Former McKinley principal takes over interim position

Published 8:00 am Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kay Tularak has enjoyed a very active retirement.

Kay Tularak

Kay Tularak

After retiring from her position as principal of McKinley Elementary following the school’s closure in 2008, Tularak spent a few months adjusting to life outside the workforce before deciding to jump back into teaching, working various positions at Benton Harbor High School and at Ballard Elementary School in Niles. However, in 2013, she decided to give retirement another shot.

Then, the Dowagiac Union School District came calling, asking if she would serve as interim principal at Justus Gage Elementary.

“I almost made it through a full school year this time,” Tularak said.

Tularak accepted the job, taking over the position this week from outgoing principal Marcy Hendress, who resigned from the district on April 25 due to family concerns. The retired educator will serve as the head administrator of the building through the remainder of the school year, which ends this year on June 11.

Although she was initially hesitant to accept the district’s offer, Tularak decided that, even after nearly 40 years of teaching, she was still able and willing to serve the children of her community.

“The district here has been excellent to me, and I had a colleague in need, so I figured I would come in and help,” Tularak said.

The timing couldn’t have been better, as Tularak had recently sold her house in Niles and moved to Dowagiac.

“I have always liked the district and the people here,” she said. “When your neighbors are the kids that you used to teach, it isn’t that difficult to fit in.”

Despite the short transition time, Tularak has had few problems settling into the principal’s chair at Justus Gage, she said.

“The kids have been great, parents have been wonderful and supportive,” she said. “It’s just been a great transition.”

She also praised the staff at the elementary school for helping to keep things running smoothly over the last few weeks.

“I think the students here take learning very seriously,” Tularak said. “That behavior had to have been modeled by the teachers and staff here.”

One of the things that Tularak brings to the table as principal is a belief in collaboration with both staff and parents to help further the education of the children under her watch, she said.

“It takes a whole village,” she said. “I can’t do this job without the support of the staff, parents and the community. I’m willing to work long hours when needed, but I can’t accomplish everything without their support.”

Shortly after being named to the position, Tularak wrote a letter informing parents that she would be taking over leadership at the school. She is encouraging them to come to her with any problems concerning their children’s education, she said.

The district is currently searching for a candidate to take over the position permanently, after Tularak steps down at the end of year. The educator said she will not be applying for the job, and instead will give retirement a third try.

“I’m going to try very hard to stick to it this time,” she joked.