GREENWOOD — Jerry Efurd started his career in education 43 years ago. At the end of the month, he will retire as the principal of Greenwood High School.
Efurd’s parents lived in Greenwood when he was born but moved to Texas before his first birthday while his father pursued a job in the oil fields. Fourteen years later, the family moved back to Greenwood in 1966.
When he was 15 years old, Efurd went to work for Carl Grandstaff at his gas station. He remembers helping fix tires at Carl’s station after the 1968 tornado.
“We fixed flat tires by hand because we didn’t have electricity,” Efurd said. “There were nails, glass and all kinds of metal driven into tires and that was before there was any such thing as a tubeless tire.”
Jerry was very involved at school, serving as the Greenwood Beta Club’s vice president one year and then president the next year.
Efurd said he really enjoyed school when he got back to Greenwood.
“I think the reason that I liked it so much was because the teachers here were so involved with the kids," he said. "Teachers like Dan Palmer, Caroline Tarver, Ms. Bridges in junior high and Coach Stewart were great influences on me.”
Efurd attended college at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he pursued a degree in education after graduating from Greenwood in 1971.
“I think my enjoyment of school really drew me to education,” said Efurd. “I loved my coaches; I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and my teachers.”
Efurd initially joined the faculty of Greenwood as a football and track coach. After coaching for 12 years, he began teaching full time as the general cooperative education teacher, where he stayed for seven years. GCE was a program for students who worked part of the day outside of school.
“I really enjoyed helping kids find jobs that could lead to a career,” Efurd said. “We worked hard on career exploration and help students to find jobs that they liked.”
In 1992, Efurd went back to school and earned his master's degree in secondary administration, then became high school vice principal for five years under Jerry Cecil before becoming principal, a position he held for 20 years.
“I have loved my time here,” Efurd said. “There were days when I didn’t know if I would make it until noon, but I love my job and I have enjoyed the people that I work with.”
Efurd has overseen the largest period of growth in the school’s history.
“When I first started, there were maybe 145 per class,” Efurd said. “And now we have numerous classes throughout the school that are 300 or more. When you look at doubling your enrollment over the course of a few years, it is a big deal.”
The campus of the high school has expanded tremendously during Efurd's time as the principal, earning the school the nickname “The University of Greenwood.” The school has added H.B. Stewart Arena, the performing arts center, the science building, the agri building, construction tech and the union, and has seen the remodeling of the career center, high school and volleyball gym. The addition of the Freshman Center added 300 new students to the high school campus.
“All of those were added during my time,” Efurd said. “And they all brought on new problems and issues. We have been in a constant state of construction.”
However, Efurd’s greatest impact has been on the people who he has been in contact with over the course of his career.
“I have always enjoyed people,” Efurd said. “If I could find a way to communicate with a student, teacher or parent to help them understand that was the goal; to make people feel like they have been heard is one of the most important things you can do.”
Former Freshman Center Principal Cody Chatman will take over the duties at GHS in July. According to Efurd, Chatman has been with Greenwood for the past six years, including two years as the eighth- and ninth-grade principal for two years and the Freshman Center principal for two years.
“He is a very intelligent young man who is going to a very good job for Greenwood High School,” said Efurd. “He is from Van Buren and Alma both, but he has been her long enough to convert the Airedale out of him. I firmly believe that he is a Bulldog now.”
Efurd said he already misses the job at GHS.
“You can’t do something for as long as I have and not miss it. Especially if you love it,” he said.
Jerry and wife Susan have purchased a home in Fayetteville, where they plan to move over the summer. Jerry said he plans to take full advantage of retired life, including taking care of grandkids, traveling, hiking, fishing and golfing.