Year in Review: The Biggest Headlines of the 2023-2024 School Year

The Falconer’s editors reflect on the year’s most important and consequential articles
Students mourn the loss of principal Kraig Kelican at a candlelight vigil.
Students mourn the loss of principal Kraig Kelican at a candlelight vigil.
Provided by Patrick Nye
From The Editor
From The Editor

How can one even describe this year? The students have faced unprecedented death, tragedy, and personal loss as this school has never seen before, on top of all the usual stresses of high school. The 2023-2024 school year could’ve been without fault one of perpetual gloominess and despair. But what is even more inspiring during these times is those who step up and make the best of the situation – those who lead and set a positive example for those around them despite all the struggles and loss they have faced. As we reflect on the year’s most important, inspiring, and influential articles, I’d like to thank these people – whether they are a student, faculty, or parent, for stepping up to make my last year of high school one for the ages.

-David Achter, Editor-in-Chief

Officer Torelli lights up the room with his brilliant smile.
Staff, Students Mourn Officer “Sal” Torelli

Before the school year even began, beloved SSO Sal Torelli passed away, leaving a gaping hole in the community. Torelli was known to always love interacting with students and was loved by the students. His loss was devastating the school, but his smile and positive energy are carried on by those who remember him.

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Officer Torelli lights up the room with his brilliant smile. (Provided by Diana Story)
Kelican poses during an administrator photo shoot. Assistant principal Diana Story stated this was the last official photo taken of Kelican.
FHS Remembers Beloved Principal Kraig Kelican

Only adding to Fauquier’s despair, principal Kraig Kelican ultimately passed away from his injuries sustained in a vehicle accident on I-66 following a two-week battle in intensive care. The loss of this man, who was loved by essentially all who met him, created an uproar in the community and left a gaping hole in the school.

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Kelican poses during an administrator photo shoot. Assistant principal Diana Story stated this was the last official photo taken of Kelican. (Provided by Diana Story)
Virginia DOE: New Pronouns Need Parental Consent
Virginia DOE: New Pronouns Need Parental Consent

Under the administration of Republican Governor Glenn Younkin, new rules from the Virginia Department of Education require educators to inform parents of changes to a student’s name, pronouns, or gender identity. The move was hailed by state officials as a measure of transparency, though criticized by some students, who claimed the measure would ultimately hurt students.

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The rise of OpenAIs ChatGPT has prompted concerns from teachers.
FHS Responds to Rise of ChatGPT

The sudden rise of AI tools, such as ChatGPT, have allowed FHS teachers to plan lessons better, improve their assignments, and have created new learning opportunities. But concerns about how students may use it to cheat have cast a negative light on the software, and ultimately caused it to be banned on student devices.

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The rise of OpenAI’s ChatGPT has prompted concerns from teachers. (David Achter)
The FHS Cheer team performs at the state competition.
FHS Athletics Thrive in the Postseason

The 2023-2024 year saw an impressive showing from FHS’ sports teams, as multiple ended up competing in state competitions. Nail-biting games dominated the season – one game saw FHS losing 1-2 with 14 seconds left on the clock, though incredibly the team persevered and won the game through overtime.

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The FHS Cheer team performs at the state competition. (The Eyrie)
The current use of AI tools by FHS teachers in the grading process is entirely inappropriate.
STAFF ED: Teachers, Keep AI Away from our Grades

In one of The Falconer’s most impactful staff editorials ever, the Editorial Board denounces FHS teachers who use AI tools, such as ChatGPT, to grade assignments. The powerful article rebukes those who use the tools, and the content went on to be presented at multiple high-level faculty meetings and ultimately saw these tools restricted in the grading process for English teachers.

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The current use of AI tools by FHS teachers in the grading process is entirely inappropriate. (Wikimedia Commons)
The pictured solar panels, shown in 1975, were installed as part of a project by the Department of Energy before being subsequently removed.
Group Proposes Adding Solar Panels to FHS Roof

This award-winning article explores the proposal from a local environmental group to add solar panels to the FHS roof – something done before. Pictured are solar panels at FHS when they participated in a Department of Energy study in the 1970s. Now, what was considered futuristic back then may soon become a reality at the county’s oldest high school.

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The pictured solar panels, shown in 1975, were installed as part of a project by the Department of Energy before being subsequently removed. (Provided by The Eyrie)
Librarian Rebecca Webster dashes past the camera while running the famous Boston Marathon.
Librarian Webster Runs in Boston Marathon

Librarian Rebecca Webster ran in the Boston Marathon, an inspiration to students in a school where running remains the de facto official sport. The marathon is the culmination of an extremely impressive running career, and is among the biggest milestones one can achieve in long-distance running.

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Librarian Rebecca Webster dashes past the camera while running the famous Boston Marathon. (Courtesy of Rebecca Webster)
Swagdollasign performs at the homecoming dance.
EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Rap King of FHS, Swagdollasign

Sophomore Xavier Hill, known professionally as Swagdollasign, has performed at nearly every school event to thunderous applause. But who is he really? In this Falconer exclusive, we sit down with him and talk about his goals & aspirations in the music business.

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Swagdollasign performs at the homecoming dance. (Frank Strano/The Eyrie)
Dr. David Ferguson wears his new falcon gear in the FHS lobby.
New Principal Ferguson is Excited About Fauquier

Following the passing of principal Kelican, Dr. Ferguson was selected to succeed him as principal for the 2024-2025 school year. His presence creates complex feelings for students, who are excited about a change while still grieving from Kelican’s loss.

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Dr. David Ferguson wears his new falcon gear in the FHS lobby. (Provided by David Ferguson )

Have a great day, today and everyday – it is important.

-Principal Kraig Kelican

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About the Contributor
David Achter
David Achter, Editor-in-Chief
Hey! My name is David Achter, and I'm an Editor-in-Chief. I'm a senior, and this is the third year I've worked with the newspaper. I am a volunteer EMT and enjoy hiking, working with computers, and trivia. I'm excited to be here and am looking forward to another great year!
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