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School honors retiring administrator: ‘One of the Good Guys’

Karen and Joe Kell

By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

The Nashville School District recognized retiring Assistant Superintendent Joe Kell during a reception Monday afternoon, Sept. 19, in the high school cafeteria.

Kell will step down at the end of the month after 37 years in education. He has held a number of positions in districts around the state and was junior high principal at Nashville before becoming assistant superintendent. 

Superintendent Doug Graham introduced his long-time friend and gave him a pen with “Once a Scrapper” on the case and “Always a Scrapper” on the pen itself. It’s the same writing utensil that Nashville athletes use when they sign college letters-of-intent.

“Eighteen months ago, I didn’t know if we’d get to have this,” Graham said. 

Kell contracted Covid-19 early in the pandemic and was hospitalized for weeks, much of the time on a ventilator. He is “the only school person who was put on a vent who is still alive.”

Kell resigned during his recovery from the virus. Last spring, he agreed to return as assistant superintendent through the end of September. He carried out his previous duties while helping his successor, Tate Gordon,” become acquainted with the position.

Graham reviewed Kell’s 37-year career, noting where he served before moving to Nashville.

“He’s one of the good guys,” Graham said. “Nobody has anything bad to say about Joe. He’s a good school guy. He keeps me straight on school law. He has a good understanding of school law, testing, budgets.”

Kell is “always true to his word. He’s one of the few who can get away with telling me I’m wrong,” Graham said. “He’s always loyal. He didn’t care about speaking his mind, but after he did, he’s always 100 percent loyal to me and supports me in the community.”

Kell spoke briefly after Graham’s presentation.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my years here. I’ve worked at five schools in my career. Nashville is special. I appreciate everything and everybody here,” Kell said.

“I’m glad I got to come back. I’ve enjoyed it.”