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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Former Superintendent came at an important time in KISD history

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J.W. ?Red? Teague passed away this last week (obituary). He is perhaps one of the more colorful superintendents in Kennedale?s history and one that played a pivotal role in its survival. {{more:[Read more]}}

A former coach, he came to Kennedale via Everman where he was had been a teacher, coach and junior high principal. He was hired in 1972 to be the Kennedale Junior High Principal but it was crisis time in the school district. The district nearly shut its doors for good.
Kennedale was growing but didn?t have the tax basis to support adding the needed facilities and staff. In play was a push to build a new high school but that came with a cost and the district simply did not have the funds to pay its bills. Voters in the district decided that it was time to close the doors and the process was set in motion.
However, local school and community leaders, knowing how important it was for Kennedale to have its own school district decided to fight the closure. A group from Kennedale travelled to Austin to plea for time and funds. It worked. Kennedale ISD, however, had a narrow path to tread.
In 1973, the school board turned to Red Teague and asked him to walk that path.
Teague did and did it so well, that before he left, Kennedale had amassed a fund balance (think of a reserve account) that was the envy of every school district in the area. It fact it was thought to be one of the top three in the state of all school districts. It grew so large that the Texas Education Agency was threatening to stop funding Kennedale until the surplus was spent down.
It was safe to say, not a penny was spent in the district without his ok. Departments and grades levels were allotted $30 to $50 a year to spend on supplies and they were encouraged not to spend it.
An often repeated story involving former Kennedale High School Head Coach and Athletic Director Dan Yokeley illustrated the feeling among staff at the time. As legend had it, Coach Yokeley went into Mr. Teague?s office to plea for more money to buy equipment for a football team that was really growing in numbers. According to lore, Mr. Teague replied, ?Coach, I just bought you a new football.?
He did the hiring which led to some epic battles between he and legendary elementary principal, James Delaney. Some thought the Admin Building actually shook. With the exception of Mr. Delaney, most applicants met Mr. Teague, sometimes as early as 6 a.m, and if things went well, the approved candidate was sent to “meet” their principal. A beginning teacher made just a few hundred dollars a year above the state base but was rewarded for staying with the district with several jumps in pay later.
Teague cut cost by designing and helping to build new additions. The former administration building, located at the corner of Kennedale Parkway and Crestview and that is now the Kennedale Alternative Education School, is one that he designed and physcially helped to build.
A tile layer himself, Teague laid the tile in more than one restroom in the school district. He loved to mow and he made it a hard and fast rule that no one was to mow the football field but him.
He started his day early around 6 a.m. but was out of the office each day by 3 pm to pick up his wife at work without fail, returning only if absolutely necessary.
He was not always easy to get along with and was famous for his temper. He was strict and more than one male teacher was sent a message that informed him that it was time to get a haircut because the hair was touching the ears.
His iron hand style of management led to conflicts with the school board and his own staff. He didn?t like to be questioned even by members of the board and he especially didn?t like teachers or staff attending board meetings. He had unexpectedly resigned, twice once in 1980 and then again in 1985, but the Board refused to accept his resignations.
However, things were changing rapidly for Mr. Teague . There was mounting pressure for him to spend the excessive surplus that the district was accumulating. And the landscape in public education was evolving in Texas in the 1980’s, with more parental, teacher and community involvement required. Mr. Teague was old school and these changes were hard to take.
The final straw for him apparently came at the begining of the 1986 school year, when a group of high school teachers requested that the KISD Board consider changing a long standing policy of no moustaches for male teachers.
The issue became public when the Kennedale Head Basketball Coach, Alan Achtinson showed up for the first day of school wearing a moustache. He was suspended when he refused to shave, susquently he resigned.
A few weeks later, on September 18 at a regularly scheduled board meeting, the KISD Board supported Mr. Teague and the current policy by a vote of 6-1. But, the Board appointed a committee to draft an alternate policy for consideration at the end of the school year.
Red Teague had said that when it was time, he was just going to walk out the door and not come back. He did just that after the meeting on September 18. Leaving a resignation letter dated September 19 and his keys. Teague left the building that he had helped build for the final time.
On Monday, September 22, the KISD Board of Trustees voted to accepted his resignation and appointed Assistant Superintendent G.D. Cockerham as interim. Cockerham was later hired as Superintendent for the remainder of the year. Cockerham ended up serving until 1993 when he retired.
Teague refused any attempt to honor his years of service to the district even when there was some discussion of naming the then new high school football stadium (currently the Kennedale Junior High Field) after him.
He remained true to his word and never returned. But, his contribution to the district was significant. He did keep the lights on and the doors open at a time when it did seemed questionable.
J.W. “Red” Teague, 1920-2016.

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