For retiring Bay High School Principal Jim Cahoon and his thousands of admirers, it was always personal.
For his 12 years as principal of Bay High, the school itself received a wide variety of local, state and national awards. Its sports teams and many extracurricular activities garnered a large number of championships and trophies. Individual students and staff members in the district also received many accolades and honors during that time.
Yet when you ask a student or adult about Cahoon, they relate something personal about him.
‘I’ll always remember looking around at any of our events or another activity for the school, and there he’d be cheering us on and supporting us,” Marek Mutch, a pole vaulter on the track team, said. “He cared about all of us, was always there for us and we really appreciated that.”
Bay School District Superintendent Clint Keener said the entire district and the community were enriched by Cahoon’s tireless efforts on behalf of all of them.
“Bay High School will forever be a better place thanks to the caring leadership provided by Mr. Cahoon,” Keener said. “Mr. Cahoon’s commitment to the students, school and community is more than commendable, it deserves celebration. I have not known a high school principal with a greater personal knowledge of all the students in the school. This personal approach reflected his true interest in success for all students.”
While Cahoon was principal, Bay High School received a variety of awards some of them, including being named a 2010 Blue Ribbon High School; making both U.S. News & World Report’s and Newsweek’s list of best high schools several times, getting the Harvard Business School Club of Northeast Ohio’s Excellence in School Management; being on the list of Best Music Communities in America annually since 2003; and the Ohio High School Athletic Association Harold A. Meyer Sportsmanship Award.
Academic achievement remained a central part of much of that, with the district consistently receiving the top mark of excellent or excellent with distinction for the last decade. Advanced placement class students consistently score high in the testing, with more than 80 percent of the Bay students taking it scoring high enough to receive college credit, and student scores on the SAT and ACT college entrance exams also well above state and national averages.
Cahoon will quickly defer credit for all those and other achievements to students, staff, parents and the community, saying he was fortunate to be Bay High School’s principal during good times.
“We’ve had a lot of good people,” he said. “I always felt it was best to be involved and be an advocate for the student. The schools are for our students, and I always tried to remember that.”
Cahoon said having strong relationships with his students was important to him.
“I felt it was important to have a strong rapport with the children and be there for them,” he said. “My relationship with the students is probably what I’ll miss the most.”
Cahoon said he’s always tried to be there for his students, starting with his time as a teacher and girls coach at Akron Buchtel High School, carrying it over to his time as an administrator in the Black River School District and bringing it with him to Bay High School.
‘There was a time when I would have been happy to have done that my entire career,” he said, referring to his time at Akron Buchtel. “But I’m fortunate to have taken other positions, particularly the one here at Bay. When I came here, I planned to leave in 2006, but things changed; my one brother died and I learned I really loved my job, even with its difficulties. I’m fortunate to have worked with and been here with a lot of really good people.”
Stephen Kowalski, a parent of two Bay High graduates with two current students as well, said Cahoon means a lot to the community.
“It is difficult to express how grateful I am to Mr. Cahoon for creating an environment at Bay High, through his leadership and personal involvement, where students are welcomed and encouraged to grow both academically and through sports and student activities,” he said.
Jason Martin, who has served as assistant principal to Cahoon for six years and will be succeeding him next year, said Cahoon has been a tremendous mentor and friend during that time.
“Jim is a guy that it doesn’t matter what time you get to work or what time you leave, it doesn’t matter if it is a weekday or weekend, he was always at Bay High School,” Martin said. “He truly had a passion for the staff, students and community of Bay Village, and was willing to put in as many hours as was necessary to make sure we remain an excellent school and that students had the maximum number of opportunities possible.”
Martin said Cahoon cared greatly about students and staff alike.
“He was willing to do anything for them,” Martin said.
Cahoon is leaving big shoes to fill but assembled a tremendous staff as well, which will make the transition easier, Martin said.
‘It truly is an honor to succeed Jim and to continue my career in Bay Village,” he said.
Cahoon said he is pleased to be leaving a talented and caring staff in the school district, citing the leadership of Martin at the high school and Sean McAndrews at the middle school.
“It’s gratifying to know that people I’ve worked closely with will be carrying on the traditions at the schools,” he said.
In addition to his work at the schools, Cahoon was also known for his caring about other areas of the community, such as being chairman of the Bay Village Relay For Life, and being active with the Youth Philanthropy Fellowship, which raises funds to fight disease, most notably cystic fibrosis.
“To me, it was another way to work with and be with the students,” he said. “It also was a way to show them that the community is important, and you have to be a part of it as well.”
Bay Village Mayor Debbie Sutherland, who had two daughters graduate from Bay while Cahoon was principal and worked with him on community projects, lauded him.
“Jim is just a super human being who has added many things to the schools and city as a whole,” she said. “I’m glad he’s choosing to stay in Bay Village after the retirement.”
Cahoon said his initial retirement plans focus – as ever – on personal relationships.
“I’m a grampa, so I intend to do a lot in that area of my life and I do intend to travel with my wife,” he said. “But I’ll still be around and help with good causes where I can in the community; it’s something I’ll always do.”