By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Thomas Street Elementary School Principal Kay Collins will retire at the end of June after 34 years as an educator.
The Tupelo native has spent more than 30 of those years working in the district where she went to school.
“It is the time in my life,” Collins, 63, said of her decision to retire. “I’m ready to do it.
“Thomas Street is a stellar school. It is a good time to go. I think the district is on an upswing, and everything is looking great, and I’ve been around for a long time. All my friends are retired, and I had to join them.”
Collins is in her second year leading the 430-student K-2 school after spending the previous 17 years at Church Street Elementary. That time included four years as a principal and 13 as a gifted teacher.
Collins’ career began in the Lee County School District, where she spent three and a half years teaching in Verona and Belden. After staying home with her children for the next eight years, she taught at Green Street Elementary, then a sixth-grade school in Tupelo.
She also taught gifted at Milam and later at Tupelo Middle School before going to Church Street, where she also served as community education coordinator.
“I went to Tupelo schools, student taught there, taught there and was principal there,” Collins said. “My children went there, and so did my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. It is part of my family, my heritage, and I will always love it.”
Collins announced her decision to her staff on Thursday. She doesn’t know exactly what she will do next, but her first grandchild is due in August, and she also plans to spend time painting.
Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden said the district will begin its search for her replacement. It advertised the opening on its website on Friday.
“Kay has been wonderful to work with this year, and I feel like Thomas Street is in great shape, and we will have wonderful people who want to be principal there.
“We have a wonderful faculty, and it is a very warm and inviting campus. We will open up the search and find a good leader for the school who will continue to move Thomas Street forward.”