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Take Five with Principal Rashad Talley at Phillips High School

17 February 2023

Principal Talley wanted to become a school leader because of his desire to make an impact on a larger scale, as well as encouragement he received from mentors who told him that he had leadership potential.

Headshot of Rashad Talley

Take Five is a series that highlights some of the many CPS staff members who are going above and beyond for our schools. If you know someone who is making a difference, nominate them to be featured here

Black History Month is the perfect opportunity to spotlight Principal Rashad Talley of Wendell Phillips High School, which was the first predominantly African-American high school in Chicago. 

An alumnus of Phillip Murray Elementary Language Academy and Hyde Park Academy High School, Principal Talley started his CPS journey as a tutor more than two decades ago. It took him by surprise when he fell in love with education, and since then, he has held almost every school-based position imaginable: teacher assistant, special education classroom assistant, security guard, classroom teacher, and administrator at both the elementary- and high-school levels. Principal Talley’s decision to move into school leadership was based on his desire to make an impact on a larger scale, as well as encouragement he received from mentors who told him that he had leadership potential.

Principal Talley recently became involved with the United Black Male Educators of CPS, an affinity group that helps Black male educators connect with each other, build collaboration and camaraderie, and tap into a network of support across CPS. 

What do you enjoy most about being a principal?

The kids! It’s so rewarding to see our young people’s resilience and help them tap into their natural abilities. I also really value making sure that our students have voice and the opportunity to be active participants in their learning environment. 

What’s special about your school community?

We’re a family, and we really come together to support one another. The students know that they can trust us, and our staff is really collaborative and resourceful. Just the other day, a staff member sent me a message telling me that they really like coming to work here. That means a lot!

What are your biggest goals for your work with the United Black Male Educators of CPS?

We want to create a pool of quality Black male instructional leaders who have the support they need to be effective leaders, make an impact, and focus on the Instructional Core in their schools. Black men in education have a very unique perspective that we can bring to inform and support the District’s work. Being a former Black male CPS student myself, I think it’s very important to have a voice and a seat at the table when important decisions are being made. 

It’s currently Black History Month — what is your approach to recognizing Phillips’ history with current students?

We celebrate our school’s history all the time. So many greats — athletes, artists, and civic leaders — have come out of Phillips. For example, the Harlem Globetrotters and Nat King Cole, just to name a few. We are actually looking to create a small unit for our freshmen about the history of our school and Wendell Phillips, our namesake who was an abolitionist. We want our students to know the legacy that they are part of, and we want to champion our history every day.

What do you like to do outside of work?

One big thing is that I am working on finishing up my dissertation. Other than that, my weekends are dedicated to spending time with my family. I have three CPS students: a junior at Kenwood Academy High School and a second- and sixth-grader at Ray Elementary School. My wife is a CPS principal as well, and it is really important to us to focus on our kids and have quality family time outside of work. We are very intentional about saying, “no more CPS talk today!”

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