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Beachland Elementary’s Rachel Finnegan named Principal of the Year

STORY BY CASEY STAVENHAGEN (Week of November 16, 2023)
Photo: Beachland Elementary School Principal Rachel Finnegan.

Beachland Elementary School Principal Rachel Finnegan has been named Principal of the Year by the School District of Indian River County.

Finnegan has led the barrier island’s only public school since October 2019, when she began to rework and rebrand the school’s approach. She oversaw the school’s navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic, through the transition to school-at-home, the return to classrooms and even a temporary shutdown of the school due to Covid outbreaks. Under her leadership, Beachland re-opened with a fresh optimism that stuck.

Beachland was one of four of the 13 elementary schools in the local school district to receive an “A” grade for academic performance from the Florida Department of Education for the 22-23 school year.  It also led the local school district in several metrics.

It had the highest gifted student enrollment, by total and percentage, among all 21 local non-charter schools, and Beachland led the district with the highest “least restrictive environment” percentage – which measures the time students with disabilities spend with their peers without disabilities – among all schools.

“When I started at Beachland, I began with the mindset of ‘LOL’ – listen, observe, learn,” Finnegan told Vero Beach 32963. “Our focus became instilling Riding the Wave of Success for students and all stakeholders.

“The theme led us over the next three school years, where our school team worked to be a top-performing elementary school in the School District of Indian River County,” Finnegan said.

District Superintendent Dr. David K. Moore announced the honor via social media: “Principal Finnegan’s unwavering dedication to education, innovation, and creating a positive school culture has truly set her apart.”

Beachland Assistant Principal Dr. Jessica Keaton, who began working with Finnegan this year, said the school’s culture is one-of-a-kind because of Finnegan. “She brings everybody together,” Keaton said. “It’s the ability to get everybody moving in the same direction and have the same goal and mind, being positive and reminding everyone of how important they are to her and to the school.”