Peter Fusaro, a longtime administrator at Flathead High School, is stepping down as principal at the end of the academic year.
Fusaro, who has served 20 years at the high school, including the last 11 as principal, has accepted a new position at Flathead Valley Community College as director of the Trades and Industrial Arts Department. His contract as principal ends June 30. The school district is accepting applications for Fusaro’s successor. A collective of staff and parents will begin screening candidates on May 17. Interviews will take place starting May 25.
“It’s going to be tough leaving the staff and students. I’ll definitely miss them,” he said. “This was a great opportunity at the college and something I looked at and spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons. I felt it was a great move. It’s a new journey and something I’m passionate about, too.”
Fusaro is leaving behind a strong reputation as an affable leader and passionate advocate for students and staff. He was responsible for guiding Flathead High School through the challenging transition after the school split a decade ago, when Glacier High School emerged.
“I think he did well with all of that. The first few years were tumultuous both here and (at Glacier),” Michael Sherman, a counselor at Flathead whose first year was 2006, when Fusaro took over as principal after serving as assistant principal for nine years.
“He weathered that pretty well. It was tough to break up and have some staff go north … When you start a new school in a town like this, there’s obviously going to be some rivalry and a little animosity, but I think he’s done a great job of navigating that and keeping his focus on what’s most important: the students.”
Among the efforts Fusaro is most credited with focusing on his tenure, he spearheaded expanded opportunities for free and reduced meals and resources for students from low-income families and supported the creation and continued excellence of the school’s International Baccalaureate program, a renowned two-year college preparatory curriculum established in 2004. Flathead’s dropout and graduation rates have both improved in the last decade.
“Anytime you think of Flathead, you think of Pete and ‘Every day is a good day at Flathead,’” Jodie Barber, director at Linderman Education Center, said, recalling a familiar saying of Fusaro’s.
“He’s just an amazing man and has always been focused on what’s best for students.”
Mark Flatau, superintendent of Kalispell Public Schools, said the first word that comes to mind when describing Fusaro was “passion.”
“He has so much passion for what he does, passion for Flathead, and passion for the kids. I’ve just appreciated that passion,” Flatau said
“He’s worked diligently and tirelessly to make Flathead the very best that it can be for kid and families.”
In 2015, Fusaro was named the Class AA Principal of the Year by the Montana AA Principals Association. Most recently, Flathead was ranked the 16th best public high school, and fourth best AA school, in Montana by the U.S. News & World Report.
“I admire all the time and effort he puts into this school. He never stops working,” Sherman said. “Principals have to be at all the events and extra curricular activities, and he’s done that. He’s super active and goes to all the events. He supports every program. They always say they feel supported by him.”
Fusaro’s departure comes at a noteworthy time for Flathead. The high school is preparing to undergo a sizeable $19 million renovation project that is starting this spring.
He is joining FVCC at a time of strong enrollment as the largest community college in Montana and as new development is surfacing, including the first on-campus student housing facility.
“I enjoyed my 20 years here at Flathead. But I’m really excited and looking forward to this opportunity,” Fusaro said. “They have a great team up there and Dr. (Jane) Karas has a great vision. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can help.”