Assistant Principal Claudia Shirley, the woman who once trained Olympic athlete Kelly Kretschman and played against tennis star Chris Evert at a high- school state tournament, faces perhaps her biggest challenge yet: becoming the principal of DeLaura Middle School.
“[Area Superintendent Ronald] Bobay called and offered me the position and I accepted it most rapidly,” Shirley said. “I was excited, but sad about leaving West Shore. However it’s my growth time. I need to move on to the next level.”
Shirley received another important call during the summer notifying her that the Florida Department of Education named her one of three state finalists for the “Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award.”
“I was surprised when Superintendent [Brian] Binggeli called me to congratulate me on becoming Brevard County’s
Assistant Principal of the Year,” Shirley said. “And then he told me I had to start essay writing.”
Shirley says she didn’t find writing the essays for the award difficult, but she did struggle with answering the questions.
“I had a hard time with the essays because they asked questions that focused on ‘what I do’, but I work with and through other people to do my job. I got this award because I work with great people,” Shirley said.
But Shirley’s humility fails to conceal the milestone projects she completes for the school each year. Not only does she handle the Senior Project program, but she also contributes to staff development and created Wildcat Challenge among other achievements. Assistant Principal Jim Melia says Shirley won’t be easy to replace.
“A lot of us are nervous because Shirley by herself outworks five people,” Melia said. “How do you replace someone like that?”
Principal Rick Fleming has recommended a candidate for Shirley’s position to the School Board from six finalists chosen from 30 resumes sent to the school. After the recommendation is approved by the School Board on Jan. 18, the candidate will begin working at the school at the end of the month.
“The candidate was chosen by degree of competence, background knowledge of our school’s program and by the degree of affability the candidate has,“ Fleming said.
Shirley’s easy-going nature developed while she attended Pahokee High School and helped her excel in tennis and softball at Palm Beach Community College. Shirley went on to play softball and volleyball at the University of Florida, and later earned a master’s degree from Florida Tech.
“My teaching career began at Palm Bay High School in 1980, where I taught anatomy, biology and eventually physical education,” Shirley said. “I loved my job. I woke up every morning and thought about how lucky I was to go to work in shorts.”
Shirley moved to Satellite High in 1994 where she coached volleyball and softball, and transferred to West Shore in 2000. She worked to improve the lives of students, parents and teacher, and to better the school itself.
“Mrs. Shirley is the epitome of excellence,” Fleming said. “She’s hardworking, dedicated, and articulate and above everything else, she puts the students at the top of her list.”
Art teacher Annamarie Zink agrees with Fleming’s sentiment.
“Mrs. Shirley always gives me encouragement on any lesson I do,” Zink said. “She encourages everything I do and is always ready to give advice.”
Nonetheless, Shirley doesn’t let all the praise go to her head.
“People ask about all that I do for the school, but it’s not that big of a deal,” Shirley said. “I just do what I’m supposed to do. I do my job and I love it.”