POUGHKEEPSIE, NY- When the morning bell rings at FDR High School, an authoritative, booming voice that can jostle everyone, both students and faculty alike, awake commands the halls during the morning announcements. That voice belongs to Rick Pardy, principal of FDR High School, who looks like the kind of man one wouldn’t expect to possess a powerful vocal box. His thinning white hair and small frame deceive his nature.
“I don’t look much like a football coach anymore,” Pardy chuckled. “And for most of the freshmen, and even some sophomores, they would never guess what I did in my past life.”
Pardy’s past life is made up of plenty of leadership roles, but none quite as tame as the one he holds today. He may have only compiled a 17-11-2 record as the head coach of the Marist College football team, but now, as the principal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, he is amassing a much more impressive record: popularity among the students.
After graduating Ithaca College in 1982, Pardy’s first coaching job was as the defensive line coach at the State University of New York at Albany for two years. There, he earned his master’s degree in higher education administration.
“That wasn’t the best job for me,” he said. “I was an offensive lineman at Ithaca, and while there are similarities, the learning curve was fairly steep.”
It didn’t take long for Pardy to become familiar with the other side of the football, though. Once he graduated SUNY Albany, he headed back upstate to take on the mantle of defensive secondary coach at Hamilton College, a position he was in for four years. “At that point, I was fairly comfortable with defense, so everything was a little easier,” Pardy said.
But when he found out about the head coaching opening at Marist College, Pardy realized he wanted to have more of an impact on a football team and from 1989-1991, Pardy led the Red Foxes to two winning seasons and one conference title.
“I don’t even think I can tell you why I quit. My time at Bates College did not consist of some of my proudest moments,” Pardy lamented.”
Pardy spent six years at Bates, putting together a 2-46 record.
His most recent move was back to the Hudson Valley, to FDR High School, where he can be found in the principal’s office.
“I wanted to be more involved and have more of a direct influence on the kids,” Pardy said. “I was the assistant principal for 14 years, and I was in a similar situation to when I was coaching. I just wanted to do more.”
The positive effect he has on the student body is prevalent, even though he is only midway through his second year as principal
“He’s very personable. He’s always in the hallways, shaking our hands,” one senior, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “I’m sure at most schools, administrators spend most of their time in their offices, but Mr. Pardy genuinely cares about us.”
“He’s actually interested in the extracurricular activities we’re involved in,” another sophomore remarked.
Even the FDR staff, like Nicholas Russell, feel influenced by Pardy’s presence. Russell is a senior at Marist College and is currently student teaching at FDR High School.
“Every single day he starts off the morning announcements with a pep talk, with motivation to keep going and striving towards everything we do,” Russell said. “It puts in perspective that every single day we need to be doing better, we need to keep trying to get better because we’re never perfect.”
Pardy’s past experiences in coaching help him drive the point home to his school. “He enforces to the teachers that every day is essentially a new game and you always need to give 100%,” Russell said.
Pardy’s constant devotion to the school and enthusiastic outlook on his students and faculty can be in part accredited to an assistant principal who stabbed himself in the school in 2003.
“Most students here don’t know about that incident, but I want to make sure they know that I’m not that kind of guy,” Pardy said. “I want these kids to never have to worry about anything like that happening during my tenure. I want to be a good role model for my students.”
What has caught Pardy’s eye the most is the drive of the student body. “Every student at this school has the ability to be a leader in some way. I want to be able to help them reach their potential. If they have the right hand to guide them, they can all do great things.