KATY MAGAZINE l OCTOBER 2019
By Jennifer Miko
Local principals and sisters Kerri Finnesand and Amanda Weaver grew up with a desire to serve students.
How do two sisters from western Pennsylvania end up in Katy, Texas and become principals for one of the top school districts in the state? Meet principals Kerri Finnesand, Seven Lakes High School, and Amanda Weaver, Rhoads Elementary.
Sister principals Kerri Finnesand and Amanda Weaver
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Kerri was four school grades ahead of little sister Amanda so they didn’t share high school and college experiences at the same time. The two admit they’re closer now than when they were younger.
Amanda always wanted to hang out and do what her big sis was doing, and Kerri didn’t want her tagging along.
Now, the siblings vacation together, and have planted roots in the same town, about 1300 miles from where they grew up. They both like country music and romantic comedies but love Mexican food. And they agree their dream vacation destination would be visiting the European Christmas Markets, together.
Kerri moved away to school when Amanda started high school. She graduated from Penn State University in three years with a Bachelor of Science in Education. Her first teaching job, at 20 years old, proved quite challenging.
“When your first job out of school is an alternative high school, with kids who are straight out of juvenile detention, it was intimidating.”
From Keystone State to Lone Star State
Kerri kept in touch with a professor after graduation who told her teaching opportunities were plentiful in other parts of the country. After interviewing in the Houston area, Kerri was offered jobs with four different school districts. Three weeks later, she moved down to Houston and has been in Texas since 1996.
At the same time, Amanda was getting ready to take her MCATS at Penn State. She was enrolled in pre-med and wanted to be a pediatrician because she wanted to work with kids. However, the track of another eight to 12 years of school and training didn’t appeal to her. She changed the course of her career to teaching, knowing she could help fill the need for math and science educators.
Kerri Considers Career Path
While Amanda worked toward her degree at Penn State, Kerri taught math, science and English at Navarro Middle School in Lamar ISD. After three years, the principal who hired Kerri suggested she transition into administration.
“She said, ‘You need to be a principal, Kerri, you just have it.’”
Kerri followed her principal's advice and completed her master’s degree at the University of Houston. She got her first assistant principal's job when she was 26 years old.
Amanda’s Journey to Principal
Amanda relocated to Texas in 2000, right after graduation, and moved in with Kerri and her husband. Her first job in the area was a Title I elementary school in Lamar ISD. In 2007 she moved to Katy ISD and taught math at Beck Junior High and worked toward getting her master’s degree at the University of Houston.
After 4 years at Beck, Amanda was hired as a Math Interventionist at Rhoads Elementary for K-5. She served as an assistant principal for one year and then moved to the principal’s post.
Supporting Her Rhoads Tribe
“I start my day in the car rider line in the morning, it’s my favorite part of the day,” Amanda admits. She also interacts with the students by hosting the morning announcements and visiting their classrooms and recognizing them with positive programs like principal’s rewards.
“We’re very good at getting them to meet the standards, but our students are struggling to grow. If they gained more knowledge this day, then we did something right,” Amanda says of her students.
Amanda and her staff at Rhoads encourage the students to succeed academically, set goals and see their progress. This year, the school’s theme is “Growing the Rhoads Tribe” with “Brave spirits, kind hearts and fierce minds.”
“Every student is going to grow this year and that’s our goal,” says Amanda.
Maintaining Excellence at Competitive High School
Kerri moved to Katy ISD in 2004, and over the next 15 years she opened up Stanley Elementary, and headed up WoodCreek Junior High and Raines High School. In 2018, Kerri moved into the principal's post at Seven Lakes High School.
Kerri has been out of the classroom for 19 years now. She finished out her instructional career teaching English, and admits she doesn’t miss grading writing papers.
“When you’re the principal you have connections with kids,” says Kerri. “You look at them and think you do this, because you’re helping them get to the next step in their career. So many of my kids are four-year college bound - they’re going to solve the world’s problems and be the doctors, astronauts and lawyers. They’re great kids.”
Success Breeds Success
ranked second among the top high schools in the area and #11 in the state by the data scientists at Niche.In 2018, Seven Lakes High School was
“I think when you have those kinds of results, it’s a culmination of everything - it’s your community, parents, staff, it’s the expectation of everybody,” says Kerri. “You can’t have results like that without a collective norm of what we expect at Seven Lakes High School. It doesn’t happen by accident.”
Kerri knows her students’ parents have high expectations of her, the staff and their own children.
“My kids are absolutely academically driven and the teachers are just as driven,” Kerri says. “They want to be the best at their craft. To work at Seven Lakes High School, with those kids, you have to bring your “A” game every day because our kids are sometimes smarter than us.”