Amanda Finigan named Head of Upper School at The Ellis School

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

As early as age 6, Amanda Finigan knew she wanted to be a teacher.
And a few years ago, she realized that she could further lead students, as a leader of an entire school.

On July 1, Finigan, the Brooklyn, New York, native, will become Head of Upper School at The Ellis School, the all-girls, college-preparatory school in Shadyside. She will lead the students in grades 9-12.

“Amanda stood out in a large, national pool of highly qualified candidates, and received rave reviews from the students, faculty, staff, and parents who spent time with her while she visited Ellis in February,” said Head of School Macon Finley, in a statement obtained by the New Pittsburgh Courier. “Amanda’s strengths add to an already outstanding leadership team at Ellis. For these reasons and many more, I couldn’t be more energized about our future as a school.”

Finigan currently serves as Dean of Student Life at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn. During her 11 years at Berkeley Carroll, Finigan has taught mathematics (Algebra I through Calculus), served as a grade-level dean, been the faculty advisor to the school’s “Girls to Women” group, and was instrumental in the school’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, according to a release from The Ellis School.

Finigan earned her B.A. in Economics from St. Francis College, where she was a Presidential Scholar, and her M.S.T. in Secondary Education with a Concentration in Mathematics from Pace University.

Finigan is in familiar territory at Berkeley Carroll, which is a stone’s throw from the historic African American Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant (more commonly known as Bed-Stuy), where she grew up. As Pittsburgh will soon be her new home, Finigan told the Courier she will continue to “teach girls to find their voice by providing opportunities for them to speak and present and to challenge what they’re learning. All of this is done with consistent love and support.”

“In my conversations with Amanda, she described herself as someone who is deeply committed to making school the best possible experience for students and their families,” Finley added in a statement. “Both her accomplishments and her references tell the story of her long and successful track record of stepping up to solve problems and launch new initiatives in order to accomplish that goal.”

Finigan told the Courier she’s looking forward to forging new relationships with each member of Ellis’ Upper School. Both Ellis and Finigan’s current school, Berkeley Carroll, have a student population demographic that’s 38 percent students of color. Finigan said it was important that Ellis is as committed to diversity and inclusion as her.

“I believe that it’s not only important that we have the correct words written in our mission statement, but we must also truly see and hear every person in the school community,” Finigan told the Courier. “I have worked with my colleagues to add more voices within the curriculum, resulting with changing the narrative as to what is considered academic work. I also believe that it’s important to continue such conversations outside of the classroom, and so I have worked on other programming with students and colleagues to bring stories of joy and celebration of Black and other marginalized people into the school.”

Finigan said in a statement that she felt as though Ellis was a “warm community that truly values and prioritizes its mission,” after visiting the school prior to her hiring. “As an alumna of an all-girls school, I know firsthand how powerful such an education is as it’s where I learned to be a leader and where I found my voice…I am excited and look forward to continuing to support the girls of Ellis as they become changemakers.”

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