When the school year comes to a close, one familiar face will say farewell to Leeds High School. Guidance counselor Lisa Hudson has spent 36 years in Leeds City Schools. She’ll celebrate her retirement in June.
She began her career in education at with one semester at the Springdale Center in Tarrant, filling in for a teacher that had taken maternity leave. By the following fall, she had found her way to Leeds as a special education teacher at Leeds Elementary School. She spent 11 years in that role before completing her master’s degree in counseling and moving into that role at the elementary school until the high school position opened.
“When I told them I was leaving, I did it crying,” she said. “I told them that it has nothing to do with being unhappy. They have been great leaders. I leave with many mixed feelings. I’m not clicking my heels. I can’t tell you how many days I have left. I’m not on a countdown.”
Hudson is happy with the direction Leeds City Schools have taken during her career. When she took her current position in 1996, she estimates that 15% of graduates went on to college, with most of those being two-year schools. In 2018, 26% of Leeds High School graduates went on to attend four-year colleges, while an additional 23% went on to two-year colleges and 2% went into the military.
“And they’re sticking with it,” she proudly declared. “They come back and visit. They keep in touch via Facebook. We’ve got lawyers and doctors and accountants and teachers that have gone off to college and have done very well for themselves.”
Hudson is most proud of the role that she has been able to play in students’ successes, in whatever context that is to each individual.
“Seeing kids walk across that stage on graduation night and knowing that you have been such a big part of their personal lives,” she said. “With some of these kids, education isn’t a priority; it’s survival. They have things that they have to deal with and cope with. This job has been about being personally involved in their lives and seeing them walk across that stage.”
She’s proud of the educational opportunities that have developed while she has been there, including the health sciences program which prepares students to enter the medical field. She’s hopeful that the school can continue to prepare students for careers, possibly expanding into engineering, programming and culinary arts.
She’s also optimistic about the future, as she has seen students mature beyond what she ever dreamed possible.
“Our kids are so different,” she said. “We have kids that come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to higher ones and everything in between, but you’d never know it walking through these halls. When we were at the old building, we’d have fights. But I can’t tell you the last time this has happened at this school. These kids take pride in this building and in Leeds.”
Hudson has watched the community grow a lot. They didn’t turn a lot of potential students away when she started her career, but that’s changed.
“We went through a number of years where we had a lot of students [from out of town] paying tuition to come here,” she said. “A few years ago, that was more prevalent. But when your schools start filling up, you have to pull back on the transfers. The fact that kids in Irondale and Birmingham have been paying to come here says a lot about the reputation of our school system.”
Leeds City Schools Superintendent John J. Moore said Hudson will be missed.
“We are honored that Lisa Hudson has spent her 35-plus-year career serving the students of Leeds,” Moore said. “Through the past two decades, Mrs. Hudson has been the constant friendly face in the office at LHS. We are going to miss her, but we wish her a long and fun retirement. “
Hudson said she will do some volunteering in retirement. She hopes to focus her attention back to special education. She’ll still be around—she won’t stop attending the occasional play or football game. But she also hopes to take some time for family. Her only son now resides in South Carolina, and she aims to make him take her to the coast.
The final bell rings on May 24. Hudson leaves on June 30. That’s when her next chapter begins.