In the next installment of our series of conversations with principals from across the United States, we spoke with Dr. Paul M. Fanuele, Executive Principal of Arlington High School in LaGrangeville, NY, to find out more about what it’s like to be a principal today. Dr. Fanuele’s high school is in the Arlington Central School District, which is comprised of eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school.
Dr. Fanuele, who started out as a Social Studies teacher, is the New York Coordinator for the National Association of Secondary School Principals and a past president of the School Administrators Association of New York State (SAANYS). He has been in education for more than 24 years and has served as a principal for 13 years, having “had every job along the educational path,” including serving as an assistant principal, a house principal, and now as Executive Principal at Arlington High School.
Today’s Modern Educator (TME): What made you pursue a career in education?
Dr. Paul Fanuele (PF): I enjoy working with people, especially youth. I had positive educational experiences as a student and had many positive role models that helped shape my life, so I wanted to do the same for others. Also, my parents encouraged me to explore more ways to help others, including one day my mom telling me when we were discussing college and career options, ‘I always thought you were going to be a teacher and help others.’ That resonated with me, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
TME: What made you want to move from teaching into administration?
PF: I really enjoy being an educator, but I wanted to impact more students. I felt like I had an impact on the students I had in my classroom but knew I could have a greater impact as an administrator.
TME: How have schools and education changed since you started teaching?
PF: One thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of building relationships. On the other hand, the proliferation of technology has changed the way people view the world and has enhanced education. We can reach students in ways that we never were able to before. However, with the rise of technology, we have seen an increase in mental health issues in students. Building relationships face-to-face, as opposed to using technology, is even more important today.
TME: What is the most rewarding part of leading a school for you?
PF: The most rewarding part of leading a school is working with the students, staff, and the community. I live in the community where I work, so I see people whether I am on the job or not. One thing I enjoy is when I see students or past graduates out in the community and talk with them about what they are doing in their lives and all of the exciting things that are happening to them. I also enjoy hearing how I, or Arlington schools, impacted them and this gives me pride and keeps me going each day.
TME: What advice would you share with the next generation of school leaders?
PF: Make sure you find the time to do the ‘most important tasks’ – the MIT – of your job every day. There are all sorts of aspects of the job that we have to do as a school leader, but you need to prioritize the most important things – like building relationships with students and teachers – and don’t get caught up doing things that can take up a lot of time, but don’t have a big impact. I would also advise the next generation of leaders to strive for balance in their personal and professional lives. You have to make sure you are doing things personally that keep you refreshed and ready to go in order to handle the pressures of the profession.