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January 21, 2014
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‘An absolutely incredible career’ | Longtime Tahoe principal to retire

KINGS BEACH, Calif. — On Friday Kings Beach Elementary principal Eileen Fahrner received a poignant message from a student.

“I wish you weren’t leaving,” Fahrner said, reading the student’s note aloud.

After a decade as principal of Kings Beach Elementary and 20 years with the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, Fahrner is retiring at the end of this school year, effective June 27.

“It’s been an absolutely incredible career,” Fahrner said during an interview in her office Friday. “I have loved it. … It’s been a wonderful place to work. I absolutely adore the staff, the parents, the kids.”

That feeling is mutual.

“She is the type of principal that if you tell the kids they’re going to the principal, they’re excited,” said Kathy Muonio, a Kings Beach Elementary first-grade teacher. “It’s not like a threat.”

Prior to sitting down Friday to reflect on her career, Fahrner was mediating a dispute between two students. She said her approach involves respect, telling the truth and listening among all parties in the process of coming up with an agreed-upon solution.

“Eileen has set up such a positive environment,” Muonio said. “I would call her a peacemaker.”

It’s a title she embraces.

“I’ve always seen my role as I need to do everything within my power to ensure that there aren’t barriers to student learning, to teachers’ ability to teach, and to hold everyone’s feelings sacred,” Fahrner said.

Yet she advises the new principal — who has yet to be selected — makes the position his or her own.

“I know that I have a long history with the school, having been here as a volunteer, parent, teacher and principal, but I think creativity is so important to the job,” Fahrner said. “I really encourage them — because there’s always room for improvement — to bring their creativity to the table and just have a great time with it.”

NEXT STEPS

The position of KBE principal will be listed from Jan. 27 to Feb. 14, said TTUSD superintend Rob Leri, with the goal of appointing a new leader at TTUSD board of trustees’ April 2 meeting after a “rigorous” vetting process. The new principal would officially start July 1.

Qualities sought, among others, include strong leadership, an experienced educator, administrative experience, and an ability to communicate well in English and Spanish, Leri said.

“When the superintendent came in to get staff input to find out what kind of principal we wanted, we were all saying, ‘We want to clone her and have another Eileen,’” explained Veronica Ortega, a second-grade teacher at the school.

As for Fahrner, she said she plans to spend more time with her son, Sam, who is in Minnesota studying forest entomology; doing more of the things she loves such as reading, hiking and spending time with friends; and better tending to her health, since she has low blood pressure.

“I don’t think I’m going to disappear,” said Fahrner, adding that she plans to stay in Kings Beach. “I will still be super involved, I think, in the schools and helping out.”

Fahrner’s career with TTUSD started in January 1994 as the traveling science teacher before becoming a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher for North Tahoe Middle School.

In September 2000, she became the assistant principal for North Tahoe Middle School, a position she held for approximately four years until becoming principal of KBE.

“Replacing her is a monumental task, and frankly, there’s no replacement for Eileen,” Leri said.

“When (Leri) came in to get staff input to find out what kind of principal we wanted, we were all saying, ‘We want to clone her and have another Eileen.”
Veronica Ortega
second-grade teacher, Kings Beach Elementary


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 21, 2014 07:43PM Published Jan 22, 2014 05:32PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.