PORTAGE | Shaunna Finley has found her niche.
"It's all about helping kids," said Finley, who started as new principal at New Vistas High School last week.
Finley, 41, a Portage resident, began her career as a businesswoman. She moved on to be a social worker in Chicago and then wandered into education, working with both Edison Learning and the School City of East Chicago.
It was there she saw the success students could have if they had the right help.
"It is an awesome feeling. I like this feeling," said Finley, who with husband James, has three sons, one in the military, one at Portage High and one in elementary school.
That's why when the principal job opened up, Finley, who had also taught at Calumet College and worked for the Center of Workforce Innovation for a time, jumped at it.
Finley hit the ground running. In her first week she already initiated a meal plan for students, is working on implementing a growth model for the students, hiring teachers, working on improving technology in the classroom, overseeing remodeling and building relationships to not only better understand what the workplace wants of its future employees, but to also raise funds for the public charter school.
The school, which opened last year under the guidance of Neighbors Education Opportunities, served 136 students last year looking for a second chance at obtaining their high school diplomas. This year, said Finley, they hope to enroll 175. About 60 percent of the students are Porter County residents and 40 percent from Lake County.
"As long as you are willing to work, we are willing to work with you to get your high school diploma," Finley said of the school's philosophy. The school also offers smaller class sizes and a dedicated teaching staff, she said.
"I really like working with kids," said Finley, who also sits on the boards of the Porter County Community Foundation and the Portage Economic Development Corp.