The sun always shines at Prairie Hill School


Prairie Hill principal Kevin Finnegan at the sign on the front of the school

The sun always shines over Prairie Hill School.

The saying is a mantra shared by parents, children and teachers at Prairie Hill Elementary School.

It's shining even brighter these days.

On September 16, 2023, the school received word from U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona that Prairie Hill Elementary has earned the National Blue-Ribbon School Award for Excellence in Education. This is the second time the school has been chosen. The first award was in 2014. Prairie Hill Elementary is the first school in Winnebago County to achieve the distinction. “Everyone contributed. It’s actually a team award,” principal Kevin Finnegan said.

Shortly after the announcement, Finnegan learned that he was one of nine principals among the 353 Blue Ribbon Schools selected to receive the 2023 Terrel H. Bell Blue Ribbon School award for Outstanding Leadership.

Prairie Hill Elementary School was the recipient of two National Blue- Ribbon awards. This was the second year that the school received the award. Principal Kevin Finnigan was named one of nine recipients of the National Blue-Ribbon Leadership Award.

Finnegan has been principal at Prairie Hill School for 12 years. As area population grew, so did the school district. In 2014, there were 280 students enrolled. There are now 475 students and 35 teachers. Many claim the population grew because of the excellent Prairie Hill School District.

On becoming the principal at Prairie Hill, Finnegan said, “I wanted to experience the joy of being my two children’s principal. It was a once in a life-time option. Coming to Prairie Hill Elementary School has always been one of my greatest decisions.”

“I love it here,” Finnegan said. “I get a lot of time to get to know the kids.” (He knows the names of all the children in the Pre-K through fourth grade classes.)

Children at Prairie Hill Elementary School love their principal. Finnigan makes time to get to know (by name) every student in the pre-K to 4th grade school.

Finnegan is originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia. He and his wife, Elizabeth have two children. The family live in the Roscoe area. He is a graduate of Ohio University, holds a masters degree from DePaul University and is in the process of finishing a doctoral degree in education and administration from Illinois State University.

Finnegan said all staff members are welcome to send their children to Prairie Hill District schools. “There are so many great teachers in the district. The staff work together and make everybody better. Our priority at Prairie Hill is success of our students, and emphasis on staff and student relationships.”

Principal Finnigan helps out in the lunchroom most days, along with school maintenance worker, Rick Hall Finnigan makes sure the students pitch in their trash.

Prairie Hill School district superintendent Clint Czizek said the needs of the student come first with Mr. Finnegan. “He does an excellent job of building relationships within his building and creating a collaborative environment. He is a principal of integrity and perseverance and well deserving of the Terrel H. Bell Blue Ribbon Leadership award.”

“The expectations set within the building is because of the clear vision Mr. Finnegan has for his building which is- abiding by the district’s mission statement: Putting Students First Always.”

The award ceremonies will be held in Washington DC, November 16 and 17, 2023. Finnegan will be speaking as one of the nine principals receiving the Terrel H. Bell Award on November 16. 2023. Prairie Hill kindergarten teacher Shannon Fisher will represent Prairie Hill School for the Blue-Ribbon School award.

“Winning the Blue-Ribbon School award is an incredible accomplishment attribute to staff, students, the community and the board of education. The award shows that effort doesn’t go unnoticed,” Czizek said.

There are two schools in the Prairie Hill School District: Willowbrook Middle School, 6605 Prairie Hill Road in South Beloit, and Prairie Hill Elementary School, 14714 Willowbrook Road in Roscoe Township.

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