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Booker High leader named Florida’s 2017 Principal of the Year

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TOP: From left at the statewide Celebration of School Leaders June 21 are Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, Booker High School Principal Rachel Shelley, Sarasota County Schools Assistant Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer Laura Kingsley, Sarasota County Schools Executive Director of High Schools Steve Cantees and Florida DOE Division of Public Schools Chancellor Herschel Lyons. BOTTOM: Booker High School Principal Rachel Shelley was named Florida Principal of the Year June 21 at a ceremony in Orlando.

SARASOTA COUNTY, June 22, 2017 – Booker High School Principal Rachel Shelley has been honored with Florida's 2017 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership, an award popularly known as Florida Principal of the Year. Shelley was one of three finalists in the running for the coveted honor. The statewide winner was announced June 21 in Orlando.

Sarasota County Schools Assistant Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer Laura Kingsley and Sarasota County Schools Executive Director of High Schools Steve Cantees attended the Florida Department of Education Celebration For School Leaders with Rachel Shelley and her daughter, Kayla Shelley, when the recognition was announced.

The awards recognize principals and assistant principals for their exceptional contributions. The superintendent from their respective school districts nominated candidates for the awards. This is the second Florida Principal of the Year honor for Sarasota County Schools in three years; Alta Vista Elementary Principal Barbara Shirley received the honor in 2014.

“We could not be more proud of this much-deserved recognition for an outstanding leader in our community,” said Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Todd Bowden. “Dr. Shelley is an exemplary, passionate and tireless advocate for her students and sets the bar high. Her dedication to improving the lives of her students is something that truly sets her apart and we are thankful to have her leadership in our district. We wholeheartedly congratulate her on this honor.”

With more than 28 years of experience in kindergarten through 12th grade education, Shelley has been praised by her colleagues for her dedication to helping every student succeed and for her relationship-based leadership. She motivates students with her mantra: every student is college and/or career bound.

“I am so grateful for this honor and I share it with the Booker Nation — our students, faculty and staff at Booker High School — and with my colleagues throughout the Sarasota County School District, as well as the community,” said Shelley. “This award reflects our focus on helping all our students succeed. I’d like to also give thanks to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County for their unyielding support.”

Shelley is a graduate of Sarasota County’s Riverview High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bethune-Cookman College and a master’s degree in special education from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She also holds a specialist’s degree and a doctorate in educational leadership from Argosy University.She has worked in the Sarasota County School District since 1989, starting as a physical education aide at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus. She taught first grade and served as a reading teacher and behavior specialist for 10 years. She was an assistant principal at Riverview High School from 2003-05. Shelley was named assistant principal of Phoenix Academy in 2005 and became the principal of that school in 2007. She was named principal of Booker High in 2011.

Two months ago, Bowden and members of the Sarasota County School Board surprised students and fellow teachers at Booker High School with the announcement of Shelley’s recognition as a state finalist. A video featuring students and staff sharing their thoughts about Rachel Shelley can be viewed at

Booker High School is located at 3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota.

About Sarasota County Schools

Dedicated to academic excellence, Sarasota County Schools is home to 52 schools, 43,000 students and 5,000 employees. It is one of only two districts to be graded A every year since grading began in 2004. 


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