By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Travis Beard, who has been a school principal for nearly 30 years, will retire at the end of the current school year.
Both Beard, who has been principal at Milam Elementary since 2005, and Milam Elementary Assistant Principal Malcolm Harden announced on Wednesday afternoon that they will retire, effective June 30.
This is Beard’s 43rd year as an educator and 23rd in the Tupelo School District. It is Harden’s 38th year in public education and 33rd year in Tupelo Schools.
“With Mr. Beard and Mr. Harden, you have 80 years of combined service to children,” said Tupelo School District Superintendent Gearl Loden. “That is a lot of years of dedicated time to work with young people.”
Beard, 67, began his career in 1968 as a math teacher and coach at Milam when it was a junior high school. He worked in the same position at Carver School when it was a ninth-grade school and later became an assistant principal at the school.
He has been a principal for 29 years, including 20 years at Amory Middle School. He was the Amory School District’s Administrator of the Year in 2002 and won that honor for the Tupelo School District last March.
A number of factors led him to make the decision he’d considered for the last couple of months. The amount of energy required had begun to take a toll on him, and he’d realized that with his years of service and what he could earn in the state retirement system, he was “working for pennies a day.” Plus, his wife, Judy, is retired and their two children live within driving distance.
“It was not one particular thing but a multitude of things together that made me say now is probably a good time,” he said.
Still, Beard admitted, it was very difficult to break the news to his faculty on Wednesday afternoon.
He’s also served as a mentor to many of the school district’s administrators, several of whom had taught under him at Milam. He cites their growth as educators as being among his proudest accomplishments.
His biggest advice, he said, is to “love your work and be excited to go to work every day.”
“Be positive and feel like you can make a difference, and you will make a difference,” he said. “Try to get better every day. You are never too old to learn something every day. Listen to what your people tell you and what your community says.”
Beard said he will continue to work on projects through his church, Harrisburg Baptist Church, and that he likely will remain involved with the school district in some role.
“We want to continue to pick his brain,” Loden said. “He has been a mentor to a lot of administrators, not only in our district, but in our region.”
Beard also serves as president of Tupelo’s Kiwanis Club and started an affiliated club at Milam for the school’s students.
He said he appreciates his wife’s support throughout his career.
Meanwhile, Harden’s career in the school district includes time as a teacher, bus driver, bus training instructor and administrator.
“The district thanks Malcolm and wishes him well in his retirement,” Loden said.
The district immediately beings its search for their replacements. It will survey Milam teachers on the qualities they are seeking in a principal and hopes to have someone hired by the March or April School Board meeting, Loden said.