TEMPERANCE — The Bedford Public Schools Board of Education bade farewell to Monroe Road Elementary School’s retiring principal last week, then hired her replacement.
The elementary school’s lunchroom, where the board meets, was filled with praise for Thea Kirkwood, whose last day on the job is Nov. 22. About 50 people attended a cake-and-punch reception the board held in her honor 30 minutes before the start of its regular meeting.
When the meeting convened, the board approved a one-year contract for her replacement, Alex Chapman.
He starts Nov. 25 with an annual salary of $87,935. Mr. Chapman comes to Bedford from Summit Academy North Elementary School near Romulus, Mich.
At Mrs. Kirkwood’s reception, Superintendent of Schools Mark Kleinhans, in his first school year in Bedford, said he wished he had been able to work with her longer.
“My only regret is that I didn’t get the opportunity to work many months, years, with you,” he told her.
Other colleagues lauded Mrs. Kirkwood as a consummate educator and administrator.
Carol Perz, principal at Douglas Road Elementary, called her “a tremendous asset,” and said her professional “tool box” contained “honesty, integrity, intelligence, compassion. ... She’s been our voice of reason in many meetings.”
Mrs. Kirkwood has been with the Bedford schools for 20 years, joining the district as a junior-high special education teacher. After two years she transferred to the former Smith Road Elementary as a reading specialist. In 2001, she became lead teacher at Monroe Road Elementary when it opened in the fall, and became the school’s principal in 2008.
“Throughout the years, everyone — from students to staff members — has appreciated Thea’s integrity, dedication, perseverance, and optimism in an environment that seems to be continually changing,” said Amy Kochendoerfer, a reading specialist at Monroe Road. “One might say her glass is always half full.”
Mrs. Kirkwood, for her part, thanked her husband, Stan, for his support, and advised the audience that “you will never regret having spent time with children.”
Mr. Chapman was hired from among 22 applicants. He emerged as the top candidate after three rounds of interviews, Edward Manuszak, assistant superintendent for instructional and student services, told the board.
Mr. Chapman told board members he’d had “an affinity for Monroe County and the Bedford schools for years,” and immediately applied when he saw the job opening advertised.