The One, The Only Bill Fay

Bill Fay Jr., in his element.

Bill Fay Jr., in his element.

Every now and again in this world you run into a larger than life figure.
Someone whose spirit lights up the room and whose humor, intelligence and warmth make you feel like you’ve known him forever.
Bill Fay is that kind of guy. In fact, he’s the epitome of that kind of man.
Bill is the longtime principal of Banyan Creek Elementary School in Delray Beach. After more than a half century in education he retired this month. There were tears when he announced his intentions and laughter too. Bill is an institution, an original. He has left two generations of kids, teachers and friends richer for having known him.
Bill has earned a lifetime of accolades and hopefully decades to enjoy his family and friends.

While we share a birthday, I always liked to remind him that he was much much older than I was and a Red Sox fan to boot. But somehow that didn’t get in the way of our friendship. His love of children and of Delray Beach was infectious and I enjoyed every moment I spent with Mr. Fay. His aspirations for his students and his teachers were nothing short of creating the warmest, best learning environment possible so that kids could thrive. And they did.
There will be many more principals who serve Banyan Creek in the years and decades to come. But Bill Fay will never be replaced. Nor will be forgotten. The great ones never are and Bill Fay is a great one.
He came to Banyan Creek after a long and distinguished career in Massachusetts.
Some may have approached the job as a victory lap, a chance to stay busy and collect a paycheck after a long career in education.

But Bill approached the position with energy, passion and a strong desire to educate children, mentor young teachers and make veteran teachers even better. He wanted Banyan Creek to be a great school, a safe place that would nurture children and build community. And that’s what it became.
When I started The Education Times newspaper many years ago one of the first things I learned is that you could tell whether a school had a great principal the moment you stepped into the school. If the school was orderly, clean, bright, had art on the walls and smiling well behaved kids you knew they had a great principal.
When you visit Banyan Creek as I did often over the years you could feel the energy, friendliness and love that is Bill Fay’s essence.

His teachers were focused. His parents were–mostly–happy (there are always a few). And the place crackled with laughter and encouragement. Bill Fay was the orchestra leader and set the tone. The culture of that school reflected his magnetic personality and his drive.
Bill is an opinionated guy. That’s what happens when you care and you’ve been around long enough to see some genuinely ridiculous things. He did not suffer fools gladly and while he had respect for hierarchy he did not have much patience for BS especially if the nonsense got in the way of educating his kids.
He had some amazing teachers over the years and he sang their praises. That’s what great leaders do. They give credit to others and they are focused on the mission.
Bill wasn’t just content to build a great school at Banyan he was a champion of other schools in Delray Beach. He was a touchstone for other principals, a leader among leaders and was deeply involved in the city’s efforts to improve its schools.
He had relationships everywhere from School Board members to mayors and commissioners. From district officials to city officials, everyone knew and respected Bill’s knowledge of what was best for kids.
We joked about our affinities. He liked the Red Sox and Pats, I followed the Yankees and Giants. I appreciated his sense of humor but also his deep knowledge of how the system worked or in many cases didn’t. He’s been a resource for all who preceded me and all who followed.
Here’s hoping he enjoys his retirement. And maybe, just maybe he will weigh in now and again because Bill Fay is one of a kind and we need these guys now more than ever.


  1. Larz Neilson says

    Bill had the same kind of presence in his home town of Wilmington, Massachusetts, and before that, in the adjoining town of Tewksbury. Thanks for writing such a nice tribute.

    • Janice Shaw Dobbins says

      You’re right Larz, He was bigger than life in Wilmington….and a very special man. I think the only difference now is that Bill Faye is a lot warmer.

  2. Thank you for writing this since I feel the same way about Bill Fay. You accurately described his love of being a Principal and how we all loved him for knowing how to be the best. He has earned a wonderful retirement and he will enjoy every moment and even find a way to instill his wisdom to others.

  3. Jeff,

    Really, the Yankees?

    How about dem Giants!


  4. Paula Jones says

    All of my children 24, 22, and 12 were in Banyan under the leadership of Mr. Fay. When I found out that we were expecting my youngest, I hoped he would still be principal. He was, and remained for all of her time at Banyan. I did a lot of volunteering with Campbell’s and Box Top for Education Programs, they called me the “label lady.” I often joked with Bill about how eventually I would be looking for a paycheck, due to all of the time I spent there. I love everything about the way he ran his school, about his incredible staff and the Banyan Family. I asked friends and family to send me “words of wisdom”, for a baby book for my youngest. About six months ago, I found a manila envelope with the Banyan address in the corner. I opened it to find words from Mr. Fay. They will always be cherished, as will the memories over the years with Banyan. As families we have had births, illnesses, marriages, divorces, and even deaths. Some of these were shared together, some not. I had children enrolled in Banyan for 17 years and many of the people there knew me, my family and some goings on in my life. I am glad that Bill Fay was one of those people, always with a smile and a kind word. May he enjoy, his very well deserved retirement! He will be missed! And we will always be part of Boston Nation together.

  5. are you sure we are talking about the same man? Just kidding. He is the apple of heart as are our children. Thank you for your kind words

  6. Debra June says

    Great Principal, great friend, and a great person. He will be missed at Banyan by all.

  7. Well said Jeff Perlman. I love Bill Fay, an amazing educator, friend, leader, nurturer and leader. He will be missed…

  8. Lydia Sanchez says

    Bill hired me at 24. At 26, he asked me what my great plan was…. My answer….”i think i can do your job, old man”….. His response….”I’d be disappointed if you didn’t have bigger aspirations”. He challenged me to rise higher and grow. He accepted my strong opinions and beliefs and is the reason why i chose to be a leader in the school district. We have lost a voice which was honest and true to moving our students in the right direction but he has left a legacy of professionals who embody his same ideals and will challenge the system with the same convictions and strength that he himself did. And…. He talks too much….. But, it’s worth sucking it up to listen to… What a great person in my life and the lives of many others

  9. Tom Johnston says

    Bill it was a great ride thanks for the lift. A great leader, a great friend, I wish you and Fran the best in your retirement.

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