Shaka A. Rawls
Principal at Leo High School
Shaka A. Rawls is in his seventh year as Principal at Leo High School, in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Mr. Rawls grew up in the Woodlawn community, attending Holy Cross Elementary School, Leo High School, and Aurora University. Mr. Rawls received a Bachelor’s degree in History from Aurora University and a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently completing his Doctorate in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Mr. Rawls has worked in urban education for more than 20 years as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Before coming to Leo, he worked for Chicago Public Schools, his efforts focused on the challenges facing public and charter high schools in some of Chicago’s most disadvantaged urban communities. Mr. Rawls has also served as Section Chair of the American Education Research Association’s Division B. He is a CASA Board Member of the American Education Studies Association and a Research Associate for the Center for Policy and Social Justice at Concordia University. He has presented numerous papers and led panel discussions on his work at various conferences and universities across the United States and Canada.
As the first African-American alumnus to serve as principal in Leo’s 96-year history, Mr. Rawls has overseen a 65% increase in enrollment over the last five years, as well as a 21% improvement in test scores. Leo has achieved a 100% graduation rate among its seniors in each year of Mr. Rawls’ tenure.
As a result of Mr. Rawls’ work, Leo enjoys an exceptionally high profile for a school its size—he has been featured in articles in the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, and the Chicago Sun-Times and has attracted broadcast coverage from NBC, CBS, MSNBC and FOX. Chicago Magazine cited Mr. Rawls as a Chicagoan of the Year in its December 2021 issue, four months after the Chicago Defender media organization recognized him as a Defender Man of Excellence. He received a Principal of the Year Award from the Illinois Principals Association in April of 2020, and the first Helen Dumas Excellence in Education Award from the Faith Community of St. Sabina in October 2021. In addition, the Leader of the New School award received by the Be the Miracle Foundation, Mr. Rawls received the Schools That Can’s Robert F. Kennedy Urban Education Award in May of 2023.