Natchez school superintendent Fred Butcher retiring

Published 8:23 pm Monday, June 5, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The convocation of Natchez Adams School District staffers at the Natchez Convention Center Monday afternoon turned into a retirement celebration like no other.

It included performances from NASD’s multi-talented public engagement coordinator Tony Fields and passionate speeches from school board members as it was announced that the whispers Superintendent Fred Butcher would soon be retiring were true.

The convention center was packed Monday, full of school personnel and their family members, friends and elected officials.

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When Butcher first took the helm of NASD as Interim Superintendent, he was hired with no direction from the school district regarding how long he would be working, he said.

Seven years later, he continues to lead the school district. Under his leadership, the school district has erected a new “state-of-the-art” high school that will be open to students in the fall and has achieved a B performance rating on the Mississippi Department of Education’s Accountability System. In 2016, the district had an F rating.

According to a letter his daughters wrote specifically for the celebration of Butcher’s upcoming retirement on June 30, his career in education has spanned a total of 53 years — or 636 months, 2,763 weeks, 19,375 days and 464,280 hours.

His first job as a science teacher did not go as planned, he said. A letter ultimately saved his job.

“I was fired as a science teacher. Fired. I was too hard on the students and I guess I didn’t learn a lot from that because I’m still hard on them,” he said.

“I never intended to teach,” Butcher added. He said he always told himself that if he did teach, he would do a better job than his own teachers had. He said it’s only “by the grace of God and the people he put in my life along the way” that he made it this far in his career.

In all of his teaching and administrative career, Butcher rarely spent more than a week away from school. Once, he had surgery on a back injury that required him to be out for six weeks. By the time he was getting ready for his next retirement, Butcher had agreed to continue working while the new high school was being built and to oversee the project and school transition.

“What a giant of a man,” soon-to-be Interim Superintendent Zandra McDonald-Green, currently the Deputy Superintendent, said while reading the letter from Butcher’s daughters aloud. “We sincerely love and admire your consistent strength to push forward in spite of headwinds and challenges. You see, we have finally realized that we and thousands of others, other young men and women whom you have touched around the world, are truly the fruits of your labor. For that, we honor and thank you and are very happy for you. While we are happy, we’re also a bit sad too; for now, you have the privilege of staying home and taking orders from Mom.”

Butcher said he and his wife Elaine have now been married for just as long as his career. Tuesday is their 53rd anniversary, he said. He credited her for standing behind him all those years in a song that Butcher had Fields sing, “You are the wind beneath my wings.”

Monday’s celebration did not begin with the announcement of Butcher’s retirement. That was saved for last.

Butcher retires with over a dozen other teachers and NASD staffers, who each received thunderous applause, a plaque and hugs from administrators during Monday’s convocation.

To those teachers, Butcher said, “I’ve retired four times. It’s not all that it is made out to be. So in October, when you hear the buses running and you become bored, call Mrs. McDonald. I’m sure she can find something for you to do. Once you clean all the closets out and all of those sorts of things, you’ll find that you’ve been working all your life and something is missing.

“Reflect back over your career and pray to God and thank God for the opportunity to serve students; for the opportunity to have camaraderie with all the people you have worked with; and, most of all, just thank him for giving you the health and the strength to make it this far in your life.”

The district also recognized those named Teachers and Administrators of the Year, including the districtwide Teacher of the Year, Latasha Ford of Morgantown Elementary School, and the district’s Administrator of the Year, Cleveland Moore of Fallin Career and Technology Center.

As a teacher, Butcher said they’ve all had to face many difficult challenges.

“Not just those challenges you encounter in the school gate from 7:15 a.m. until 3 p.m.,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of personal challenges this school year. We’ve lost some very good teachers and we’ve lost some good employees, period. But the only thing we can be responsible for is making sure that we do the very best we can every day that we have an opportunity to do so.

“We used to say ‘one day at a time,’ but the world has evolved in such a way that you might not make it through the end of that day. So we take it one minute at a time and do the very best we can.”

As he spoke of his own retirement from NASD, the first thing Butcher said was, “Thank God for allowing me to work (53) years.”

“It was just because of God’s grace — not my goodness but God’s grace — that I’ve been allowed to work this long,” he said. “I had the opportunity to work with some very good people. I’ve also worked with some who should not be in education, just to tell it like it is. But there have been people who are really dedicated to the job.”