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Frances R. Finney
Gresham Elementary School
Jefferson County School District
Birmingham, Alabama

“Expect a masterpiece” is the guiding philosophy of Frances R. Finney, principal of Gresham Elementary School.  This philosophy was put into action when Finney assumed leadership of the Title I school seven years ago, quickly establishing a culture of ongoing, collaborative learning and a strong sense of community among stakeholders.  Central elements to Finney’s strategy have been a flexible schedule that allows for weekly grade-level planning meetings and regular conversations around data, an on-site interventionist, and a strong emphasis on differentiated learning.  As a National Board Certified Principal Mentor, Finney leads by example, traveling to other districts to share best practices, hosting educator visitations to Gresham, and allocating funding for staff visitations to other schools.  Staff development is also promoted through learning communities with experts, book studies, and encouragement of independent learning.  With little sense of community outside the school building, Finney has successfully built what she terms a “unique” community inside Gresham Elementary.  Parents are invited to participate in focus groups, science and math tournaments, music programs, and other activities.  Finney’s realization of her “masterpiece” is well underway with her strong advocacy winning the school an on-campus gifted program and grants to purchase technology and improve the playground, security, and handicap access.  Finney holds a B.S. and an M.A. in Early Childhood Education, an M.A. in Educational Administration from the University of Alabama, and an Ed.S. from Samford University in Birmingham.