston is the new president of the Illinois Principals Association

Raul Gaston, principal of DuPage County’s Jefferson Middle School in Villa Park, was elected by members of the Illinois Principals Association. He has a one year term starting July 1.

“Growing up in poverty, I never would have imagined that I could ever be in this position leading such a prestigious organization. I hope to continue the amazing work of past presidents in supporting and advocating for all students, staff and administrators in all corners of the fantastic state of Illinois. The time is right to move forward as we guide our leaders of hope past the pandemic and into the many amazing learning opportunities ahead of us,” Gaston said.

Dr. Jason Leahy, executive director for the association, said, “Raul is a visionary leader who exemplifies the strong sense of innovation and empathy that school leaders must possess to be successful. During the pandemic, he served the Association in various capacities to support students and his colleagues across the state. He possesses the dispositions, skills, and experiences the IPA needs in its president.”

Gaston has degrees from Eastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Gaston, of Elmhurst, began his education career in 1997 as a Spanish teacher at Urbana Middle School. He later taught Spanish at York High School and served as World Languages Department chair there. His first administrative role was as assistant principal at Jefferson Middle School in 2010, and he became principal there in 2012.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaston served on a team of educators, administrators, and Illinois State Board of Education leadership that collaborated on a variety of guidance addressing pandemic-related challenges. Those issues included guidance on Remote Learning and closing the 2019-2020 school year.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.