The new principal at George Washington Middle School expects to feel right at home when he starts his new job this summer. Joshua Dakins, who was hired by the school board on April 26, has spent his entire career working in schools that are predominately Hispanic and have a significant number of low-income students.
Dakins is currently assistant principal at Bardwell Elementary School in Aurora where 93 percent of the students are Hispanic and 76 percent are classified as low-income. At GWMS, 72 percent of the students are Hispanic, 20 percent are white, and 5 percent are Black. Seventy-eight percent of GWMS students are classified as low-income.
“Most of my career where I’ve taught and in administration has been in very similar demographics,” said Dakins, who grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin. “Everywhere I’ve been I’ve looked specifically for this demographic just because I grew up in a community very much like this in Waukesha. Most of my friends were Latino or African American and so to me it just feels like home.”
Dakins has extensive experience in middle schools. After graduating from Carroll University in Waukesha, he began his career as a sixth-grade social studies and science teacher at Jack London Middle School in Wheeling. He went on to teach at Lincoln Middle School in Schiller Park before becoming an administrator.
Dakins spent 10 years in West Chicago, first as an assistant principal at Leman Middle School and then became the principal of Currier Elementary School. After three years as principal at Currier, he took a year off to be a stay-at-home dad.
“I had been in the district at that point for 10 years,” Dakins said. “Helped turn around the middle school and then went to Currier and helped turn that school around.”
After a year of changing diapers and preparing lunches while taking care of a newborn child and a toddler, Dakins returned to work as an assistant principal at Springwood Middle School in Hanover Park before moving to Bardwell in 2019.
Dakins was recommended to the school board after one interview with Lyons District 103 Superintendent Kristopher Rivera and HR Director Stephanie Koenig.
“The one thing that I liked is his compassion and trauma-informed experience,” Rivera said. “In education right now [there] is a strong push to address the social-emotional needs of not only students but staff as well. He comes across as a very caring individual.”
Discipline has been a problem this year at GWMS, and Dakins is also expected to address that issue.
“There’s been some adjustment coming back from the COVID,” Rivera said. “There seemed to be more discipline occurrences than the previous time we had kids in the building.”
Rivera noted that students across the state have had trouble returning to in-person school after so much remote learning in 2020 and 2021.
Dakins is anxious to get started at GWMS.
“I’m looking forward to getting in and meeting everybody, finding out where we’re at and seeing where we can take it to the next level,” Dakins said.
Dakins is replacing Carol Baker, who is not returning after two years as principal at GWMS. Baker was apparently offered a job as the principal of Edison School but declined to move to an elementary school.
Including Baker, the last three principals at GWMS have only stayed for two years each.
Rivera hopes that pattern changes with Dakins.
“I hope he stays awhile,” Rivera said.
Dakins will be paid $126,087 next year and will serve both as principal of GWMS and as the athletic director for District 103.
When Dakins was originally hired on May 3, his salary was set at $117,000. But on May 24 the District 103 school board approved an addendum to his contract in which Dakins will work 222 days next year instead of the 206 days originally approved on May 3.
His salary was boosted to compensate him for the additional days that he will work.