By EMMALEE C. TORISK
With an associate principal as a father, Allison Fuline knew she wouldn’t be getting out of anything, especially at school. He was always watching.
“Many thought, ‘Oh, your dad’s the principal, so you’ll never get in trouble.’ It was the total opposite. I had to be on my best behavior,” she said. “But I enjoyed having him there, being able to be a part of my whole high school experience.”
Allison, a 2007 graduate of Struthers High School, said it wouldn’t have been the same without him. And despite his having an image as a “stern-faced principal,” Joe Fuline Jr. managed to touch the lives of so many others, too, throughout his nearly 25 years in the Struthers City School District — of which he spent close to 10 as a high school administrator.
Simply put, Allison couldn’t be more proud of her dad, whose last day at Struthers was June 28.
But even with 35 years in education behind him, as well as a number of professional accomplishments during that time, Joe Fuline said he’s just grateful to have had that opportunity.
“It’s a little early to decide what I’ll miss the most, but it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs in teaching, coaching and administrating, but the positives outweigh the negatives. I’m fortunate to have had a job for that long.”
He said he’s also been fortunate to work with and be supported by many great people — including members of the board of education, teachers, parents and students. Though he’s retired, Fuline still plans to “stay around education” and use his “knowledge to help other schools and teachers.”
Fuline, a 1973 graduate of Lowellville High School, initially hadn’t planned on pursuing a career in education. He said, though, that it was something that was stressed in his family — particularly by his parents, Joseph Fuline Sr. and Angeline Fuline — and that emphasis stuck with him.
So did the influence of his high school teacher and basketball coach, Dick Williams, whom Fuline called “an outstanding educator as well as an outstanding basketball coach.”
Fuline graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Michigan’s Adrian College in 1977, then with a master’s degree from Youngstown State University in 1988.
He came to Struthers for the 1989-1990 academic year after spending 11 years of teaching in Lisbon. One highlight that stands out to him is from his 14 years spent coaching the boys varsity basketball team. In 1999, under his leadership, the team won the district championship.
Rick McFadden, an assistant basketball coach at the University of Akron and a 2000 graduate of Struthers, was a member of that team. Struthers has long been a “football town,” McFadden said, but Fuline helped create a following around the high school’s basketball program that continues today.
“Most communities very rarely change,” he said. “He did a heck of a job drawing everyone in. That’s unique. You can’t help but learn from people who do things the right way.”
Roger Day, a former principal of Austintown Fitch High School, will officially begin as an associate principal at Struthers on Aug. 1, said Superintendent Joseph Nohra.
Fuline “is a talented, multifaceted principal, as well as a good man and a good human being,” he said. “Replacing a high school principal is not what it used to be. With everything we ask them to do, people don’t want to do the job. We’re losing a highly qualified principal.”