When students at Idaho Falls High School return to classes next fall, one familiar face will be missing.
Randy Hurley, a 39-year fixture at Idaho Falls School District 91 and principal of 14 years, is retiring at the end of the school year.
Hurley is leaving behind a career spanning thousands of students, dozens of colleagues and countless memories.
“I’m going to miss it a lot,” Hurley said. “This is a great place to be. I’ve just had a great experience here … and a big reason I’ve enjoyed this job is because of all the great kids — we’ve just had terrific kids over the years.”
Hurley is an Idaho Falls native. Growing up, he attended what was formerly Central Junior High School (which burned down in 1973) and later, Skyline High School, where he took classes in the Idaho Falls High School building. (Because Skyline’s construction wasn’t finished, its students didn’t yet attend classes at the high school.)
“As a teenager, you don’t even really have career plans,” Hurley said. “It’s just learning, trying to understand things and just starting to think about careers — but there was no thought at that point in time I would ever be a school teacher.”
That changed for Hurley when he embarked for Thailand to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Before I left to go on my mission, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Hurley said. “When I returned home, there was a very, very strong draw for me to pursue (education). And I loved science, so I majored in science and got a composite teaching major and never really regretted it — it’s just been perfect for me.”
Hurley landed his first teaching job at Eagle Rock Junior High School as a science teacher. It was 1975 and Hurley was 25 years old and a recent Brigham Young University graduate.
He was hired by Steve Holtom, principal of Eagle Rock at the time and Hurley’s former social studies teacher at Central. Holtom went on to become principal at Idaho Falls for 22 years, preceding Hurley.
“Randy’s a good, solid person,” Holtom said. “He’s not bouncing off the wall from one idea to the next. And, as a student, he was always a good student — he always did what he was supposed to do.”
That first year at Eagle Rock posed challenges for Hurley. That fall, District 91 went on strike. Despite being young and eager to start his new job, Hurley had to wait. Then, that following spring, the Teton Dam broke. Hurley remembers the scurry and confusion following the incident. The memories of that first year are still clear, he said.
“That first year was a steep learning curve,” he said. “As a new teacher coming into the classroom, you’ve had a few experiences but now, you have the responsibility of that whole experience — it’s very, very demanding.”
After nine years, Hurley accepted a job at Idaho Falls High School as assistant principal/physiology teacher. There, he worked for seven years before transferring to what was formerly Clair E. Gale Junior High School to work as principal. (The site now houses Compass Academy.)
In 1999, Hurley returned to Idaho Falls High School to work as assistant principal for a year with Holton, who was retiring at the end of that school year. Hurley became principal in the fall of 2000 — and he’s been there ever since.
Idaho Falls High School alumna Bailey Ritchie was student body president in 2002. She remembers working with Hurley on several projects including a schoolwide 9/11 memorial assembly.
“His door was always open and I felt very welcome in his office,” she said. “I felt like he knew me personally, knew my interests and was so much more interested in getting to know us beyond just the student body officers.”
John Bridges, a longtime social studies teacher at the high school, said working alongside Hurley over the years has been humbling.
“He never felt he was captain of the ship, although he was,” Bridges said. “(He acted like) he was just another crew member. He did things for what was best for the school and wasn’t afraid to, when necessary, state the right thing. I think he’ll be hugely missed — he’s done some really great things here.”
For Hurley, leaving won’t be easy, either.
“I think very fondly of all the things the students have taught me and about all the kids who’ve influenced me,” he said. “It’s been inspiring to see what they can accomplish — that’s given me hope and I think it’s kept me going all these years. For 39 years, coming to work has been a joy, and I’m really going to miss it.”