TUPELO – Tupelo High School Principal Mac Curlee announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the semester. In his 40th year as an educator and 14th year at THS, Curlee said Thursday night that it was just time.
“The 13-and-a-half years in the Tupelo School District has been a very gratifying experience,” Curlee said. “It has been an honor and a privilege, and it is something I will miss. It is something you don’t walk away from without having some of those tugs on your heart, but it is the right time for me.”
TPSD Superintendent Randy Shaver said an interim principal will be named while the district conducts an extensive search for Curlee’s replacement. Shaver said it is too early to say who will be the interim principal.
Shaver applauded the job done by Curlee.
“His leadership will be missed in the community,” Shaver said. “He is well-respected throughout the state and throughout the South.”
Curlee said he made his decision to retire in the middle of the year because many of the school’s decisions about the 2010-11 school year will be made during the spring semester. He said he wanted to give the school district enough time to put someone in the position where those decisions can be made.
“It might seem like an unusual time,” Curlee said. “I guess these retirements usually take place in May, but it is not unheard of for December retirements. I wanted to make sure that the next person at Tupelo High School will have the opportunity to have input as far as planning for the next school year.”
Shaver and Curlee both said they had a good relationship. Curlee said the presence of a new superintendent had nothing to do with his decision to retire.
Shaver said Curlee has led the school through some good years, and he will be missed.
“I tried to get him to stay,” Shaver said.
Curlee began at THS on July 1, 1996, after previously serving as principal at Oxford High School. He has spent 28 years as a principal, also holding the position at Booneville, Pearl and Forest high schools.
Curlee was named 2001 Administrator of the Year for the 1st Congressional District and was the runner-up for the state award.
Curlee’s wife Martha Lewis Curlee is also a retired educator. He said he doesn’t know what he’ll do after his last day in the district, Dec. 31.
“I am going to have some opportunities, and I will weigh those carefully,” Curlee said. “I have two grandchildren I absolutely adore and enjoy being with. Being a high school principal requires a lot of time, and I’ve spent a lot of time away from my family.”
Curlee said he had been contemplating the decision for several weeks and that he finally came to peace with it over the last couple of days.
“This is not anything you make a rash decision about,” Curlee said. “There will certainly be things I’m going to miss. It is time.”
Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal