J. Taylor Finley Middle School opened on Greenlawn Road in September 1965
J. Taylor Finley Middle School opened on Greenlawn Road in September 1965 

Finley Excited as it Marches into 2023

january 6, 2023

J. Taylor Finley Middle School charged into 2023 with a sense of excitement. The school opened in September 1965 and since then has educated tens of thousands of students in the community. More than 650 seventh and eighth graders call the school home today.

Principal Traci Roethel was back at her desk early on Tuesday morning for the first day of classes in the new year. She is convinced that students will be enjoying a well-rounded and altogether meaningful experience over the next six months before everyone heads off to summer vacation.

Finley is in the midst of a variety of exciting initiatives all designed to improve the experience and education offered to students.

Among the new programs is a monthly advisory period/restorative circle held building-wide. “It has been so wonderful walking around the school during these times and seeing all the students and teachers engaged in sharing with each other,” Mrs. Roethel said.

A new mentor program has seen teachers volunteering to work with students in need and meeting with them on a weekly basis. “Over 50 percent of our teachers are participating in the program at this time,” Mrs. Roethel said.

Student ambassadors have been selected to implement “No Place For Hate” program related activities. “It has been great to have a chance to meet with these students and to hear about their experiences at Finley,” Mrs. Roethel said. “We will be presenting at the districtwide Wellness Committee meeting this month and at the Huntington School Board meeting in February.”

Popular therapy dogs are expected to begin visiting Finley again in January. “There are three therapy dogs that come to Finley to spend time in classes with students,” Mrs. Roethel said. “It makes the whole building happy when they come through the front doors.”

Another new initiative involves the playing of music through the building’s public address system during passing time between periods.

Mrs. Roethel said she’s proud that Finley is the first school in Huntington UFSD to implement the iReady assessment program “to help students in need and students who are excelling in either reading or math.”

The new Virtual Enterprise Jr. business program for eighth graders has proven to be a hit with students and their parents. The teenagers will be well-prepared to participate in the high school level program in the future if they decide to pursue that route.

Finley’s On A Roll program is also in full stride. “It recognizes students in class that have improved their overall average by five or more points between quarters No. 1 and No. 2 and quarters No. 2 and No. 3,” Mrs. Roethel said. “Students are also recognized for improving their overall marking period grade by more than five points.”

School named for longtime district educator

After teaching math and physics at Huntington High School for one year, J. Taylor Finley was named principal of Woodbury Avenue Elementary School (which is now a condominium complex) for the 1930 school year. In 1939, he became principal of Lincoln Elementary School (now an apartment complex) on East 9th Street in Huntington Station, across the street from St. Hugh of Lincoln Church. He worked as principal of both schools until October 15, 1943 when he was named principal of Robert K. Toaz Junior High School.

Mr. Finley stayed on as principal of Toaz through the 1954 school year. At that time he was elevated to assistant superintendent of schools and was named superintendent of schools in 1957, a position he held until his retirement on June 30, 1963.

The Huntington Board of Education voted December 8, 1964 to officially name the district’s new junior high school on Greenlawn Road after Mr. Finley in recognition of his 34 years of service to the schools and community. “The Board of Education and all of your friends here in Huntington send their best regards,” Superintendent Charles T. St. Clair wrote in a December 9 letter to Mr. Finley informing him of the school board’s action.

Mr. Finley passed away October 3, 1975. He is buried in the family plot at Pompton Plains Reform Church Cemetery in New Jersey.