From warning parents about lions to becoming one himself, Randy Byrd said he is excited to start in his new role as the Searcy Public Schools’ assistant superintendent of special programs.
Byrd, who began working for the school district on July 1, has worked in various education roles across the state since he started his career as a science teacher in the Hughes School District in 1989. One experience he said he was never trained for was writing a letter to parents to explain that lions were loose in the area.
“I was at Quitman, and I don’t think I had been there more than a month or so,” Byrd said. “My wife called and asked me what I was doing, and I told her I was writing a letter to my [students’] parents. She asked what it was about, and I said it was about the escaped lions that were about and how [the parents] need to watch their children at the bus stops. I never thought I’d write a letter about escaped lions.”
The fence at an animal reserve in the area had been damaged in a storm, and four lions had gotten out and were roaming the neighborhood. Eventually, one was captured and three were killed, but Byrd said addressing the situation was one experience he will never forget.
Now in his new role, Byrd is a Lion, watching over the transportation, food service, external funding, facilities, maintenance and custodial work for the Searcy Lions.
“Searcy is an excellent school district. It has been for years,” Byrd said. “As much as the job, the opportunity to get back home is exciting. We are truly coming back home.”
Byrd and his wife are originally from Bald Knob, and he said it will be nice being near his father and her mother again.
After graduating from Bald Knob High School, Byrd attended Arkansas State University and Ouachita Baptist University before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education from Harding University. He then went on to earn a Master of Education degree from Harding and a doctorate in education administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
His career took him from the Hughes School District to Bald Knob as a science teacher, then assistant principal. He later served as superintendent for the Quitman, Brinkley and Berryville school districts before his move to Searcy.
Byrd was a teacher for 11 years, and he said he never had an inclination to be an administrator. Now, he said, he misses the classroom and the one-on-one interaction with students, but his job as an administrator is one that makes an impact on many lives, even if it is behind the scenes.
“Ninety-nine percent of the superintendents I know are in it to make it better for the kids,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. That is difficult because you are so separated from what your first love is. But, on the other hand, you have the opportunity to really influence the lives of children and their education, so it’s not like you’re not doing what you love to do.”
One of Byrd’s new responsibilities that he looks forward to is handling the facilities for the school district. He said working with facilities gives him a tangible measurement of accomplishment, and he can see directly how students appreciate the work.
“It’s always nice when you can go into a facility that you designed and helped build and see the kids enjoying it,” he said. “You get to know you were a big part of that. In that way, superintendents are separate, but not separate.”
In addition to his role in schools, Byrd was in the 188th Fighter Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard for more than 20 years. He retired in 2005 with a rank of master sergeant.
“I got in in 1985, which is also the time I came back from Hughes and started at Bald Knob,” he said. “It worked out well. The only bad part was when I had ballgame duty [as an administrator] on Friday nights. I’d have to do ballgame duty and then go to Fort Smith. But they were good to me, and I enjoyed my service.”
Byrd started as a crew chief working on F-4s and F-16s before he switched to doing photography for the Air National Guard, a position he held for 12 years. He served once monthly and was in Fort Smith for two weeks each summer.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” he said. “I always felt I should. It’s all volunteer, which is important to me. I felt like I had an obligation to my country to give something back, so that’s what I did.”
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.