A parade of cheers and tears: Principal’s retirement celebration — at a distance

When it came time for the Meredith-Dunn School in Louisville to mark the retirement of Principal Kathy Beam, the school community didn’t let the rain — or the pandemic — hinder their plans. On Friday May 15, the school held a drive by event for students to say goodbye and congratulate Beam, who has headed the school for 18 years and worked in education for over 45 years. The Meredith-Dunn School offers specialized instruction to students with learning disabilities and/or learning differences in grades first through eighth.

Students and their families lined up in the parking lot behind the school and circled around to the front of the building where Kathy Beam stood under a popup tent with her husband Mike and a few colleagues. More faculty and staff members formed a line on either side of the tent along the circle drive. As past and present students and their families drove up to the tent to say their goodbyes, cards, flower arrangements, posters and other gifts were handed through car windows to a masked faculty member.

Beam got a chance to see and talk to her school community in person for the first time since the pandemic closed schools and move students and teachers to virtual classes. Beam spoke about the challenges that have come with the pandemic, including keeping the school community safe while ensuring that students continued to learn. However, she said, she also saw how the school has persevered through an unprecedented situation, and how every staff and faculty member has reached out to students to support their learning: “It has shown me the competency of this faculty, who have just really stepped up.” She said their response is a testament to their dedication: “I think it’s been a great example of how much teachers care about their students. That’s been the greatest lesson I have learned from all of this, that commitment is real.”

Though the pandemic prevents Beam from saying goodbye in person to the graduating class and the rest of the students who would normally be departing for summer break, she plans to say goodbye to each classroom personally through Google Meets and deliver this message: “I continue to be so proud of them. They are tenacious, resilient kids who work very very hard, and my hope for them would be that they continue to do their best. It’s the best gift they could ever give me.”

Students and their families brought cards, flowers, balloons and gifts to give to Kathy Beam at her retirement parade.
Meredith-Dunn faculty and staff lined the sidewalk of the circle drive in front of the school, excited to see their students in person for the first time in weeks since schools closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Principal Kathy Beam smiles as students drive through to see her during her retirement parade at Meredith-Dunn.
Students and their families participating in the parade handed cards and gifts to Anne Eddins for Kathy Beam.
Many students created posters for Kathy Beam that they gave to her during the parade.
Parents and students congratulated and said goodbye to Kathy Beam during her retirement parade.
Anne Eddins wore a mask while taking posters, flowers, gifts and balloons from students and parents to give to Kathy Beam for her retirement.
Many students created posters for Kathy Beam.
Students waved to Kathy Beam as they drove by.
Many students created posters for Kathy Beam that they gave to her during the parade.
By the end of her retirement parade, Kathy Beam was surrounded by flowers, posters, balloons and gifts given to her by students and their families.