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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 lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.