Citing nagging health issues and difficulty in bouncing back from trying circumstances, Woodland Heights Elementary School principal Bob Turner announced his retirement after 30 years in education.
Turner’s last day at work is today.
“It’s kind of a sad day for us in the BISD,” superintendent Dr. Reece Blincoe told reporters Thursday. “We’ve got a principal that’s leaving our district that has been focused and dedicated to the students’ success.”
Turner, 54, stunned his staff in a faculty meeting Wednesday with the news of his mid-school-year retirement, and word quickly spread among the school’s PTO members.
“Our jaws hit the floor in shock,” first-year teacher Tammy Glass said of Wednesday’s faculty meeting. “None of us knew what to say.”
Turner, who has been the school’s principal for eight years, said he has been running a low-grade fever for 11 weeks that was at first believed to be related to Epstein-Barr virus, but now may be from severe allergies “that have got my system really whacked.”
“This year I just can’t get over whatever this is that’s bothering me physically. So this ought to help,” Turner said.
He said also said he has never managed to fully recover from several events from the spring of 2008, including the death of teacher Margie Michael.
Another staff member was diagnosed with breast cancer, and another lost her husband, Turner said.
“And then I had two broken ribs for awhile,” Turner said. “Seemed like there was another problem or two. It took a lot of starch out of me, and all of us, I think. It was a very challenging spring. I don’t know that I ever got recharged over that.
“ … It is just harder to get pumped every year. It takes its toll. It was just a really hard spring. I didn’t get refreshed like I probably needed, and it’s just harder every year to get pumped again.”
When asked why he is leaving mid-year, Turner replied, “Well, I’m sick now. I feel awful right now and I think this will help me with that.” He said a long night’s sleep helps him feel better next day and when there are meetings going on, “I just can’t do that like I need to.”
Woodland Heights PTO president Diane Roberts said she had known about the issues that led to Turner’s retirement, but was surprised nonetheless.
Roberts described Turner as a “tremendous asset” to the district. She said she felt “very sad, very sad he’s had to make this decision to retire. … My phone has been ringing since he made the announcement (Wednesday) afternoon.”
Turner was an elementary school principal in the Waco area before coming to work in the Brownwood school district in 2001. He started out as principal of South Elementary, which the school board opted to close at the end of that school year. He was assigned as principal at Woodland Heights in 2002.
Turner was present when Blincoe met with reporters Thursday at the district’s central office. Blincoe highlighted several of the school’s accomplishments during Turner’s time on the job, including:
• Named an exemplary campus by the Texas Education Agency for six consecutive years.
“I can tell you that only a handful of elementary schools in the state of Texas probably can make that claim. It can’t be that many … especially Title 1 campuses,” Blincoe said. Title 1 is a federal designation under the No Child Left Behind Act and means a school has 40 percent or more disadvantaged students.
• Received the TEA’s Gold Commendations in reading and math from 2004 through 2009, and commendations in attendance from 2005 through 2007.
• Named an Honor Roll School from 2005 through 2009 by the Texas Business and Education Coalition.
• Named by Texas Monthly as one of the best public schools in Texas in 2006 and 2007.
• Named a Title 1 Distinguished Campus in 2005 through 2008.
• Named a National Title 1 Distinguished Campus finalist in 2007 and 2008.
• Named a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon school by the Department of Education in 2005.
“Bob’s had a very, very, good career. He’s had an illustrious career and he’ll be sorely missed,” Blincoe said.
“I think we all, as educators, feel like we just get tired. … Bob’s been doing this 30 years. A lot of folks – that’s usually the magic point where we can retire.
“ … We certainly understand. While we’re sad, we’re also happy for Bob, too. He’s now entering the rest of his life where he can enjoy the fruits of his labor in education.”
Turner said he used the example of former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmett Smith, who finished his career with a couple of non-productive seasons with another team.
“He had two years in Arizona where he didn’t do much, and I don’t want to be like that,” Turner said. “I want to go out when I still have some energy and enthusiasm. It was just harder every year.”
“ … It’s been a pleasure and an honor to work with the kids all these years.”
Turner said his most memorable moments include standing on a stage in Washington, D.C., to receive a plaque in honor of the school being named a Blue Ribbon School.
He said he is also proud of seeing teacher’s aide at Woodland Heights go on to become certified as teachers.