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Dr. Rachel Shelley Named FAEA 2019 Principal of the Year

by Rebecca Abrahamson, Booker High School

SARASOTA COUNTY, September 12, 2019 – Booker High School’s principal, Dr. Rachel Shelley, was recently named the Florida Art Education Association’s 2019 Principal of the Year for her support of the arts in education.

Shelley, who has led Booker High School since becoming principal in 2011, is known in the community as a champion of the arts. As principal, she oversees the school’s prestigious Visual & Performing Arts (VPA) program, and department faculty avow to her passionate and ongoing support.

Under her leadership, the VPA program has thrived, with student works winning awards, as well as earning accolades by organizations like, which aggregates user data and ranked Booker High School as the 11th best school in Florida for the arts. During her leadership, the school has had numerous Embracing Our Differences winners, the Theatre department has won the state title of Best Production at the annual Florida Theatre Conference and the Film & Animation department has produced its first professional-grade documentary that was adjudicated not as a student film, but as a regular Sarasota Film Festival entrant.

Even outside of the arts magnet program, Shelley is known throughout the school for beefing up arts opportunities. Early in her tenure as principal, she lamented the meager options for those students not enrolled in VPA; at that time, students only had an opportunity to take an elective in fine art, and the school had just one teacher in the general education fine art position. Throughout her years, Shelley has ensured that every student at Booker High School has quality arts classes in not only visual art—which now has the interest and student enrollment to support two full-time teachers—but also digital design, filmmaking, dance and music, regardless of their ability or interest in enrolling in VPA.

VPA Film & Animation teacher, John Timpe, who spearheaded nomination efforts, had this to say: “Dr. Shelley is our boss, our fearless leader and a champion of the arts for all of our students, in both the Visual and Performing Arts magnet for our district, and as a healthy General Education arts program. She is taking this a step further this year by building Intensive Reading/Language classes that entice student participation through programs such as music production.”

The Florida Art Education Association was founded in 1952 with the mission of promoting art education in Florida through empowering teachers and administrators in their work of arts advocacy.


About Sarasota County Schools

Sarasota County Schools is committed to providing unrivaled academic, emotional and civic growth to every student, every day. As one of the leading employers on the Suncoast, Sarasota County Schools boasts 54 schools that expertly cater to the diverse needs of over 43,500 students. We are one of two Florida school districts to consistently earn an A-grade every year since 2004 and have been awarded the Mid-Sized School District of the Year by the University of Cambridge. Our passionate educators empower students to take charge of their academic and personal success, a practice we believe fosters lifelong growth and achievement. We actively maintain the district’s tradition of excellence and ensure that tradition extends to all students. Our commitment to our students extends beyond graduation to make sure they not only graduate on time, but do so college and career ready. Want to take your student’s education to the next level? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or visit