Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
A man who has helped shape the minds of children in the community for more than three decades has decided to retire.
Benny Smith, the beloved principal of West Orange-Stark Elementary School, announced his plans to retire earlier this spring after working 33 years in the West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District. On Thursday, the majority of the faculty of the elementary school, along with other district employees, representatives, family, friends and community leaders, turned out to show their love and respect for the man.
“Thursday was really an exciting day at the school,” Smith said. “When I ran through the halls, the kids were waving at me and hollering at me. My heart was filled with joy. The hugs and the high-fives were amazing. That’s a huge paycheck for me, right there.”
Smith has worked for the West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District his entire 33-year career. He has worked at several campuses within the district and in several capacities, including teacher, assistant principal, director of career and technology and the past nine years as principal at Anderson Elementary and West Orange-Stark Elementary.
Children have always been the best part of the job, according to Smith. He said it is also the hardest part of retiring.
“It’s simple. K-I-D-S. Kids. I love them,” he explained. “I try to take the raw product and make into something usable because each child has that potential.
“I’ve been here long enough where I have taught the parent and have taught their child. In fact, I’ve been doing this long enough to possibly be educating the third generation of children in some families.”
Theresa Beauchamp, a retired educator who worked with Smith many years and a City of Orange councilperson, praised Smith highly for his dedication and service to the district and its students.
“When you use the word gentleman, Benny is the personification,” she said. “He is a friend to all.”
Smith is a very active individual. Along with his duties as an educator and administrator, for many years he has also been the announcer at during Mustangs football and basketball games, plus track meets. He is also an active member of Salem United Methodist Church.
Despite his pending retirement once school ends, Smith is unlikely to rest on his laurels for any length of time.
“I might take it easy for a little bit, but that won’t last long,” he said with a laugh. “I might take a trip or two, but I’m not a vacationing type of person. I like to stay busy and I’m sure that is what I will do.”