Southwest principal retires after 24 years

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Judy Randall, Southwest Elementary School principal, and Deborah Toler, counselor, judge a chicken dancing contest for Mike Vining's third-grade grade P.E. class. Randall gave all the finalist an award of 10 Randall bucks that they can use to buy a prize at different times throughout the year. Kayla Monahan/

Randall's career has revolved around helping children

Judy Randall, principal of Southwest Elementary School for 24 years, recently submitted her letter of resignation, as she plans to retire.

"Mrs. Randall is a wonderful person," said Debbie Hall, who has worked as Randall's secretary for 18 years. "She is rewarding, encouraging and makes things fun for the kids. I hate to see her retire."

Randall said babysitting her neighbor in high school was one of the reasons she entered the education field.

"I always loved being with him," Randall said. "I wanted to be around little kids, because he was little then."

Randall went on to major in elementary education at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

"I always wanted to be a teacher," she said. "I never thought anything different."

As she came to the end of her senior year of college, she saw an ad in the newspaper for a teaching position in Oklahoma. She looked up the city on a map and sent in the application.

Randall attended the interview, and then went back to her parent's house in Cassville.

"I had never been interviewed before, so I did not know if it was good or bad, but I felt like it was good," she said.

As she arrived back home late that evening her parents were waiting for her at the table. They asked her about the interview and told her she had received a call.

She called the number back, and the school hired her over the phone.

After three years in Oklahoma, Randall took a position in Mt. Vernon. While working there, she completed a master's degree in education.

Having a close relationship with her family, Randall moved to her husband's hometown of Washburn, where she taught for two years before taking the position as principal at Southwest Elementary.

"I never thought of this as a job; it was just going to school," she said. "I never said work. I just came here to take care of the children.

"It's always been fun. It's never the same two days in a row."

After 26 years, Randall has gotten to know the school and its students very well. Now, she frequently hears parents say, "She was my principal too."

Randall has seen a number of changes during her years at the school, as she remembers when she started, there was very little security. Anyone could walk in the building or visit a child. Now, she uses a camera system to monitor who comes in before unlocking the doors.

Randall also remembers not having air conditioning in the building.

"With no A/C, it was hot in a classroom with a bunch of little steamy bodies," she said.

Knowing that school was beginning and it was still hot, and loving to sew, Randall made some cotton dresses to wear.

One "ornery little fellow" went into his first-grade classroom wearing a new outfit. The teacher noticed and asked him to deliver a letter to Randall. He walked into the office and looked at her dress made of the same material and said, "Wow, where'd you get your dress? I got mine at a yard sale."

At recess, he ripped his shorts, and it looked like he was wearing the same dress as his principal.

"He did not seem to mind. His mom bought it, and he was proud to wear it," Randall said. "I still have the dress because every time I see it I laugh."

After being at school for so long, Randall is ready for a new adventure being able to relax and spend time with her family.

"There comes a time when you just retire, but I'll always be involved with school. I've spent more time here than anywhere."

School officials said they hope to have replacement candidates for Randall at the next school board meeting. Randall earns an annual salary of $67,500, and her last day on the job is June 30.

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