Leaving a legacy: Atlantic Coast High School principal retires

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By Angela Higginbotham
angela@floridanewsline.com

Looking back at the school she helped establish and ahead to retirement, long time educator and principal of Atlantic Coast High School, Debra Lynch, will pass on her legacy and traditions to a new principal in June. Lynch will retire after more than 35 years in education. With an extensive resume of professional experience and development, Lynch has a clear passion for education and for all the students and faculty she’s been surrounded by for so many years.

As a Jacksonville native and a Jacksonville University graduate, Lynch has served many roles within Duval County Public Schools. A math teacher, assistant principal, vice principal and principal have all been roles that Lynch is proud to have experienced. Lynch’s outstanding career has been recognized by many. Among other awards, she was a proud finalist of the 2017 Florida Times Union Eve Award. Lynch was also the 2008 recipient of the Laurel Kaden Anderson award in recognition of outstanding advocacy in support of school guidance counselors.

Taking great pride in the traditions set forth since the initial construction of Atlantic Coast High School in 2010, Lynch will leave behind a beautiful facility and great faculty that has brought much success to so many.

“Atlantic Coast High School was the first new Duval County school to open in 21 years,” Lynch said. “I was the principal at Stanton then and I was asked to open the new school. I remember walking the grounds with a hard hat on, just anticipating that this would be a great school.”

As the opening principal, Lynch felt strongly about putting traditions in place, forming a great faculty, atmosphere and even picking the right mascot.

“A lot of effort went into picking a mascot. We eventually chose the Stingrays because the school is located in between a river and an ocean and stingrays are found in both. A lot of thought went into every detail,” Lynch said.

When thinking over her career with Atlantic Coast, Lynch is proud of what the school has become. The well rounded culture, diverse student body, AP Honors Academy, sought after tech classes, inspiring focus on special needs students, great sports, and also the well known arts program are all products of hard work and focus by faculty and staff.

Although Lynch is looking forward to a more relaxed life during retirement, she will miss many aspects of her daily life as a principal.

“I really love being in classes and watching students actively engaged in learning. I have some great teachers, many of whom I have worked with at different schools prior to them moving to ACHS, so I have also established friends who I will miss seeing on a daily basis,” Lynch said.

Lynch plans to keep her retired life balanced with fun, volunteer work and possibly tutoring students. Her first big trip is already planned to see the Jacksonville Jaguars play in London this year. She hopes to get back into golf and tennis as well.

Grateful for a career she has loved, Lynch feels confident that she’s leaving behind a school that is strong, well balanced and focused on providing a tremendous education for tomorrow’s leaders.

Photo courtesy Angela Higginbotham

Retiring Atlantic Coast High School Principal Debra Lynch leaves a school that is strong, well balanced and focused.