Donald Fennoy, a husband of 16 years, father of two and graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU), has had a long yet successful journey to become the only African-American and youngest person to ever uphold superintendent of the Palm Beach County School District.
Fennoy was a member of the first line of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity at FAMU and graduated from the School of Education in 1999. He also earned the nickname “Big Shirley” when he came up as a euphonium player in the Marching 100.
“Never in the history of life did I think a person like me would get the opportunity to speak to the Marching 100. Back when I was in the 100, I was just a regular member who always got in fights with the drum major,” Fennoy said.
Even Director Marching and Pep Bands at FAMU, Shelby Chipman, is aware of how motivational Fennoy’s story is. “It is important that we understand how working hard and never giving up can lead us to a fulfilling life,” Chipman said to current band members.
Fennoy said that his time in the band was the most amazing four years of his life, and being in the band changed everything about who he was. Yet before he even came to FAMU, his journey was a true battle to fight.
After pledging Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, Fennoy got put out of school and worked in a steel factory for a year. Once he got back to FAMU, he had a much clearer focus.
“When it gets tough, that is when half percent matters and this principle has lead me through my entire life,” Fennoy exclaimed.
After graduating, he went on and became a third-grade teacher in Orlando. He continued on with teaching middle school and high school students then eventually became a high school principal in Charlotte, North Carolina.
He left the public school system for a few years, but soon returned and went after the superintendent job in Palm Beach County, Florida. A job that is the head of the 10th largest school district in the country, according to niche.com.
Going up against three other viable candidates, the vote was almost unanimous. Fennoy became superintendent on March 7 — a day that will always be remembered.
First unsure of himself about being the face of a large position in the country, Fennoy story has still many Rattlers on campus like Omari Harris.
“He connects with me on a personal level. He showed me that anyone can be anything they want to. Everyone has a point in their life when they want to just quit. Mr. Fennoy was just a regular college student but now he’s at the top doing what he loves to do,” said Harris, a freshman engineering student.
Fennoy advised that students network as much as they can while at FAMU. Who you know can change your life. He also encouraged students to travel, live and experience life as much as possible because time goes by fairly fast.
“Be cautious and shut up. God puts people in your life for a reason so let God work, and never forget who you are,” Fennoy said.