When the freshman class arrives at Leo Catholic High School on Wednesday, it’ll be greeted by Shaka Rawls, a new principal with an impressive pedigree, beginning with a diploma of his own from Leo.
The building, though, will feel far from new — shopworn and outdated and, to hear Rawls tell it, pretty dirty.
“We’ve probably got 20-year-old dust in the school,” Rawls told me. “There’s a lot of love in the school, but you walk into some of the rooms and you feel like you stepped into a time warp.”
The all-male school on Chicago’s South Side, in the Gresham neighborhood, is celebrating its 90th year at a time when the Chicago Archdiocese has been forced to close multiple schools because of dwindling enrollment.
Leo boasts a 100 percent graduation rate, and serves as a safe space for its predominantly African-American students and their families, said Rawls, who is completing his doctorate in educational policy studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and previously worked as an administrator at Chicago Public Schools. He graduated from Leo in 1993.
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