TOM BEAN — The raft of cars encircling the headquarters of Tom Bean Independent School District on Monday night was a passerby’s first clue that something was amiss in the small town of 1,045. In a place where the two events to draw a crowd are typically a Tomcats football game or Sunday morning at the Baptist church, the number of pickups and SUVs around the tiny administrative building suggested big goings-on inside.

TOM BEAN — The raft of cars encircling the headquarters of Tom Bean Independent School District on Monday night was a passerby’s first clue that something was amiss in the small town of 1,045. In a place where the two events to draw a crowd are typically a Tomcats football game or Sunday morning at the Baptist church, the number of pickups and SUVs around the tiny administrative building suggested big goings-on inside.


After nearly a half-dozen years with the District, Superintendent Kathy Garrison was on her way out. Garrison said the reasons for her departure are between her and the School Board, but no bad blood was spilled in the split.


"I gave them my resignation, they accepted it, we decided to do an exit agreement that was applicable to both parties, they shook my hand, hugged me, ‘Thank you very much for everything,’ and there’s no animosity; we just go our separate ways," said Garrison from the superintendent’s office she’ll occupy through the end of the week. "There wasn’t any particular thing that set it off, it was just time, I guess. (The exit agreement) allows me to further my career and allows the Board to find another superintendent for the best interest of the District."


In small towns that live and die by their schools — often literally — it doesn’t get much bigger than the superintendent stepping down. For the first time since 2008, Tom Bean schools are shopping for a new a leader.


"Ms. Garrison did submit a voluntary resignation and it was accepted on Dec. 16," said School Board President Jinger Peeples, who declined to elaborate on the Board’s rationale. "Obviously, the terms of her contract are confidential. But the Board has decided to go in a different direction with its leadership. We wish Ms. Garrison the best in her future endeavors."


Garrison said she is as of yet unsure what those endeavors will be. After 36 years in education, she said she and her husband will have to evaluate their choices.


"I have lots of options right now, I don’t know what I want to do," said Garrison. "I could have retired 10 years ago. I don’t stay in this because of the money or for the glory; I stay in it because I love kids and I love doing what I do. I love to make leaders out of people. I coached and taught for 22 years, and you can never take that out of somebody."


Garrison said her proudest accomplishment over her five-and-a-half year term at the District’s helm was working to pass a seven-figure bond issue for the local elementary school — a success for which she was quick to share the credit.


"I guess the biggest accomplishment would be that we were a team of eight — the Board and myself. We worked together well. And with the community working with us, we passed that school bond to get us an elementary school. A $10 million bond is hard to get passed in this day and time, with the economics the way it is. So as far as an accomplishment, that would probably be the biggest accomplishment that we all did; it wasn’t just me, it was all of us."


The veteran administrator said she’ll look back on her time in Tom Bean fondly, even if the end was less than ideal.


"I’ve had a good tenure here, I’m happy for Tom Bean. The Board has been great, it just comes to a point where it’s just time to separate," she said. "I’ve enjoyed my years here. They made me feel very welcome and a part of the community. I always want to do what’s best for the kids and for the school district. A part of me will always bleed orange and black."


Peeples said the District has not yet decided on an interim replacement.