17 Feb Man Of Principle | Carter Paysinger
What happens when a William Morris Endeavor agent turns his own talents towards public service and reconnects with his high school coach to make a difference? In the city of angels, it’s a book deal and movie magic.
Steven Fenton, former talent manager for WME, and Carter Paysinger, 30-year veteran coach and teacher for Beverly Hills High (BHHS,) sparked in each other a passion that transformed the school they both love. The evidence is clear, the year after Paysinger took over as principal it posted the highest test scores in the state. Reform however, didn’t come without its fair share of struggle.
Paysinger grew up in South Central Los Angles attended BHHS on a “multi-cultural permit”, in 1971. Fenton, who graduated in 1988, grew up in Beverly Hills, and although they share an alma mater, they didn’t exactly come from the same place.
Paysinger spent his youth navigating two worlds, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country and that of his own neighborhood, which was anything but.
“Keeping the two worlds separate was the best way to do it.” Paysinger said, in an interview with Focus Magazine.
Those two worlds would eventually collide.
When Paysinger was the assistant baseball coach for BHHS, he and Fenton formed a bond that would inspire Fenton long into adulthood, and prove its mettle off the field.
Paysinger related to Fenton immediately because, like himself, he was the smallest player on the field, and he brought a similar intensity to Paysinger’s own.
Through athletics, Paysinger was able to motivate student-athletes, like Fenton, well into their adult lives.
“The common thread of athletics that [translates into other fields] is time management, discipline, respect and responsibility,” said Paysinger. “Many students point to [athletics] as the one thing they held onto, moving forward in their lives.”
Fenton co-wrote the recently published book that is soon to be a movie, Where a Man Stands. It was his election to the board of BHHS that was instrumental in Paysinger becoming principal. The qualities taught by his former coach are evident in the kind of man he has become. Fenton is a man who gets things done.
When Fenton decided to run for a seat on the board he won by a landslide, even though he was unmarried at the time and had no children. There was turmoil within the district and teachers were retiring early, with frustrations surrounding the direction in which the administration was going.
“The district was doing away with the old and reinventing the wheel.” Paysinger said.
When the alliance between Fenton and Paysinger formed, they didn’t imagine that putting a beloved coach and teacher in the principal’s office would meet with any resistance. It never occurred to either one of them that neighbors and friends alike would turn their backs on them both. Change has a funny way of doing that.
The kid from the “wrong side of the tracks”, who is different in class, race and religion from those whom he wants to lead, coupled with the school board member, who quickly went from insider to outsider because he wanted to shake up the status quo, might stir up some controversy. Stir up they did, but with the foresight to follow through and improve an institution they both felt deeply committed to—all the ingredients necessary for an inspiring story.
In an interview with ABC News Fenton said, “We felt that this book was going to really inspire people to stand up. Carter and I, two ordinary people, willing to do something extraordinary.”
Ordinary people engaging in extraordinary actions, now there’s a storyline to make an audience feel good.
By Michele Kilmer
Photography: Dana Adams