On a day when it seems inhuman that it can be so hot before 9 a.m., the final buses have arrived at Eisenhower Middle School.
The students are showing off their new clothes and backpacks, nervous parents are letting go of their children, and the administrative staff is doing its best to answer questions at the front desk. But while the controlled chaos of the first day of school subsides and everyone else is doing their best to survive the heat, the coolest and calmest man on campus Tuesday has his tie and jacket on and couldn’t be happier.
Greeting students and parents as he patrols his new campus, Darrell Faber, the new principal at Eisenhower (Danielle Shotwell transferred to Riverview High as principal earlier this month) seems like he’s been here for years.
“It’s all gone very smoothly today,” said Faber of the first day of school as he settles into the principal’s chair, the first time he has sat down all morning. “I’m excited and ready to go.”
A veteran of 20 years in Hillsborough County schools, Faber has worked as a teacher and administrator at Sligh, Adams, Walker, and Martinez middle schools. He joins Eisenhower after two years as an assistant principal for curriculum at Monroe Middle.
For Faber, his first challenge is learning the lay of the land at Eisenhower: “Learning all the staff and teacher names and more about the school’s processes and procedures, and our assistant principals here have done a fantastic job with that, along with the teachers,” said Faber.
Performing at 577 points on the FCAT scale puts Eisenhower at a B plus. Another 13 points would make Eisenhower an A school. “So they are literally just a few points away,” said Faber, “so there’s really not a whole lot to come in here and change, but I need to just step back and learn and get a feel for how the school is running. As a leader, maybe there are some things we can tweak along the way to see if we can’t get some more gains from our students and get Eisenhower up to the A level.”
With his new role and responsibilities, Faber is also eager to learn about the community. He said, “The faculty and staff are a really good bunch of people that [have] a really strong sense of caring for students and a strong commitment to education. I feel like they are all prepared.”
Faber already senses a family atmosphere at the school.
“It definitely has that community, family atmosphere of a school that has been around for quite some time, and as everything grows up around our school and in this area, we look to grow along with that.”
In his initial address to teachers Monday, the day before the school opened, Faber said numbers at a school only tell part of the story.
“You can look at data and numbers for a school in lots of ways but it really boils down to how we build those relationships with each other and the students we serve, and how important it is to be vested members not only in the school but in the surrounding community,” Faber said.
“This school has had many great leaders before me and as that torch is passed, I hope to move our school to an A grade.”
Looking ahead a year, Faber hopes to see the growth and the school move ahead at all levels.
“I want us to move the students as much as we can and to improve the proficiency level of all students,” he said. “I think if we do that we will reach an A grade.”