The History of The Charles Finney School

In the summer of 1991, a Pastoral Council representing seven Rochester, NY, area churches founded the Charles G. Finney Corporate High School. In response to the prayers of many Christian families throughout our community, Finney was established as a cooperative Christian high school for the glory of God and the sake of future generations, with a strong commitment to teaching from a Christian worldview and a focus on training leaders. In the fall of 1992, the high school opened with approximately 100 students at the present site on 2070 Five Mile Line Road in Penfield with Rev. William Malone as principal and the original Pastoral Council serving as the Board of Directors.

During the 1993-1994 school year, Rev. Michael Belmont was appointed as Finney's second principal. In the spring of 2002, the Board of Directors of The Charles G. Finney Corporate High School expanded the school to include a K-8 program, opening its doors for the 2002-2003 school year as The Charles Finney School.

During this expansion, the Board transitioned from the Pastoral Council to a traditional governing Board of Directors. In June 2003, long-time Board Chairman, Pastor Ron Domina was succeeded by Bill Carpenter. Pastor Domina remained as a member of the Board as chair of Finney’s new and expanding Pastoral Council, a standing committee of the board. Mark Whitaker chaired the board for a portion of 2005 until he and his family relocated to Washington, D.C.

In 2004, the school purchased the building at 2070 Five Mile Line Road in Penfield, enabling a wide range of capital improvements and expansions. In October 2005, Norman Leenhouts, a noted Rochester business leader, was appointed as chairman, continuing in that role until his death in 2017. Board membership has grown to include ex-officio representatives from the Parent Teacher Organization, Finance, Marketing & Enrollment, Alumni Relations and Development, and Facilities Committees.

In 2005, owing to the growth of the school’s programs and activities, Finney’s administration reorganized the K-8 program into an elementary school serving grades K-5 and a middle school serving grades 6-8. Rev. Michael J. Belmont continued as the president for The Charles Finney School and appointed Mrs. Maryann White as high school principal, Mrs. Kristin Spuck as middle school principal, and Ms. Sheila Carpenter as elementary school principal. In this same year, Finney launched Apple’s PowerSchool, a school information management system enabling parents and students to access grades, attendance records, teacher comments, and even the daily school announcements online. Finney was one of the first schools in the country to use this system.

On October 16, 2007, in an effort to move the school to a new level of growth and leadership, the Board of Directors appointed Michael VanLeeuwen as Finney’s new president and K-8 principal. At this same time, Mrs. Spuck was appointed to serve as high school principal. Mr. VanLeeuwen, a native of the state of Maryland, earned his BS in Elementary Education from Roberts Wesleyan College. Following graduation, he taught for 10 years at Faith Temple School in Brighton, then returned to Maryland to lead a Christian school in Westminster. In 2014, Mrs. Aimee Lyon was appointed high school principal and Mrs. Yvonne Paganelli was appointed elementary and middle school principal, with Mr. VanLeeuwen continuing to serve as president.

2016 saw incredible generosity expressed to The Charles Finney School, with major gifts enabling the funding of an endowment, the addition of online learning options, the renovation and upgrade of the school’s music rooms, and a new athletic complex, including resurfacing of the athletic field, new bleachers, scoreboard, and goalposts, and a new facility including concessions, press box, recording platform, equipment storage, and sound system.

In 2017, after the passing of Norman Leenhouts, John Walker, PhD, was appointed board chairman. Dr. Walker, a long-time board member, is a business professor at Roberts Wesleyan College and Senior Pastor of Faith Christian Center in Rochester. For the 2017-18 school year, Finney welcomed a new high school principal, Mr. Bret Miller.

History of Our Building

The first school at 2070 Five Mile Line Road was built in 1907. In 1932, the building was expanded, bringing the now-familiar white columns and gold-capped cupola. The building was expanded again in 1951, adding the gymnasium and classrooms at the rear. This building served as Penfield High School until 1958, when it become a junior high school. The building was completely renovated in 1966, including demotion and replacement of the original 1907 section. Now called Denonville Junior High School, the building was used by Penfield as a junior high / middle school until 1980.