STEPHEN HEMELT — Nederland ISD officials say goodbye of 70 years of education service

Published 12:57 pm Monday, June 27, 2022

Mike Laird has worked in the Nederland Independent School District for decades.

He most recently served as assistant superintendent for personnel & auxiliary services.

The title is almost secondary, his colleagues say, for a man known for helping who will be dearly missed.

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“People like Mr. Laird don’t come along very often, but when then do, you sure recognize their value,” Superintendent Dr. Stuart Kieschnick said. “I would like to recognize his value tonight with a big round of applause.”

Those were just some of the words shared last week during the Nederland Board of Trustees meeting, which also doubled as a goodbye to the retiring Laird.

In his honor, the school district framed a Bulldogs football jersey with the No. 43 in honor of the years of service Laird spent in education.

“Mike, I can’t thank you enough on a personal basis,” Kieschnick said. “You have been a big help to me. Quite frankly, I can’t thank you enough.”

Nederland Mayor Don Albanese was also present and read a proclamation approved by the city council, which declared June 20, 2022, “Michael Laird Day” for his “dedicated public service.”

Throughout Laird’s 36-year career with the Nederland Independent School District, Albanese said, “Mr. Laird has been a coach, teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. In addition, Mr. Laird has been involved in numerous organizations throughout the City of Nederland, including the Nederland Heritage Festival.

“Mr. Laird has been an advocate for the youth and the development of Nederland and has served as an extraordinary public servant for Nederland.”

In his remarks to those present this week, Laird said he felt “very blessed” to have enjoyed a “fantastic career” with the school district.

“Whatever people think I did or whatever I think I did, it was really a team effort,” he said. “I know people say that a lot, but this district has some extraordinary people in it from top to bottom. I’ve worked with some great boards, such as this one, and the staff that I’ve worked with. We have teachers in this district and other staff who are as good as anyone in the state. In fact a lot of them are better then what you see when you go around.”

Laird turned the spotlight on local teachers, bus drivers and paraprofessionals who on a day-to-day basis accomplish more than the general public knows.

“This is just so stressful, especially right now,” he said. “It started with COVID and has tripled and quadrupled since then.”

Nederland Police Department D.A.R.E. officer Karla Barron, left, is honored at a recent school board meeting. (Stephen Hemelt/The News)

Following Laird’s remarks, Kieschnick again took center stage in heaping more praise on another retiring team member — D.A.R.E. officer Karla Barron.

Kieschnick made special note of a donation from Mathews, which allowed the superintendent to present Barron with a watch similar to those district employees receive when they retire.

“Thank you so much,” Barron said. “I feel like family.

“My audience is young ones, not the adults. I was thinking this was only the second time in 30 years that I came to a school board meeting. My job is in the trenches.”

Barron noted that Nederland has always welcomed her with the family treatment.

“I couldn’t ask for any better,” she said. “I appreciate it. Your kids are great. I had a lot of yall’s kids. I recognize faces. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I can only hope the D.A.R.E. program does continue. You don’t do something for 30 years that you don’t believe in.”

Numerous attendees noted this week’s school board meeting was as emotional as any recent gathering had been.

The retirements of two team members with more than 70 years of combined experience in education certainly provides a lot to miss, but more importantly, a lot that can be appreciated.

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at or 409-721-2445.