Booker High’s Rachel Shelley earns recognition as Florida’s 2017 Principal of the Year

Award announced at event in Orlando this week

Rachel Shelley holds the awards she received this week in Orlando. Contributed photo

Booker High School Principal Rachel Shelley has been recognized with Florida’s 2017 Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership, an honor “popularly known as Florida Principal of the Year [award],” the Sarasota County School District has announced.

Shelley was one of three finalists in the running for the recognition, a district news release notes. 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 Shelley and Shelley’s daughter, Kayla Shelley, when the recognition was announced, the release adds.

“The awards recognize principals and assistant principals for their exceptional contributions,” the release says. Superintendents nominate the candidates, it notes.

“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 in the release. “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 education from kindergarten through 12th grade, “Shelley has been praised by her colleagues for her dedication to helping every student succeed and for her relationship-based leadership,” the release points out. She motivates students with her mantra: Every student is college- and/or career-bound, the release notes.

“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 in the release. “This award reflects our focus on helping all our students succeed. I’d like to also give thanks to the Community Foundation of Sarasota, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Education Foundation of Sarasota for their unyielding support.”

A graduate of Sarasota County’s Riverview High School, Shelley earned a bachelor’s degree from Bethune-Cookman College and a master’s degree in special education from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, the release continues. 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, the release points out. She taught first grade and served as a reading teacher and behavior specialist for 10 years before becoming as an assistant principal at Riverview High School; she held that latter position from 2003-05, the release adds. 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, the release continues.

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 in, Sarasota.