Longtime superintendent retiring from Orangefield ISD
Philip Welch has been with the Orangefield ISD for over 20 years and the district superintendent for five years, but that all ended on Tuesday night.
The board of trustees named Kay Karr as the interim superintendent at a special meeting Tuesday night.
Karr said she’s honored to be named to a position to the Orangefield ISD because of the district’s positive reputation.
“There’s more pluses here than any minuses,” Karr said. “I propose no changes but only stability and consistency until someone long-term is named.”
In the meantime, Karr will be preparing the district profile. Karr has been an educator for 47 years at every grade level. She’s been a superintendent for 17 years. She has since retired, but joked there is no such thing as retirement for an educator.
Since retiring, she has started a business and still works daily with children with the Texas Education Agency as a monitor and as a conservator.
“I’m thrilled to be part of the team. I see this as an opportunity to make Orangefield grow bigger and better,” she said.
Karr originally hails from Lubbock. She grew up in West Texas before moving to East Texas in the Guadalupe Mountains.
She moved to Orange in 2002 after her daughter married a man from Orange. Since then, she said she’s been loving every minute spent with her grandchildren.
Welch is now officially retired as the Orangefield Board of Trustees accepted his retirement.
“This is my fifth year as superintendent. I have been in the district for 26 years as a teacher, assistant principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent,” he said.
Some past accomplishments that stand out in Welch’s mind include passing a bond issue after Hurricane Rita after the district was devastated, helping Bridge City students after Hurricane Ike and some unfortunate tragedies that occurred in the small school district.
“Hurricane Ike didn’t do as much damage to us as Hurricane Rita did,” Welch said. “We helped Bridge City students after Ike. We had a really good relationship with the former superintendent there, Jamey Harrison as we have a good relationship with Mr. (Mike) King (current BCISD superintendent) now.
“We had a teacher who had an improper relationship with a student, a teacher killed, who was shot and her son arrested, though it hasn’t gone to trial, the unfortunate death of three students in a wreck and a student to die from an accident with a gun.”
On top of that, Welch said it’s a challenge dealing with everyday things for schools, staff and students. Though the community has gone through some tough times, Orangefield always bounces back, he said.
“We unite as a community and we come back stronger.”
Welch said he largely had a veteran staff when he first began as superintendent. That changed in three to five years through retirement while new teachers were added.
He added he was proud to work with such a quality group and a new staff is in place to mature.
“Twenty years down the road, we’ll have a veteran teaching staff for another superintendent. They will be good for kids. They will be supportive and nurturing,” he said.
Another accomplishment completed under Welch’s tenure was the building of the Orangefield Cormier Museum.
He said the district will be supportive in growing the museum—something Founder Paul Cormier and his family would have wanted.
Welch said now is the right time for him to retire from the district.
“I’m eligible for retirement. I had a conversation with the board several months ago. It’s a strain coming back from Spring Break to plan for the rest of the school year and it’s more of a strain planning for the next school year,” he said. “There might be plans for the 2012-2013 year, or the board may have a different vision and I may be a roadblock.”
Welch will continue living in the community and be available to help the district in any way.
He’s not sure yet how he will spend his retirement, but when he was interviewed by telephone, he was on his way to watch the Lamar Cardinals basketball game in Katy.
He said it’s a nice experience to watch the game as a fan rather than as an administrator on duty.
“I’ll relax and rejuvenate. As far as the future, I really don’t know,” Welch said.
Nancy Ashworth, OISD board president, wrote in a press release Welch has contributed 26 years of countless hours to OISD.
“He has been instrumental in acquiring grants for our schools, acquiring land for future growth, completing the bond projects, bringing salaries for all employees to a more competitive level, adding a new life skills building at the high school, advancing our Ag Department and major technology improvements across the entire district,” she wrote.
Ashworth added the most memorable and honorable accomplishment Welch completed during his tenure as superintendent of OISD was helping the district and neighboring district BCISD in the recovery process after Hurricane Ike.
“The leadership that he displayed to our staff and our kids will never be forgotten. There were many valuable life lessons taught during that time outside of the classroom,” she stated.