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Rob Flaherty is in his fifth year as principal at Nichols Elementary School in Oceanside. Courtesy photo/The Coast News graphic
Rob Flaherty is in his fifth year as principal at Nichols Elementary School in Oceanside. Courtesy photo/The Coast News graphic
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Nichols Elementary’s Rob Flaherty named Principal of the Year

OCEANSIDE — An Oceanside elementary school principal was recently named Principal of the Year for San Diego and Imperial counties by the Administration of California School Administrators.

Rob Flaherty, principal of Nichols Elementary School, is the third-straight principal from Oceanside Unified School District to receive the honor after Libby Elementary Principal Cesar Mora (2022) and El Camino High School Principal Eileen Frazier (’21).

While this is Flaherty’s fifth year as principal at Nichols, he started as a special education teacher when the school opened in 2001 and has been there ever since.

“My path is unique,” Flaherty said. “It’s not very common to be at the same school site for that long.”

Flaherty’s three children attended Nichols Elementary when they were younger.

The district recognized Flaherty’s leadership for improving academics at Nichols, promoting diversity, equity and inclusiveness, and prioritizing mental health and wellness for students and staff. As principal, Flaherty has helped to create a positive school culture for everyone.

“I’m a huge advocate for putting systems in place so that everybody is included here,” Flaherty said. “Our teachers are very passionate about that work as well.”

Flaherty is particularly fond of the “Leader in Me” campaign, a whole-school improvement program based on the idea that everyone can be a leader.

The program allows students to develop leadership skills by taking on different tasks around the school, such as leading the flag salute and creating and exploring various clubs on campus.

“We have everything from dance to choir, geology, news and broadcasting, photography, outdoor clubs, yoga… everybody gets to be part of that enrichment,” Flaherty said. “It gets them motivated to learn so that they can learn to love school.”

District administrators who nominated Flaherty for the title praised him for his leadership.

“Mr. Flaherty is a detail-oriented manager and a thoughtful instructional leader,” said Superintendent Julie Vitale. “He is astute in assessing the needs of those he’s working with and identifying ways to support them in their learning and professional growth.”

Vitale surprised Flaherty with news of his awarded title earlier this month at the Feb. 8 school board meeting.

“It’s very humbling,” Flaherty said about the award. “We have a lot of great leaders in the district, and I’m very honored. I’m proud of my staff, without whom I couldn’t do this. Everyone puts a lot into this job and cares about this school and the students’ education, so it’s a great honor, and I like that I’m able to share or even brag about what we do here.”