“I didn’t realize until speaking with Dr. Kay at her party that I was in that first class. I would bet 35 years ago I was the last student she would have imagined advising as a Senator. The old “upper elementary” classes were in what is now the administration building and we still used the old radiators for heat and raised the windows when it was hot! There were at least four of those classmates present at the retirement party, I would think probably more than any other class represented. I believe a person should have a passion for what they do in life and I believe that Dr. Kay has a passion for education and has done a great job in her years at Greenwood. We were Blessed to have her,” Senator Bruce Holland recalls.
Hundreds of present and past Greenwood school staff, students and community members dropped by a reception to bid Superintendent Kay Headley a happy retirement.
Those in attendance last Thursday included area legislators and Headley’s colleagues from other area districts. Headley is retiring on July 1 after 35 years in education and after leading the district since 2002. The Greenwood School Board hosted the event.
Mary Ann Sandifer, a 15-year School Board member, served on the board that hired Headley as superintendent.
“When she came and applied, she exuded ‘I love Greenwood Schools.’ She was a graduate of Greenwood and already had superintendent experience,” Sandifer said.
Paul McCollom, a 20-year board member, also served on Headley’s hiring board. McCollom said he’d heard about Headley and the job she’d done as superintendent at County Line School District when he joined the board in 1994. At the time, he said, Headley was working at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Headley’s brother, Larry Bridges, was Greenwood’s assistant superintendent, serving under then Superintendent Bob Evans. When the board hired Headley, she followed in their footsteps, McCollom said.
McCollom said from Headley’s perspective, “It’s all about kids. What can we do for kids to make the experience better for kids? That’s what it’s been all about.”
Sandifer said over the years, Headley has become a good friend, and she’ll miss working with her.
Trisha Neal, assistant principal at Greenwood’s East Hills Middle School, said Headley gave her her first job in education 17 years ago at County Line. Neal has served Greenwood now for five years, the past two as assistant principal.
“I think the most remarkable thing I’ve observed or learned about her is … she demonstrates a concern and care for individual students as well as keeping up with her vast role as administrator,” Neal said.
Kim Gill, a two-year Greenwood instructional facilitator just hired as assistant principal for the district’s Westwood Elementary, said she likes Headley’s strong leadership model and how her drive for excellence spills over into the school and the community.
Attendees included Sandra and Dan Palmer, who numbered among Headley’s high school teachers when she was a Greenwood student. They are now retired. Dan Palmer taught social studies, geography, history, economics, government, civics and Arkansas history. Sandra Palmer taught business courses, including typing, bookkeeping and shorthand.
The class of ’63, Dan Palmer’s first year with the school, graduated 63 students, he said. now, he noted, the growing district’s graduation class numbers about 270.
As a teen, Palmer said, Headley “was involved in a little bit of everything — cheerleader, annual staff, newspaper, Beta Club, of course, class officer. She was a go-getter. … She was the kind of student that you don’t ever have enough like her. We’re real proud of her.”
A Greenwood native, Headley began teaching in 1978 at age 28 at Greenwood Elementary. Seven years later, she moved to County Line where she worked for 13 years, first as elementary principal then as superintendent. In 1999, she became director of the then-new Western Arkansas Technical Center at what is now UAFS. In 2002, she returned to Greenwood as superintendent.
Headley has said Greenwood is her home, and she will continue to live there. Headley, formerly Johnson, recently remarried. Her husband, Glenn Headley, who was a pharmacist and Health Depot owner, retired in January.
In February, the School Board selected assistant Superintendent John Ciesla to serve as Headley’s successor.