By REBECCA HAZEN
Dade County High School Principal James H. Fahrney, Jr., has announced his intent to resign at the end of this school year, to have more time with his family.
Fahrney has had a full career in education. He has taught at Stewart Middle School and Douglas County High School in Douglas County. He was also an assistant principal in Carroll County. He came to Dade County to be principal of Davis Elementary in 2011. He was principal there for six years, before becoming principal of DCHS. This is his fifth year at DCHS.
“With COVID-19 and everything else that has gone on, I think we are all under a lot of stress on a daily basis and we don’t realize it. I didn’t realize how much that was looming over me. There were a lot of days where it didn’t feel like education, it felt like trying to stop a pandemic,” Fahrney said.
Fahrney’s father was recently diagnosed with heart failure and was put into hospice care.
“My dad’s illness has allowed me to take a big step back. It’s a great job, but I can make an impact somewhere else where I can share myself with my family. There are days that I felt like I was a good principal, and a good dad, but not so much a husband. And other days I can get those three to line up, but I wasn’t a good son,” Fahrney said.
Fahrney also has two daughters, one who will be entering preschool soon, and another who is a ninth grader at DCHS.
“I know that they will be grown up in a blink,” Fahrney said.
Fahrney said that even through the 50–60-hour work weeks, he has loved every minute of his job, and he doesn’t begrudge a single hour that he’s spent with the kids.
He announced his resignation a few months before the end of the school year, with the intent to make the transition for a new principal as smooth as possible.
“One of the things that I always tell the staff is that I want them to be able to know the names, faces and stories of every kid that walks down the hallways. Not just to be able to say ‘hi,’ but try to establish a connection,” Fahrney said.
As principal, Fahrney’s goal has been to make sure that the kid’s social and emotional needs are met. He encourages all teachers to be accepting and be kind. Fahrney noted that there has been an increase in mental health needs. In recent years therapists have been available at the school.
“I want to make sure that they have those support pieces in place, so that when I leave, the kids that come to my office on a regular basis, they’ve got that person to go to next,” Fahrney said.
Fahrney also will spend his last few months as principal making sure that the class of 2022 has a great end of the year.
“When other schools made excuses to not have prom or graduation, we had the drive-in graduation, and we were able to have prom with the help of parents. We want to make sure that the seniors feel like they’re not missing out,” Fahrney said.
Fahrney is not sure what he will do next, and he currently does not have another position lined up. He thinks going back to elementary education might he a possibility. He plans to stay in Dade County, because he wants to see his children go through the Dade County school system.
Fahrney reminisced about some of his favorite memories at both DCHS and Davis Elementary.
During his first year as principal at DCHS, there was a Roman themed pep rally where everyone wore togas, and slushies were dumped on his head. He also remembered a senior overnight lock in where all the students played card games. Other crazy happenings include dying his hair purple and being duct taped to the wall.
During his time at Davis Elementary, he camped out in a tent on the roof of the school for reading incentives. One of his students brought him a pizza on the roof.
‘I will do anything to keep those kids engaged,” Fahrney said.
“I am proud of the work that the teachers have put in. I am not the easiest guy to work for. I have super high expectations. The teachers that come in and have high expectations themselves, they do great. I do everything I can to make it so that they can do what they do best. We want to put kids first,” Fahrney said.